SAN DIEGO — This year the San Diego Comic-Con International turns 50, and whether you’re a veteran like me (this will be my 19th ComicCon) or a newbie, each year you have to come prepared.
Here are the some tips I’ve assembled throughout my years of attending. Some, I’ve learned the hard way, so you don’t have to suffer.
Get off on the right foot. Lines are a part of the Comic-Con DNA. Whether you’re waiting in line to get into the show each day, or trying to get autographs or waiting in the mother of all lines to get into Hall H (more on that later), you will need to wear the most comfortable shoes you have. Period. You will be standing, sitting and walking for long periods of time, and the Convention Center is huge. Know that. Accept that. Embrace that. Your shoes will matter. So, if you’re cosplaying and the shoes look cute with the costume and you’re loving the attention because you got the shoes of Son Goku from “Dragon Ball Z” correct, your feet will hate you the next day. Also, stay away from flip-flops unless you like bruised toes.
Pro tip: In crowded places like the main exhibition hall, it will be jam-packed with people and your feet will be stepped on. It’s best to stick to sneakers or tennis shoes or even boots to protect your feet.
Drink up. The Con has gotten better about providing water in most of the panels. However, that does you no good if you’re out in sweltering heat. For some reason, San Diego usually gets extremely hot and humid during Comic-Con and San Diego Pride Week. That’s why it’s best to bring your own water. Buying water and snacks inside the convention hall is expensive!
Pro tip: Get a reusable bottle that keeps drinks cold for long periods of time. If you can’t do that, then buy bottled water and freeze it the night before. That way when it melts in the heat, you’ll have cool water to sip on throughout the day.
Plan ahead. Whatever you do, please look at the schedule for the day before you arrive at the convention center. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve seen people arrive not knowing where they are going. Trying to squeeze into a panel, or God forbid, Hall H at the last minute will lead to a frustrating experience that can be avoided with a little forethought. Comic-Con has a trusty app that you can download ahead of time to help you plan your schedule.
Pro tip: Make peace with the idea that you cannot do everything you want to do, because often there are many good panels going on at the same time. Instead, pick a few panels, get there extra early and enjoy.
Access granted, access denied. There are three meccas at Comic-Con: The exhibition floor on preview night, Ballroom 20 and Hall H. If you’re lucky enough to have gotten Preview Night access, the options are limited. There are a few panels going on, but mainly people will be trying to get to the convention floor and into Ballroom 20 to see the Warner Bros. sneak peeks.
Preview Night pro tip 1: If you’re trying to get into Ballroom 20, don’t wait in the long line. Seriously. If you wait until just after the program starts, you can usually walk right in. You may not get a super-close seat, but with screens everywhere, you can still see the previews and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your feet.
Preview Night pro tip 2 Unless you want to be one of those folks being seen on TV running around the convention floor (think Black Friday at any department store) then it’s best to wait.
Access granted, access denied Part 2: Okay, this is where endurance will pay off for Comic-Con. Hall H is the absolute WORST line you will ever stand in, period. People wait for days in that line. I’m not kidding about this: DAYS. And know that you’ll be in the heat and cold if you decide to stay overnight. It’s gotten so bad, that people assemble groups and assign “line standing times” so their spots can be held. Over the past few years, the Comic-Con folks have tried to stop the lines from getting out of control by issuing wristbands which guarantees entry into Hall H for that day only.
Here’s the problem: One person can hold spots for roughly five people overnight as long as they get back in line by 7 a.m. the following day. So that means two people can suddenly become 10. And that pushes people farther and farther back in the line. That’s super frustrating for people who managed to give up everything just to get a close spot in Hall H. Ballroom 20 has not gotten that bad — yet.
Pro tip: The reality is, you will NOT get to sit in front row center. Give that idea up, because the first few rows are usually reserved for studio bigwigs and execs and their friends and families. To have your best shot of sitting as close as possible, you need to have about five to 10 friends in your group. You can rotate, meaning one person stands in the line at all times, while the others go to panels and do other things to enjoy the Con. Pick ONE day to do this. Saturday is usually hardest day to get into Hall H. But with the proper planning, you don’t have to sacrifice your entire day.