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07 July 2012

Tips & Tricks for Surviving SDCC

Hello! So far this is shaping up to be a truly crazy summer. After the madness of ALA then a week vacation for the 4th, I come back for a couple of days only to turn around and head to San Diego next week for 4 days of fun geekery at San Diego Comic Con. I've been going for awhile now and thought it might be fun to put together a little list of tips and tricks I've learned over the years that have helped me survive. Once you've made it through a Comic Con, no other convention, crowd, or line is going to seem quite as daunting. It's grown a lot in the past 10 years and it seems like it's only getting bigger. With a little mental and physical preparation, you can ensure that you have a good time. These tips are just things that I find helpful and is in no way all encompassing. Here we go! (As I started writing this, it's gotten quite long. Sorry about that. You can skim if you want)

1. Dress comfortably - This means comfortable shoes that you can walk around all day (literally like 12 hours) in. Sometimes I'll wear shoes but bring an extra pair of flip flops with me so that I can swap out at the end of the day. I recommend closed toe shoes just because your toes might get trampled on (which has happened to me) but whatever you are comfortable in will work. For clothes, think layers. The AC in the convention hall can be frigid at times but, at other times, you might be stuck in a long, hot line outside. Layers are key so you can adjust your temperature as necessary.

2. Be hands free - And by this I mean bring a bag that allows your hands to move freely. Be it a messenger bag, backpack or tote bag. I am not a huge fan of wheeled bags only because the exhibit floor can be seriously cramped and trying to maneuver one of those things between thousands of people doesn't seem like a good idea.

3. Bring snacks/lunch/water - You might think you're going to have time to go out and grab a snack or lunch during the show but, more often than not, you will find yourself in line or running from panel to panel without a moment to stop. And even if you do get out, the lines for food nearby can be scary long and by then you may pass out. I like to bring easy to carry and eats snacks like fruit, granola bars, energy bars, nuts, candy, chips and I bring a full lunch as well. And don't forget to hydrate! There are water fountains around the hall but it's best to bring your own water supply and just refill as necessary.

4. Schedule - Unless you're a person who doesn't care for the panels and only wants to roam the exhibit floor, chances are you are going to need to do a little bit of planning to ensure that you don't miss out on any panels you want to go to. SDCC is on MySched which is a really easy way to mark what you want to see and then print out a schedule. Also, with the craziness that is the line situation these days, it's good to get in line at least a couple if not several hours before some of the really popular panels. This includes things in Hall H and Ballroom 20. I am not an advocate of camping out overnight but, if you are planning to, check out the rules here.  The line craziness leads me to my next tip...

5. Have a Plan B - Let's face it, with almost a hundred thousand people attending SDCC, there's a good chance that you're not going to get into every panel you want to. Figure out which panels you really have to see and are willing to wait for. For everything else, I usually set myself a time limit. If it's going to take more than 2 hours of waiting with no guarantee of getting in, I'll probably bail. But using my handy schedule, I can see if there's a smaller, secondary panel that I want to go to instead. I'll either do that, go down and hang out on the exhibit floor for awhile or just go outside for some air.

6. Just because it's free, doesn't mean you should take it  - I know it's hard to resist the urge to take whatever free swag happens to come your way but seriously, think about what you are taking and ask yourself if you really want it. Do you really need that Ghost Rider 2 poster or the rubber band bracelet for the new Resident Evil movie? If it's something you really want and think you'll keep after the show, then sure, take it. But don't just take it because it's free and available because you'll just end up with a suitcase full of postcards, fliers, and other random stuff you don't want.

7. Bring cash - A lot of vendors will take credit and debit cards. However you will save yourself a lot of time and maybe even a little money by bringing cash. It also helps me stay in budget because I only bring the cash I am allowed to spend at SDCC and once it's gone, it's gone. (OK I have broken this rule before but you get the idea)

8. Make friends - Don't be afraid to talk to people. You're going to be rubbing elbows (literally) with these people all weekend. Chances are good that you'll have something in common because you are all at SDCC. So talk to your line neighbors or that person with a great costume or the artist/creator sitting at the booth. I love meeting people at the show and it's one of my favorite parts of going.

9. Take a stroll down Artist's Alley - Don't just hit the big film and television booths. There's a whole world of awesome down in Artist's Alley. You might discover a new talent.

10. Be polite/courteous - This seems pretty obvious but it can't hurt. For the most part, I find the people at SDCC to be very polite even though it can get crazy. Let someone pass you, make way for a wheelchair, say excuse me when you bump into someone. Very common sense stuff but I think we can forget about it sometimes when there is a large crowd. But when everyone is courteous and aware of the people around them, everyone has a better time.

12. Use public transportation - There is parking downtown but it's expensive and you'll have to sit through traffic to get to it. The con runs a great shuttle that stops at a ton of major hotels. If yours isn't on a stop, find a hotel close to you that is. Shuttle service has been extended to run 24 hours a day this year so you have no excuse not to use it. The trolley is also a great resource. And don't forget to thank your shuttle driver. Going back and forth with rowdy convention goers probably isn't easy and a thank you goes a long way.

13. HAVE FUN - I've probably scared you with all of these tips but really, the main point is to have fun. Don't stress too much if you don't get into a panel or miss out on something. Lines are annoying but you can always read while waiting or make conversation with the person next to you. Comic Con is one of my favorite things because I just get to hang out with people who love the same things I do. Sure, I might like comics and they might like video games, but we're all there to indulge in something we love. It's where Vulcans mingle with Storm Troopers and Sailor Moon. There are so many wonderful things to see and do and awesome people to meet. So have fun!

I am done now, really. Those are my tried and true tips for surviving and having a good time at SDCC. If you have any tips, I would love to hear them. If you happen to be going and see me, please do say hi. :)

*In case anyone is wondering, the photos are all mine taken last year.

Thuy will be tweeting sporadically from Comic Con. Follow her @fishgirl182 to see what she's up to at SDCC.


  1. Thuy these are great tips! You've covered it all. This years Comic-Con looks like the best yet. I've been using MySched and it makes planning so easy now. Hope to run into you there!

    1. thanks, lucy! i am not super prepared but looks like there are tons of awesome things to see this year. i hope to run into you this weekend!


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