SDCC Rookie Tips

WHAT UP INTERNET?!

So let’s say you booted up six laptops, crossed your fingers, clenched your lucky rabbit’s foot, prayed to the ConLife Gods and hit the jackpot-so now you’re going to the Con of all Cons, San Diego Comic-Con International 2016. If you are: congratulations! Your Bro will see you there and if we cross paths feel free to hit me up for a fist bump. But if you’ve never been to SDCC, between the scope of the convention center, travel, the number of exhibitors, hotels, the numerous offsite events, food and the sheer size of the SDCC area, planning for the Con can quickly feel overwhelming. This Bro has been there, and now I’m a ConLife Connoisseur!

We’re still a ways off from all the exciting announcements (and the general hotel sale) regarding what exclusives will be available and who will be holding panels at the Con, but it’s never too early to start prepping for the biggest and best Con of the year! Prior to last year’s convention I posted not only my ConLife Essentials, but I also shared my SDCC packing list with all you Bros. As SDCC draws closer, I’ll certainly post some Con-specific guides; in the mean time, I wanted to share some general tips some people may overlook. Even if you’re familiar with the illustrious ConLife, SDCC is a Con like no other-as such, here are some tips I believe my Bros who are SDCC n00bs may benefit from!

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The Hilton San Diego Bayfront gets done up right for SDCC

  1. Prioritize

If you’ve ever been to a Con you know the primary things to do (in no particular order) are as follows: A) Walking the floor B) Attending Panels C) Getting your hands on exclusives D) Visiting off-site events. It’s worth noting, the latter two options are primarily at larger Cons. When visiting SDCC, each of these options-however with approximately 130,000 attendees in the San Diego convention center and Lord knows how many lingering in the Gaslamp District where SDCC is housed, space-and merch-is at a premium and limited. I’m certainly not saying you won’t be able to do each of the aforementioned at least once, I’d recommend planning as if you can only do one.

Even though we assume we’re going to be able to hit up a few off sites and we’ll get to attend at least one Hall H panel, we plan on only being able to secure exclusives, as I use SDCC not only to expand my personal collection, but to get most of my holiday shopping for my closest Bros! Since there’s no panel-or exhibitor-list available just yet, I’m not suggesting you assume you’re only going to get to do one thing, but if there’s something you absoulely need to do at SDCC, I’d recommed spending a good amount of your time camping for it to ensure you get what you want out of SDCC.

 

2. Walking Shoes

For some inexplicable reason, your Bro ran the Walt Disney World Marathon this past January. While I learned lessons about self-confidence and all that jazz, the one thing I took away which I believe has the most ConLife applicability is: invest in a good pair of shoes. After breaking in my pair of running shoes with a gel sole, I only don something different when I’ve got to dress up. SDCC encompasses a large portion of the San Diego Gaslamp District. If you want to experience everything the Con and its corresponding offsites have to offer, prepare to walk-a TON. You’re going to get blown up (aka winded) if you aren’t careful, and the last thing you want is to huff it from the Convention Center (for a panel) to the Marriot Marquis and Marina (to attend an offsite) to Petco Park (for another awesome offsite) and back again, and then have your feet pounding after day one. Invest in a solid pair of walking/running shoes so you can experience everything SDCC has to offer.

3. Snacks

These are legit #BroFuel

These are legit #BroFuel

If you’re approaching SDCC commando-checklist style and trying to maximize your time in the convention center, the last thing you want to deal with is a rumbling tummy. Ain’t no Bro good with a rumbling tummy. While there is a relatively small selection of eats available at exorbitant prives within the convention center, I’d recommend packing a few protein-filled snacks to tide you over for as long as possible. If you really want to save cash, pack a refillable water bottle (I recommend somehing collapsable to save space) to wash down all your eats. I tend to only pack a few snacks as I occasionally need a mental break from the hustle and bustle of the exhibition hall floor, but if you’re trying to maximize your time at SDCC make sure you’ve got the energy to do what you want!

4. Dress in layers

A brief overview of a typical day for SDCC for us last year 1) Camping outside overnight 2) Cramming into the convention center with thousands of other attendees 3) Walking briskly around said convention said, shoulder-to-shoulder with people 4) Heading outside into the beautiful San Diego Sunshine, and walking a couple miles in and around the gaslamp district 5) Lugging around bags of exclusives and swag the entire time 6) Sitting or standing around in line for something-possibly inside, possibly outside 7) Hitting up parties after the sunsets and the wind starts to pick up.

Point of this little anedcote is, in a single day you can experience both extreme heat and cold (I’m from Texas-anything under 70 degrees is extreme cold to me), can alternate multiple times betwen sitting and/or standing for hours, will do a lot of walking and you’ve the potential to be lugging around bags of swag, so if you’re fortunate enough to secure a hotel in the Gaslamp District, you may be making multiple trips to change and/or drop stuff off. Dress accordingly (Protip: Hoodies can keep you warm or serve as a cushion, and free oversized bags make great tarps!)

