How to survive San Diego Comic-Con

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More than 160,000 fans will descend on San Diego July 20-24, 2016 for Comic-Con International. The annual fan-tastic event – the largest of its kind in the United States – brings together the best in comics, entertainment and pop culture.

Founded in 1970, the massive convention features a palatial exhibition hall, more than 700 events and panels, workshops and classes, anime and film screenings, games, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (the “Oscars” of the comics industry), a costume competition, autographs, an art show and more.

Comic-Con is the ultimate playground, but prepping for a trip to this colossal event takes work. From the basics of what to pack to the more tricky business of navigating the hundreds of events, we have you covered with our Comic-Con survival guide.

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Plan ahead

There’s much to see and do at Comic-Con. (Image: Courtesy

Create a flexible itinerary or schedule, but also build in a Plan B (and even a Plan C) because panels fill up and things change. There is so much to see that it’s good to have a plan in mind, but be prepared to change it. You can create your own schedule for panels and events you want to attend by using MySchedule and the official Comic-Con mobile app. If you’re traveling with a group, be sure to come up with your own bat-signal, or at least establish a meeting spot, should you become separated. There is a message board in Lobby C, where you can post written messages as cellphone usage is restricted in many areas of the convention.

Wear sensible shoes

When it comes to footwear, comfort is key. (Image: Courtesy

Incorporate a comfy pair of shoes into your costume or wardrobe as you will be on your feet much of the day. From standing in lines to navigating the San Diego Convention Center, you will be doing lots of walking. The Exhibit Hall alone is 460,000-square-feet of displays. If heels are necessary to your costume, pack a pair of flats just in case.

Bag it

It’s in the bag at Comic-Con. (Image: Courtesy

Bring a bag with you to Comic-Con as there are lots of freebies doled out by the hundreds of exhibitors in attendance. Plus, you will appreciate the convenience of having a place to stash your swag and the goodies you buy. A backpack works best since organizers do not allow handcarts, rolling luggage or oversized strollers in the Exhibit Hall – plus it will keep your hands free.

Fuel up

How to survive San Diego Comic-Con 13
tonyshek, catwoman via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Keep your energy up with a cup of joe. San Diego’s first Cat Café in the Gaslamp Quarter is a short walk from Comic-Con. Cuddle up with a cat and get your caffeine fix before starting your day. The Cat Café is also hosting a Coffee and Kitties Comic-Con Special where patrons get a drink or food item and a chance to spend 30 minutes with friendly cats from San Diego Humane Society for $15. Catwoman cosplay not mandatory, but will surely be appreciated.

Use public transportation

San Diego trolley
Get onboard with budget accommodations. (Image: Brett Shoaf)

Take public transportation, like the San Diego Trolley, to reach Comic-Con. Parking near the San Diego Convention Center can be difficult and expensive.

Leave the selfie stick at home

cavedragon, the silly selfie via Flickr CC BY 2.0
cavedragon, the silly selfie via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Selfie sticks are a no-go at this year’s event. Comic-Con International, the organizers of SDCC, have banned the arm-extending devices. For photos that require distance your own arm just can’t achieve, make a friend with a fellow costumed attendee. After all, full-length costume pics are a must.

Go early

The early bird catches the worm – and a good spot in line. (Image: Courtesy

Panels fill up quickly, so it’s best to line up for the ones you want early.

Dine like a local

You can’t go wrong with Mexican food in San Diego. From taco trucks to more upscale restaurants, San Diego’s Mexican food is arguably some of the best in the U.S. Try the tacos and margaritas at Puesto at The Headquarters in the Seaport District, which is very close to the San Diego Convention Center.

Use social media to access must-see panels

patloika, SDCC2011_Day3_059 via Flickr CC BY 2.0
patloika, SDCC2011_Day3_059 via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Hall H is the spot for the biggest names and biggest buzz, but that also means some pretty serious lines to get in. After all, it is described in its Twitter bio as “the longest, nerdiest, most demoralizing line at any convention ever made.” TIP: if you want to make sure you get into the A-list panels, follow @HallHLine on Twitter for live updates on the line situation. Ballroom 20 is the second longest line that winds round and round with super fans. Follow @Ballroom20Line to stay up to date throughout the event.

Don’t be a hero – take a break

(Image: Courtesy

Pace yourself and plan for breaks. Set aside time each day outside of the San Diego Convention Center to grab a bite to eat, rest up and enjoy the city.

Don’t touch

How to survive San Diego Comic-Con
neontommy, a little slice of comic con via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Part of the fun of Comic-Con is dressing up in costume and admiring the elaborate cosplay other fans have created for the event. Resist the urge to touch folks who are in costume and ask before you take photos.

Leave the Convention Center

Comic-Con Gaslamp
Go out and play. (Image: Courtesy

Comic-Con has grown exponentially through the years. Therefore, many events like games, anime, the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are held at satellite locations, including local hotels and outdoor parks in downtown San Diego. There are also some very cool comic and pop culture themed events happening around San Diego during Comic-Con that don’t receive as much hype but are definitely worth checking out.

What are you looking forward to most?

Main Image: istockphoto/Mindy_Nicole_Photography

How to survive San Diego Comic-Con was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (163 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.