If you survived the extinction event known as Open Registration - congratulations. I didn't want to be insensitive on Saturday by throwing a giant Badge Holder Smugness party, but it's been 48 hours and I think we can all revel in our glorious luck. And frankly, it's time to get down to business, because San Diego Comic-Con is just a little more than 3 months away.
Here's what you should do now.
Take advantage of Early Bird Hotel sale or prep for Hotel Day while arranging a backup plan.
Locking down a hotel room for SDCC has gotten harder each year, and there's good reason to think that this year will bring a radically new process that you won't like. Here are your options: book a non-downtown room now without stress or uncertainty in the Early Bird sale; gamble in the Hotel Day sale; look for an Airbnb or other alternative situation. In fact, I'd partner those last two together, because it's so unlikely that you'll get the downtown room of your dreams.
First-timers, you may think 1) I'm exaggerating or 2) it doesn't matter where you stay. I'm not and it does. Staying in Mission Valley or elsewhere doesn't have to ruin your Con, but it's definitely more convenient to be closer. For those of you who've successfully traded reservations before on the attendee underground market, it's getting increasingly difficult to do that too. With the process changes expected this year, I'm guessing that will hold true.
What I'm saying: be scrappy and do what you can to lock down some lodgings.
Sign up for the parking lottery.
If you think you will be in the unfortunate situation of driving in and out of the area each day, you'll want to sign up for the parking lottery now. The drawing is on 25 April so don't delay. Be aware this isn't an option to drive into San Diego, deposit your car and pick it up Sunday; there's no overnight parking. (If your hotel doesn't have parking or even if it does, consider parking at the airport - it's significantly cheaper than hotel valet.)
I know, I know - you just paid for a badge and now you'll need to make a 2 night deposit on your hotel room. You may also be paying a hefty tax bill this week. No one is in a saving frame of mind. But you will have a much better time at SDCC if you wine, dine and shop as much as you want - and that means having a pretty sum put aside. Now is the best time to start; by June you'll see events tickets going on sale and certain exclusives will go up for pre-sale too. If you're currently having financial struggles, then you should definitely start saving now.
Get in shape.
SDCCfit is a thing now but far too many people still show up at Comic-Con unprepared for its physical demands. You can always identify them by Friday; they're sprawled in hallways with defeated expressions as they rub their feet and beg off other events. No one is ever prepared for how tiring Comic-Con is - all the walking and standing, the unexpectedly vast distances between going to lunch at the Fox Sports Grill at Hilton Bayfront, grabbing swag from the fulfillment room at the Hyatt, then heading back to Hall H. Seriously, pioneers didn't walk this much when their horse and buggy broke down. To make sure you're not sidelined by Day 2, start walking regularly and building up your endurance.
Here's something not many people know: a large percentage of Comic-Con attendees go alone. They don't have friends who share their interests, or their friends have kids/jobs keeping them at home, or they had a breakup when it was too late to invite someone else. There's nothing wrong with going to SDCC alone, but it's definitely more fun to meet up with friends. Start hanging out in the online SDCC communities. Not only will you find out about more events and exclusives, you'll have a better social life when you're there.
Take time off.
Maybe you were waiting to see if you got a badge before doing this, but request vacation time off from your job now. Make sure you won't be guilted for skipping family weddings or graduation parties or summer trips, and if you need childcare help or some other kind of coverage, make those arrangements too.
Make a cosplay decision.
If you're part of a cosplay group, start working out the details now; if you're going solo, at least make overtures toward getting/making your outfit and props. This often takes longer than you think, and I know so many people who abandon their first plan mid-way and opt for something else. You can avoid getting stuck at the Con in an outfit you hate by getting started now.
First-timers! What a journey of discovery awaits you. I know you've seen San Diego Comic-Con on YouTube and you've heard wild stories, and you probably think you have a decent idea of what to expect. You are wrong. It's bigger, louder and more multi-faceted than you can imagine, like a monstrously huge cephalopod that sucks you in and forces you to stumble, lost, through its many tentacles. That's why so many first-timers come home from SDCC dazzled but slightly resentful; they know they were in the midst of something incredible, but they also know they missed a lot of it.
Read up real accounts of people who've gone, and all of the advice on navigating what can be a bewildering experience. Hear what your first-timer ancestors thought - here and here and here and here. Oh, and here and here too.
Pay attention, starting now.
Comic-Con may seem far off but certain developments are already stirring. SyFy announced it will be broadcasting live again for instance; various exclusives will quietly go up for pre-sale and sell out before you found about them (already happened with DC Bombshells figures this year); tickets will be given away but only to people subscribed to a certain newsletter who happen to be online 15 minutes before go time. This takes knowledge and skill, and if you're new to Planet SDCC, it may be really frustrating how everyone seems to know this stuff but you. Make sure your Member ID account is checked to accept third-party offerings and stayed connected on social and the blogs so you find about events and sales in time. The Conan O'Brien tapings are a great example of people not understanding how to get tickets.
The next 3 months are going to whip by. We are firmly in Comic-Con season and there's no turning back - so get ready.