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Comic-Con Coping Guide 2013—180 Tips To Survive And Thrive San Diego Con Weekend!
posted May 30, 2013
 

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Comic-Con International -- also known as CCI, Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con and even by the shorthand "San Diego" -- is the largest gathering of comics industry professionals and fans in North America. It is also a show of great importance to hundreds of pros in and fans of related publishing, merchandising and film businesses.

Comic-Con International features on its main floor a massive marketplace of vendors, creators and direct suppliers. You can buy old comics, new comics, original art, movies, t-shirts, toys, and licensed items from every walk of geek life at Comic-Con.

The upstairs rooms offer aggressive programming tracks in comics, film, television and a cornucopia of related activities.

There are opportunities all over the show to see and meet creators from any number of entertainment fields: actors, cartoonists, academics, voice-over talent, models and writers. There are chances in the convention center and all over San Diego on Comic-Con weekend to meet like-minded fans, to celebrate your favorite oddball things, and to network on a massive scale.

It's Geek Vegas, Nerd Prom, Fan Cannes, Fandom Branson, the Grand Ol' Cosplay Opry, Four-Color Ground Zero.

It's also an extraordinarily complex vacation event.

That's where this guide comes in. I'm a near 20-year veteran of attending the show as a professional and covering it as press. What follows is a list of observations, tips and insights from a comics-culture point of view that may help prepare you for your San Diego con-going experience.

Everyone's San Diego is different, but there are a few commonalities and shared experiences that we hope makes talking about some of them worthwhile.

In 2013, the show is scheduled for July 18-21, with a preview night on July 17. I hope to see you there!

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THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF THEM ALL
Something to keep in mind for always, even if you forget every dumb joke and trite observation that follows.

imageTip #1. Stay Safe
A woman with the intention of attending Comic-Con died last year after running into traffic and being struck by a car during the time she spent in a line that formed in advance of the show. Her name was Gisela Gagliardi. She was a fan, and a lot like you and me in at least that way. She didn't think she was going to die when she got up that morning.

Please, please be careful. Don't do anything because you're at a show and in a different headspace you wouldn't do and wouldn't invite your family to do with you at the same time back home. Remember that San Diego is a city, and not some strange city from a fantasy book but a real-life city with all that entails. It's okay to complain about the police officers and what they have you do as far as crossing streets and waiting for trains, but do it anyway; they have your best interests in mind. Even the security inside has a job to do and your day will go just fine making their days go a little easier by doing what they ask. You look after you. None of what follows is important at all if you don't come out of it on the other side healthier and happier and in a position to enjoy all of the potential fun that may await you.

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LET'S TALK ABOUT BADGES

It used to be you could essentially not plan for Comic-Con and go if the mood struck you. This was true just a few years ago.

Those days are gone: very, very gone.

Tip #2. At This Point, You Better Already Have Your Badge; If You Don't, Maybe This Is The Last Tip You Need To Read
The convention is sold out. Professional registration is completed. Exhibitors are set. Press registration is nearly over. If you don't have tickets for the show or aren't registered in another way, you're pretty screwed.

The current demand to attend Comic-Con outstrips the number of tickets available for the show. That rise came with such sudden force as to discombobulate -- if not snuff outright -- traditional avenues for securing tickets. You have to pre-register as press now. Being able to claim professional status in a hobby-related field, even comics, is no longer a guarantee of entry. Abuse of the system by several parties and a general desire to allow for as many attendee badges as possible means you can't easily pick up an extra badge or two through an exhibitor pal, the kind of fakes that used to be commonplace. That's right: even "Bruce Wayne," "Ned Stark" and "Penny Priddy" have difficulties getting badges now.

If you don't have badges yet, honestly? I'd suggest calling it a day. I can't imagine anything sadder than someone showing up at the convention center expecting to score tickets like it's 1996. In fact, I've seen this: it's awful. I've seen it in English, and it's awful, and I've seen it Spanish: muy awful. I'd suggest focusing on the 2013 Comic-Con, or on one of the many fine conventions all over the world where demand hasn't yet exceeded capacity.

