San Diego Comic Con is officially upon us, and with thousands upon thousands of cosplayers, video game nerds, comic fans, and toy collectors already infiltrating the town's Gaslamp District, it’s pretty safe to say this year’s event is going to be quite huge once again. There’s a whole slew of things to do at Comic-Con, from fan events to secret screenings to all the epic Hall H panels to the parties. But let’s be real here, the four-day confab can be a bit daunting.
As seasoned professionals, we can fully admit the anxiety and nerves behind a trip like this can even get us gobsmacked. However, with the necessary gear and a handful of helpful tips, we survive like a boss each and every year -- and sometimes look pretty slick in the process.
So, even with Preview Night kicking off in a couple hours, there is still time to prep with this list of San Diego Comic-Con common sense survival tips.
Give Yourself Extra Time For Everything
The Gaslamp District and neighboring hotels don’t seem so far away from the convention center. But what normally would be a 10-minute walk turns into a patience-challenging mission. With the large crowds at every turn, you will find yourself frustratingly staring at your destination while moving at a snail’s pace. This is just the nature of the event. If you have to be at Ballroom 20 and you’re eating lunch with friends in the Gaslamp, yes, it may look like a 15-minute walk to get there -- give yourself an hour. And if there’s a line, give yourself two hours … maybe three hours. Or just flake on your friends and live in that line. This is Comic-Con, everything takes forever.
This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but a pair of durable and comfortable shoes is an absolute must for your Comic-Con trip. You don’t want to find yourself with a two-mile walk ahead of you only to find that a huge rip has formed down the insole of your old trusty kicks. (And let’s be clear here: You will be walking way more than two miles a day!) Unless you have feet of steel, I’ve found that simple Converse low-tops don’t cut it here. You need arch support, ankle support, heel support and whatever else type of support will keep your tootsies in tip-top shape.
Portable Mobile Device Charger
When in the midst of the Comic-Con action, it’d be a smart move to take charge -- literally. Just a few years ago, charging stations were hard to find. And however mind-boggling that concept is, convention-goers may still find it hard to get the juice to their devices at the most important times. With over 200,000 people smooshing themselves into San Diego for the week, it’s pretty understandable that your iPhone will go from full to nil in record time. Everyone is accessing email, streaming video to Facebook, uploading stories to Instagram, and cramming their updates to Twitter, so expect the network to be clogged. And this will wear your battery down — and fast! Whether it’s a Mophie charging case or a portable multi USB charger, you’ll want to come equipped with your own personal backup generator. Given the rule that many wall outlets are off-limits in the Convention Center, you’ll be glad you came prepared.
While we’re on the topic of mobile devices, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention wifi. Yes, San Diego Comic-Con does have wifi available throughout the convention center -- but the signal can be very hit-and-miss. If you’re one of the many folks without access to a hotel’s signal, or unable to connect to any number of hotspots due to the sheer number of others attempting to do the same, a clear solution would be to bring your own. Speaking from personal experience, being able to control your own connection — from anywhere in the Gaslamp District and its surrounding areas — was quite a liberating experience. You’ll be able to go live from one device while streaming video from another … and maybe check email and surf the web, too, if you’re feeling frosty.
Tablet for Reading and Watching
We just mentioned the mass amount of content at your disposal at Comic-Con, but one thing we haven’t discussed much, so far, is all the waiting you’ll be doing. Whether it’s in the Hall H line, a line on the convention floor for that hot exclusive, or the lines for any number of panels and screenings set to happen during the four-day event, chances are you will find yourself in queued up at some point … waiting.
To make this a bit more bearable, it may behoove you to have a tablet on hand to pass the time. Digital comics, movies, TV shows, books, video games … content is as content does at SDCC, and this is just one more way to stay immersed in the overall experience. Lines suck, but this little tip will help them suck a bit less.
Thumbs Up to Thumb Drives
Thumb drives are a dime a dozen, and there are many high-end options on the market today. It’s possible your tablet or mobile device just won’t have enough room to fit your entire collection of Abba’s studio releases. Well, whatever the case may be — we’re not judging — it’s a smart move to bring a flash drive with you on your trip. We’ve paid a lot of attention to content in the past few paragraphs, and for good reason. San Diego Comic-Con is a consumer’s paradise. Aside from the items you’ll be purchasing, you’ll want to have multiple means of entertainment on hand to help pass the time. And if your stuff doesn’t fit on whatever device you’re comfortable bringing with you on your daily jaunt throughout the Gaslamp, have a thumb drive on hand. Make sure it’s compatible with your mobile device. From there, you’re on your own. Go wild! Just don’t lose it — they’re called “thumb drives” for a reason.
Bag of Holding
I don’t care who you are — either a member of the press or an exuberant fan — everyone needs a bag at Comic-Con. Planning your trip makes absolutely no sense without one. Yes, we’ll all be handed a massive Warner Brothers-themed bag upon entry to the con. But there’s something overly cumbersome about carrying that giant thing around. You might as well have a target on your back …
Think of it this way: Large bulky bags and even larger crowds don’t mix. That’s why we’re suggesting the messenger bag route. There are many varieties on the market that are big enough, durable and have enough room (and pockets) for swag, books, gadgets, snacks and whatever else floats your little boat. There are multiple ways to wear a messenger bag, and while those with big bulky bags may end up getting stuck in the crowd, all it takes is a quick switch in bag positioning — pretend you’re tucking a football to your side — and you can be through that obstacle and on your way to that next panel with ease!
