Masterminding your Hall H strategy & campout

30 JUNE 2015

The Twilight Years. There's a life-size wax statue of Edward Cullen in that picture.
If any aspect of the Con has attained mythical status, it's the Hall H line. Nerds all over the world know about it; I've had conversations in New York, Seattle and Chicago where people have rolled their eyes and said something disparaging about SDCC and added, "and the Hall H line? Forget it."
Along with other veterans, I've watched the Hall H line mutate into an unspeakable monstrosity over the years. I remember casually strolling into Hall H to see Neil Gaiman, no line at all; I remember waiting for two hours in line for a LOST panel and groaning about it; I remember the night I looked out of my room at the Hilton Bayfront and saw the Twilight campers with their tents and blankets and tiny grills, like a refugee camp settled down for the night. And I clearly remember the moment I said "Eff it, I'm done with Hall H."
But I know many of you are all about its hallowed walls. So let's dig into the latest rules and regulations offered by CCI. First, though, let me make a point - Hall H is sometimes quite accessible. Obviously Friday (day) is going to be crazy. Other days will have rabid fans as well. But depending on the day and time and panel, you can sometimes get in with a minimal wait. So don't just write off the entire room as a choice between an overnight campout or bust. It's better to monitor the situation visually, ask on Twitter and see what people are reporting.
Onto the wristbands and regulations.
In terms of camping, it's the same as before:
  • "Camping is not allowed." But you can sleep outside overnight. Tomato, tomahto.
  • No "tents, canopies, inflatables, cots, beds" - anything big, essentially. You can have 1 chair of "relatively normal size." And a sleeping bag or blanket.
  • You can't have open flames, so no s'mores.
  • The bathrooms in Lobby G will be open overnight, if you were wondering how to take care of your needs.
Okay, all that's pretty doable.
Now onto the wristbands.
Wristbands are handed out the night before Hall H panels in the Next Day Line. See the distribution times below. You'll need your badge or barcode confirmation AND a photo ID to get a wristband. Hall H is serious business! So you'll line up with all of your friends - one wristband per person, you can't ask for an extra for a friend arriving later, and you must all be together to ensure ending up in the same color zone. Then you'll receive your wristbands and...
1. Either you can bounce at that point and return in the morning, knowing you'll get some type of seat in the first panel - but it might not be a good one. That said, if you don't care about the first panel, you can snooze in the back sections and then work your way to the front for ensuing panels.
2. Keep waiting competitively in line, angling for some front row action.
3. Install a placeholder in line and swap out with them before 7:30 am. I really feel this is a valid income stream for San Diego residents looking for extra cash.
Here's what a wristband gets you.
It guarantees you a seat in Hall H for the first panel. Wristbands are only distributed for that first panel. So if you didn't get a wristband, you could still get into later panels - as earlier panel attendees exit, more people will be let into the room. There are visual line markers that help you estimate how many people need to leave Hall H for you to get in, which will reduce the chance of you spending 8 hours on a fool's errand.
Onto distribution times.
For Thursday panels: Weds, 8 July at 10:00 pm - the general Hall H line in Plaza Park.
For Friday panels: Thurs, 9 July at 8:30 pm - the front of the Next Day Line. (NDL.)
For Saturday panels: Friday, 10 July at 9:45 pm - the front of the NDL.
For Sunday panels: Saturday, 11 July at 11:00 pm - the front of the NDL.
All of this applies to the disabled seating line as well, which will be behind the NDL.
Remember that these distribution times might sound great - but those are the times that staff will distribute the wristbands, NOT the time attendees will get in line for them. If you show up 30 minutes before distribution time, you're going to be unhappily surprised at how many people are already there ahead of you.
Wristbands have sparked a lot of disagreement in the attendee community, as has anything to do with Hall H. This year probably won't be much different, given that each day will appeal to serious (and multiple) fandoms. Whatever your opinion is on the wristbands, or CCI's line management practices in general, try to remember that this is a situation that has gone wildly out of control in the last few years and no one really has an easy and perfect solution that will satisfy everyone. People are doing their best to impose some kind of order and fairness on a situation that's been rife with line-cutting, accusations and many wasted hours for many attendees. My advice: figure out now how much blood you want to spill on this and then make your peace with your decision. Obviously Hall H is a deeply meaningful experience for fans, but Comic-Con offers other memorable experiences too.

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