Comic Con Survival Guide

Attending a convention for the first time? I've rounded up various bits of advice for how to make the experience as easy as possible.

Buy tickets in advance online. Depending on the size of the convention, tickets may sell out within a few hours or they may still be available at the door. Book on the convention's website as far out in advance as possible to guarantee a badge. However, you may want to wait until the schedule comes out if you're looking to meet a particular celebrity or can only attend one day. Once you have your schedule, print it out and put it in your pocket (or screenshot it and save it to your phone).

Cosplay. Do or don't, it's up to you. Not everyone at the con will be wearing costumes, so don't feel bad if you don't have one. Also don't worry too much if your costume is cheap or hastily put together. If you do wear a costume, try not to make it too big (panels may get crowded) or too sexy (there will be little kids in attendance). If you want a picture of your costume, check if there's some sort of photo booth on site. Also make sure it's something you're comfortable wearing for several hours. Most conventions have cosplay guidelines, which may include making sure that weapons can't be mistaken for real guns. Never, ever take a picture of or touch a cosplayer without their consent. It's rude and may get you kicked out. Many cosplayers will be happy to pose for a picture if you just ask politely.

Bring snacks/cash. There will probably be some sort of food on site, depending on the size of the convention. However, it may be limited in variety or expensive. Also, some costumes can get awfully warm in the summer and you'll want lots of water. Many conventions have an area for local artists to sell their merchandise. Many have credit card readers, but not all. I recommend a minimum of $50 + food money. A bag of some sort to hold purchases can also come in handy.

Meeting celebrities. You generally have three options: attend a panel, do a photo-op, and/or get an autograph. Panels are generally covered under the cost of admission, while photos and autographs sometimes cost extra. If you just want to ask one or two questions, go to the panel and wait in line for the microphone. Buying a photo op will let you and a couple of friends take a picture with a celebrity (sometime multiple celebrities if there are multiple actors from the same show/movie attending). However, there may not be time for chit-chat. Autographs offer a more personal interaction with celebrities, though there may be a time limitation if the line gets too long. You can generally bring something to be autographed, or use whatever they provide (which may or may not be free). Note that there may be limitations on taking pictures at the panel or autograph line to encourage photo-op sales. Don't be that weirdo who asks personal or sexual questions (as a general rule don't ask anything you wouldn't want published about yourself all over the internet).

Be flexible. Plans may change with no warning. Celebrities may not be able to attend the con at the last minute. Panels could be more crowded than anticipated. You may turn up to a panel and find out it's awful and want to leave. Try to have a couple back-up panels to attend instead of your main choices. If a celebrity cancels, see if you can have your photo-ops/autographs transferred or refunded. Be sure to check whether rooms are cleared between panels and get in line early.

Electronics. The availability of Wi-Fi and cellular data will depend on the location and number of people attending. The more people at the con, the slower the bandwidth will be. If you absolutely need to upload lots of photos or watch videos during the convention, consider using a paid wireless hotspot. Also, if it's your first time at a particular convention, considering asking someone who's been before how good the data service is. As for what devices to bring, at the very least you need a way to keep track of time. A phone will also come in handy to call your ride or find your friends if you get separated. I recommend texting so you don't have struggle to hear a call over the crowd noise. Turn on vibrate and check your phone every now and then in case you didn't hear/feel it. Maybe set an alarm for the most important events. Bringing a power strip is a great way to make friends.

Miscellaneous
  • If you bring kids, consider only bringing them on the last day. That will give you time to scout out activities for them
  • Avoid strollers, as those can take up valuable space on a crowded floor
  • Don't forget to check the weather
  • Bring hand sanitizer
  • If you're worried about theft or pickpocketing, I recommend emptying your pockets/wallet/purse of any items you won't need for the day beforehand
  • Check local public transportation, as parking may be expensive or crowded 
  • Remember to keep track of your belongings. It can be easy to forget something under a seat.
  • If attending with a group, consider a pre-arranged meeting point in case you get separated and your phones don't work
  • Try not to be the spaced-out or hurried idiot who walks in the middle of a photo shoot (I've done that)
  • Check the convention's official social media page(s) the morning of for any last-minute announcements

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