July 9, 2016
Creeping Up: 25 Tips For Surviving & Thriving During Comic-Con International; Now With Bonus Tip
For the last dozen years, this site has on Memorial Day or soon thereafter published a massive guide for Comic-Con International
-- the mid-summer event that is still in most ways North America's Big Comics Show. I'm still doing that guide, just not this year. It's a different era, and that era doesn't include a lot of people reading 40,000 words written link-blog style on a computer screen.
I wish it did, but at some point you have to own your dinosaur-ness or all your eggs get eaten.
What follows instead is a short and mostly practical list of specific tips for the upcoming convention, many of which can be employed at your show of choice.
This is a re-post from early May. As opposed the July 4 weekend re-post, I've added a 26th piece of advice, one of the dumbest recommendations ever but one I've been told worked for people more than a half-dozen times.
There may not be a bigger change in comics over the last two decades than the significant role played by conventions and festivals. In North American comics, that starts with Comic-Con International, more frequently San Diego Comic-Con, Comic-Con, San Diego Con or SDCC. Sometimes it's just "San Diego." Call it what you want: Nerd Prom, Mouthbreather Sundance, Fandom Branson or Geek Vegas, Comic-Con International is that moment during the calendar year when all of comics pauses and watches Tom Arnold and Dax Shepard walk past them to eat in a restaurant they're not allowed to enter anymore, because, you know, private party. Sorry, folks.
At the heart of a giant dance that includes filmmakers, actors, toymakers, visual artists, prose authors, tv showrunners, animators and voice talent is someone like you or me representing all the funnybook fans slow dancing with their beloved art form: comics. Comic-Con is a really, really good comics show. Over the years I've met Lorenzo Mattotti
, Ryoichi Ikegami
at Comic-Con. I saw the first two speak at length. Just three years ago I watched Gilbert Shelton
draw from a position a mere two feet away! Their comics guest list is always loaded.
Comic-Con is an even better industry
show, with all of the tribes represented in one place and taking meetings and saying "I just took a meeting" and running off to take another meeting. It's the only show with a cocktail circuit that involves more rooftop bars than there are yearly line reboots.
You should come see it, at least once. If I'm still going, say hi. I may be too stressed to respond, but I'll deeply appreciate the effort and will always remember how awkward it was between us. If you don't know what I look like, I'm the fat guy.
1. Stay Safe
Always remember that during Comic-Con you're in a real-life American city, not a magical land accessible via closet, train or bathroom mirror. You can get mugged; you can get beat up; you can get hit by a bottle. Accidents happen every show.
Also keep in mind that the events of the show carry with them their own dangers. Grumble at the cops and the security if you must, but do what they ask. In 2012, a Twilight
fan with the intention of attending Comic-Con died after running into traffic and being struck by a car during a time she spent in a line that formed in advance of the show. Her name was Gisela Gagliardi. It's likely she did not think she was going to die when she got out of bed that morning.
So: please, please be careful. Nothing about this works if you get hurt. You look after you.
2. Do Your On-Line Research... And Your On-Line Reach-Out
You cannot be underprepared for a show the size of this one. Scope out the con. Scope out the city in which it takes place. It pays off. We live in an anticipatory age of spoilers and trailers; this an act of anticipation that has direct benefits.
At the very least: 1) bookmark the show's site
. 2) bookmark your hotel's site. 3) get a broad picture of what each offers you that you would like to do. 4) investigate what's directly in the neighborhood around where you'll be staying. 5) map a walk from your hotel to the convention center.
If this is a rare trip for you, or one where you have a very specific set of goals, reach out immediately to your comics friends and see who's going. Reach back out to the group that responds by July 1. Share with them your hopes and plans. Comic-Con is a difficult place to negotiate socially. If you have goals that include a bit of networking, just reaching out to people you know can unlock key doors. Remember that you connect with old friends horizontally to forge new relationships vertically.
Finally, to keep things karmically clear, try to help the people who are trying to help you.
Twenty minutes on google maps and a half-dozen e-mails can make a huge difference in one's weekend. You'd be astonished how frequently this is the case. It's also true that people go, get frustrated, complain about it afterwards and more than one person reading thinks, "I could have helped them!"