As mentioned above, we have great shows now in cities like New York, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco/Anaheim, Seattle and Charlotte; chances are you won't be disappointed if you focus your energies there. Comic-Con itself offers an alternative-comics show later in the year, the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, and has thrown a more mainstream-oriented Spring show for the last two years in Anaheim called WonderCon. We are in the Great Convention Era: you can find something that suits you, I'm sure.

Tip #3. If You're Asking, "Aren't There Are Any Gray Areas To Work To Get That Badge?" Please Listen Closely
Short answer: no. Longer answer: not really.

The convention has in recent years auctioned off a few tickets that come back to them via returns. I don't know if this has happened yet this year, or if it has yet to happen.

So the only thing I can think of is this: if you are a pro or near-pro whose presence would be so awesome as to kick a big exhibitor or convention player or participating agency into surreptitious action on your behalf, that might work.

Beyond that… yikes. There are people that put up for sale on eBay certain badges or groups of badges. I wouldn't dare send my Mom to that corner of the Internet. I'd be scared to go myself. I cannot recommend it to you other than to note I've heard it exists. If this were my only hope, I think I'd find something else to do that weekend. That's how unlikely it is to secure a badge at a late date without certain connections or people willing to make this happen for you. It stinks, but that's the way it is.

Tip #4: Remember You're Going To Need Hold Onto That Badge
With increased value comes increased responsibility: the con's organizers will charge you for lost badges. Period. They don't care how you lost it. You're paying up. If you're mugged by Joss Whedon's personal assistant, you pay up. If you lose it in a late-night poker game with the Image founders in the captain's quarters on Jim Lee's zeppelin, you pay up. If you allow a badge-less pal to "steal" it, you pay up.

An additional tip for this point suggested by a reader is to take a pin and secure your badge to your shirt as well as have it attached to the provided lanyard. It's worth considering.

Tip #5. Going? Not Going? Be Happy!
So the way things are set up right now, a lot of people are going to be left out of the Comic-Con experience. Those are the cards that Comic-Con has to play. The show has decided to stay in San Diego for the immediate future, and capacity in San Diego was reached a few years back.

It's totally okay not to go.

There was a time when Comic-Con was an outright must-go for a certain kind of fan and pro and press person. If you wanted to get everything you could out of comics, if you wanted to enter into the industry, if you wanted to be noticed, if you wanted to stay connected to what was going on, if you want to sleep with a small press company intern, CCI was the primary facilitator of these things.

That's no longer as true. As true. There are so many opportunities for daily connectivity and interaction out there that actually flying in and pressing the flesh and sharing a breakfast buffet -- while all still incredibly useful -- no longer seem like necessary things. At least not to the same degree.

If you go to Comic-Con these days, you can go because you want to, not because you feel you have to.

And it's also totally okay to go, to look forward to it, to build your year around it.

Comic-Con can be a trap. Because it may be more difficult to attend Comic-Con than it is to go to other conventions, this puts pressure on the Comic-Con weekend to give back on a scale that makes everyone forget the fussier parts.

It helps to remember that the hassle of going to Comic-Con is mostly an accident of our recent cultural history -- All those spectacle movies! All those fantasy franchise books! Marvel's post-bankruptcy comeback! All those graphic novels! The toy explosion! The rise of manga and anime! -- rather than something the convention itself enjoys or endorses or requires or was ever shooting for. I honestly don't have any more fun going now than I did in '96 or '01, back when it was so much easier to attend the con that the worst-case scenario was registering on-site and staying in a $65 hotel ten blocks away. It wasn't that long ago!

