4 tips for SDCC first-timers

28 FEBRUARY 2017

Hello, first-timer! Because that's who this post is talking to right now: you, the brand new would-be attendee in the SDCC forest, just starting to stand up on your trembling fawn legs.

If you've been hovering around Comic-Con communities online, you've probably heard excited mentions of badge sales and things called Returning Registration and Open Registration these last few days. And you may be trying to decipher it all in a way that tells you the most crucial thing in the world: how to go to San Diego Comic-Con.

Here's what you need to know.

#1. You need to sign up for a Member ID right now.

You cannot participate in a badge sale without a Member ID. CCI will shut this down without warning before Open Reg so do it now.

#2. You have to participate in Open Registration. 

 All SDCC badges are sold online. CCI - that's Comic-Con International - will hold 2 badge sales. The first, called Returning Registration, is only for people who attended last summer. That's not you so you can ignore it. Your badge sale is the 2nd one, called Open Registration and it works like this:
  • CCI sends out an email to everyone with a Member ID account, notifying them of the sale. They'll give you a special link to use.
  • When the sale goes live, typically on a Saturday morning, you'll be put in an online waiting room where people are randomly chosen to buy badges. If you're picked, you can buy from whatever badges are left and you can buy for 3 people.
  • The badge options are for all four days (Thursday-Sunday) plus Preview Night (Weds night.)  Don't write off Sunday badges - there are still great panels, lots of deals in the Exhibit Hall, and you'll be eligible for Returning Registration next year.
  • It is very difficult to get a badge. Recent estimates show only  6-9% of people in the lottery get a badge. So definitely do what you can, but don't make this the sun and moon of your existence. Make a Plan B that includes attending another Comic-Con. In fact, starting out at another Con (Salt Lake, Denver, Dragon, New York, Gen, take your pick) is highly recommended before attending San Diego Comic-Con.
#3. You should organize your Comic-Con companions right now - along with your finances. 

SDCC may be in July, but the planning starts now. Badge sales are followed by hotel room reservations, followed by parking sales, followed by tickets for parties, bands, talk show tapings, NerdHQ and other events. Anyone you're going with needs to commit now (they'll need a Member ID too) and you'll need to pay for your badges when you buy them as well as a deposit on your hotel room when you book it.

#4. You'll increase your chances of going to San Diego Comic-Con - and enjoying it - if you study up.

This is the part of my advice everyone ignores, because they think they can just wing it.  And while you can certainly try that, there is an extensive learning curve to San Diego Comic-Con - understanding how the badge sales work, how to find out where the real parties are and how to get into them, when to get in line, how to get a good hotel room, cosplayer etiquette and so on. People who think they can skip all that usually wind up twice as tired and frustrated as everyone else, and spend a lot of money on an experience that feels both overwhelming and unfulfilling. Join the SDCC communities, read the blogs, and immerse yourself. You'll meet some cool people and have an amazing time when you're there.

And finally - don't dawdle. Now is the time when the theoretical becomes reality, if you take the right steps. Otherwise you'll be just another homebound nerd watching Comic-Con coverage from your couch this summer. Do what you need to do, and do it now.


  1. #4 is the best advice for my friends who thinking going to CC is as easy as getting a pass. If it was that easy, everyone on the entire planet would get in! I've always seen CC as a fussy bouncer in a club. He might let you in...or he might not. There simply is no guarantees for everyone. But I always give it a shot and see what happens.