1. Prepare to stand in line.
This is probably the best advice I could ever give you. There is an inside joke among those of us that have spent endless hours of our lives waiting in line: You don't go to Comic Con to meet or see your idols... you go to stand in line. I can't stress this enough. When you are organizing your schedule, give yourself plenty of time between panels, because you are not the only person that wants to be in the room when Dark Horse announces new projects, or when they preview footage from the new season of Fringe. Get there EARLY. At least 2 panels before, just in case, because they do not empty out the rooms after every panel. Over the years I have learned that there are just some panels that won't be popular and I don't have to worry about not getting in. However, if you are planning to see the panels for True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Kevin Smith, Breaking Dawn, or anything else in Hall H or Ballroom 20, you better prepare for spending most of the day in those rooms. Two years ago, I camped out in Hall H for 6 hours to see the Avatar panel. Five hours to see Joss Whedon in Ballroom 20. PLAN AND PREPARE ACCORDINGLY.
2. Plan, plan, plan your schedule.
STUDY THE %&!@ OUT OF THE SCHEDULE. Figure out before hand what panels you want to make. Then... cut them in half. The sad but realistic truth about this event is that you will NEVER get to see everything you want to. Trust me guys. It's just not possible. Pick one panel a day that you refuse to miss and schedule everything else around that. You have to accept the fact that you will miss something, but thanks to YouTube and hand held cameras, it's likely going to be on YouTube in the matter of hours anyway. However, always remember that anything can happen. You never know what surprises are in store for the panels that you do attend. Think of this... a few years ago, Hugh Jackman made an appearance in Hall H out of nowhere right before the Twilight panel to reveal the first trailer of Wolverine. And last year, Johnny Depp arrived at the very end of the very first Tim Burton panel just to say hello...
3. Bags and backpacks
Whatever kind of bag you prefer to carry, make sure it is something comfortable and that you can wear it on your shoulders all day, because most likely, that's exactly what you will be doing. And one of the most popular giveaways at Comic Con every year are the swag bags. If you don't carry one in, you are bound to carry one out. Or two. Or three. Don't shy away from taking every free bag that is thrown at you. Although you may not end up using them all, I have found plenty of uses for my Comic Con bags over the years. And not only that, they are all limited editions. The only people that receive them are the people at Comic Con... unless of course you buy them on ebay afterwards...
Just consider yourselves lucky that now EVERYONE gets a WB bag. I still remember the days when you had to fight over them during Preview Night.
4. Be Flexible
One of my favorite things about Comic Con is that you never know what's going to happen or who you are going to run into. Sometimes literally. I have not only nearly ran into Zachary Quinto between panels, but I have also met Adam West, Peter Beagle, Sean Patrick Flanery, and a number of other unexpectedly. Don't be too dead set on your schedule that you can't allow for last minute changes. There are always a number of events and secret parties that never appear on any schedule. Like the Tron party 2 years ago that guests got to see the first glimpse of the new lightcycle.
5. Take food and drinks with you.
I am famous for not eating much during a convention weekend. My mind is too busy with other things to worry about eating. However, that doesn't stop me from always taking in both a bottle of caffeine and a bottle of water. Sometimes snacks, it just depends on the day. Although the Gaslamp is full of plenty of fast food places, the lines can be ridiculous. And I would never resort to buying food inside the convention center unless at last resort. Not only are there long lines, but the prices are insane.
6. Don't forget about the Exhibit Hall
If you are like me, the most important thing to you are the panels. I'm a tv series and movie fanatic. I want to be among the first people to see the trailers and special footage, which gives me little time to explore the Exhibit Hall. Don't forget to spend some time wondering the booths. Once again, you never know who you will run into or what you will find. Not to mention all the free giveaways. I usually come back each year with a week's worth of shirts to add to my closet. Think of the Exhibit Hall as the treasure chest of geeky fandom. And in most cases, this is the place to find those rare collectibles and comic books at the best prices. And trust me, do some shopping on Sunday, when everyone is begging you to buy something. A couple years ago, I bought at least $50 worth of comic books, a t-shirt, buttons, and stickers at the Dark Horse booth for only $20.
7. Walk if you can
Since they now require previously purchased parking passes, it makes this advice pretty obvious. You don't want to drive to the convention center if you don't have to. Walk if at all possible, especially if you are within a mile of the convention center. Trolleys can break down. Traffic jams ensue. And trains can be late. Always give yourself extra time to get there, especially if you need to be there by a certain time.
8. Plan for different kinds of weather
I have been to a very hot and sunny, and a very cold and dreary Comic Con. Bring summer clothes. It can get hot in San Diego at the end of July. But prepare for rain, because you might need an umbrella waiting in line for Hall H. But ALWAYS pack some kind of light jacket to take with you inside. Some of those panel rooms can be FREEZING, especially if you are sitting through more than one panel.
9. LOOK AROUND YOU
Comic Con is the most interesting "people watching" event in the world. People travel from all over the world to attend. Don't forget to turn around in line and chat to the people around you. Make new friends. Trust me when I say that this is the only place you will ever go that people can have conversations by using only famous lines of dialogue. Open your mouth and meet the people around you. It's the only place where fans, writers, artists, actors, directors and everyone else are all on the same level. For most of us, this is more than just a convention, it's a family reunion. So come and party with us.
10. A convention folder and poster roll.
Having been a convention goer for many years now, I learned after my first con that you need a safe and easy way for carrying your signed items. Bring some kind of binder or folder that will leave pictures and other items dry and straight, packed with extra clear covers and slips. I will say it again, you never quite know who you will run into on the convention floor, or who you may have the opportunity to take a picture with.
Here is a picture of my folder... organized by tv show.
Finally, a list of recommended items in your backpack:
- Extra camera batteries and memory cards. (especially if you are like me and take over 100 pictures at every panel.)
- Bottle of water
- Bottle of some type of caffeine (every coffee and soda addicted attendee will need sustenance)
- sunglasses or a hat
- NEVER FORGET YOUR SCHEDULE
- Phone #'s of everyone in your group. You will get separated.
- iPod or something else to entertain you while you are in line.
- convention folder
- cameras (I carry four cameras each year. All perfect depending on the situation)
I hope this helps some of you along. If not, well then, you will learn. Just like me. I attended my very first Comic Con by myself, not knowing of anyone else that was going, and I survived. So will you. It's not as scary as it seems... most of the time.