It’s time for the San Diego Comic-Con, a.k.a. geek Christmas! The Con kicks off with a three-hour preview night on Wednesday, then opens for full-scale madness Thursday through Sunday. Once again I will be descending into the glorious sensory overload that fills the convention center. For anyone who’s going this year or is thinking about going in the future, let a grizzled veteran of SDCC, (I’ve only missed one year in the past 12), impart some of the wisdom that I’ve gained over the years. They’re a few simple tips or as I like to call them, the 10 Con-mandments.
#1 – Thou shalt wear comfortable shoes – You will be doing a LOT of walking. The San Diego Convention Center is huge. And when you’re not walking, you’ll probably be standing in line, which is worse. So if you’re not prepared with a good pair of shoes, you’ll quickly find yourself with sore feet. You don’t want to end up spending all your time looking for somewhere to sit down instead of looking at all the cool stuff.
#2 – Thou shalt be clean – This one seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not to some people. You gather thousands of sweaty fan-boys/girls together and you’ll find far too many who smell worse than a detention level garbage compactor. Heaven forbid, you find yourself trapped in a elevator or worse, a long line with one of these types. Please, don’t add to the problem. We’re all excited to get there first thing in the morning, but make sure you include time in your schedule for your daily hygiene.
#3 – Thou shalt prioritize – You can’t see everything. Get used to this fact and just accept it. For every cool thing you want to do, you’ll be missing out on two others. I know people who are always so concerned about what they’re going to do next that they never stop and enjoy what they’re doing now. Decide if it’s worth it to miss out on two pretty good panels to make sure you get a spot in that one great one. Is getting one sketch from a hot artist better than three sketches for lesser-known talents? These are the questions you must answer for yourself.
#4 – Thou shalt be patient – One of the more complained about side-effects of SDCC’s explosion in popularity is that it means more people everywhere. The convention is expected to draw over 130,000 people this year and that’s just attendees. That doesn’t count the throngs that just hang around outside to watch the spectacle of Comic-Con. You’re going to spend a lot of time staring at other people’s backs. The only thing more abundant than fans is lines. There’re lines to do just about everything, lines to pick up your badge, lines to go to the bathroom, lines to go to panels, there are even lines to get the opportunity to stand in other lines later! Make sure you’ve got some friends with you to help pass the time in line or use that opportunity to make new friends with your fellow linemates! Or if you’re the anti-social type, make sure you’ve got a book with you.
#5 – Thou shalt stay in a hotel downtown – They’re tough to get into and they’re not cheap, but it’s well-worth both the effort and expense. Staying at one of the outlying hotels may save you a few bucks, but I can’t recommend it. If you’re tight on money, split a room with a friend (or several!) to make sure you can afford the pricey rates.The does convention provides shuttles back to many of the hotels outside of the downtown area, it’s almost essential to stay downtown to get the full experience of attending the con. Being able to walk back to your hotel after a long day is vastly superior to having to wait in yet another line to squeeze onto a shuttle bus for a lengthy ride back to your hotel. Traffic is murderous in the downtown area, so shuttle rides take far longer than they should to cover the distance. Not to mention all of the action at night is centered downtown. Which leads us to the next entry…
#6 – Thou shalt not stay in at night – There’s still plenty to do in San Diego even after the convention floor closes for the day. After you’ve dropped off the day’s loot and gotten something to eat, it’s time to hit the town. There’s no shortage of distractions to get you out of your hotel. Exploring the Gaslamp District is a must. There are a ton of parties and gatherings held by fan organizations or various companies. Or just head to a hotel bar, even if you’re not in the mood for drinking, you’re almost certain to meet some interesting people. The lobby bar of the Manchester Grand Hyatt is the unofficial place to hang out for Comic-Con goers. It’s not uncommon to see some high-profile industry folks chatting and drinking with fans right there at the bar.
#7 – Thou shalt not forget breakfast – They call it the most important meal of the day for a reason and that goes double in San Diego. Make sure you get an early start and get a nice filling breakfast before you head out. The food options at the convention center are notoriously pricey and bad. To top it off, all of the eateries in the area are packed to the gills come lunchtime (and pretty much every other time for the length of the con too…). Unless you’re willing to sacrifice two or three hours of prime convention time to stepping out for lunch, it’s best to load up in the morning and bring some snacks along to tide you over.
#8 – Thou shalt pace thyself – There are so many cool things to do, it’s easy to spend all day bouncing from place to place and find yourself burned out that evening. Make sure you include some downtime. Find an out-of-the-way spot to sit and eat a snack or people watch. Taking breaks when you have the chance is important. Also on the topic of pacing, there are far too many unique and awesome things to buy there, but make sure you don’t blow your entire budget on the first shiny prize you see, even if you think it’s the coolest thing ever. Unless it’s in limited quantity, it’s usually best to scope everything out first and see if you can find a better price or something even cooler in the next aisle. It’s a rough feeling when you come across that item you’ve been looking for with years and you’ve got empty pockets. Budget both your time and money wisely.
#9 – Remember the Sabbath – Tying into savvy shopping from the last entry, on the final day of the con, many retailers would rather sell off their wares at a discount than go through the effort of packing them up again. If you’re willing to wait, Sunday is deal day. Some great bargains can be had as the day progresses and the number of motivated sellers increases. If something isn’t in danger of selling out, it’s often a wise tactic to hold off purchasing it until Sunday to see if you can get a better price on it. As an added bonus, that’s less time you have to worry about it cluttering up your hotel room, car backseat or wherever you’re staying!
#10 – Thou shalt have fun – This is the most important of all, especially if you end up disobeying some of the earlier Con-mandments. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the hubbub and rush from place to place. Missing out on that exclusive toy or not getting into that panel you were looking forward to is always a disappointment. It’s tough to stay cheery walking around with blisters, but it’s important to remember that you’re there to have a good time. Don’t let any of the minor annoyances that are bound to occur drag you down. After all, thousands of other people only wish they were there where you are, so take advantage of it and enjoy yourself, whatever may happen.