Well, San Diego Comic Con is over now, sadly. The cosplayers have un-cossed. The street preachers have disappeared. The flyers, leaflets, and business cards littering the avenues have been swept away. It’s bittersweet, in a way. Before you forget about it entirely in the rush of everyday life, however, linger for a moment longer.
As a nine-year veteran of SDCC, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make your experience even better next year. My list of ten tips, learned through the school of hard knocks and meager disposable income, are:
1. Yes, you can save money on parking. Parking fees next to the convention center are astronomical. Fees at the closest hotel rooms are almost as bad. It’s not all that easy to get. So what’s a poor nerd to do? Park further away and take the trolley or a cab. Joe’s Auto Parks is 12 blocks away and only $5 for the whole day. Well worth the walk (http://joesautoparks.com/san-diego/). Or park at the airport for $13 a day (economy lot) and take a cab in.
Edited to say that you can also park at Qualcomm Stadium for free and take the trolley in. An even better deal!
2. Your luggage does not have to be heavy enough to dislocate your shoulder. Before you leave next time, pack light and make sure you have lots of extra room for the inevitable crap you will accumulate. The swag, people. You know you have to have it. And you really need room for it. T-shirts. Posters. Gigantic bags. Buttons. Paper hats. Horse masks. Whatever, dude.
3. Take the train if you are coming from LA or other points north. Seriously. It’s so much better than driving could ever be. I vowed to take the train after sitting stuck in traffic on the freeway off-ramp for 45 minutes. But you should be aware that you might have to stand if you board at an extra busy time. Comic Con often coincides with the opening of Del Mar, the race track. There’s nothing like riding the train next to cosplayers and wannabe Southern belles in huge floppy hats and frilly dresses, their flawless, manicured nails clutching a bottle of vino in disguise, and their loud shrieking laughter proof that they’ve already imbibed.
4. Watch your badge. They can and do fall off that crappy plastic badge holder and then you’re faced with big problems. If you can’t find it via lost and found at badge registration, you’ll have to pay daily fees to replace the badge.
5. Support independent writers and artists. The Exhibit Hall is a feast for the senses, like all of Comic Con and as such it can be completely overwhelming. Don’t let the loud moneymakers have all your time and attention, though. Visit Artists Alley or the Small Press tables to find unique books, stories, and artwork and know that you are supporting the efforts of starving artists directly.
6. Team up with friends. First of all, it’s really easy to start chatting with people next to you when you are waiting in 6 hour lines. I’ve made two good friends doing just that. Friends are also extremely helpful when it comes to purchasing badges and sharing hotel expenses. Plus, they are overall fun.
7. Avoid the crowds by entering the convention center through the back door. What? Is it possible that you don’t have to struggle down the maddening hordes at the front of the convention center in order to get inside? Yes, my friends. It is true! For I myself have used this little known entrance this very year! Don’t feel bad, though. I only just discovered it despite the fact that it’s so easy to find. Just look at the map and plan out your route. Because so few people use it, though, it seems too good to be true. Forge on and ascend those stairs, though. At the end you will find your reward.
8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Sure, the temperature may only be in the 70’s, but the humid ocean air and the sun beating down on you as you wait in 5 mile-long line after line may heat you up and dehydrate you more efficiently than a commercial pizza oven. Is your only recourse to shell out $4 for a teensy-weensy bottle of water? Nay! And again I say, nay! Bring your own water bottle and slink to the back of the big halls where you will find water stands. Also of considerable help are electrolyte pills, which you can buy online or at your local health food store. They contain the electrolytes that Gatorade has but without all the added sugar.
9. Sleep short but sleep well. A long restful night’s sleep is too much to ask between rooms shared amongst 14 people, sleeping on the sidewalk in line, and nonstop parties. However by making use of ear plugs (for those 13 snorers in your room) and eye masks (to blot out every last scintilla of light) you will sleep deeply during those precious few hours, and away (mostly) refreshed for another day of fun.
10. Don’t give up on Hall H. This is what I did a few years ago. I saw the hellacious lines that stretch on not just for one night but two in order to get into Hall H for Saturday’s program. The new wristband policy, despite its flaws, does cut down on the need to sleep in line. You may still have to wait a long time but during certain days – Thursday and Sunday, I’m looking at you – you can walk right into your panel within an hour or so of its start. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. I did it myself.
And just for the record, I plan on being there for my 10th Comic Con next year, when I will perhaps discover even more tips to enhance the crazy free-for-all that we all love so much.
What do you think of these tips? Do you have any to add? Comment below!