3. Join Every Freaking Points Club You Can
If you go to conventions with any sort of regularity, you should join the points clubs for 1) any airline you might use to get anywhere, 2) Amtrak
, if it applies, 3) every hotel you might stay in but also definitely the programs offered by Hilton
(Westin) and Marriott
It's great to use reward points on segments of travel or nights of hotel stay, making them paid-for by previous segments of travel and nights of hotel stay. A healthy convention schedule involving the Marriott chain can almost always get you a night or two off at SPX
, for instance, savings that you can spend on getting the last few forty-somethings in attendance drunk enough to maybe physically fight one another.
Even if you do very few shows, join the points club at your San Diego hotel (and consider getting a Ralphs card
). In your hotel's points club you might get an advantage of a dedicated check-in and check out desk. You might get automatically upgraded. Best of all, this gives your hotel an easy-to-grant avenue to make something right if something goes wrong. Comic-Con is a crazy weekend where things frequently go wrong. Hotels are almost never willing to give money back, but they'll give you points like a nervous class officer giving out drink tickets at the graduation luau. I got a bunch of Starwood Points one year at SDCC just because they kept marching new guests into my room when I was getting dressed after a shower. No big deal for me, traumatizing for them, and I'm the one who ultimately benefited.
4. If You Don't Have A Badge, Think 2017
There are no badges at this point available to most of us. If you're powerful enough in terms of influence, wealth and/or celebrity you're not even reading this but one of your assistants is, you might have a connection within the convention or with one of the convention's major players to have them secure one on your behalf, primarily if you're going to add value to the show. Work those connections. Don't buy a badge from someone on-line. There is nothing in that sentence that is a good idea. You could also just go, and hope that you run into someone leaving a day or so early (psst -- I'm staying at the Hilton, leaving Saturday at 5 PM and I have paypal). The days of asking Rory Root and him scooping several passes out of his pocket, those days are a distant memory. (RIP
If you do score a late badge, don't abuse them! Someone put themselves out there for you. I'm totally not speaking from experience, but if I were I would still be pissed at that guy.
5. Park At The Airport
I'm also not going to tell you how to get to San Diego. I'm sure you have that under control. Comic-Con thwarts a lot of travel gimmicks. Even the newer flying tips like using Google Flights
over aggregators like Kayak
don't really apply here because the advantage of learning where discount flights might fall on a range of calendar dates won't be useful for a trip with rigid attendance parameters.
Due to the increased cost of the show, I've been attending the last few years from Thursday early morning to Saturday late evening. No complaints: that's just the way things are. Here's a practical tip that's probably totally illegal -- it's certainly unsporting -- that I've used the last half-decade: I parked at the airport's long-term parking for like 1/5 the price of hotel or public parking. I dropped off my bag and my family and any friends at the hotel, and drove right out where google maps told me, in this case a moderately-priced lot south of the airport between the highway and the ocean. Hopped on the shuttle to the airport. Took the city bus back down to my hotel. It added time, but I really appreciated not having to spend that money, which was literally like a fancy meal's difference. I'll eat my money in San Diego, thank you. Also one year the Westin lost my car, and with this strategy I've been in and out a lot easier. You're already free of downtown when you turn the key.
6. Find Your Store; Stock Up
I encourage a physical trip to whatever sundries store is closest and able to serve you. If there's still a pharmacy in the Horton Plaza, that or one of the two 7-11s is the place for you Broadway hotel people. It's Ralphs
for everyone south of Broadway and west of the convention center's middle-most point. It's probably Cine Cafe
for the group of hotels right up next to the show on the eastern access crossing.
You can buy stuff for your room on that first trip. That's never a bad idea. The programming schedule is super-full at Comic-Con, like an all-day college date that never ends, and you can end up hungry without anything to eat at 3 AM almost as easy as you can spot a teenager wearing a costume that looks like it cost more than your first car. More importantly, I just think going to the store connects you to the possibility
of that place, and even to a kind of commercial activity that doesn't involve an exclusive Lego Mortdecai set or whatever.
