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Comic-Con 101 (What to know before the first time you go)

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Stephanie PressmanComic Con started as a convention to unite Comic Book artists with their fans to share their work and love of the industry with each other. Over the years it has grown into a worldwide household name and it’s really turned into something completely different. There are conventions all over the world and each one offers something different. However SDCC, San Diego Comic Con is so unique, so incredible, I’m not even sure if it’s about comic books anymore.

San Diego’s lil Comic Book Convention attracts over 100,000 people and lures them to downtown San Diego with promises of sneak peaks of new movies, tv shows, panels featuring your favorite actors, and creators. The city is taken over by NBC, ABC, FOX, Universal, Warner Bros, Turner Broad. and anyone else that creates Media. SDCC isn’t about just connecting with Comic Book writers and illustrators anymore, it’s about Hollywood and networking and having fun with your people. As I even write these words it makes me feel like a bit of a traitor to the hardcore nerds I meet weekly at all the other conventions that have been attending SDCC for 25 years and are sick of it selling out (both literally and figuratively) but it’s the truth. If you work in the entertainment industry it is in your best interest to beg, steal, and cheat your way to San Diego once a year. I realize that SDCC, the mother of all cons, is quickly approaching. If you don’t have a badge this year – try looking on craigslist? Last year was my first Comic-Con ever and I filmed my adventures each day & asked people for advice on how to have the best comic con experience (you can watch those videos on YouTube. ) but here I have complied that information into a list of the best tips I took away from the week.

How to survive Comic Con in one piece

– Tickets

Plan ahead- request tickets as soon as possible. They sell out fast & the deadline for pro passes is super early don’t wait till the last moment and struggle to get it worked out… This past year tickets sold out in 90 minutes. You can sign up to receive updates on when tickets are available on their website. If you are an actor you can request professional or pro passes. Information is on their website. You do need proof & credentials to qualify for a pro badge but you should be able to find that out when you register.

– Hotel Rooms

Hotel rooms go quick too, so book that early & share with friends to make it more economical. There is a hotel lottery through Comic Con and if you are lucky you might get a room… it maybe 20 miles away but at least you got a room. The gas lamp district has many hotels such as the Marriott, Hilton, Hard Rock, and Omni that are located so close it’s ridiculous. If you want to get a cheaper room check hotel row for cheaper options.

– Transportation

Getting to San Diego from Los Angeles is a trek.

Driving usually takes between 2-3 hours but during the Wednesday – Sunday of Comic Con traffic is a nightmare. Expect a 4-6 hour ride instead and plan ahead leaving at non-peak traffic hours.

– The Train

The Amtrak train costs about $40 each way, takes 2 hours, and doesn’t have to sit in traffic. Tickets sell out so plan ahead. Once the train reaches San Diego it arrives on the same tracks as the trolley so you can easily get to the gas lamp & convention center. The Amtrak can be accessed in LA at Union Station off the Red Line of Metro.

Flying is probably a good option too.

Getting around San Diego once you are there (especially if staying on hotel row or outside of the gas lamp)…

– Trolley

The trolley cost $2.50 each way and drops you in front of the convention center.

– Lyft

However when you have a group I suggest using Lyft. Lyft is a ride sharing app for your smart phone. There are drivers that are handpicked and all given thorough background checks that drive people around for extra cash. These drivers are usually college students, high school teachers, actors, people that work from home. Each driver is unique and we had so much fun meeting them all. The app shows you where your driver is and where you are and updates using gps to show you when they will arrive. All money is exchanged through the app, so no cash is exchanged. The best part is it is cheaper than a cab ranging about $10-15 each way with tip included.

– Rickshaws

Rickshaws are parked across the street from the convention center if you need a short break from walking in the gas lamp. A rickshaw is a bicycle drawn carriage (human powered…but not powered by you – another human)

– Food

It is wise to pack lunch and snacks for each day. It’s easy to forget to eat with the commotion of the con & food on site is mostly fried and expensive. Carrot sticks, apple slices, and a sandwich are an easy healthy way to make con a little cheaper and healthier. My friends are fond of Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner right behind the convention center or try any of the many other restaurants available in the gas lamp. Remember you will probably have to wait anywhere you go (around an hour)

– Water

Like food, it’s important with all the walking to keep yourself hydrated and its easy to forget to drink. I bought a Brita water bottle for $20 that was awesome cause it has a filter in the bottle that makes even sink water taste good.

