SDCC Sundays: Unconventional Tips & Tricks for Con Beginners and Veterans

We can finally say that San Diego Comic Con 2018 is next month and we are excited! Right about this time is when news about the convention picks up and doesn’t let up until it’s all over. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for anything that might spark your interest.

Comic Con International themselves have opened up the Exclusives Lottery portal for the Mondo print this year. It is absolutely gorgeous and if you want your shot at purchasing it, be sure to hop over there and enter the lottery!

For the well-prepared and well-researched convention-goers, we’ve put together a list of some unconventional tips that you may or may not have heard before. Amongst them are a few things we’ve picked up over years of attending and a few more controversial ones (like Hall H isn’t worth it). Read through our list to see if you can’t pick up a new tip ahead of this year’s convention!

That Portable Chair is Going to Get Annoying Fast

Our honest advice? Don’t buy it, pack it, bring it, or lug it around. This tip is more so meant to get you thinking about what you really need to survive a day at San Diego Comic-Con. Will you need that chair to camp out in the Hall H line or will you survive a few hours sitting on the ground on your jacket?

After years of attendance, we’ve figured out the essentials that we need to get through the day and everything else is free space to pick up new things. There are plenty of packing guides out there that cover all the possibilities and you’ll need to really consider what is important to you. Remember, the less you bring with you, the more space you’ll have for taking things home… or maybe you’ll just leave it in the inevitable pile outside of Hall H.

Ask Your Hotel if They Provide Fridges

For the frugal amongst us, a mini-fridge in your hotel room can save you tons of money on food at the convention. Not only can you stock up on lunch items like deli meat from the Ralphs, but you can also put those dinner leftovers away to be reheated for breakfast (leftover Spaghetti Factory is the breakfast of champions at SDCC and you can’t convince us otherwise).

Closer to the convention hotels may not be able to provide this amenity, but we’ve had luck at a few of the further away ones — where they become especially crucial as you leave the Gaslamp and all of the restaurant options behind. Once the hotel has your reservation, call them ahead of time to ask about this option and request one if you’re able. You can also check in early and try to talk to the hotel then about getting a mini fridge in your room for your stay. Trust us, the positives that come with a fridge will make you thankful you’re not stuck with four days of nonstop granola bars for meals.

Start an Emergen-C Routine Before the Convention

Everyone knows how precious hand sanitizer is for conventions, but we learned a new tip last year that kept us from catching con crude for the first time in five years of San Diego Comic-Con attendance: start taking Emergen-C or another vitamin supplement of your choice a few days before the convention. Prepare your immune system ahead of time to combat the germs of thousands of other people sharing your space.

Personally, throughout SDCC and NYCC last year, we started Emergen-C before the conventions and drank it every morning throughout. We hardly even felt the lingering tiredness that comes after conventions last year! Could this be anecdotal, a placebo effect, or we’re just unnaturally healthy somehow? Maybe! But you’ve got nothing to lose (except your health and maybe some days of work) by trying this tip and remembering to use hand sanitizer liberally.

Orient Yourself to Your Surroundings Early

When you get to the Exhibit Hall Floor, take note of the bigger booths and where they are located. The same goes for standing outside in the Gaslamp. Use the larger offsites and hotels to figure out where you are. This will make it easier for you to meet up with your friends quicker when you’re separated or to know which booths are where when comparing the map against your position.

Being able to get to where you want to go as soon as the Exhibit Hall Floor opens is sometimes the difference between making it into that line or grabbing that one piece of swag you can’t live without and being turned away empty-handed. Twitter is one of the best ways to get these tip-offs for exclusive giveaways, but if you’re not able to drop everything and make a beeline to exactly the right place you can be sure that a hundred other people can.

Get Your Souvenir Book Signed for Free

The official rule is: “Autograph Area Participants must sign one copy of the Souvenir Program Book for any fan at no charge. If the fan and the Autograph Area Participant come to an agreement, an item may be substituted for the Souvenir Program Book that the Autograph Area Participant agrees to sign for free. Autograph Area Participants may not require a purchase to sign the Souvenir Program Book.”

There are pages inside the Souvenir Program Book that are left blank specifically for this purpose and, even outside of the Autograph Area, if you are polite many of the pros honor this agreement. If you’re hounding for autographs at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s smart to keep this book on you at all times just in case. You never know who you’ll run into!

Bonus tip: be sure not to confuse your Programming Guide with the schedule inside for the Souvenir Program Book, which has Matt Taylor’s gorgeous art on the cover.