7. Hit Whatever You Can At Off Hours
Good luck with getting through the registration process. They know what they're doing there, and it flies pretty quickly all things considered. Press and pro registration is so easy now I would vote for the person who changed it from the way it used to be done. Still, it's a lot of people. If you can get someone else to secure you these things, like an exhibitor or a publisher that's sponsoring you, do that. If you can't, consider going a little later that first day or during Preview Night itself so as to miss the biggest moments of clumping.
Take this strategy with you into the show. Three places you can apply it. First, if you just want a sense of a panel, you can frequently hit a panel ten, twenty minutes in and avoid the before line and the time spent there. Second, look for signings that are first or last in a day over those in the crush of attendance mid-afternoon. Third, think about hanging back from the opening hour to eat breakfast for less of a cluster around the buffet, or leave the convention center early for a dinner dominated by happy-hour discounts. I'm sure there others -- I always thought it was fun to shop at Ralphs at 2:30 AM, and the hot tub at the Westin can be all yours most Sunday mornings until 11 AM. It's a strategy that seems to work, at least a little bit. It's probably a bit less effective since the bulk of Hollywood people came because of their meeting structure and tendency to pull people away from the convention center, but it can't hurt to try.
8. Use The Half-Day Target Strategy
I always suggest under-planning for the show in a macro sense and then rigorously planning in terms of execution. A principle I always follow is to split each convention day into an AM and a PM and pick one thing I have
to do during each slot. If I end up with extra time, I spend that on some general things I like to do, like sitting out back of the convention center and soaking in that Southern California sun or checking out the funnybook retailers or seeing if the guy who dresses like Captain Stubing is working the far west doors. By limiting to must-dos to five to eight things, I'm getting key things done every year.
Allowing a half-day per event also allows you not to feel as bad if the thing you want to do -- like see a TV or movie panel -- involves literally 12-18 hours of your time. I don't have any specific advice on those panel lines, by the way, except that they didn't seem nearly as bad last year as they had in the two or three years before that. You should also chat with people in line; that is value-added right there. Proposed subject: what people did before phones. A lot of the big-ticket events at Comic-Con involve a major commitment, and being reasonable about what you want to do makes for fewer instances of failure. Just like that, the day becomes less stressful. It's always better to get 5/6 of the things done you want to do on a vacation or working weekend than 11/40.
9. Make Time Between Events Because Of The Crowds
This is a recently necessary thing. Well, we thought it was bad before, but it got a lot worse. Anyway, definitely give yourself time to go places. Also, if you can skip outright a walking trip either at or up by the convention center, consider doing so.
I used to head down to the Marriott -- a hotel directly west of the convention center -- to take morning meetings at their restaurant because it was expensive enough not a lot of comics people chose to eat there: basically me and my friends, plus Mark Siegel
and whoever he was paying for. Thus I avoided getting in trouble from other tables eavesdropping as I told loud stories about Jim Lee out of turn. (I actually don't know any stories about Lee, but people pay more attention when you have a big star at the center of your anecdote; my Jim Lee got in trouble a lot in Seattle in the '90s and grew up in Indiana.) The days when I ate breakfast at the Marriott ended when two years ago it took me a half-hour to get there FROM THE HOTEL NEXT DOOR. Three times during that walk I considered going Crocodile Dundee on the whole situation
and running on folks' shoulders. (sorry, another old reference; please insert reference to shoulder-walking scene from Hamilton
Anyway, I eat breakfast at my damn hotel now and I don't count on getting anywhere without 30 minutes of defeated-by-life style walking involved.
10. Think About Packing A Lunch
You're going to walk a lot. Wear comfortable shoes. Take water with you. There is water in every panel room and there are plenty of water fountains but having your own is still best. You should also eat at some point during the day. Because of the crowds and the circle of con activity closes to the show, that can be difficult time-wise. Convention Center food is basically a culinary parade of sadness, and you pay extra to boot.
You are not really supposed to take food into the convention center, but you might consider it anyway. There are plenty of things from the store to which you're now connected that you can get into a backpack or purse with no problem. I have yet to get in trouble eating quietly in the back of a panel room or sitting outside wondering what excuse I'm going to give Jonah Weiland for not visiting his dumb boat. (Jonah's gone; we no longer have to pretend, people.)
