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How to Survive the San Diego Comic-Con

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted last year for the 2011 SDCC, but the information and tips still apply so we figured it’d be appropriate to do a re-post with an updated list!

It’s time. This week, hundreds of thousands of nerds descend upon sunny San Diego, California for their yearly pilgrimage to the Geek Vatican, the San Diego Comic-Con. There really is no other event quite like it, and it can always be a bit overwhelming for the first-time attendee. But have faith, as we here at Nerdeux are committed to getting you the best Comic-Con experience as possible and have written up a handy guide that will hopefully lower your stress levels and make the whole process more enjoyable. Hit the jump to begin!

1. Plan ahead, plan ahead, and plan ahead some more.

Don’t just show up at the convention on Wednesday without a plan of what you want to do. You’ll miss out on a LOT of awesome stuff and regret it in the end: my first year I went I just sort of wandered around looking for signs pointing to cool things, and that was a pretty big mistake. Luckily, Comic-Con has a wonderful schedule tool available that will shows you all the panels, let you add panels to your personal schedule, and export it to a mobile device. Personally, I also print mine out and keep it in my pocket.

If you aren’t staying at a hotel downtown, then be sure you know in advance where you’re going to park, and how much it is. Also be sure to note the closest trolley station to your hotel. You’ll save a lot of time.

There are always events going on outside the convention as well, both day and night. There’s a way to know about and plan for these as well. Every year the folks over at the Unofficial San Diego Comic-Con Blog compile a list of the offsite events with information on when they start, how much they cost, and where they are. Utilize both these tools before you arrive in San Diego, and you’ll find your time much easier to manage. That being said, we come to step #2:

2. Don’t be afraid to alter or even toss out your schedule.

A plan of attack is a good tool to have in advance as a way to help you loosely get an idea of what you want to do, but sometimes surprises pop up and if you stick to your schedule like glue you can miss them. In 2010, for example, I would have missed the awesomeness that was the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World advance screening if I had stuck to my schedule. To guarantee my seat at that event, I pretty much threw out 4-5 panels I had planned to attend on Friday.

Your schedule is extremely useful and helps you prioritize panels, but don’t let it rule your stay. Be open to sudden changes and you’ll have more fun, trust me.

3. Bring cash. Don’t plan to rely on credit cards.

Credit cards and the like work fine outside the convention in the Gaslamp Quarter and at the hotels and stuff, but in the exhibition hall cash is king. This isn’t so much a way for you to have more fun as it is a friendly notice on behalf of the merchants. Credit cards take a lot longer to pay with in the exhibition hall (if the merchant even takes them), and quite often add fees that cash would not. It’s less hassle on the merchants, and on the attendees themselves in cases, to just pay with cash. This will also help prevent you from going on a spending frenzy that leaves you in financial ruin. Which brings me to step #4:

4. Shop smart. (shop s-mart).

The exhibition hall can be addictive. There’s going to be so much cool stuff for sale all around you that you may have an urge to just start spending like crazy. Don’t. You’ll regret it later when you see something exclusive you want, but can no longer afford. When shopping in the exhibition hall, try to lean towards purchasing items you can’t find anywhere else. If you can find it online, it’s likely to be cheaper there than it will be on the show floor. Though keeping that in mind will help you save money when it comes to collectibles and swag, there is a far more important purchase you’ll have to make every day that can bleed you dry: food.

Convention food is insanely expensive and usually pretty terrible. Don’t buy it. Just don’t. Instead, head out to the Gaslamp Quarter where many of the local eateries often have some very nice specials for convention attendees. One that springs to mine is this small pizza joint on 3rd street that offers two slices of pizza and a medium drink for $3 if you have your badge on you. Compare this to a personal pizza and drink at the convention, which will cost you up to $10. And let me tell you, that Gaslamp pizza was damn good, not like the biohazard waste you can find around the exhibition hall.