– Panels

There are so many amazing panels at comic con. Look at the guide ahead of time and pick the panels you really want to do. It is wise to focus on less panels located in Hall H or Ballroom 20 because these are the big TV/film panels with celebrities and people will camp out 12 hours before to get in the hall. Once these people are in the hall they won’t leave because they can just wait through all of the days panels to see the one they want to see. Also most of those big panels will end up on YouTube. I recommend going to the smaller panels because they tend to be more educational and have little to no wait. If you really want to go to a big panel ask people leaving to give you their bathroom pass if they aren’t planning on going back in. This way you can walk right in without staying in line over night. Batting your eyelashes is good for something.

– Swag

Almost every booth gives out swag. Only take what you really want. You don’t need to carry crap that you will just throw away all day – it’s bad for your back. Is the line for that poster holder or tshirt worth a 2 hour wait? Remember that junk is junk and time spent doing other things and meeting people is sometimes worth more than the crap you are waiting for… on the other hand maybe you are standing in line next to a hot nerd that’s just as excited about Guardians of The Galaxy as you are… so, maybe 2 hours in line is worth it

– Official Comic Con Bags

When you check in you get a nifty bag provided by Warner Bros. (or whoever it is this year) they change designs every year. There are multiple designs available. If you don’t like the one you got when you checked in there is an exchange area and just ask people walking around that have the one you want to trade.

– Activities Outside the Convention Center

There are so many activities in the gas lamp district that you really should make sure you check out all the exhibits there they are generally cooler than anything on the floor. Granted you can get “fast passes” on the convention floor to get through those lines quickly. Most of the things outside the convention center are free and open to everyone if you have a badge or not.

– Parties

The parties are pretty awesome… It’s ok to sleep in & go to the parties instead of stressing about the convention floor & panels. Ask around about what the best parties are that don’t require being on a guest list. Ask your friends about the parties that require being on guest lists and get on them.

– Sleep

If you aren’t an avid convention goer you will notice how tired you are by 8pm – it’s con syndrome… you are walking a lot and it’s hot – your body needs nourishment and regeneration… plan to sleep… you will be sleepy – you cannot pull all nighters…

– Sickness

Con Plague is common – everyone spreading germs – wash your hands often… don’t touch everything at every booth.

Shoes

This should be common sense but wear comfortable shoes

Cosplay

Costume Play, or dressing in costume of a favorite character.

If you are going to cosplay be aware that the temperature on the convention floor can get warm and the weather outside is warm. The temperature in the halls where the panels are can get very cold and the nights can get really cool. Plan your costumes accordingly. Be prepared to stop and take pictures, this can stunt your ability to get things done stopping for a million pictures. So, don’t plan much if your costume is super cool. There are meet ups for different costumes groups (i.e. marvel, dc, doctor who, etc).

– Safety & Sunscreen

Find out where first aid is just incase. yes, most likely you will need sunscreen. Pack it.

–  After Con

You may want to stay till Monday cause all the vendors have con wrap parties Sunday night. Plus traffic coming back is probably easier on Monday.

Book a massage for the day after you get back. You will thank me as will your tired eyes, legs, back, knees, feet, shoulder blades, etc

Have a great time!

Nothing beats Comic Con San Diego it’s the only convention of it’s kind – it’s massive, it’s crazy, do as much as you possibly can and just have a great attitude, try not to fight with the friends you go with. Remember there is no possible way to do EVERYTHING you want to do. Just have fun. Embrace the experience. Oh, and if you see me – please stop me and say hi!

Stephanie Pressman

About Stephanie Pressman

Stephanie Pressman is an actor, producer, host, model and comedian from Atlanta, GA. Born into a family of performers she started acting and modeling professionally as an infant. She has worn many hats (figuratively and literally too) some of her favorite productions include co-founder and editor of Fashionably Nerdy, creator and moderator of the SPARK Your Creativity (female creators) Convention Panel, Co-Executive Producer of Stalking LeVar, founding member of The Show That Shall Not Be Named (Harry Potter Themed Improv Comedy), and most dear to her heart being a mother. You can find Stephanie on social media @StephPressman