There are also merchants in the street on the way to the show that will sell you something that's nice and packed up. Pay attention. No matter how you get it, definitely process some calories, though. The only person that can get away socially with an aggressively feral state caused by low blood sugar is Lisa Hanawalt
, and that's because she bribes people.
11. Attend The CBLDF Event
In the 1990s, San Diego Con offered people scattered parties and at least one night where a bunch of people would do something like go to a heavy metal show or head south to watch wrestling in Tijuana. Then it was hosted parties. Then it was big events. Now it's pretty settled: Thursday night is publisher-driven cocktail parties or private dinners; Friday is the Eisners or Hell No I'm Not Going To The Eisners; Saturday is maybe you get invited to a Hollywood party or two but otherwise you get a big meal and maybe just be mellow at a bar somewhere wishing someone would invite you to a Hollywood thing. All three nights feature heavy hotel bar drinking scenes, semi-hosted.
The one that I always suggest people do is the rooftop party hosted by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
. You pay to get in with money, not status. That one is increasingly well-attended as a kind of Rick's Cafe
for people of various comics backgrounds taking a few days off from fighting in the Creators Vs. Haters Wars. It's always lovely to sit outside in that glorious San Diego weather. Last year I spent a half-hour at the Fund party talking to someone before realizing it was Milton Griepp
. Hi, Milton. It's also where 80 percent of the people I know catch up with Kiel Phegley
12. Go Look At D+Q's Table For Beguiling Original Art Sales
There's a lot of shopping to be had at Comic-Con, particularly tied into advance copies and into art and exclusives brought by guests of the show or weird stuff found by the publishers at the show. It's a great place to get stuff signed, or to buy related art from the cartoonists themselves. I have very little advice for the advance consumer activity of exclusives: things like a special figurine of the person from middle school who laughed when you asked them to Return Of the Jedi
. Most of these are sold out by an hour into Preview Night
, a popular Wednesday night extra set of hours at the show created to make Eric Reynolds
grind his teeth. The only thing I can think might be helpful there is to commit to scoring a high place in line, or to get someone working inside the show to hold a place for you with the exhibitor of your choice.
One thing I recommend for both buying and just staring is if D+Q has Peter Birkemoe from The Beguiling set up in a corner to sell original art
, go look at that. One of my five favorite experiences from last year not having the manager of my hotel try to fight me was getting to see some Kate Beaton
originals for the first time -- she does margins differently than most people, and the art itself is lovely. Peter has a ton of work there, much of it affordable, and he's one of comics' finest gentlemen and a beacon of good conversation. Just don't put your butt between the art and an actual buyer: that's mean. Also: that's my job.
13. Look For Secondary Signings
If you're there to meet a specific comics pro or have something signed by a specific person, pay attention to secondary appearances. Cartoon Art Museum
has a lot of cartoonists at their booth doing charity sketches. The CBLDF has certain luminaries on hand. A lot of mainstream comics-makers have books at smaller publishers. All of those can sometimes be easier to access than the signing directly for the project in which you're likely most interested. Just be polite, and respectful of what the object of your attention is doing in that moment, and you should have a good experience.
One place that's difficult to meet someone is after a panel by running up to talk to them. If you do that , remember that the ideal position for a post-con talk is to be that person the artist or comics-maker walks with back to the show. That's quality time. So maybe try last instead of first (the risk is you're blown off entirely). Remember, the show wants you out of the room, and how happily you're greeted in a pressure situation like that depends on the artist. I've only seen a few people actually sign something as they're trying to leave; it's a hard sell.
In general, meeting celebrities or even comics people? They're all over the place there. You don't want to dominate their time or scare them. Still, nearly everyone likes to hear a few nice words. Just remember how you'd feel were you to be approached by strangers, even happy ones, who look like they expect a moment. Not the superhero version of yourself, but you -- how you would feel to be tapped on the shoulder right now and not get to read the rest of this sentence.
If you're hoping for a moment with someone, just don't press and you'll likely get one. The cartoonist Ivan Brunetti
used to go to San Diego, where he would do brilliantly disgusting sketches based on three words that he was given by a CBLDF donor. When someone tried too hard to give funny words, it was never as good as Ivan's take on a few mundanities. It tends to be like that with meeting folks at San Diego, too.