But I also can't stress this enough. I still have fun. I find Comic-Con extremely pleasurable as a comics fan to attend, and it's wonderfully useful to me as a press person covering the comics industry. Last year I got to meet Gilbert Shelton. Gilbert Shelton! I got to see Kate Beaton slaughter a devoted crowd at her spotlight panel. I got to chat with Alison Bechdel. I interviewed Eric Stephenson at a triumphant moment for his Image Comics, as Anthony Bourdain kept walking by, to and fro. I had like 30 meetings with publishers and publishing figures.

There will come a time when I won't attend CCI. I can feel it coming. I'll become a Friday morning to Saturday night attendee for a few years and then it will be something I used to do. I never got to attend the show in the 1970s or 1980s. I'll never again attend the late 1990s Comic-Con of my (relative) youth. Those days are gone. There are still joys to be had. You need only engage the show as it is, not as you wish it to be. Someone will have their first show this year. Someone will have their best. Someone will say goodbye. It's all good.

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ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR BADGE SECURED, THE NEXT SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD DO

Tip #6. Make Lodging Your Second Priority
Finding a place to stay is difficult, not impossible. Hopefully, you already have this done.

If not, know that hotel rooms are at a premium. The lottery for room reservations through the convention took place a couple of months ago. It was a pretty good year -- vastly fewer public complaints than there used to be, although it's never perfect, and there were probably more complaints than in 2012.

It used to be that just about every hotel in the lottery added rooms back to the grid between the lottery and the show, with a bunch of them showing up in dashes and darts all through late May and early June. This doesn't seem to be the case anymore. What you do find is those hotels outside of the immediate area seem to have rooms available throughout the process -- and even that was diminished in 2012 as opposed to 2010 and 2011.

It's tough.

If you're lucky enough to be doing business at the show, remember to ask anyone that might be sponsoring you at the show or interested in your being there if they can help you find a place to stay. If this doesn't work, extend this query to anyone you know that is going. A friend who has an extra bed or a publisher who wants you there that has a room and just figured you just didn't want it, someone like that might surprise you. It never hurts to ask.

Beyond that, and if for some reason the convention's registration doesn't suit you, that places you in the world of travel agents and on-line travel sites. I like this one; your mileage may vary. In a previous year, CR reader Jamie Levigne recommended bedmap.com, which looks useful.

Tip #7: Don't Be Upset About Staying Further Away
A lot of people make a big deal out of staying downtown. Heck, some folks pitch a holy fit if they can't get in a hotel that's 200 yards or less from the convention center. I don't quite understand these people.

I have stayed in some of the super-close hotels. I'm lucky to stay in one this year. My favorite place to stay during San Diego Con is a downtown hotel about six blocks away that some of my friends seem to find intolerably far to walk. I love that slight remove, I love the walk back and forth, I love having slightly more of San Diego to explore.

I've also stayed more than once in a hotel in a further-away part of San Diego. That had its charms. Four of the years I've attended I've stayed out at the dreaded hotel circle some miles north of the city. One year I stayed a half-hour away by car. That was a great year!

I have no memories that one place to stay was so superior to another that any year stands out just for where I stayed. In fact, I used to love staying out at this hotel on the Hotel Circle -- back when staying there meant I had decided three days before the show to go -- just for the oasis-like feeling getting away from the con it allowed.

Any hotel can work if you're willing to work it. If you make the attempt to enjoy where you're staying as opposed to fuming about where you're not, you'll likely have a pretty good weekend.

Tip #8: Do Be Realistic About Staying Further Away
Your main problem staying further away will be getting to and from the show. If you stay in downtown San Diego proper, you should be able to get away with a combination of walking, cabs, shuttle buses and public transportation -- and this is certainly true of any hotels within 10 blocks of the show. At the Hotel Circle north of town and in some of the other San Diego neighborhoods you're relegated to a combination of public transportation, cabs and, if you brought one, your own vehicle.

