San Diego Comic-Con survival guide: 5 helpful tips
By Brittany Cruz
Convention season is in full bloom, which means the countdown has begun to the biggest pop-culture extravaganza of the year, San Diego Comic-Con. Cosplayers are adding the final touches to their costumes, collectors are preparing to go on the hunt, and kids are looking forward to having photo-ops with their favorite superheroes.
The sheer magnitude of the five-day event, including preview night, can be both glorious and overwhelming to newcomers. Even the most seasoned attendees can still find themselves stuck in the traffic of the main exhibit hall.
Aside from having everlasting bragging rights to securing a ticket to the most in-demand convention of the year, learning all the ins and outs of being a con-goer takes patience and practice. Luckily, there are a few things within your control to help the experience go a little more smoothly.
Check out these five survival tips for attending San Diego Comic-Con.
The first tip might be the most important on this list, so read carefully: DO NOT FORGET YOUR BADGE. That may seem like an eye-roller, but many people are out-of-state visitors or international travelers, so going back home to retrieve it is not an option. It would be an honest mistake to accidentally leave the pass sitting on the kitchen counter or some other trivial place while heading out for your big trip. We’re only human, after all.
If this does happen, take a minute to breathe before going straight into a panic attack. A lost badge can be reported to guest services on-site at Attendee Badge Solutions, but you will be required to pay a nominal fee to receive a replacement.
No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on a ticket they already purchased months ago, so be sure to triple check your badge is in hand before leaving the house. Better safe than sorry.
2. Transportation Options
Driving a car to the San Diego Convention Center is more trouble than what it’s worth due to high parking rates and unrelenting traffic. Skip the unnecessary stress and extra costs by taking one of the cheaper transit options available.
There is free shuttle bus service provided specifically for Comic-Con badge holders that conveniently routes to many of the hotels on the Comic-Con International Hotel List. The buses typically run every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the time of day, so you will have no problem coming and going as needed.
Another option is the Metropolitan Transit System Trolley, which stops right in front of the Convention Center without the hassle of having to worry about traffic. Special event prices are offered all five days, making it a cost-friendly way to get around and explore the downtown area outside of convention hours.
Read our San Diego Comic-Con Travel Guide to learn more about these transportation services and to get extra travel tips.
What to Wear
Cosplayers go by their own set of rules when it comes to Comic-Con fashion, but for everyone else, there are a few key things to keep in mind when picking an outfit.
First of all, unless going barefoot or wearing open-toed shoes is part of your cosplay aesthetic, it is a good idea to opt for a pair of basic sneakers. Remember, you are going to be on your feet all day surrounded by crowds of people scrambling over each other. Being comfortable is important.
The second thing to consider is the weather. The sunny California climate can be unforgiving when walking around hundreds of sweaty people with the sun beating down everyone’s backs. It is best to avoid heavy or dark clothing, so there is less risk of overheating. A summer-friendly outfit is the most practical choice, just be sure to put on sunscreen before heading out.
Shorts and a tank top work great for being outside in the heat, but it can get chilly inside the convention, especially when walking around less populated areas like the panel room hallways. If you get cold easily, bring a light sweater and stick to wearing pants for an extra layer of warmth.
Get there early. It is as simple as that.
Panels tend to fill up quickly, particularly the ones hosted by big-name companies. To get into the fan-favorite Hall H — a 6,500-seat venue where all the major panels are held, including Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. — it is usually necessary to camp out overnight.
Not quite ready to tackle that beast? Do not despair, because there are plenty of other awesome panels with significantly shorter wait times. None of the rooms, including Hall H, are cleared out between panels, which means many people choose to stay for the next presentation. Feel free to do the same.
The Convention Center is a big place, and the waiting lines are not always located next to the panel rooms, so plan accordingly. Make sure to double check you are in the right place before accidentally jumping into a line that is for something else. There is usually a security guard nearby; don’t hesitate to ask them for help if you are having trouble finding your way around.
Bring Snacks and Drinks
Going to Comic-Con means exciting, wondrous long days and often sleepless nights. Spending a day inside the exhibit hall or jumping from panel to panel can stir up a big appetite. There are food carts located throughout the Convention Center stocked with goodies, including drinks (water sodas, juice, etc.), chips, cookies and other snacks.
However, you can save time and money by bringing a small stash of food. There is no point in leaving the exhibit hall every time hunger comes calling, and if you are attending panels solo, stepping out of line without someone to save your spot is not an option. Packing a few protein bars and a reusable water bottle can go a long way in keeping you energized.
Need a more substantial meal? There are dozens of restaurants located in the downtown area within walking distance of the convention. Many places have discounts for Comic-Con attendees, so take advantage of any special offers that may be available.
Add to the conversation and share your Comic-Con tips in the comment section below!