14. Know The Floor
A cursory understanding of how the floor of the convention works solves a lot of confusion problems ahead of time. The Expo/Marketplace part is on the first floor; programming and ballrooms and a big wide open space between the two halves of the programming with some autograph signings and an art show make up the second floor.
If you look at the floor map as if it were the US and you're entering the country from the South before Trump's wall: East Coast to the Mississippi is basically the comics stuff: the East Coast is comic sellers and vendors, the midwest is comics publishers and an artist's alley/solo vendor area. West of the Mississippi is everything else, all the movies and toys, with tiny pockets in California and Southern Arizona for another artist's alley/solo vendor type area, and big crossover areas with the artisanal toymakers and the illustrators.
If you want to see anything in the movie and toy half, do that early or late in the day, or on Preview Night, before it gets soul-destroying. It's sometimes easier to leave the hall and walk on the outside corridor than it is to ram yourself down one of the aisles. There is an escalator at the far end of the hall -- think Northern Michigan -- to get to the second floor or back down again.
A couple things to remember about the one-way hallways upstairs is that if you leave a panel you'll be going out the far door so if you're know you're going to leave maybe sit up by that door so as not to freak out the panelists, who will think you hate them. The other thing to remember is that celebrities will sometimes be brought to their panel the wrong way down the exit hallways, so keep your eyes open for random encounters.
15. Panels, Panels, Panels
I basically do three things in San Diego now. I fecklessly carouse, I have pretty good meetings and I go to excellent panels. The overall swell of the con population has been good for panels -- the small ones that used to have seven people have 50 now, and the most appealing comics ones are packed. Beyond being prepared to focus in on and sacrificing other experiences for a panel you have to do, and the trick of coming into panels halfway through for an easy taste of what's up, any tips I can provide are pretty straightforward. Go see someone that interests you. Don't apologize for what that is.
You will have things and people you want to see, and everybody's a lot better at panels than they used to be but the fewer guests on a panel the more you'll get to spend quality time with the person you want to see. Themed panels can sometimes be great, but other times they're that sofa at Omega Theta Pi where the fraternity has stuck the freshmen they don't want to pledge. If you go to the panel before the panel you really want to see, in order to score a seat, that is still somehow an accepted strategy but be attentive and respectful of what's in front of you. I also always advise seeing humor cartoonists or people that are funny/interesting on-line. They're usually that way in front of a crowd, too. Also: think in terms of a panel experience you won't likely have again, like a cartoonist from Europe, say. I'm a big fan of the CBLDF's drawing panels from the last few years, too -- so if they're doing those again, jump on board.
16. If You're Buying, Write Down The Price You'll Accept For Comics
It's a great thing if you shop at Comic-Con. It's retro. It's bold. It's counter-intuitive. I think it's a psychically purifying thing to do, as it's literally the
major reason why cons got started. There's a tendency to split material at booths between really rare stuff and stuff at a stripped-down discount and I am the perfect customer for at least one of those things.
Here's a tip I learned from a friend who no longer collects. Write down what you're looking for and then write down a price at which you'd be happy to buy the book. You might find it cheaper but comparison shopping in a room of 75,000 people is for suckers.
It's not a bad headspace to be in with original art, either, figuring out in a more sober location what would make you happy in terms of spending. There's no real comparison shopping there, either, except perhaps between artists.
17. Don't Develop A Hang-Up About Drinking
A lot of people in comics like to spend some of their con time having a drink or two. Some like to have 50. Some don't drink at all. There's no real stigma here. Do what you feel is fun. If you're not a drinker but enjoy a drink in the summer, I always suggest the gin and tonic as a socializing cocktail because the cheapest version is 90 percent of the most expensive iteration taste-wise, it boasts a sturdy glass you're not likely to drop or knock over, and the ice in one melts in a way that it's like getting two drinks for the price of one. It says "My other suit is seersucker."
Another option in recent years is local craft beer
, which bartenders all over the city are happy to suggest specific examples. Still: Diet Coke is fine, believe me. Just by reading this section you've thought about this too much.