Buy $1 Water From Someone Outside the Convention Center

We’re not telling anyone anything new by reminding them that convention food is expensive and not all that great considering what’s out in the Gaslamp and beyond. Sometimes that $8 soft pretzel is inevitable, sometimes that trail mix is enough to get us to dinner (we always try to hold out hope for stumbling upon free food — it happens more often than you think). However, we’ve never skimped on hydration when it comes to running around comic con.

If you find yourself without a water bottle (reusable or otherwise) for some reason, take some time out of your day to hop outside and buy one of those $1 ones from the locals selling just outside the convention center. It’s much cheaper than grabbing one inside the convention center and you can buy one on your way in if you don’t want to miss a second inside. Even if you’ve got water, sometimes there’s no beating an ice cold water in the San Diego sun.

San Diego Book Con

San Diego Comic-Con will always be what you make of it and it just so happens that if you want to make it into the book convention of your dreams, it’s entirely possible. Last year, we wrote an in-depth guide on what to look out for at the con in order to get lit (lit… literary… get it?).

Plenty of major publishers will have booths on the Exhibit Hall Floor and they’re worth checking out for information about giveaways and autograph signings throughout the weekend. We’ve picked up some of our favorite books over the years in this exact way. But be sure that you’re taking only what you are sure you want because lugging books home can be a challenge for those who have to travel far.

And don’t sleep on the panels! They’re frequently ensemble panels that have several guests with different backgrounds, experiences, and stories to bring to the table, often catering to smaller audiences (which leads to better opportunities for engagement). Between these types of panels and the library ones, it’s easier than ever to have your very own impromptu book con in the middle of SDCC.

Hall H Is Not Worth It

Maybe the most controversial tip on this list, but in our eyes, Hall H isn’t worth the hassle. It’s gotten better since Comic Con International tried to curb overnight camping with the wristband system, but it’s still not worth the time for anyone who is after as many experiences as possible at SDCC. You have to spend your evening in a line, then your morning, then you could potentially have to wait all day for the panel you’re interested in because the room doesn’t clear.

If you need to experience it for your bucket list, Thursdays and Sundays are usually walk-in days so long as you don’t mind sitting further back, but generally, anything that happens in the major panels is widely and quickly reported. Also, since Blu-ray releases for television shows have increasingly included Hall H panels in their bonus content, there’s the possibility to watch the entire thing from the comfort of your home at a later date.

The only way to make Hall H worth it is if you only have one specific show or movie in mind that you absolutely have to see at San Diego Comic-Con. If you are willing to give up virtually everything else, then it might be worth your time investment. For everyone else, there’s Twitter.

The Offsite Is Usually Better Than The Panel

Everyone has had the panel versus signing debate a million times by now, but we’d like to one-up this argument by throwing our vote behind the offsite being better than the panel in most cases. Over the years, we’ve been zip lining more than once, gotten free drinks (of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic kind), gotten free food, taken so many souvenir photos, and picked up some great swag through offsites. It’s an experience and usually some free stuff all-in-one, which can be more fun than the panels that you can hear about later.

However, this one is a cheat because it doesn’t really have to be an either/or situation if you plan it correctly. Offsites generally run all weekend, but you’ll want to scope them out Wednesday night or Thursday if they’re open. You’ll have to wait less time on Thursday and Friday, before the word gets out of the ones you simply can’t miss and the weekend locals come to the area without badges. Get through the offsite experience early in the weekend and you might still be able to make the movie or television show panel it was promoting later during the convention.

Sunday Has the Best Deals, But Remember You Have To Pack It

None of the vendors want to bring anything home from San Diego Comic Con. It’s a hassle that comes with some sweet deals for attendees. As the convention winds down, it’s easy to find the best deals of the weekend on a Sunday afternoon. You can pick up almost anything your heart desires for a markdown — one year, we negotiated for some booth decorations that the vendor hadn’t wanted to take home with them!

The downside is that Sunday is also the day most of us are checking out of our hotel rooms. Personally, we’ve got our backpacks filled and prepared for the plane on Sunday (meaning we’re carrying our laptops around the con, unlike other days) and our luggage held by the hotel. It means everything we pick up on Sunday generally has to be carried all day and then smooshed into the suitcase in the hotel lobby before heading to the airport.

If you’re ready to make that commitment (or if you’re staying through Monday), buy to your heart’s content. For everyone else, it’s smart to buy throughout the weekend so that you know how much stuff you can carry home by Sunday and you won’t feel like a pack mule on your last day — when you’re inevitably exhausted from the whole thrilling weekend.

Did you learn any new tips or tricks?
Do you have any unconventional wisdom of your own to share?
Let us know in the comments!