You've been dreaming of this day for as long as you can remember, and now it's almost here: your first convention. Whether it's one of the traveling Wizard World conventions, a specific fandom convention (like Supernatural or Star Trek) or some how the geek gods smiled down on you and you are attending the mother of all conventions: San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), they all take quite a bit of planning on your part.
Attending any con can be very overwhelming for the novice con goer, so as veteran of smaller local cons, and of Comic Con in San Diego, I thought some of you first timers might like a few tips on how to make the most of your trip. Assuming you already have hotel and travel arrangements made, this is the list for once you are ready to go.
1. Getting There – Parking and transportation to and from the actual convention can not only be extremely tricky and time-consuming but it can be expensive as well. Plan ahead by buying either parking passes or investigating and investing in the public transportation options nearby. All of the area surrounding SDCC is transformed to make public transportation the way to go in San Diego if you missed out on parking passes. Simply visit the SDCC website to map out what line you should take to get straight to the convention center. In fact most major conventions have public transportation and parking options available to you via their website, so take some time to plan accordingly. Also? Uber & Lyft can run cheaper than a cab and be a quick lifesaver when getting around town.
2. Food – Not only can food suck up your budget quicker than the Flash it can also suck up a lot of your valued con time. Not to mention when you're stuck in line for that can't miss panel, you can't sneak off to go buy a hot dog. So pack snacks and save yourself the trouble. Things that travel well and can help give you a shot of much-needed energy are the best snacks to pack. Bagels & peanut butter, trail mix, protein bars, gummy bears (a con snack staple that is always a MUST have) whatever will get you through the long lines and miles of walking you'll be doing.
3. Dress Appropriately – Dress for the weather of the con you're attending. And keep in mind SDCC goers that San Diego during this time of year is humid beyond description. Most first time visitors to the gorgeous city of San Diego don't realize that they need to add what feels like 50 degrees to whatever the projected temperature is going to be. So keep that in mind when planning your outfits for your trip whether it is cosplay or just shorts and a shirt. That being said, convention centers (especially SDCC) do a pretty bang up job of keeping the AC rocking and those late nights can cool down, so keep a light sweater in your pack.
4. If the Shoe Fits – This may pose a challenge for the serious cosplayers out there but the amount of walking you'll be doing will be more than you realize, I guarantee it. You will also be standing in line for a long time and the first time you hear the all-familiar "You CAN'T SIT THERE – Fire Marshall Rules!" (And you WILL hear that) you'll realize there is no escaping your tired feet. Wear comfortable shoes. And don't be afraid to toss a few blister band-aids and flip-flops in your pack just in case. Especially if you are doing a full 4 days of con!
5. Make a Schedule – There is so much to do or see at a con. SO VERY MUCH. And the only way you'll be able to see half of it, is if you have a game plan. Check out the schedule ahead of time – print it out in fact – and mark the things you do not want to miss. There are always fabulous panels that overlap or off site activities that are only available during a certain window of time and knowing that ahead of time allows you to make the most of your time and catch the things you do not want to miss.
6. Charge It – Do yourself a huge favor and invest in a battery-operated charger to help keep your phone charged during the con. And for Chuck's sake bring your regular charger. I found a nice quiet spot outside the X-Box lounge where I was able to sit (where there were no fire marshal rules being yelled at me), leisurely snack on my gummy bears and plug my phone into the wall. You'll have these moments too, be prepared. Not only do you want to be camera ready at all times, but being able to check into twitter and instagram during the con – especially SDCC – can help you find some of the spontaneous awesome happenings going on around you. Say for instance someone says, "OMG Misha Collins is handing out coffee!" You can make a b-line for both the free coffee and the Misha meet up. Though which one will be more important to you will depend on how much sleep you have gotten…
7. Social Media – Take some time prior to leaving for the con to gather up proper hashtags and social media accounts you want to follow. Celebrities often will tweet their autograph details and companies will offer freebies at their booths and you will only know if you are keeping one eye on the social media feeds. Think I was kidding about the Misha and coffee thing above? Nope. Totally happened.
8. Bring Your Backpack – You'll be glad you did, not only to have a place to toss your souvenirs and freebies, but during a long day on the con floor you'll be glad you did. A few must have items (beside the ones mentioned above) are chapstick, hair ties, flip-flops, sharpies and something to collect autographs on, and definitely water!
9. Bring Your Camera & Charger – Yes your phone camera will enable to snap quick and easy shots that can be shared across the internet. But some of those magical Con moments deserve the full camera treatment.
Good luck to those of you attending your first Con soon! And to those of you veteran Con-goers, what would you add to this list?
Be sure and follow PopWrapped during SDCC and the coming Wizard World conventions for all the coverage you can handle!