18. Eat Out At Least Once
San Diego's downtown used to be fairly terrifying in terms of the food offerings. There were five cheap, funky restaurants and 35 slightly overpriced ones serving a morose downtown clientele. There's a lot more to recommend eating in San Diego now, and I suggest spending some research time
and finding a place for you and your friends to take in a meal. If you're having a hard time finding a place that floats your boat or satisfies your budget within walking distance, maybe head out of the neighborhood on a little field trip, perhaps to Little Italy
Two classic San Diego Con restaurants I recommend are Pokez
and Cafe Chloe
One whole class of restaurants that has a tougher time than they used to on that weekend is the group of storefront restaurants up and down the Gaslamp
. The higher end restaurants do well, the cheaper ones and the buy to eat in your hotel room places seem to be doing okay, but that $15-$20 entree restaurant has started to look, at least to my eyes, empty as can be some nights. I think it's just that the fans are different now, and the professionals are different now. You've lost that middle class of buyers and pros.
Two completely satisfying restaurants where I've eaten in almost empty surroundings at some point during the last couple of years are Asti Ristorante
19. Attend The Eisner Awards
If you get a chance and you're not actively doing something more directly tied into your weekend's goals on Friday night, might I recommend the Eisner Awards
has declined to be considered for nomination since our last trophy win, but that doesn't mean we've stopped going. Team CR
sits in the back now and laughs and drinks beer we carry in and has people visit us to make a disapproving face about our not sitting up with the rest of the industry. It's glorious.
If you're a comics fan, you should see the Eisners at least once. They are divvied in a way that you're likely to have someone you like win one. It's fun to see all the comics peccadilloes on display and sometimes it's genuinely nice and funny and sweet. The afterparty is now the weekend's most underrated, a hardcore group of mostly 45-years-old and older veterans that I never see any other place than in that lobby. I'm pretty sure Joe Ferrara
Winning an Eisner Award is still a goal for many cartoonists and comics-makers, and should be. It's one of the nice and completely comics-only things you can have happen to when you're in comics, and there aren't a whole lot of those things left.
I mentioned earlier there is a second track for late-night socializing: the entrenched hotel bar scene. I should probably give that its own post here. I think that whole scene is a handy supplement to anything else you might want to do. For example, a lot of folks of my acquaintance have spent their Eisner Fridays the last few years going to the awards program and then immediately cutting out for cocktails in the host hotel's bar and lounge. The bar scene can be a step-up or a wind-down: like I said, super-useful.
What used to be an afterparty scene at places like the Hilton and the Hyatt have become full-bore party experiences, noodling along from dusk until last call. The bigger places tend to have unofficial hosts that have laid the groundwork for an evening of drinks via their afternoon tipping. The last couple of years you've seen people finishing the evening at their own hotels: there are significant little parties going on at the Westin Gaslamp and the smaller Hilton. Muscling your way into a place with $13 cocktails is fine vehicle to stand around and sort of talk business until people glare at you.
You probably won't get hired for going to one of those places, but you might become familiar enough that someone pays a little bit more attention to your next creative act. Nearly everyone who's been going to San Diego for a while has spent a lot of time working these rooms, even if they don't remember why.
21. Go See Mark Evanier Moderate A Panel
The writer and historian Mark Evanier
does at least two kinds of panels, and probably more, better than anyone out there: voice actors and cartoonists of his close acquaintance. Seeing him moderate and seeing how the great pros he assembles react is the Comic-Con equivalent of getting off the Las Vegas strip and dropping some money at a casino downtown. It's just this side of mandatory.
22. Use The Buses For Exhaustion, Not For Speed
There is an extensive bus shuttle service between the hotels and the show. There are no rules for walking, but here are my rules for walking at San Diego. If your hotels is right across the street all the way up to Broadway, try to walk it. If you're staying north of Broadway, try to walk the first day before making a decision if you'll be doing it all weekend. If you're anywhere else, get there any way you can, including the buses. If that means you're driving in, the key is to make sure you're paying to park all day and not just some eight-hour "all day" artificial configuration.
One exception is that if you're just too damn tired to make the trip, use the buses then. That might come Saturday night, or Sunday morning. But at that point don't be shy. They're pretty intuitive to figure out route-wise. You're going to have done a lot of walking, too much walking, no matter what. It's just that kind of show.
