So, you’ve either jumped through all the hoops of attending Comic Con or you’re considering an entry into the process. Either way, you’ll probably want an idea of what it takes to succeed at while preparing and once you arrive at the Con. Sure, you’ll find some guides and hints on the Internet but sometimes those articles seem written from theory and not from the perspective of your average, everyday attendee. This guide take a little different perspective, talks plainly, and offers usable advice from personal experience (and was updated after the 2017 Con with fresh information):
1. The Con
Learn the unique vernacular. People at Comic Con don’t call it “Comic Con,” at the convention, it is called, “the Con.” You’ll hear people say, “How’s your Con?” or “Are you having a good time at the Con?” or perhaps, “How’s the Con treating you this year?” So, do what all the cool kids are doing, call it the Con and pretend like you know what you’re doing.
Everyone said wear comfortable shoes and I completely agree. Wear something solid, comfortable, and slightly worn in. My friend made the mistake of buying shoes just for Comic Con but one shoe rubbed a toe raw without compassion or remorse. He was hobbling by late in the event. Break them in early and stride around in comfort at the Con.
You can wear a backpack or messenger bag inside the convention but given the choice, I recommend a medium sized backpack. During the course of your travels, you will pick up freebies, goodies, swag, and your own must-have goodies. Slipping those items in a traditional backpack will evenly distribute the weight and keep down fatigue. If you go with a messenger bag, you’ll find yourself swapping shoulders to relieve the weight and stress on your back. Additionally, the messenger bag will hang off your side, making your profile wider and thus more difficult to get through tight crowds. Go with the backpack, make life easy on yourself.
4. Cash Not Required
Everyone said “brings LOADS of cash!” but that isn’t exactly true. Sure, most of the booths prefer cash but don’t stroll around with $1,000 in your pocket. Any medium or large sized booth with quality products will accept your debit or credit card. I’ve paid for many things using my debit card with zero issue. I would recommend you bring enough cash for that day’s needs — perhaps around $100 a day (food, drinks, odds and ends). When you return to the hotel, hit the ATM and pull some more money from the account. You’ll probably pay $3-5 for the service charge but it may be worth the additional security (mentioned in item 13).
5. Artwork & Posters
Bring or prepare to buy a poster tube while at Comic Con. Why? Because if you like art, posters, or anything printed which you may want to keep from getting mashed in the crowds, you will need a way to protect the item. The standard size of most prints sold at the Con is 11 x 17, so either bring your own poster tube (which should include a shoulder sling) or buy one for $10-20 once you arrive. There are a number of artist supply booths near Artist’s Alley at the Con. Way too many times I’ve see people walking through the crowds holding a poster or print high in the air, hoping for its survival. Don’t be that guy.
6. Hotel Shuttles
Don’t worry about trying to get a hotel within walking distance of Comic Con. First, the price of admission for any hotel close to the convention center is steep. You’ll pay around $200+ a night for a room 20 minutes away and near $500+ a night for anything within a stone’s throw of the Con. Save your money, bed down 20 minutes away and take the expertly scheduled shuttles. They run every 15 or 30 minutes, are dependable, comfortable, and most importantly run 24 hours a day! If you want to duck the crowds and lines at shuttle bus stops, grab UBER or LYFT. They will be about 40% cheaper than a traditional cab with friendly people trying to earn that five-star rating from you.
7. Food Options
Eat a solid meal before and after a day at the Con — snack during the event. In every Con I’ve attended, eating a solid meal either in the room or at the hotel restaurant will prepare you for the long day. During the Con, snack from the abundance of Mrs. Fields cookie carts (which stock cookies, duh, pretzels, and now canned Pepsi products). There are also at least two areas where you can get hot dogs, pizza, cheese nachos, and sandwiches but they are moderate quality at a high price. Example: bought two drinks and one sandwich, that was just short of $20. No better at Mrs. Fields: bought two drinks and two cookies, right around $10. If you’re hungry at the Con, they just soak you for cash.
8. Prepare for the Crush
Let’s face it, you’re joining about 135,000 other people (over four days) in a limited amount of space. If crowds, noise, and bustle overwhelm you, perhaps consider limited exposure or another vacation. Otherwise, expect to be bumped, jostled, and stepped on. Your senses will be bombarded with the buzz from of thousands of voices, the constant thump of music, sales folk selling their wares, and the cacophony from promotional videos and content. Noise. Noise. Noise. But who cares, it is simply the delicious gravy which marinates the Con!
9. Lines Forming Lines
Almost everything at the Con requires a line. Grabbing a bite? Expect a line. Want to go through that cool booth? Yup, there’s a line. Must have that hard to find or rare item? You guessed it. Simply accept and endure but keep one thing in mind, if you see a line and ask what the line is for, chances are you’ve already missed out on the poster, toy or t-shirt on the other end.
10. Shipping Your Goodies
Don’t worry about buying something big and trying to take it on the plane. There is a FedEx hub right inside the convention center. If you see something amazing but too large for the suitcase, don’t be shy — buy it. Then drag it out to the FedEx hub, they will provide a box, package it nicely, and ship it off home for you. No fuss. Sure, it will cost a couple of bucks but is probably the only way you’ll get that rare item home without a scuff or ding.
11. Bargain Shopping
It is true, prices drop like a rock on Sunday and many stores hold off and show their best deals on the last day — artists may also follow suit. I went back to an artist I’d purchased a print from and wanted a second. I paused at his quoted price and he immediately halved the cost without any pressure from me. The same can be said for many small and medium sized booths. The big boy booth prices tend to be fixed but if the item you want is still around (potentially unlikely if you wait too long) then go get your Sunday deal.
12. Hall H, Worth It?
Everyone has (likely) heard of the hallowed ground which is Hall H. The largest room at the Con, Hall H will feature the biggest stars, the largest crowds and easily the longest lines. We’re not talking four, six, or nine hours to get it to the premiere panels; we’re talking 24+ hours to wait for a chance to get into Hall H. Yes, you and your team will need to trade off waiting inline (common practice) for that chance to see the most recent trailers and the best stars. In 2017, I managed to get into Hall H (long story) but heard there were people who waited inline for 30+ hours and could not get into Hall H on Saturday (always the pinnacle of content for that room). One more thought: if you do chance it, you’ll likely be so far from the stage, you’ll have to watch the panel on the several large screens set up inside the room. With a room that seats 6,500 very few get close enough to the stage.
13. Seedy Side of Comic Con
Appropriately, unlucky 13 represents the darker, seedier side of the Con. Beware theft and pickpockets! I personally set down an item for a moment, took five quick steps to a garbage can, returned and the item was gone. Completely my fault but after checking with lost and found numerous times, the people working there told me theft is a “deal” at the Con — especially tubes storing prints. The staff said they’d heard so many stories about items being pilfered out of backpacks and art tubes being stolen, the entire lost and found staff admitted to being quite paranoid about the convention floor. Don’t be paranoid, just be prudent and keep and eye on your stuff.