5. Secure your badge

So you’ve scored a badge to the most sought-after Con in the land-AWESOME! Now don’t lose it. While this may change given that SDCC is mailing badges out this year instead of forcing attendees to pick them up on site, this entry is relevant to both SDCC 2014 and 2015. The badges are essentially just pieces of paper in a thin plastic holder which identifies the type of badge you have. SDCC provides a lanyard, however both years it was rather flimsy. The crew and I immediately replace the lanyards with some of our own (Bonus points for personalization!) and safety pin our badge to the provided plastic holder. While it makes removing the badge a bit of an ordeal, it also means your ticket to NerdLife Nirvana won’t be going anywhere without you knowing about it!

6. Pack a power bank (or two, or three!)

Perfect for storing your earbuds, cables and power bank

Perfect for storing your earbuds, cables and power bank

You’re probably thinking “Bro, this is ConLife 101! Of course we know to pack power banks!” While I give props to my Bros who already know this, reception in the San Diego Convention Center during SDCC is spotty at best. Couple this with thousands of attendees, photos to take, social media to follow and share on, general googling and you’ve brewed the perfect battery-smoking cocktail! I’m on my phone more during SDCC than any other Con due to the litany of last minute updates and plethora of offsite events. Even if you’re already packing a power bank, I’d recommend taking a backup with you-they may take up some space in your bag, but considering they keep your smartphone chugging along during the Con of all Cons, the opportunity cost of not having one is much too high.

7. Use the buddy system

If you’ve never been to SDCC and aren’t sure what you want to explore yet, I can guarantee you’re going to do an awful lot of one thing: waiting in line. Whether it’s for a panel, exclusive, photo or food, you’re going to be waiting. A hell of a lot. You’re going to get tired, or hungry, or thirsty, or need to go to the restroom, or maybe just need a mental break-and that’s where the buddy system comes into play. If you’re rolling with a crew, it’s customary to leave a Bro or two behind to have them hold down the fort while everyone else does literally anything else. If you’re rolling solo-hit the people up around you! Be chatty and make it known you’re there, so if you need to head to the restroom they’ll hold your spot for you. If there’s something you really want to experience you’re going to have to wait for it, and being able to rotate with a Bro is welcome respite from the montony.

8. Set up a texting group/Have a meet up plan

While we always attempt to use group texting when at SDCC, last year we utilized “Whatsapp” when all members of our crew needed to communicate with everything. It worked fairly well, although this year we plan to stick with a simple iPhone group message. If you’d like to play it safe, I’d recommend making sure everyone in your crew has a way to contact everyone else-and since you know you’re going to have that one Bro who doesn’t charge their phone or forgets their power bank, it’s always a safe bet to come up with a desginated time and place to meet up (say, at a particular booth or at a specific offsite) before parting ways. A little planning can go a long way when your phone calls it quits unexpectedly.

9. Carry an extra bag

The best bag you could ask for. Doesn't come with the patches or the attachments, but they're useful and swag.

The best bag you could ask for. Doesn’t come with the patches or the attachments, but they’re useful and swag.

 

If you’re going gung-ho on SDCC, at the bare minimum you’re going to be lugging around your wallet, phone, power bank, water, snacks and probably a hoodie you won’t need to wear the whole time. Unless you’re into wearing cargo pants with more pockets and zippers than anyone should ever have, odds are you’re going to want to carry a backpack. While it’s true you’re going to have bequeathed unto you so many large bags you’ll probably end up using them to pad your exclusives in your suitcase for the ride home (Pro tip, BTW!), none will be as sturdy or as reliable as a real backpack you bring from home. Considering you’re going to be carrying your most important stuff with you all day, you want it to be secured and you want the weight to be distributed evenly-hence why I recommend a backpack.

10. Carry cash

While this is just a general life tip more people need to follow (Tips? Parking meters? Laundry machines? YOU NEED TO HAVE SOME CASH AT ALL TIMES, PEOPLE), this is especially true during SDCC. If you’re like me and focused solely on exclusives, for some inexplicable reason there are a number of exhibitors who only accept cash. Perhaps it’s due to the spotty internet reception within the convention center, but if I want to be able to get my hands on all the exclusives I want, I need to have cash. Apart from exhibitors in the convention center, there are numerous offsite events such as impromptu signings or photo sessions (such as Smiles for Smiles at the Nerd HQ offsite) which are cash only. Do yourself a favor and have cash.

As SDCC draws closer and more announcements are made, I’ll share more specific gameplans with you Bros. Since information is so limited right now, I’d recommend just having these basic tips in the back of your mind. In order to maximize your utility at SDCC you’re going to have to do a significant amount of planning. I’m all for planning as far in advance as possible but for now just by HYPED you’re going to hit up SDCC in a few months! Until next time, Bros!

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