23. Build In The Extra Time To Check Your Bags
One thing folks forget on getaway day is that they're probably going to have some convention center time that occurs after they check out of the hotel. Gotta do something with those bags. The hotels all provide the opportunity to check your bags into lobby storage, but unless you do it early it might take a while because a lot of people will be storing their bags. So build in the time or set an alarm and get down there with everything but your backpack. You'll also likely need extra time built in to pick the bags up. Don't miss your flight standing in a lobby -- you get no points for that from either place.
Another option is go over to the convention center with your bag, which I would restrict to those of you with 1-2 bags that also have friends at an exhibitor with a lot of behind the table space. Do something to thank them if you do that. Maybe even ask the day before.
If you catch a cab out of the area, go west a bit, towards the Marriott first and then down the road even further to find a cab unencumbered with that direct-convention traffic. Also consider taking a bus up past Broadway before jumping into a paid car. I would assume these same principles apply to services like Uber and Lyft. You don't want to pay for downtown gridlock.
Talk of cabs reminds of one more direct piece of advice. There are pedicabs everywhere, and people like them for short bursts of travel, six to eight blocks. I'm not sure why. They creep me out a bit. Anyway, always get the price for where you're going before you get in one. That way there's no drama between you and some angry person with gigantic calves.
24. Take Business Class On Amtrak Back To Los Angeles
Here's a returning-from-San-Diego travel tip. If you're taking the train back to LA, make at least that segment of your trip business class rather open and unreserved. You get assigned a seat that way, and you get a shorter line. The lines are enormous for the unreserved seats; there's no guarantee you'll get to sit down, and the length of the line leads to people cheating, which if I've played by the rules shoots my blood pressure to the moon after a long weekend of general stress. That's no way to live.
Also, never count on the train to get you back up the coast where you need to go right on time. It's a train. What are you, some hotshot?
25. Remember You're Having A Good Time
There are so many little stresses in terms of getting around and doing things at Comic-Con that a lot of people forget to have fun. Look at the crew coming in on one of the shuttle trains sometime, if you get the chance: not a smile to be had. Comic-Con is an amazing experience, if you think about it, this massive tent revival devoted to geekdom in its loftiest forms. It is a phenomenon of our times. Take it all in. Talk to those around you. Crack some jokes. If you feel like it, go ahead and smile.
BONUS TIP: Make Room In Your Luggage For Stuff That You Buy By Managing Your Underwear Flow
One thing that comes a little tough for people attending a big show is finding room in one's luggage for items purchased over the weekend. One strategy is to mail some stuff back -- either new or old. The convention center has a mailing hub right there that I've never used, there was a US post office last I knew right up in the Horton Plaza on its north side, and many of the hotels will accommodate you for a price.
Another strategy is to decide in advance with great discipline exactly what clothing you need and show up in San Diego with room built into your suitcase. If you realize from years of experience that you won't be working out, for instance, you can save space by leaving that extra pair of shoes at home. (Advanced class: get a workout shoe designed to slip comfortably into luggage -- they make them
Yet a third option is to just pay that $25 airline fee and accommodate a new bag -- either one you pack, or one you pick up at the convention, which happens the best place in the world to find oversized bags.
My personal strategy and one I've used to great effectiveness over the years at those rare cons I know I'm going to be buying is to make sure I leave with fewer items of clothing, creating a space into which I stuff comics. I do this by packing for the trip my six worst pairs of underwear and one good pair, perhaps two if I'm feeling good about myself. Most underwear should be disposed of once a year, the way any dried spices should be dumped a week before Christmas. By tossing your underwear in the hotel room wastebasket on getaway day, you can usually make just enough room for a healthy pile of comics and/or book items and/or a toy or two. If you have a sleeping shirt that you can say goodbye to as well, every little bit helps.
If you do this, please tip your sure-to-be concerned cleaning person. Also, and this may be the most important tip of all: don't tell anybody.
photos by Whit Spurgeon (the nice ones) and me (the awful ones); for those of you wagering at home, the Evanier/Sergio is from 2004.
Comic-Con is an advertiser here at CR so you just wasted your time reading compromised nonsense. Sorry. Also, no one has ever called it Mouthbreather Sundance. That's not even funny.
posted 4:00 pm PST
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