Ticket? Check. Wallet? Check. Youthful enthusiasm? Check.
Good to go, right? Wrong.
Even if you're a veteran of "the 'Con" you may find some tips & pointers below that you hadn't thought of before, but if this is your first time, this guide may save your life!! Well, not really your life, but your trip for sure. Did you want to enjoy yourself or what? Read on to find out what people in the know - want YOU to know:
- Shoes: Wear sneakers, or any kind of very comfortable shoes. You're going to be abusing your feet all day, so make sure you take care of them. No sandals or open-toed shoes, fans are generally clumsy and will be distracted, your feet are going to get stepped on.
- Sweatshirt: Yes, it's summertime, but the convention center is right there next to the water, and temperatures can drop rapidly when the sun goes down. Factor in a nice cool ocean breeze, and you might regret not bringing something a little warmer than a t-shirt. Also, will the A/C be on inside? Will it be cranked up out of your comfort zone? Best to be prepared.
- Ticket: It bears mentioning that if by some freak chance you forget your ticket, you will scream obscenities in public. Don't scream obscenities in public.
- Backpack: One that has nice wide, comfortable shoulder straps - but isn't so big and bulky it becomes a burden to you and those around you.
- Water: Make sure you have plenty of it. This one is a no-brainer for veterans, but for first timers it may not occur to you. You'll be on your feet walking around and standing in lines all day, something most of us don't do on a daily basis. You'd be surprised how thirsty you'll get, and dehydration can lead to headaches (and a number of other things that can spoil your day) while you're trying to enjoy the festivities. A space-saving and "green" solution would be to get yourself a Brita bottle so you can refill it at any drinking fountain and avoid having to lug multiple bottles of water around.
- Permanent marker: Seems obvious, but you'll be kicking yourself if you forget one! Star power abounds at Comic-Con, and aside from all the amazing artists, you never know who you might bump into. Better yet, they're small and lightweight so bring a backup marker as well - otherwise, if you somehow manage to lose the first one, you're back to kicking yourself.
- Something to sign: You might not run into your favorite celebrity or artist, but then again you just might! This isn't a comic convention, it's the Comic-Con. Celebrities will be in attendance, and not all of them are publicized!
- Camera: You can get a decent digital camera on the cheap these days, don't rely on your phone to document your experience. Slave Leia and Leeloo deserve better! Camera, charger/extra batteries, extra memory card(s).
- Snacks: You'll want something to munch on, especially if you're hardcore enough to skip lunch in order to maximize your 'Con time. Trail mix is a popular choice, as are power bars and jerky. Alternatively, rather than skipping lunch, consider packing one for yourself. Chances are you'll have enough time to eat it while you're waiting in line for one thing or another.
- Wallet: We've all forgotten our wallet/purse at some point, now is not the time. You will want to buy stuff, don't risk having to kick yourself for leaving your funds in your room!
- Poster tube: Whether it's free swag, or something you just had to have, it's almost impossible to make it through Comic-Con without accumulating any posters. Plan ahead and bring something to keep them in *mint* or *near-mint* condition and you'll thank yourself when you get them back home safe and sound. You can go big and get a blueprint tube, but even a cheap mailing tube will do the trick.
- Comic Book Case: These are about the size of a stack of a dozen comic books and help protect signed comic books, trading cards, small art prints and more while storing them in your bag and even for the ride home after a show. A Comic Book Case runs around ten dollars and can be found easily online or in the exhibit hall of Comic Con.
- MP3 player: You'll be standing in line, kind of a lot. After you spend 5 minutes seeing everything you can see from where you're standing, it might be nice to take a break from the noisy hum of voices. MP3 player, charger/extra batteries.
- Handheld gaming: Again, you're going to want to have something to do while you're waiting in line. Don't forget your charger/extra batteries, it's not unheard of to spend more than 4 hours a day in lines.
- Book/Reading material: If you're saving weight, or trying to look intellectual this is the way to go. No charger, no batteries, and everyone will know you are literate.
- Chair: Bring your lazy-boy. Or, step back into reality and pick up a lightweight, compact chair/stool. If you haven't figured it out by now, you will be spending a lot of time waiting in lines, and why stand when you can sit? Something like this might be just the ticket, then while you're taking a load off and playing your favorite handheld game, those around you stuck standing and bored will wonder why they didn't think of it.
- Scouting: If you are spending all 5 days at the convention, do a quick lap of the hall to get a sense of where everything is. Mark interesting places on your map, to come back later and spend more time. On preview night- grab your schedule and start scouting where you want to go and where you need to be for each time block.
- Shopping: Shop only during Preview Night and on Sunday afternoon. Preview Night to get unique items or items of limited quantity, and Sunday afternoon for the best prices - items are often heavily discounted near the very end of Sunday.
- Limit yourself: Plan to visit only 1 or 2 rooms/halls per day. Trying to visit more than 1 popular panel will require hours of standing in line. Ideally, you find a single room which has more than one interesting panel back to back. You are NOT required to leave rooms between panels.
- Maps: Study the map before you arrive. Spend at least 20 minutes. Compare it to a street map (i.e. Google Maps) so you know where the entrances and exits go to the street. The convention center is huge, probably bigger than you're thinking, so mark down the important spots you want to see in advance. Lines get crazy and the last thing you want to do is miss the chance to get in on something just because you got lost or didn't leave yourself enough time to fight your way through the crowd!
- Meal choices: When it comes time to eat, if you decide to not to pack your own meals, don't be afraid to venture out a few blocks into the Gaslamp district. Often the fast food places closest to the convention center by will be packed - causing long lines and poor service. There is a Ralph's grocery not too far with a full deli and a stocked section of pre-made sandwiches. It is a few blocks away, but some peace while eating could be a welcome break.
- Coordinate: Be sure to coordinate with your party a time & place to meet-up for meals before hand. The cell reception in the area is spotty at best despite AT&T and Verizon's best efforts to help this with mobile COW units, especially around the key meal times when everyone is trying to make plans.
- Shower: In a perfect world, this wouldn't even need to be mentioned, but in the world we live in, it does. For many attendees, this is the highlight of their year, and after a long day of sensory overload, it's not uncommon for exhausted fans to pass out before taking a shower, or wake up late and skip it in favor of jumping back into convention mode. Don't be a part of the problem! After an entire day of bumping into and fighting your way through masses of humanity, you'll be dying to grab a nice hot shower, and one more clean human means one fewer of the smelly variety. Ask any veteran, we're not making this up. Likewise, don't forget the deodorant - because many others will.
- Hand sanitizer: Remember the whole people skipping showers thing? Purell is your friend, use it often. With so many people attending from such a wide variety of locales, the danger of spreading germs around is extremely high. The last thing you want is to catch someone's lingering cold and have it ruin the rest of your trip.