Now that the dust has completely settled on my first-ever San Diego Comic Con, I wanted to provide the IMJ Nation™ with some essential Comic Con Survival Tips! If you read anything useful, please feel free to bookmark this post for next year— as SDCC 2015 will be here before we all know it!
When booking hotel accommodations, your first instinct may be to get the hotel parked right in the middle of the madness, and although this may be more convenient and time efficient, it will also be a burden on your budget and may hinder your ability to find “you” time.
For the entirety of the Con, there are thousands upon thousands of people walking the streets in San Diego’s Gaslamp District (the area immediately adjacent to the Convention Centre), so we found a hotel near the border of Tijuana and San Diego that provided some necessary solitude– and a bonus unique region to explore. The people are incredibly friendly and loved watching us walk the streets every morning and evening in our costumes. As an added bonus, the convenience stores had lots of cool “Latin” flavoured snacks– like lime flavoured Lays Chips (my new favourite).
One of the most impressive things about San Diego turned out to be their exemplary transit system. For just $5 a day (or $15 for 4 days), you can ride any of the three trolleys and all of the city buses– unlimited. Not only is it a fantastic way to get around on a budget, but it is unbelievably convenient.
The trolleys come every 7-15 minutes during most days, and there is always a bus or a trolley on its way to take you where you need to go. We could get to the Convention Centre every day from the Tijuana border within about 40 minutes– and there was a 7-11 on the way to grab a coffee and a banana in the morning. What a huge weight off the shoulders of first time visitors like us. Check out their website ahead of time, and screen shot the maps on your mobile phone in case you don’t have consistent internet access.
One of the least pleasant aspects of our vacation was the scorching California heat. From as early as 8am, you cannot walk the streets without a high SPF lotion (or spray), sunglasses and light clothing. There are several fun attractions and events happening outside of the Convention Centre that can take up a few hours of your time, but the most important thing to take into consideration is the inevitable wait times for these outdoor activities.
On Friday, we got in line at least an hour in advance for a series of panels at the Hotel Mariott— and ended up waiting outside in 30°+ celsius weather for at least 2 hours, resulting in headaches and heat stroke. You can never count on getting through a line swiftly, especially in situations where the rooms are not cleared after every panel. Dress accordingly, carry around some Clif protein bars for sustenance– and bring LOTS OF WATER!
This being my first time at SDCC, there was no question in my mind that I was going to attempt to put together a great cosplay. Though it was incredibly well received, it was very uncomfortable in the heat and the intimate human traffic. Make no mistake: You will spend a lot of time running into and rubbing up against other people. Cosplay is half of the fun at these types of conventions, but you have to be very smart about your costume choice.
For example, my choice to wear black pants, a black top, leather heeled boots and body paint was probably not the best idea, especially for walking outdoors for hours. Though I was certainly not alone in my ambitions, it was certainly a huge risk and a lot of fuss. Aside from all of the positive attention (and feeling of personal accomplishment) you might receive, a complicated cosplay can definitely detract from your Comic-Con experience. Consider only dressing up on a select number of days, so that you can spend at least one day venturing out in comfort.
One other thing: Be fearless with your costume choice! If you have to do a little extra shopping, a little arts and crafts or a little sewing– don’t be afraid. Start early, always have a backup plan and don’t worry about how mainstream the character is. Someone is going to understand your reference, and one person’s compliments will be enough to make you feel successful.
Event schedules are posted a few weeks before the Con– so as soon as they become available, start planning your itinerary. Although my initial prerogative was to get into the elusive Hall H to see all of the big announcements, it would mean lining up outside for at least 12 hours and losing a lot of sleep… Plus missing out on a whole day of shopping Artists Alley, with all the amazing exhibits inside.
We made an executive decision (especially after suffering from heat-induced sickness the day before) to get a good night’s sleep… Instead of haunting the Hall H line. To be completely honest, panels are a great adrenaline ride filled with celebrity sightings and news about new content– but unless you get really close to the stage, you’re basically just watching the screens anyway.
As much as you would like to lay eyes on someone famous, ask yourself whether or not waiting hours for an autograph is worth it to you. Consider which guests are absolute top priority, and always make time to cover as much ground as possible. Besides, I experienced plenty of amazing celebrity sightings at the studio booths while just shopping around!
You will be surrounded by thousands of people just like you at Comic-Con. Take photos with cool cosplayers, talk to the people around you, and say “Hello” to the artists as you scan their work. Stay upbeat, keep your energy up and always be polite and considerate to those around you.
Just never, ever be afraid to let your true nerd shine through! The San Diego Comic Con truly is Nerdvana– and you should celebrate it as such!