If you're on the water, there may be water transportation from your hotel to the convention center. You should check with the hotel. Water taxis are an awesome way to commute to the convention center. There's something about crossing a body of water on your way to an event that would make installing a toilet or buying bread feel like glorious tasks. It's worth noting, however, that water taxis are limited to a few hotels and may shut down earlier in the evening than you want to head back. That could mean you'll need to supplement your water taxi trips with a regular taxi ride or two. I still totally recommend doing this at least once if you're able.

If you're someone who needs to transport equipment back and forth at Comic-Con -- and that makes you a member of the only class of con-goer that should actually complain about proximity -- you have to build in that much more time and care in how you get there and when. You may be able to store some on-floor material or accrued crud with a friend at a better/closer hotel. Granted, that would take a heck of a friend. Build in enough time and give yourself the ability to make some concessions -- like jumping in a cab if the public transportation is delayed -- and you'll be more than fine.

Tip #9: Embrace The Primary Adjustment In Staying Further Away
The biggest adjustment in staying further away is time. The second biggest adjustment is that you practically sever your connection to your room every morning from the moment you leave until the time you return. It's way more difficult to pop back over to one's room and catch a nap or to get away from the show for a time or drop off stuff if it's out of the immediate area. When you start out the morning further away, you're committing to being at the show and related surroundings from the early morning to the far end of the day the way the people staying in close proximity simply aren't.

You might consider stuffing a clean shirt in a bag if you think you're going to be away from your hotel room for 15 hours. Perhaps carry a small bottle of Neil Gaiman perfume in a hidden compartment of your War Machine armor. You also might simply consider a shorter day.

Tip #10: Keep An Open Mind About Getting There
You have to get to San Diego, of course. I talk about different ways to arrange travel in and out of San Diego in the Placeholder Edition of this Guide, and I'll talk about some of the same issues as a money-saving possibility later on in this version of the guide.

Tip #11. Establish Your Network
I've already mentioned talking to your friends and any professional colleagues that may be going. This is your Comic-Con network.

Reach out in some modest way to folks you know that might be there and let them know you're going and with what general intention in mind (finding a job, getting your work seen, selling a screenplay, drinking a beer on the back porch of a hotel bar with your favorite Batman writer, learning about voice acting, seeing a panel stuffed with pale vampire boys, etc.). Once you get closer to the show, reestablish contact with your network to ask after things like social events or to see if they can help you with any of your more specific goals for the weekend. Offer your help in return.

Not everyone will be helpful. Maybe no one will. Still, the number of people I've had tell me weeks after the show that there was a disappointing aspect to their Comic-Con weekend because of Reason X when I would have been able to easily provide them with Reason X had I only known is... well, it's about a dozen people. Still. That's 12 whole weekends I could have made better if the people involved had sent me a two-line e-mail. So reach out. Don't be a bother, but talk to your pals.

Tip #12. Start Your Bookmarks
The other great, recurrent skill in the con-goer's toolbox is research. Research in this day and age means bookmarking sites of use and then making use of them. My suggestion is at some point between now and the show start a folder and put everything related to the con into it, including the following web sites.
A. This Guide -- if for no other reason than I'm going to spend time between now and Comic-Con obsessively slipping in more jokes.
B. Convention Web Site -- the source for tons of official information
C. Your Hotel's Web Site -- familiarize yourself with your surroundings, join the points club
D. Tripadvisor.com -- preview your hotel experience.
E. SDcommute.com -- commuting options.
F. VirtualGuideBooks.com -- see public areas before you visit them.
G. News From ME -- Mark Evanier has attended every single Comic-Con, and has logged about 63,000 hours of panel moderation time. He writes about his panels and the con itself with increasing frequency as the show dates approach.
H. The Beat -- Heidi MacDonald's purview is comics culture, and there's no single entity of greater importance within comics' culture than Comic-Con.
I. Yp.Yahoo.com -- nearby business scouting.
J. SignOnSanDiego.com -- a halfway decent baseline review place, particularly for restaurants.
That may sound like a lot of sites, and you can tailor the folder for your specific intentions, but I still think it's a good idea in general to put together a little folder of bookmarks.

