10 San Diego Comic-Con Survival Tips

Sanity-Saving Travel Tips for Comic Fans and Convention Attendees

After attending six San Diego Comic-Cons over 11 years, I've learned a few things about this attending this annual comics, sci-fi, games, toys and manga convention. Sure, it gets more crowded and crazy every year, but I wouldn't miss it for the world. Here's 10 sanity-saving Comic-Con survival tips that have helped me get through the 5-day weekend. Have more tips to share? Add 'em to the Comic-Con forum!

See photo highlights from Comic-Cons past:

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Plan Ahead

4-day memberships and Saturday 1-day passes for San Diego Comic-Con 2007 were sold out
By Thursday, 4-day memberships and Saturday 1-day passes for Comic-Con 2007 were sold out. © Deb Aoki

As Comic-Con gets bigger and bigger, it requires more advance planning to attend this show. Don't have a hotel room? Sorry, most of the downtown hotels have been booked since January. Don't have your tickets for the weekend? Sorry, they're all sold out as of two months before Comic-Con started. In 2009, as in 2008, registration was only available via online presale.

If you don't have tickets yet, your best bet is to check Comic-Con's official eBay auctions or take your chances with online classifieds. Otherwise, make a mental note to start your planning for next year's trip to Comic-Con in January.

Check out Comic-Con's Registration page and Hotels page for information about attending Comic-Con.​

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Look at the Schedule And Pick Your Spots

San Diego Comic-Con 2007 Photo Gallery Thursday panel events crowd
Thursday's panels and movie previews attracted huge crowds at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con. © Deb Aoki

The schedule of events is usually posted at least a week prior to the show. With so much going on at Comic-Con, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to go and what to see first. Do yourself a favor and make those decisions before you hit the show and you'll be a little less frantic amongst the crowds.

If you really want to attend a panel, plan on being there at least a half hour before it starts – allow more time for super popular events. Remember, those ballrooms may look large, but they quickly fill up for popular panels, especially those with major Hollywood star power.

Check out this year's schedule of events.

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Bring Cash and Lots of It

Seven Seas Manga booth at 2007 San Diego Comic-Con
A fan checks out the latest volume of BoogiePop at the Seven Seas Manga booth at San Diego Comic-Con. © Deb Aoki

While many Comic-Con vendors accept credit and debit cards, many of them don't. Avoid time in the ATM line (and those obnoxious service fees) and bring as much cash as you're willing to spend at Comic-Con.

Remember, keep your cash safely stashed. Pickpockets aren't a major problem at Comic-Con, but be sensible and keep your wallet in a secure, zippered pocket in your bag or get one of those chain wallets and latch it to your backpack. Nothing ruins a weekend faster than an unsuccessful trip to the Lost and Found desk.

See a list of Comic-Con exhibitors.​

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Plan on Taking Public Transportation

San Diego Convention Center Friday Comic-Con 2007 crowds
Friday morning at Comic-Con and fans were lined up around the block to enter the exhibit hall. © Deb Aoki

Parking can be difficult to find in downtown San Diego during Comic-Con, and it's usually pretty pricey too. Either plan on catching a bus or one of the many shuttle buses available from downtown hotels to the show. Visit the Comic-Con Transportation page for tips on how to get there from wherever you are.

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Bring Snacks and Water

Convention Center food sucks. And it's expensive. So save yourself from dehydration and $8 hot dog sticker shock and bring some snacks and a bottle of water to keep yourself fortified during the full day of fun.

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The Best Things Come To Those Who Wait

And wait and wait. Lines are a fact of life at Comic-Con. So make the most of it and bring something to read, a game to play, a sketchbook for doodling or strike up a conversation with the next person in line. By virtue of going to Comic-Con and standing in line for the same event, you already have something in common with your line-mate. Who knows, you might make a new friend!

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Become a Ticket Master

Adriana Chavez and Myrka Martinez show off their Square Enix Stamp Hunt card
Adriana Chavez and Myrka Martinez show off their Square Enix Stamp Hunt card. © Deb Aoki

Many of the most coveted events at Comic-Con are ticketed events, which means you have to be at the designated place or buy something ahead of time to get one of the tickets to buy that limited edition toy, attend that very cool autograph session, movie screening, or the ever-popular Comic-Con Masquerade on Saturday night. Check the listings and be sure to do this early, since tickets are always snapped up quickly. It's worth your while to browse the Comic-Con website beforehand for details, so you're not disappointed later.​

See the list of special guests scheduled to attend Comic-Con.

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Dress Like You'll Be Standing and Walking All Day

Sci-Fi Channel's booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2007
Sci-Fi Channel's out-of-this-world booth at Comic-Con 2007. © Deb Aoki

Because you will. The San Diego Convention Center is HUGE and walking the entire show is a day-long adventure. The constant crowds mean that getting from point A to point B will be a time-consuming process no matter what you do. Wear comfy shoes and clothes. If you're in it for the long haul, bring a lightweight backpack.

But leave the wheeled cart or backpack at home. They are prohibited from the exhibit halls because they're a tripping hazard. If you do bring a wheeled cart to make hauling stuff back to your hotel easier, you'll have to check it in at the bag check in the lobby.

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Make Dinner Reservations Early

After the exhibit hall closes at 6 pm, the entire con makes a mad rush to the nearby Gaslamp Quarter for dinner – all at once. So if you've got your eye on eating at that cool restaurant you passed on the way to the show, make reservations ahead of time so you can just breeze in, get seated and eat after the show with a minimum of fuss. This is especially useful if you have a large group.

For a few dining tips, check out About.com's San Diego guide for downtown restaurants to try.

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Meet and Talk With The Artists

Yoshitaka Amano signs a Vampire Hunter D artbook for a fan at Dark Horse Comics booth
Yoshitaka Amano signs a copy of the Vampire Hunter D artbook for a fan at the Dark Horse Comics booth. © Deb Aoki

Sure, you're there to buy stuff and gawk at all the sights – but one of the true pleasures of Comic-Con is meeting the creators of your favorite comics, or discovering a new talent in Artists Alley or the Small Press section.

Love their work? Tell them so! Ask them questions about their craft and strike up a conversation. If you're so inclined, commission an original sketch or buy a print or a sketchbook. This is the stuff you can't buy at your local comic shop and I promise, it's these purchases that will be your favorite souvenirs from the show.

Check out the artists who'll be at Comic-Con's Artist Alley and Small Press area. Also, check out who's scheduled for an autograph session in the 2nd floor autograph area.