For those of you who have attended the San Diego Comic Con before it will not come as a surprise how much of an ordeal it may be to attend this event every year. Add to that the family factor (bringing kids to the convention) and you are left with somewhat of a puzzle to be solved. This is why I decided to share some of my experiences attending this convention along with some of the tips and tricks my friends and I have learned throughout the years. Hope it helps!
- Acquiring the tickets
To attend the San Diego comic con, the first thing you need to have is a valid and confirmed Comic Con member ID. Here is where you go: Member ID Registration. This member ID system closes, without notification, previous to the badge sale every year, so make sure to register as soon as possible. You’ll only need a valid email account which will be used to send you the notifications about the convention. Through these emails you’ll find out when is the badge sale, hotel sale, and other important dates. There are two times when the Comic Con badges are on sale. The first sale (Returning Registration) is only for people who attended the convention the previous year. This normally happens early in the year and the attendees are notified just a few days before, via email. The second one (Open Registration) occurs later on and it is open to everyone with a valid member ID. During both sales, they will send an email with instructions including an Epic Registration waiting room link to access on a specific date at a specific time. Normally this is on a Saturday and you can enter any time between 8am and 9am Pacific Time. After the hour, the site stops allowing members to enter. Once there, the tickets are sold in random order. DO NOT refresh your browser. During the first sale, if you are one of the lucky ones and get in, you will only be able to buy up to three badges, only for you and other attendees who also qualify for the Returning Registration sale. If you have friends who did not attend the convention the previous year, you will need to wait until the Open Registration to try and get a badge for them. During this Open Registration, everyone with a member ID can enter the waiting room and buy up to 3 badges. You will need to know your friend’s member ID to buy their tickets. Kids 12 years old or under can attend the convention for free with a paying adult, up to two kids per adult. If you attended the convention the previous year and your kid is now 13 years old (or will be by the time of the convention), you need to validate your child’s badge so he or she can get a valid member ID and participate on the Returning Registration. For more information go to purchasing a Comic Con badge.
2. Finding a place to stay
Every year thousands of people attend this convention located in the heart of downtown San Diego, California, and every year right after the convention ends, many of the nearby hotels close their reservations for the dates of the next SDCC convention. It is very difficult to find hotels that will allow you to make reservations for those dates and those who do, will up their prices significantly so expect to see hotel prices to go up a few hundred dollars from their normal rate.
If you did not find any hotels available there are still many options to choose from. See, those hotels who closed their reservations for these dates will likely be part of the Comic Con housing sale. A couple of months before the convention, they will send an email to all the members who purchased badges. This email contains information about a sale for making reservations with the nearby hotels that works similar to the Comic Con badge sales. Except, this time, you will need to be very fast in choosing your hotel since only the first few people submitting the form are able to get their reservations. I have taken even 3 minutes on mine and only made it to their waitlist. There are also other options like: HomeAway, AirBnb, and TravelMob. I had a friend that once was even able to find an apartment rental through Expedia just a few weeks before the convention.
I strongly recommend you stay somewhere in downtown “Gaslamp Quarter” if possible. This area is walking distance to the convention and it can be very convenient during the week for various reasons. The first one is that there will be many lines for different panels and events and some of them start very early in the morning or late at night. It is easier if you can team up with some friends to take turns in lines. This way someone can go back to the hotel, take a shower or sleep for a bit, and come back for their turn in line later. The convention staff will allow this as long as there is always someone from your group in the line. The second one is, parking prices during the convention get really high. We have seen these get up to between $20 – $60. They also are open during specific times (which may not match your needs) and they are only for up to 12 or 24 hours, which may mean someone will need to leave the convention to move their car. Also, during the convention you will be on your feet for many hours, trust me, you would want to be able to get to your bed at night in a short time. This is especially important if you have kids, but also if you are young and plan on taking advantage of the many parties going on in downtown every night that week.
3. SDCC Child Care
Yes, the San Diego Comic has a professional child care center on the grounds. Kiddie Corp provides with an alternative to leave your child in a safe and fun place during the day so the kiddo doesn’t get too tired seating in hall H, or making lines all day. I have personally used them for the last 2 years and my son have enjoyed it. The rooms are located on top of hall H and on the same floor as Ballroom 20. This made it easy for us to go check on him in between panels. Sometimes we would take him to the exhibit hall for a bit and as soon as he was tired we would walk him back to the child care center so could rest. The center has worked on this convention for many years and you can find their information on the SDCC site. You can register your child online before the event. I recommend doing this, otherwise you risk getting there and the center may be filled to capacity for the day. The online pre-registration for child care also closes before the event so make sure to register your kid on time (normally a month before the convention).