Securing that badge, having your travel and hotel plans set in stone, letting your friends and acquaintances know you're going, and putting together a little bookmarks folder -- you're way up on a significant number of people who will be attending this year. You can stop now, if you want. It's all diminishing returns from here on out.

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TIPS FOR SAVING MONEY ON A CCI TRIP

Like many first class events of size and scope, and much like the comics industry it hosts, Comic-Con is geared to lift money from your wallet from the moment you touch down to the moment you take off. Yet it's also possible to go to Comic-Con and not spend a lot of cash, or at least arrive back home only having spent a fraction of your self-predicted per diem. Here are a few strategies I've used.

Tip #13. Consider Making Your Trip Shorter
I have friends that only go to Comic-Con if they can be there for five nights and six days, from Preview Night through Sunday's dead-dog parties. While I'm sure it's still a blast to have that whole summer-camp experience, I work in comics and 2010 was the first time I'd made it for more than three days and two nights since 1996. A four-day pass won't explode in your hand if you only use it for two or three days. As far as I know, a press or professional pass or your extra badge from an exhibitor can be picked up at any time.

The main savings you derive by going for only part of the show is not having to spend on that many extra days of hotels and meals. Remember that a lot of what people want to do at Comic-Con isn't tied into a specific panel or scheduled experience. If you plan well, it's more than possible to get 90 percent of what you want out of Comic-Con in, say, 33 percent of the time spent there. Plus, you avoid burnout. It's better to leave Comic-Con wanting more than to scurry away fervently praying you never see a comic book or anything related to a comic book ever again.

Tip #14. Consider Sharing A Room
I'm too old to do this now, if I can avoid it. For one thing, part of my personal San Diego routine as it's developed over the years seems to involve sitting in a fiercely air-conditioned room in my underwear for a couple of hours each day drinking Diet Mountain Dew, eating barbecue corn chips and watching Baseball Tonight with the volume all the way up. I'm a bad roommate.

That said, I shared a room as recently as last year. I survived the experience with a few hundred extra dollars in roommate savings I immediately spent on a full run of Dagar The Invincible. The right roommate can be a very good thing, even when you're old enough to know better.

Reach out to your network. You'd be surprised who might need a room or have an extra bed. In the past, I know that people have simply thrown in together on a message board. That always came across kind of slasher-movie to me, if not something people only did in the late 1990s that seems totally insane now, like wearing Aqua Socks. Share a bathroom and its tiny bottles of conditioner with a total stranger at your own risk, that's my motto. But if you have a friend who's going, even just a close Internet friend, why not?

Stuffing people into your room like college kids on Spring Break can be easy or difficult depending on the hotel. Stay away from the Westgate when it comes to this practice unless you want to pay for each and every body. They're notoriously tough on this point. Other hotels might be, too.

So as a general rule, don't count on any hotel letting you re-enact the linen closet scene from Night At The Opera. A new manager can make a traditional look-the-other-way establishment into a hard case. I know that many hotels will deny rollaways to rooms that already have two beds out of "policy" -- a policy that I've never seen many of these same chains apply in any other location at any other time. The Westin Gaslamp and the Manchester Grand Hyatt used to offer them during San Diego Con for a modest fee, but damned if I could get either place to give me one in 2009 or 2012.

Tip #15. Consider Volunteering (No Longer Applicable To 2013)
There's a whole sub-culture of Comic-Con volunteers, who get access to the show in return for their hard work making sure programming goes smoothly and helping people to get where they need to go. I know them from personal experience as the "please end your panel right now so we can have a less boring one in here next hour, thank you" people.

My understanding is that all volunteer slots were filled for 2013 months ago but if that's something that interests you for the future, maybe bookmark the appropriate page and check out its next-year equivalent when it shows up.

