San Diego Comic Con Survival Tips

SDCC Survival Tips

I have been going to San Diego Comic Con for years, and because of that have done my share of advising people attending for the first time. To these new friends, I always give the typical tips to surviving SDCC:

  • Comfortable shoes
  • Water bottle
  • Cash
  • Snacks
  • Poster tube
  • Be prepared to not be prepared
  • Extra luggage to carry swag if you’re not driving
  • Look online to look up offsite events
  • Be prepared to not be prepared (yes, again)
  • etc.

But over the years I have added a few new tips to the list when I introduce a new person to SDCC, and they’re things you don’t see a lot of times in the “survival guides”. Some of them I learned the hard way. Read on so you don’t have to!

1. Protect your badge

I’ve been attending SDCC for 15-20 years and a couple of years ago was the first time I ever got my badge stolen. It was on my neck and someone just snagged it. I think I remember feeling a slight tug, but it was the same type of tug as if my badge brushes up against something, and at SDCC you’re almost always brushing up against something. After this incident, I always take extra effort to protect my badge. It sounds insane to think people would steal badges, but they’ve become harder and harder to get legitimately every year and people desperate to attend the convention are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for them, with no questions asked on where they came from. SDCC doesn’t check IDs at the door, only when they print them, so this market continues to thrive.

The plastic sleeve the badge goes into is very thin and easy to snap off a lanyard. So I do the following to make it more difficult to snag:

  • Tape your badge
    One of the first things I do is get some clear packing tape and add some tape around the top where the plastic loop is that you clip your lanyard to. This helps make it extra sturdy and if someone tries to yank it, the bond is now strong enough that it’s not going anywhere unless they take your head off with it (and if they can do that you may want to just give Hulk the badge). You’ll also be a lot more confident of it not coming off accidentally, as well.
  • Hide your badgePut your badge under your shirt when you’re outside of the convention hall or put it in your safe pocket or bag. You’ll likely still want to keep it around if you’re wandering outside the convention center just in case you go somewhere that requires a badge or gives you a discount for having a badge, but with all the easier pickings around you’re much less likely to be targeted if a thief can’t see it. Of course if you do put it in a bag, make sure you keep track of that bag!

2. Anti-chafing Cream

bodyglideI used to get a lot of blisters at SDCC (even if I had amazing walking shoes) and for the last couple of years have decided to make myself sit and rest more. That is until I learned of anti-chafing cream.

Just put some on your feet and it will greatly reduce your chances of getting blisters. Be sure to carry  it with you since you might have to reapply a couple of times a day. It makes walking many miles a day a lot more comfortable.

3. Hospitality Suite

Taken from the 2013 Program. Check the 2014 Program to see if it has moved.

Taken from the 2013 Program. Check the 2014 Program to see if it has moved or if the hours have changed.

Need a soda or snack,  but you don’t want to pay convention center prices or walk too far away? Then visit the Hospitality Suite in the Marriott. Last year it was located in the Marina Ballroom (Level 3). It’s a great place to sit down, visit friends, relax, and most importantly enjoy some free food and drink.

The snacks are things like M&Ms or pretzel sticks and are no substitute for a solid meal, but they’ll quiet a rumbly belly for awhile without you having to go too far from the convention. Just be aware the suite is an evening thing, opening its doors each night starting at 5pm except Wednesday and Sunday. It’s open until 2am, though.

If you’re Press or Professional, there’s also a room designated only to us. Sadly they don’t have snacks, but they do have tea, coffee, water and you tend to get better cell phone reception. And chairs. Oh, how you can end up grateful for just the gift of a chair in a peaceful place. I can’t remember the exact name of the room, but it’s something like Professionals Lounge and for the last couple years was located in the upstairs area around where Ballroom 20 is, so you don’t even need to leave the Convention Center. Check your program for the location, and just show your qualifying badge at the door.

4. Ride the Bus

You can follow everyone else into the crowded Gaslamp area right after the convention closes to grab dinner. But if you’re not wanting to deal with one hour plus wait times to be seated, consider riding one of the SDCC buses to a farther location. Last year I tended to ride the blue line up till I reached a fast food restaurant or interesting bar that looked empty. Once you get about a 1/2 mile to a mile away you’re far enough to enjoy quick seating and even take advantage of some good happy hours, but close enough to walk back if necessary. But the buses also run all night long now, so you can just hop back on if you’d rather get back to the doors of the Convention Center in air-conditioned comfort. It’s free.

5. The Freight Train

Freight TrainBe prepared to be trapped by the freight train – especially during the weekdays. Last year I remember sitting in the Gaslamp area eating lunch and the train stopping on the tracks for 30 minutes, Making it nearly impossible for people at the convention center to cross the street to the Gaslamp area for lunch, or vice-versa.

Sometimes it travels in the day and sometimes at night. It has always been an annoying train because it either travels excruciatingly slow or stops. I’ve tried to predict when the freight train will travel, but so far it has been so random. The worst is when it decides to come by around 7pm, just as the Exhibit Hall lets out and it’s SDCC “rush hour”.

If you find yourself stuck and you’re needing to grab some food, here are some suggestions.

  • Wait
    If your not starving, you can wait. Just expect it to be a long time till the train clears and you can cross the street.
  • Stay on your side of the tracks
    There are some restaurants and places to eat on both sides of the tracks. The Gaslamp District is full of obvious eateries, but you may not be aware that on the harbor side of the convention center is a Joe’s Crab Shack and a bit northwest of the Hyatt is The Headquarters at Seaport District.
  • Pedestrian bridge
    Use the Petco Park pedestrian bridge. It’s at the far end and is probably going to be packed with people when the train comes, but it’s pretty much your only option to get across when the train is blocking the way.

So those are some of my lesser known suggestions. Some are well known by veterans, but then again I only visited the hospitality suite for the first time ever just last year. I hope this helps make your SDCC experience safer and more enjoyable.

And be sure to check out my artwork at the San Diego Comic Con Art Show. I’ll be posting its location right after I finish setting up, so be sure to follow my twitter, facebook, instagram, or subscribe to this blog to get email updates.

My artwork at the 2013 SDCC Art Show.

My artwork at the 2013 SDCC Art Show.

Thanks for reading! And if you want a more “spiritual” take on how to survive and prosper at San Diego Comic Con, be sure to read my husband’s post “Comic-Con International: Nerdi Gras & Jacob’s Ladder Method“.

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