4. Attending the convention
The San Diego Comic Con starts on a Wednesday night (Preview night) and lasts until the next Sunday. Here is the layout for the week with some of the important things to do each day.
Preview Night! – This is the first day of the convention. The events start at around 6pm but lines for the exhibit hall as well as the Preview night showing start much earlier (3-4pm). If you are interested in watching the first episode or trailer on the new sci-fi and superhero movies and shows coming next season then the Preview night showing is where you want to go. On the other hand, if you would like to be one of the first ones to enter the exhibit hall, get some freebies, and take time to visit the booths before the place starts to look too crowded then you’d probably go to the the exhibit hall during preview night. Either way, decide what you want to do, get your bag and SDCC guide at registration (follow the sigs), and start making the line.
Thursday! – Check your SDCC guide to see the schedule for the week. Ballroom 20 and Hall H will normally be the big events of the convention. If you have never been to any of these you may want to try on Thursday since there will be a shorter line than Friday or Saturday. There are many other panels going on, from anime panels to sci-fi and even book signings. Have fun!
Friday! – Friday is a great day at the convention. There are normally great panels this day but the lines for these panels can start even the day before. Specifically for Hall H, you will see that the line starts the day before, normally behind the convention. If you want to attend a panel in Hall H you will need to make the line on Thursday afternoon and at around 8pm the convention staff will start giving our wristbands to the people in line. This is so you can go home and rest. They will give you until 7am the next day to get back to the line. You will be able to enter the line only if you have the wristband. Each day this wristband will be different. Remember, if you do not get a wristband staying in line will not guarantee you’ll get into Hall H. They fill the hall to capacity every year and every year there are people left out that made the line for hours.
If you have kids, my recommendation is to make the line the day before, get the wristband and go rest. In the morning, take turns with your friends so someone gets to the convention early and gets in line. The last person to join should bring the kids, have breakfast, and then take them to the child care center. They open early, just make sure this person comes back and gets in line before 10am. At this time the line will start moving and once this happens they will not allow people to join the line.
Saturday, the big day! – Oh Saturday! My favorite day. This is the day with THE BEST panels. Normally the line for Hall H or Ballroom 20 for Saturday is insane but if you are determined to get into either of these two then be prepare to spend about a day making the line. If you decide to skip these two, there will be plenty of other great panels on different conference rooms. There are also book signings and the artists that attend the very coveted panels will also make an appearance at some of the booths in the exhibit hall. So, if you could not make it to Hall H but desperately want to see your favorite actor or actress, you can still go by their booth in the exhibit hall. They will also be signing autographs at their booths. For this you’ll need to (again) make a line in the morning to get (another) wristband. You can find all of this information on your SDCC guide.
Sunday! – Sunday is the last day of the convention. This is a good day to walk the exhibit hall. Although by then there will not be as many things there. You can always use this time to take a look in the artists section and have a chance to talk to some of them.
Sunday panels are not the most coveted but there are certain shows that normally would have their panel on Sunday. Supernatural is one of them. So if you are a fan, you may be able to get into their panel on Sunday.
5. Finding food
The food inside the convention is expensive and of very low quality so I strongly recommend to bring a backpack with some healthy snacks and water. Hall H has its own small “cafeteria” just outside the conference room so you are able to get food in between panels. This is convenient since you can buy food get a ticket to leave the Hall H area, go upstairs and eat with your kid. The ticket will have a time allowance, just make sure to come back before it expires.
The rest of the convention center has many areas with options like pizza, nachos, and hot dogs. You can also find small Starbucks coffee carts. The problem is, in between walking around multiple crowds, making lines, or trying to find your way around, getting out of the convention to grab some food might not be an option often. Unless you don’t mind missing some things. However, if you find time to get out, there are many great restaurants in the downtown area, just across the convention.
Remember to have fun. The convention can be a bit overwhelming if you are not used to crowds, but keep in mind, this is no ordinary crowd. In fact, my favorite part of this convention is the people. Here you will find a group of very smart, interesting, fun and original people who enjoy a different set of artistic expressions that are part of our pop culture. Observe, converse, and enjoy the event!