Tip #16. Consider "Temping," If The Opportunity Arises
Exhibitors from out of town will occasionally hire locals or people that have made their own plans to be at Comic-Con and put them to work at their booths. This way they save on flying in more people from the home office and still have time to leave someone else in charge of commerce and sneak off to see all their favorite showcase panels featuring inkers from the 1970s. In many cases, these exhibitors may have the capability to secure you a badge, provide you with a discount on their stuff, or even pay you a small fee. This is the Comic-Con equivalent of standing on a street corner hoping a publisher pulls up in his pick-up truck and asks you to jump in, so I wouldn't make plans based on this. Still, it couldn't hurt to keep your eyes and ears open.

Tip #17. Consider Adjusting Your Plans To Include Commerce
People love buying original stuff and other unique items at Comic-Con, and they love buying stuff directly from creators. It adds to the special nature of the con-going experience. I remember one artist who used to come down on a morning of the convention, do one or two signings, sell several thousand dollars of original art, and then fly back home after dinner. He had defeated Comic-Con. You and I likely can't do this -- I know I can't! -- but it's an attitude to keep in mind. A great way to mitigate costs at a comics convention is sell enough stuff that it's a net positive to be there.

Definitely double-check with any sponsors you have -- they could have a policy on this kind of thing. One publisher might not want you selling another publisher's work or anything but the item they're having you sign. Another exhibitor may not have any room for a display of your work. If you are your own sponsor, you may secure permission from yourself.

Does commerce at Comic-Con work? It can. On the other hand, I've known plenty of people that have had terrible shows, including those that have failed to sell a single item -- although I'm not sure that wasn't just a line to get me to buy something. Still: some people have lousy weekends commercially. I wish I could tell you there's a pattern, but I've never been able to discern one. I've known cartoonists who sold thousands of dollars in prints and original art despite being placed at a far-off table surrounded by booths that sold nothing but ergonomic chairs and paintings of lions. I've also known comics-makers in what seemed to be prime-time areas near all that's good and beautiful in the art form fail to click with the crowd for whatever reason and leave the weekend pretty much as they arrived, although much grumpier.

I think we're past the days when a comics pro might show up at Comic-Con needing to make the money for their return ticket from what they can sell at their table (at least one prominent mainstream comics writer claims to have done this multiple times back in the day). At least I hope so. Consider sales a wild card, tamping down your expectations while still planning accordingly, and you should be fine.

Tip #18. Walk Everywhere
You're probably going to walk most places even if you're stuffed with cash, and we'll talk about that a bit later, but deciding in advance you're not spending a lick on cabs can keep you from jumping in that Hilton line post-Eisners or deciding you're too tired to wear your backpack the half mile from hotel to train station. Heck, it's only about an hour's walk from the Broadway hotels to the airport (I'm not sure there are sidewalks, though). Walking is also a nice way to see the city and gain a different perspective on things. I've known people that went to San Diego and never got in a cab, bus or train. It's worth thinking about, anyway.

Tip #19. Live Like A Cartoonist
The reason so many comics people are able show up at San Diego despite yearly incomes that would generate derisive, barking laughter from vagrants is because they're really, really good at not spending money. You can be good that way, too. Trying your best to have other people feed you, shadowing your peers with expense accounts when it comes to getting cab rides or buying coffee, sleeping on a piece of spare carpet, taking public transit to and from the airport, walking everywhere during the show even when it's far away, not buying drinks but waiting to have them bought for you, leaving your wallet in the hotel room safe while you patrol the show... you might be surprised how freeing this is.

Tip #20. Consider Eating In
You may horrify the local tourism bureau if you choose not to utilize one of San Diego's excellent restaurants for each and every meal. Bad, bad convention-goer! But let's face it: with the more comprehensive programming, various food allergies, the closure of some of the cheaper-menu restaurants in the neighborhoods near the convention center, the number of pros on deadline who suddenly have to stay in their hotel room to get some pages -- or a con report -- done and people spending enough days in the city that they may simply desire a non-restaurant meal, there shouldn't be any stigma about buying something from a grocery store or deli and returning to your hotel room to chow down. And if there is, what's one more stigma to a comics and geek culture fan?

