Final advice for first-timers

7 JULY 2015

If you've been to Comic-Con before, you can skip all this. Everyone else, here are a few pieces of guidance for the rest of the week.

Get in touch with your long-distance friends today and make concrete plans to see each other. If you're vague about it, it won't happen. Once you're there in the whirlwind, it's easy to keep putting each other off or surrender to scheduling conflicts.

Make lists of the exclusives you want, the booth numbers they'll be at, and the panel times and room numbers. Use the CCI tool or make a list on your phone. It's a very safe bet you'll be distracted by the circus around you and forget otherwise.

Also make a list of which back issues you need. If you want to be really thorough, see what they cost online so you know whether or not a vendor is dealing fairly with you.

Once you arrive, you'll see lines everywhere - lines for volunteers, lines for pros, lines for attendees. Later you'll see multiple lines for exclusives tickets, panel rooms, badge pick-up. To make sure you get in the right line, always check with the person ahead of you. Otherwise you might waste an hour or two in the wrong place.

If you're lucky enough to have a Preview Night badge, show up a few hours earlier than the 3:00 time they tell you. You can usually go right in and get badged, no line. And you can join the Preview Night line up in the Sails Pavilion if you want.

On that note, if you do arrive at your hotel on Wednesday, try to get there early. It pays to be one of the first SDCC arrivals; the hotel staff will be more able to upgrade your room and do special favors than when there's a line of 30 attendees behind you.

Take advantage of bag check as well as the convention center Fed Ex store, and the local hotel UPS and Fed Ex stores. Shipping your stuff home feels so much better rather than lugging it around or letting it pile up in your room.

I don't want to kill all the joy of Exhibit Hall shopping, but definitely use your phone and see if you're being wildly overcharged. Sometimes you will be. Books will be marked as "out of print" when there are 143 used copies available on Amazon, action figures will be marked as "rare" when there are 17 in circulation at any given moment on Ebay.

Don't bother with all the tried and true Con favorite restaurants that are spilling over with crowds. Take a chance on the emptier places. Last year the Headquarters on the other side of the Hyatt was seating people almost immediately at various restaurants, and the higher-priced places are always a faster bet. It's mindblowing to me that people will wait an hour outside a crowded, loud, mediocre restaurant to avoid paying the extra ten dollars that the relaxing, more delicious restaurant up the block would cost. It's Comic-Con. Treat yourself. 

This one might seem weird - but check the online SDCC coverage for all the people back home who can't make it. When you're in the thick of things, it can be hard to spot some of the coolest collectibles or hear the rumors about the best surprise guest ever expected at a certain panel. Tapping into online coverage can help you stay on top of things.

Be prepared for the Exhibit Hall to smell like a biohazardous swamp at some point. If you have a sensitive nose, put some kind of scent on a piece of fabric to make your own smelling salts. This isn't like being in an outdoor show; being with tens of thousands of people in a contained space can get pungent. 

Don’t take it personally if you get bopped in the head by a foam weapon or brushed by a cosplayer’s extensive wing or have a stroller run over your feet. It's crowded and we all bump into each other eventually.

Panel etiquette: If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct and resist the urge to tell your life story or ask 8 questions when each person is allotted 1. A lot of times this isn't intentional; people get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking. Also, don't hold your iPad or camera above your head for a prolonged period, blocking the view of the person behind you.
Be nice to any celebrities. Don't swarm them. Don't follow them. People love to tell rude celebrities stories and sure, they exist, but what doesn’t get said is that fans can be absolutely brutal to the actors, writers and artists they “love.”

Finally, be prepared for the Con to amaze and surprise you in positive ways and to let you down in others. There's always some expectation that doesn't get met, some disappointment or sense of deficiency. At the same time, there's a lot of adventure to be had and most attendees have at least one thrilling surprise each Con. Try to keep an open mind and an open heart and you'll have a more enjoyable experience.

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