We are in the middle of convention season, which means that we’re also in the middle of Big News season, which comes to a head in the buzz around San Diego Comic-Con, which happens this week. If you’ve never been to this behemoth of a convention, it can feel a little overwhelming, and you may find yourself either packing two weeks in advance…. or waiting until the night before you leave. If you are a “seat of your pants-er” like I am, this guide is for you! Let’s talk last minute packing for San Diego Comic-Con (plus some handy tips, too).
Begin With Basics
Like at all conventions, you need to plan on spending a lot of time on your feet and waiting in lines. That being said, SDCC takes convention lines to a whole other level. You may be waiting for hours (or even camping out overnight!) so it’s important to prioritize what you’re taking with you. I recommend having a small backpack with the following items:
- Bottle of water
- Battery pack for your phone
- A small game or book to read
These will be your lifeline, especially if you find yourself unexpectedly in a line that goes outside the convention center and along the harbor, which has happened to me on several occasions. Your life will be significantly improved by these basic needs, particularly the sunscreen. Plus there are tons of outdoor events and exhibits that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of– not all of the action is inside the convention center! The temperature might not be all that hot, but the southern California sun means business.
My favorite external battery pack is this Kitten Charger from EMIE. You can also get it in other colors (or as a dog, if that’s how you roll), but what I love about it besides the fact that it’s ADORABLE is that it is easy to find in my bag because of the round shape AND it charges my phone fully three times. It does need a long time to charge itself up again if you deplete it, but if you plug it in overnight while you’re resting, it should be good to go each morning!
Power Up Your Layer Up!
One of the things about the San Diego Convention Center is that it has what you might call micro-climates. The convention floor can get to be hot and humid in a matter of minutes, which can leave you sweaty and not feeling your best, plus there’s the aforementioned possibility of the outdoor lines. But then you may find yourself hanging out in one of the smaller panel rooms, further back in the convention center, and they’ve got the air conditioning on full blast to make up for the heat of the exhibit hall and suddenly you are shivering so much you can’t pay attention to the IDW panel about the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics. Or maybe you just wind up hitting the outdoor exhibits after dark (which is WAY fun!). Trust me on this one. You want to have a sweater or jacket that can squish down into your backpack.
Footwear, Footwear, Footwear!
Again, this is true for any convention you may attend that lasts multiple days, but I cannot stress enough how much having two pairs of comfortable walking shoes is. Why two pairs? Because your shoes need time to recover just like your body does after a lot of physical activity! Even though you won’t be running a marathon while at a convention (well, most of you won’t be!), you’ll still be racking up the steps on your FitBit every day, so it’s good to give your soles a chance to bounce back. Plus it’s good for your muscles to change up how they’re moving every day, and a slightly different shoe can do that, too.
If you are planning on cosplaying and you’re going to be wearing something with heels, or enclosed boots that might get a little sweaty, then pay attention to your socks. A good pair of hiking or compression socks can make a world of difference when you’re going to be on your feet for maybe 18 hours a day, 4 days in a row. I dig these socks from Columbia because they give arch support, plus they’re moisture wicking, which keeps your feet from feeling sweaty all day.
Don’t Forget Your Flexibility!
This one is KEY. San Diego Comic-Con is HUGE and it is crowded and at any given moment there are 100,000 people (or more) trying to fit into one space. The odds are good that you will not get into at least one of the panels, experiences, signature lines, or exclusive swag pop-ups that you want. THIS IS OKAY. At any given time slot there are so many things happening that if you’re willing to be a little flexible with your carefully crafted plan, you will find something that may turn into your next Geek Love. This is Comic-Con! They don’t have any sub-par programming. Trust me.
As a personal anecdote, I will tell you that the very first time I went to Comic-Con, my first day was nothing but a series of disappointments. Having never been to such a large event, I didn’t know it would take as long as it did to get from one place to another, so that was a challenge in and of itself. But I also didn’t expect the sheer number of people vying for limited space. It can feel like a frenzy, where people are massing to get into Hall H, or waiting in 2 hour lines for signature lotteries that you may not get selected to take part in. Don’t get sucked into the frenzy! Take everything at your own pace, explore some of the “less popular” rooms, and just enjoy being there. You’re at Comic-Con! That’s AMAZING! Everything else is bonus!
Want proof? Here are things I never planned but that I accidentally found my way into at San Diego Comic-Cons of the past:
- Meeting Adam Savage on the exhibit hall floor
- Attending the Star Wars concept art panel (which was in a relatively small back room, as this was before The Force Awakens was announced) and inadvertently getting to peek at some reeeeally fun things
- Hanging out in the Batman 75 panel room with almost every still living Batman writer and artist that they could fit into the space
- Bumping into Matt Smith while he was holding a press conference with MTV
- Happening to be standing where a signature line was starting for the My Little Pony comics, with ALL of the artists and writers (maybe this isn’t as big a deal to you but to me it was !!!!)
- Helping a movie guy find his way to the convention center and talking shop about an upcoming movie release
Find Your People
One of the best things about going to SDCC is meeting people who love the things you love. I went to an IGGPPC meetup one year and struck up a friendship with an iggle that I’d only known a little online, and we wound up being line buddies for most of an entire day that year. Nothing says bonding like waiting in line 3 hours to sit on the Iron Throne! We had the best time, and it was fun to talk about all the things we geeked out about, the cosplays we were seeing, and introducing each other to things we wouldn’t have seen otherwise (like the Iron Throne). We’ve been pen pals since then, and are looking forward to heading back to San Diego together this week.
Even if you aren’t looking to make lasting friendships, I still suggest getting to know the people in line with you. They may have some good stories to tell, or at least help the time waiting pass a little faster. (Did I mention all the lines? There are a lot of lines.) And if nothing else, you may discover a whole new fandom that you never knew about.