Tip #21. Consider Having A Getaway Hotel
Say you're staying Sunday and heading out of town early Monday. You maybe don't need to spend that last night in the same luxury downtown hotel you just spent the days of Comic-Con inhabiting. You may be able to find a cheaper hotel by the airport, perhaps, or up the highway a little bit if you're driving home.

Tip #22. If You're Young And Able To Do So, Consider Saving A Night In A Hotel Room By Not Getting A Hotel Room
When I was totally broke in my 20s and, let's face it, my early 30s, and wanted to squeeze an extra day out of a Comic-Con, this is what I'd do. 1) I'd store all my stuff with a friend, or in the car, or at the front desk of the hotel I checked out of Saturday morning. 2) I made sure I had stuff to do until 2:00 AM or so on Saturday Night/Sunday morning (a hotel's last-closing bar, a party at the beach, a midnight movie, or all three). 3) I retrieved my bag. 4) I went to the Dennys on Pacific Highway for a leisurely breakfast. 5) I went to the airport where I caught a super-early morning flight. I did this three different times. I believe that Dennys is still there.

On second thought, this was fraught with potential danger and even when it worked I ended up totally exhausted for the next three days. So maybe don't do this.

Tip #23. Consider A Secondary Stop To Save On Two Vacations
As mentioned above, one of the advanced strategies you might consider when planning for Comic-Con is to build in some vacation time to somewhere else right before or right after the show. Las Vegas and Los Angeles are probably the easiest secondary destinations to pair with San Diego. San Francisco may be less than a $100 add-on. Heck, you can also stay a few days on either end in San Diego itself and simply enjoy that great city.

Why go somewhere else? Because it allows you to take advantage of only minor increases in ticket prices that one can find by stringing together one-way tickets on a travel site. Follow me. A trip to San Diego Con at X-amount of money might sound great, but a trip to San Diego Con and Los Angeles at X-amount + $105 might sound even better. The further you're coming, the better this might sound. This can also be a way to convince someone not into all the Comic-Con stuff to come with you, although I never suggest anyone going to CCI not totally into it. Leave that poor person at home.

I've done Comic-Con in combination with a couple of days at Las Vegas three times, including last year. I sat by the pool, ate prime rib, sat by the pool eating prime rib, saw Donny Osmond eating prime rib, became all calm and sleepy filled with prime rib... all the usual Vegas stuff (that involves prime rib). Plus sports-betting and impressing no one at the pool with my raggedy swim trunks. Comic-Con may be the only event in the history of civilization where you can head to Vegas to decompress, but I assure you: it works. Going to Vegas cost me $11 more than heading home directly.

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PACKING AND PREPARATION

imageTip #24. Get Your Pre-Convention Work Done At Least One Full Week In Advance
If you're preparing anything at all for the show -- resumes, business cards, art to sell, opening lines, books to sell, art to show, scripts to pass around, your camera, a freelance assignment you have to physically hand to an editor who threatened to kill you and your pets -- get everything done by July 4. Seriously. This gives you a day or two of cushion if something gets screwed up. It also means you won't be a basket case when you arrive on the convention floor because you stayed up for 37 hours straight stapling 16,000 copies of your mini-comics biography of Matt Fraction.

Let me be firm about one thing: forget entirely getting something done "when you get there." Whatever you're thinking of leaving of doing until you get to the hotel room? You will not get that thing done. It's not convenient, you'll find 10,000 excuses to skip it, and you'll end up feeling dumb as a rock having to carry the raw materials back home with you on the plane. Packing materials you never touched back into the bag you brought with you is the DIY Walk of Shame.

