The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on April 13, 2016.
Another year, another multitude of Comic Cons to attend. Whether you’re hitting up the mother of all Cons in San Diego, cosplaying in NYC, or attending a smaller Comic Con in Grand Rapids or Amarillo, the following strategies will help ensure that you have a truly delightful time.
Buy tickets early.
Whenever possible, buy tickets online before the event. You’ll save money and avoid the heartbreak of arriving at Comic Con only to find out that the special event you needed to see has already sold out.
Make a plan in advance.
There is so much to see at Comic Con, and it’s physically impossible to see it all. For this reason, it’s important to study the schedule and venue maps in advance so that you can plan out each day around your must-see events. If you want to see one of the major presentations (say, Game of Thrones in San Diego’s Hall H), keep in mind that you’ll need to budget in hours (and hours) of time for waiting in line. And because there are no guarantees that you’ll actually make it into the room you’re waiting in line to enter (especially because many venues don’t empty rooms after panels), it’s a good idea to have a backup plan (or several). One last tip: If you’re traveling with friends, remember to designate a meeting place before you split up for the day.
Some vendors don’t accept credit cards, and ATM machines are few and far between. (And the ones that do exist are guaranteed to have insanely long lines). Spare yourself headaches and lost time by bringing plenty of cash with you to the venue.
Avoid parking (if possible).
It will come as no surprise that parking at Comic Con can be a major headache. In the rare cases that you do manage to find a spot near the venue, it’s likely it will cost you—some lots have been known to charge upwards of $50 per day. If at all possible, ditch the car and arrive at the venue via public transportation or on foot. If you must drive, be sure to arrive early in the day for the best chance at finding a spot.
It’s a smart idea to download the venue’s app, which is an indispensable resource for navigating any Con. It can also be helpful to create a list on Twitter that includes the official Comic Con Twitter handle, any vendors that you want to see, and people whom you know will be present. Don’t underestimate how valuable real-time updates can be when you’ve been standing in line for three hours.
This tip also extends beyond the digital space. There are tons of great connections to be had at Comic Con, so don’t be shy about approaching people. Bonus: Chatting up fellow comics fans is a great way to pass the time while waiting in line. Which brings us to…
Prepare to wait.
We’ve mentioned that you’ll spend a lot of time waiting in line at Comic Con, right? We’re not kidding. Instead of hoping that it won’t happen to you, accept that it will—and then plan accordingly. Download podcasts to listen to, bring a book or journal, play games on your phone (just make sure it’s fully charged before Con), or simply settle in and enjoy the time to let your mind wander. Just remember to make sure you’re actually in the right line—sometimes lines bend and merge together, so check to be sure you aren’t wasting your time in the wrong place.
As always, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy yourself if you do what you can to avoid getting sick or burnt out. Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, wash your hands often, and pack healthy snacks—healthy food can be hard to come by at Cons, especially when you’re stuck waiting in line. Having snacks on hand can provide the blood sugar boost you need to continue having a great time.
A common phrase heard round Con is that “Cosplay is Not Consent.” What this means is that just because someone is cosplaying (or simply present at Comic Con), that does not give you the right to touch them, harass them, or photograph them without their permission. If you want a picture, just ask—most people are more than happy to indulge. Be polite, keep your hands to yourself, and remember that everyone there is a human just like you.
Wi-Fi is often available in most convention centers, but you’re likely to find that it’s painfully slow (or completely jammed) because of the sheer number of people trying to log on. You may see free networks available, but be cautious—some of these may be malicious. It’s a good idea to always practice good cyber-security strategies (even if this means you have to hold off on uploading photos to social media until you get home).
Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself. Though the lines may be long and your plans may change, the sheer number of interesting people and panels to see means that you’ll have a great time at Comic Con simply by going with the flow.