5. Pack smart.

Believe it or not, there’s a certain way to pack for your trip that will pay off in the end and make your life so much easier. Don’t try to bring all sorts of fancy, nice clothing so you can dress in layers and be fashionable. Fashion really doesn’t mean anything at SDCC, and after a full day in the exhibition hall your priorities are bound to shift from looking good to being comfortable. You’re much better off just packing a bunch of nerdy t-shirts and jeans. You’ll be more comfortable, which makes a big difference after a few hours in the hall. Along with that, bring perhaps one nice outfit to wear to bars and afterparties.

Besides clothing, make sure you leave a lot of room to pack away all your merch and free swag you’ll be collecting, even bring a smaller, empty second suitcase if you plan on purchasing a lot. Bring a lot of water bottles and snacks; you’ll be doing a lot of walking in extremely hot and humid environments and it’s important to stay hydrated. The humidity brings me to step #6:

6. Be hygenic.

Seriously, I know it’s become somewhat of a stereotype or gag for convention attendees and nerds by extension to be unhygenic but please actually take care of your personal cleaning. Every year I run into one sad individual that smells like he’s been sleeping in a dump. In the crowded exhibition hall, it’s not only disgusting to be un-bathed, it’s offensive to the people around you. We’re irritated enough herding around like sheep, we don’t need to be next to you smelling the ten day old milk cartons you call armpits. I’m sure a lot of you are laughing at this step, but trust me it wouldn’t be written had I not had to deal with it. Shower at your hotel every day; if you have an early panel, then wake up earlier. Use deodorant, keep it in your backpack for all I care, and just be courteous to other attendees.

7. Don’t complain, don’t laugh at others, in short: don’t be a dick.

This is probably the most tragic entry I’ve had to put on this list. Many, myself included, see Comic-Con as sort of a geek sanctuary; a place where nerds everywhere can come together and be accepted no matter what they enjoy. I know what you’re thinking and yes, even those Twilight kids have a right to be there and have a right to enjoy themselves. The reason the Twilight kids get such a bad rap, however, is because they broke this very important rule. The reason we don’t want them there anymore is because they spent most of their time pointing and laughing at other attendees, making fun of them, loudly insulting everything around them, and generally making a nuisance of themselves. At Comic-Con, you have a right to be a fan of whatever you want to be a fan of, and you have a right to express that fandom as long as you aren’t ruining things for everyone else. Just don’t kill the vibe/buzz. You can complain long after the convention about being disappointed in certain things or the classic “it was better in the past!,” but don’t do it at the convention. You’ll just be Captain Buzzkill and ruin it for people that are genuinely enjoying things.

In short, be courteous and respectful to other attendees, and don’t be a buzzkill.

8. If you really want to see something, get there really early.

Probably one of the most maligned aspects of Comic-Con are the massive panel lines. Luckily, this year a lot of the big panels that normally feature the lines people complain about have pulled out of the convention so it might be a bit easier to get into your events. Regardless, if you really want to see a certain panel, scope it out in advance. Come a few hours before it and see how the line is, and check back often so you can hop in line at the most opportune moment. You may have to miss another panel you wanted to see, but that can happen. Weigh which of the two is most important to you, and pick that one.

9. Carry a backpack.

Don’t even consider going in there without a backpack or bag. Eventually you’re going to have an armful of stuff and nowhere to put it. Luckily, Warner Bros. is partnering up with Comic-Con again to offer free oversized bags to attendees so they have a place to put all their stuff. These can be a bit unwieldy, however, and it pays to have a normal backpack to carry your water, snacks, books, etc. You’ll thank me later.

10. Make the most of your trip; don’t live in the hall.

Downtown San Diego is one of the coolest places in the state. The Gaslamp Quarter alone is large and interesting enough to offer four days worth of walk-around sightseeing. Don’t be afraid to leave the convention halls to explore a bit of the local flavor, you’ll find some really cool stuff out there.

Well those are all the tips I have, if you can think of any that should be added then post them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!

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