Tip #25. Consider Shipping To The Hotel, But Be Extremely Careful About Doing So
Shipping material to the convention center or hotel as major exhibitor is way, way advanced class and I wouldn't dare suggest to provide comment on any of it. Still, I know that some folks ship a box or two to the hotel where they're staying. I suggest two prerequisites: 1) A personal conversation with someone at the hotel to confirm that they do this, a person who can spell out in great detail for you how it will work, including your getting that person's name. 2) Speaking to or e-mailing with someone that's shipped to that specific hotel in the last two years (if it's you, even better). In addition to potential screw-ups and hassles, there may be a charge. Tread carefully.

Tip #26. Limit Your Physical Preparations To Fine-Tuning
I know that a lot of people drop a few pounds to fit into their Red Lantern pukesuits or simply to better show off their late-night cocktail wear. I know that others get some walking in during the days leading up to Comic-Con so as not to risk their feet falling off while they're standing in line to meet Tom Gauld. That's all good.

Know your limits, though. Take it from one who knows: if you really have to lose a bunch of weight just to walk around an air-conditioned building for a few days looking for old issues of Little Dot, maybe this is the year you stay home and use your Comic-Con funds to buy a gym membership. In the long run, you'll attend more conventions. And don't be that person that starves themselves for ten days eating liquefied Count Chocula and then has to take a nap on the floor of Rei do Gado after being overcome by meat sweats. Your friends will never let you forget it, and the restaurant won't be too happy about it, either.

Tip #27. Scout The Programming
Comic-Con programming goes up on the official site shortly before the show begins. It's always worth a read even if you only attend one or two panels. If you plan on attending a lot of panels, it's like getting a detailed scouting report -- by nerds, for nerds.

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Tip #28. Pack Something With Long Sleeves
San Diego tends to offer ridiculously fantastic weather, but there are two reasons to remember to pack at least one item with long sleeves. The first is that a lot of nighttime socializing is done outside, in rooftop bars and on beaches. The second is that some years the air conditioning in the convention center is really, really aggressive.

Tip #29. Check The Forecast
What you're looking for isn't so much the specific permutations of San Diego's ridiculous weather -- there's little advantage to finding out if it will be 71 or 73 degrees at night -- but we're way overdue one of those weird years when everything is slightly chilly or really, really hot. Almost every site has a ten-days-out forecast that should do the job. Who knows, you might find it a good idea to pack two long-sleeve shirts. And double-check close to the show. Approximately 25 percent of cartoonists attending this year's TCAF did so after checking the long-range forecast… which changed to something much, much colder in the days right before the show. Don't count on Paul Pope giving you a hat.

Tip #30. Pack To Mail Stuff Back
Most years I'll buy a few things and then mail them back from a local post office rather than lug them on the plane with me. I do this mostly because I don't want my luggage to incur an additional fee, but I also hate carrying books around as much as little kids hate mean, neighborhood dogs. Luggage fees and regulations are more actively applied and more stringent than ever.

There are easy-to-access mail delivery or private shipping service offices up by the Broadway hotels about six or seven blocks away and in the convention center itself. On Saturday morning I hit the post office nestled up against the Westin Horton Plaza and shoot back everything I've received/bought so far. This can be even more important if you're taking a vacation after the show. No one wants to see your Flintstones animation cels burst out of your bag in the lobby of a Palm Springs hotel.

Another way to approach it is to pick up one of the post office's "stuff everything in this box for this prepaid price" which is even the kind of thing you can probably leave at a hotel front desk with appropriate postage if you don't have time to visit a post office or Fed Ex hub on your last day. Double-check, but they are jerks if they don't do that.

Tip #31. Pack To Sleep Defensively
I got this one from Sean T. Collins: If you're one of those folks sharing a room or not quite all the way sure where you're sleeping, pack earplugs and a sleep mask. You won't look cool putting them on, but you won't see or hear the people making fun of you, either.

Tip #32. Pack As If You'll Shake 1000 Hands
Because, well, you just might end up shaking 1000 hands. Hand sanitizer, breath mints, and aspirin are the three keys to happiness in any Comic-Con dop kit. Okay, th