We’ve been hammering home the importance of consumable content, but what’s the point of re-binging Stranger Things if you have no way of listening to the audio? Sure, you could just play the show for everyone to enjoy — but that’s just making an assumption that everyone around you will be thoroughly invested in Eleven’s adventures. And you know what they say about assumptions …
It’d be best to pack away a good pair of headphones. I’m not going to nitpick here, as there are many options on the market. Personally I’d go the earbud route. Given the summer weather, you probably don’t want to have your ears trapped in the mini sweat lodge that a pair of over-the-ear Beats can become — no matter how sweet Dr. Dre made ‘em. And let’s be clear: You’ll be sweating. That’s just a given. Not only will there be mass amounts of walking in large crowds, it’ll be hot out. Having a pair of earbuds on you is a solid (and comfortable) option to block out the noise whenever you see fit.
Upon your initial entrance to Comic-Con, you’ll be handed a lanyard with that enormous eyesore of a swag bag. And while these lanyards are helpful tools in keeping your badge secure to your person at all times, accidents do happen and lanyards can rip, break or become lost. Instead of panicking, it may behoove you to have a few backup lanyards on hand. Any office supply store will have them on hand, but if you want some fun options, head on over to Hot Topic, as they have a great selection on pop culture-themed lanyards to keep you in the Comic-Con mood.
At an event like Comic-Con, it is of the utmost importance to stay hydrated. I’m not here to tell you one reusable water bottle is better than the other, or point you to metal over plastic, but I am here to tell you to drink water — and to do it often. It is way easier than you think to get dehydrated and sick at SDCC, and when that happens, it’s an absolute fun-killer. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, a lot of standing in direct sunlight and a lot (and I mean a lot) of sweating. Water fountains throughout the convention center are free to use. Refilling this bottle multiple times a day will keep you in tip-top shape. No line, nor costume, nor five mile hike will stand a chance. Jedi have lightsabers, but you … you, my friend, will have a water bottle. And last we checked, you can’t drink a lightsaber!
While a big portion of Comic-Con takes place indoors, everyone in attendance will be spending some portion of their time outside. And since San Diego Comic-Con takes place smack dab in the middle of the summer season, it’s going to be hot. It doesn’t take long for a sunburn to take effect, and while most outdoor lines do have some sort of tent enclosure to block out the rays, there’s always a high probability of being burned. So bring sunscreen. SPF whatever.
A Parasol or Hat Works Wonders
Sunscreen is a good jumping-off point to stay protected from the sun, but a hat or parasol -- depending on your own personal tastes -- is a must-have at Comic-Con. Not only do both options help to keep con goers cool as they travel back and forth from the convention center to the neighboring hotels, but a spiffy hat and fancy parasol can do wonders to punch up a last-minute costume. Talk about form and function!
Wet Wipes Are Your Friend
Call it “con flu,” “nerd plague” or “con crud” -- germs and conventions go hand in hand. So having a wet wipe or other antibacterial option within reach is extremely important. After four days of panels, screenings, autograph signings, line-waiting, alcohol consumption and parties, the chance of catching some sort of sickness is quite high. Plus, wet wipes can be a last-ditch option for quickly cleaning up before heading from the con to the parties of the night -- that is, if you have no access to a shower. We’ve all been there ...
Protein Bars Are Lunch
There are many food options in and around the convention center. Not all of them are of the affordable and quick variety. And when you’re at Comic-Con, time is definitely not on your side. Bring snacks. A lot of snacks. Throw ‘em in your bag or stuff ‘em in your pockets. After a three-hour wait in line, a protein bar will keep your energy up and tide you over for that steak dinner you’ve been dreaming about all day.
Take Your Vitamins
We’re not trying to sound like your space mom here, but vitamins are a huge help at Comic-Con. This especially applies to those heading out for a night of party-hopping. Before you know it, you’re five whiskeys in and aren’t at all thinking about that Supernatural panel you need to hit at Hall H first thing the next morning. Popping some B12 complex before heading to bed can work wonders. Sure, you may still have a hangover -- but it won’t be nearly as bad.
Have a Schedule and Map on You
Have a plan. Be prepared. Seriously, there are so many things going on at Comic-Con. Like too many things. It’s very possible you will be faced with the conundrum of having to pick and choose among multiple events that are happening at the exact same time. So first off, have your schedule on you. And if you’re new to San Diego Comic-Con, bring a map. Lucky for you, the Official Comic-Con Mobile App offers schedules, maps of the convention center and surrounding hotels, social media links and so much more. It’s free and available for both iOS and Android platforms.
Carry a Change of Clothes
Hopefully you’ll take our advice and have a bag on you at all times. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be planning to jump directly from the convention to some parties during the evening. However, if your hotel is not within walking distance of the convention center, you may find yourself needing to freshen up -- to wash the nerd funk off you, so to speak -- and one way of doing that (after your wet-wipe shower) is to have a quick change of clothes on you. It doesn’t have to be anything too fancy, but a clean shirt works wonders. Trust us.
Hotel Bathrooms are the Best Bathrooms
Look. Comic-Con is absolutely packed to the rim with people, which means the bathroom situation at the convention center can be a bit, uh, crappy. If you have the time and the patience -- and are germaphobes like us -- may we suggest taking a trip to one of the many hotels in walking distance? Lobby bathrooms at any number of hotels are a huge upgrade from the Trainspotting-style situations you may find at the con.
San Diego Comic-Con is supposed to be fun. Your trip can be super stressful if you let it. There are lines everywhere and mass amounts of people all in a hurry, rushing in a variety of directions. This can cause a lot of frustration and anxiety. We get it. But try and relax. Have a beer. Enjoy some tea. Find your moment of zen — even if it’s just for a few minutes. Trust us here. It will make your Comic-Con experience a whole lot better.
What tips did we miss to be a con boss? Let us know in the comments below, or give us a tweet at @SyfyWire with the hashtag #FanTripping