by Erin Maxwell
"I went to Comic-Con and all I got were 28 t-shirts, 15 posters, 45 key rings and a large duffle bag with Michael Cera's face on it." -- Anonymous geek
Between the panels, the autograph opportunities, the screenings, the shopping and enough swag to cause a small pack mule to collapse, navigating Comic-Con can be considered an extreme sport. Here are a few tips and tricks to surviving the wrath of Con:
Carry only the bare necessities.
This includes sunscreen for waiting outside of Hall H, water to hydrate, a badge, a ID, an iPhone/Droid, your camera, small snacks and cash. Ladies, bring a purse. Gents, invest in a man bag.
If you are dead set on bringing your entire collection of He-man collectibles to the autograph tables, make good use of the lockers offered near the main entrance.
Plan your parking situation ahead of time.
Unless you wish to spend the morning cruising the Gaslamp District looking for $30 parking, scope out the parking situation before you arrive. Find out the lots that have decent parking, decent prices and offer shuttles. If you wait to the last minute. I suggest looking for parking around the J and K streets and walk or cab the distance. The time it takes to walk to the convention center is way better than the time you lose looking for parking.
Be sensible with your wardrobe.
Most of us are not going in costume (for those of you that are, rock on, especially you steam punks). For us everyday folks, remember: sneakers, good socks and a hoodie for Hall H, which can get a bit chilly.
If you plan on going to many panels and getting the full Con experience, you'll end up walking anywhere from five to ten miles of Convention Center. Wear good comfy shoes. And remember, your much-loved Chucks or flip-flops might let you down on days like this, so wear the Pumas instead.
Yes, there will be lines.
You are not the only one who wants to go to the "Tron" panel, and unless you are press, professionals or directed and/or starred in the film, you are going to be waiting in line. A. Lot. Of. Lines. Think SpaceMountain on July 4.
If you plan on lining up, get there early. Better yet, find out what unpopular panels are booked earlier in the same rooms and line up to attend.
For Hall H, give yourself a few hours to get into your panel. Luckily, the absence of a "Twilight" panel this year will guarantee no mother-daughter sleepovers on the grassy knoll area outside of the convention center. One less obstacle to avoid on your way to geeky bliss.
It's all about good timing.
There is no such thing as a quick jaunt at Comic-Con. If you have never gone to the Con before, let me tell you this: the San Diego Convention Center is hell of a lot bigger then you think it is. However long you think it will take to get from one panel to the next, double that time. The upstairs hallways tend to bottleneck due to the "one-way only" rules of second floor rooms.
Aside from the small cafeteria in the back of Hall C, you are limited to coffee carts, margarita stands and pretzels. But don't fret. There is food aplenty outside of the convention area. Give yourself time to grab a bite or bring your own. The Con is located in a ritzy part of San Diego, so finding cheap eats can be a challenge if you don't know where to go. Popular cheap eats outside of the convention center include Dick's Last Resort (345 4th Ave), Fred's Mexican Cafe (527 5th Ave), Gaslamp Dogs (5th Ave and Island St), not to mention the numerous sandwich shops and yogurt stands within the bar scene.
Where to stay
It's not unusual to see folks asleep in their cars or on the sidewalk in sleeping bags. Why? 'Cause hotel rates near or around the Gaslamp jump by 300% during Comic-Con. If you don't already have a place to crash, shoot for a hotel five miles or so away from the Convention Center or outside San Diego. Check to see if they offer shuttle service to the Convention Center. If so, grab a schedule and off you go.
If you are dead set on staying within walking distance, call around to a few hotels for last minute cancellations, but expect to pay a pretty penny for the digs.
Find your buddy
Comic-Con is much better in groups. Tag teaming friends to stay in line while others gather grub or swag will help you get the most of out of the experience.
If you decide to lone wolf the experience, make friends in line. You will be hanging out with those folks for the better part of the day while you wait to get into a panel, so it's better to be friendly, even if they are wearing a "Team Edward" shirt. You'll need them once you realize that the bathrooms are no where near the lines.
You are not getting into the industry parties if you didn't already RSVP or are a plus-one. Forget about it. Get it out of your head. Really. But if you want to partake in the Comic-Con night life, don't fret. There are a ton of parties you can get into. Go to your local comic-book stores or their Web sites for updates on the happenings. Also check message boards for Comic-Con and fan sites for more of the inside scoops. Many of the bashes will charge you a fee to get in, but usually that will also cover the price of a drink as well.
If you can't get into the bashes or are too lazy to look, they are a ton of bars in the area always willing offer tasty beverages to folks dressed as a Storm Trooper.
Also, check hotel lobbies (the Hilton is a good one). There are sometimes large impromptu gatherings in hotel lobbies that can be a lot of fun.