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Dr. Morales' SDCC Tips!

July 16, 2014

[UPDATED!] {updated] [UPDATED!]

Back in 2013, I was asked on Tumblr to share any advice I might have on attending SDCC for a first-time attendee, and advice on getting into the panels that you want. I am not an expert, but I am extremely grateful to have attended SDCC every year for like the past decade thanks to my geek family, who have made it a tradition. I've updated my original response, see below!

Bless Chuck, it is that time of year again. Downtown San Diego completely transforms during this time. Having attended San Diego Comic Con for 10 consecutive years I’ve learned a few things that I thought I would share for any first-time con-goers, or just anyone who is interested.

First of all, wear comfortable shoes, take cash, and your ID. Also wear sunblock, sunglasses/hat, something to protect you from the sun when you’re standing outside in line for hours.

I take the smallest backpack possible, something just large enough to hold all my stuff but small enough that it’s easy to carry, and sturdy enough to withstand me dropping it on the ground a few times throughout the day. Almost everything in my backpack is travel-sized if possible.

What's in my backpack:
  • 2 fully charged small cameras (not the professional kind, although I wish I had one of those!)
  • fully charged phone, with the Comic Con app just in case, and a backup fully charged old phone just to take pictures and for WiFi. Phone charger too!
  • travel sized body mist and deodorant
  • two small water bottles that I’ve put in the freezer for a few hours. I buy two 6-packs and just take 2 each day, or more if I can carry more
  • a small can of spray-on sunblock
  • the convention guide and souvenir book
  • a black sharpie
  • a list of things I want to get and the booth numbers
  • a list of panels I want to attend with times and room numbers
  • a freezer-sized ziplock back with snacks, like trail mix, beef jerky, small things that are easy to eat and will not go bad in the heat…also I've heard that the saltiness of beef jerky helps you retain water and helps prevent dehydration. Nuts are healthy. Pick nuts instead of potato chips or other super salty and greasy snacks!
[I get most of this foodstuff at a 99 cent/dollar store to save money.]

If you can take your lunch, do so! The food at the convention center is expensive and not superb! If money is not much of an issue, there are some restaurants downtown that totally transform during SDCC, making your dining/lunching experience pretty fun. 

In addition, take these in your heart and keep them in mind: 
  • Determination
  • Patience
  • Acceptance that you may not get all the toys you want or see all the panels you want to see
  • Acceptance that your battle plans may not go as you hoped
Last year, I printed out the map of the Exhibit Hall, taped the different sections together, and used different highlighters to identify the booths that had the things I wanted, and to differentiate them between things I had already paid for and just needed to pick up, things I really really wanted, and things I only sort of wanted. I set a course and discussed it with my companions! Of course, things did not go as planned. You have to keep this in mind, and be okay with it. There are plenty more other things to enjoy!

Some people take something to read while they’re standing in line.
Because I tend to cosplay, I also take a small cosplay emergency kit that includes the following: 
  • small scissors... the cheap kind that really only ever work on thread
  • a small sewing needle
  • thread in the colors of my cosplay
  • safety pins
  • a Tide stick
Most of these are included in cheap sewing kits. You might be thinking, "That's a bit much dude," but I have actually had to use these a few times!


How early you should get in line depends on how popular you think the panel will be and the day of the panel. For example, two years ago on a Thursday (Day 1 of SDCC) I managed to get into the Sherlock panel in Ballroom 20 that morning after getting in line as soon as they let us into the convention center. It was a few hours of standing in line.

However, the year before that, I could not get into the Firefly panel in Ballroom 20 though I stood in line for about the same number of hours, because it was on a different day and people stood in line overnight. My heart broke, but c'est la vie. For the Supernatural panel on Sunday 10am two years ago in Hall H, I arrived at the line at 3am and barely got in! I was definitely panicking! (::*UPDATE*:: That year in Hall H there was also the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary panel, so that probably had a lot to do with it! For SDCC 2014 I once again arrived at the line at around 3am, but that year it was not nearly as long.) I usually check my Twitter to see what people are tweeting about lines. And if you didn't already know, there is a Twitter account for the Hall H Line, one for the Indigo Ballroom Line, and one for the Ballroom 20 Line too. But also you can just do a general search. 

Usually, panels in Hall H, Ballroom 20, and the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton are the most popular and people tend to stand in line for many hours. It’s not likely that you'll get into a 10am panel in those rooms on Sunday or Saturday if you arrive in line at 7 or 8am, unless someone is already holding your spot (which is a debate I will not get into).

Last year for Hall H, SDCC implemented the wristband system for the first panel of the day. I did stand in line on Sunday early for the Supernatural panel and the wristband prevented people from being able to cut in line when we were already under the tents, which is something that happened so much the previous year. Some like it, some don't.

===>===>[UPDATE!!!] For this year, SDCC will once again implement the wristband system. HOWEVER, this year's changes include the NDL (Next Day Line). What this means is that you can obtain a wristband for the next morning's panel on the previous night. You can get into the NDL on Saturday night and obtain a wristband that guarantees you seating (we'll see how that goes) for the next morning's first panel as long as you show up and get in the line the next morning by 7:30 AM. If you show up after 7:30 am, seating is not guaranteed. So, if you have a wristband, you can leave and come back. They WILL be checking photo ID's and badges! There will be a specific line for you if you have a wristband, and a different line if you don't. This is only for the first panel of each day. The times for wristband distribution have not been posted yet. 

For other panels in smaller rooms, you’d have to think about whether you believe the panel will be more popular. To get into the Hannibal panel last year I decided to attend the panel previous to Hannibal, which I think was a Lord of the Rings video game one and was pretty awesome too.
If you can and if you like the idea, and if it doesn’t interfere with something else you want to do, some people try to get into the rooms a panel early to ensure attending the one you want. After all, SDCC always has amazing panels, and odds are, if it's in the same room, it's also something you will enjoy. Some people also hate this because it implies you're taking the seat of someone who really wanted to see that panel that you only sort of want to see for the sake of attending the one after it. It's a personal choice. 

One other thing, there are a lot, A LOT of things that go on outside the convention center, and if you have time to check them out I definitely encourage you to do so!

This is definitely NOT an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps!
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