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The Beginner’s Guide to San Diego Comic-Con

Every year in the July heat of the California summer, fans from all over the globe flock to San Diego for the world’s premiere geek-culture convention. Comic-Con is the largest comic, sci-fi, and fantasy event in the world, drawing crowds of nearly 200,000 people to a colorful and action-packed week of super heroes, villains, and fantastic creatures.

The world of Comic-Con is not unlike that of a long-running comic series: it’s its own action-packed world filled with colorful characters and intricate story-lines. And, much like comics, getting into it can be a bit intimidating for the uninitiated. With so many panels, events, parties, genres, and speakers… where does a newbie begin?

Overwhelming though it can be, Comic-Con is a huge amount of fun with an incredibly non-judgmental atmosphere. If this is your first time at Comic-Con, here is everything you need to know to make the most your 4 days:


Comic-Con bonus: San Diego is a mighty fine city!


What to bring to Comic-Con

The Convention Center is a hectic place during Comic-Con. It’s a whole lot of bodies, booths, and events to navigate through and it’s not for the weak. If zombies are your jam, then you are probably well versed in apocalyptic survival gear. If not, here is what to bring to Comic-Con in your backpack:

  • Refillable water bottle: you’ll be on your feet and moving about for most of the day, sometimes even waiting in line outside. Stay hydrated and take advantage of the refill fountains throughout the convention center.


  • Hat and sunscreen: sometimes getting that signature or that rare issue means waiting in line in the sun for several hours. Don’t bring home a sunburn.


  • Snacks: considering how often you’ll be waiting in line to get into exclusive panels and screening, you do not want to waste time waiting in line to buy disappointing, unhealthy, and overpriced food in the convention center. Pack some healthy snacks to munch on during the wait times instead.


  • An extra bag within your bag: between the merch that you can buy and the freebies given out, you’ll probably walk away from Comic-Con with more than your backpack can carry. We recommend stashing a canvas bag within your main backpack that you can pull out when you’re running out of space.


  • A Sharpie and a notebook: what if you run into your childhood hero but don’t have anything with which they can give you an autograph??


  • Battery packs: don’t get stuck with a dead phone.


  • Cash: though lots of vendors will accept electronic payment, cash is welcome everywhere and in many booths is the only currency accepted. Keeping lots of small bills handy is also a good idea, as many vendors will run out of change.


What to wear to Comic-Con

Comic-Con is famous for elaborate cosplay. Part of the excitement of attending is getting to see first hand the incredible costumes that attendees have labored over for months. Plus, it’s really neat to see comic, gaming, and fantasy universes collide. But if you haven’t already invested a hundred hours into custom building an exact replica of an original Storm Trooper costume – not to worry. You don’t have to worry that you’ll feel out of place. Here are some suggestions for what to wear at San Diego Comic-Con:

Easy Comic-Con Costumes

When in doubt, go classic. Clark Kent with a Superman emblem beneath his suit, one of the gang from Scooby Doo, Super Mario Brothers, a Zombie, your favorite Powerpuff Girl… the beauty of Comic-Con is that it applies to such a wide range of genres and time periods. Even if you’re not totally up-to-date with the hottest shows, games, and comics of the year, rest assured that attendees appreciate nostalgia too. The bonus is that a lot of throwback cosplay ideas are relatively simply to create.

Can you go to Comic-Con without a costume?

Absolutely, in fact the majority of attendees don’t do cosplay for the event. And if this is your first time, it may be for the best if you opt for comfort over creativity. If you have a relevant t-shirt, Comic-Con is a great place to wear it. If not, rest assured you’ll be far from the only person there who isn’t decked out in costume. You don’t need to wear a costume to Comic-Con in order to enjoy seeing everybody else’s costume.

What to do when nobody gets your cosplay

There are 200,000 nerds at Comic-Con. Someone is bound to be into the same obscure stuff that you are. And for everyone who doesn’t recognize your cosplay, you have a conversation starter.

Guide to Comic-Con Lines and Crowds

Comic-Con includes a whole lot of waiting. But with some strategic planning and consideration for other attendees, you can make the process a whole lot easier on yourself and everyone around you. Plus, the people watching is prime! Here is how to do Comic-Con lines and crowds like a pro:

  • Pick ONE major event that you want to each day, and plan your whole day around it. If it’s a really popular panel, chances are you’ll be waiting in line for a good chunk of the day. You’ll only be disappointed if you try to do too much and spread  yourself too thin.


  • Panel rooms aren’t cleared out between sessions, so if you get a seat early you can pretty much stay there the whole day. You can also take advantage of the time between sessions, when people get up and leave, to score better seating.


  • Take advantage of line waiting times to eat, tweet, and use the bathroom. There will be downtime, so use it efficiently. Here’s where you can check the updated schedule, trade off with your group for bathroom breaks, and eat a much deserved sandwich.


  • Celebrities favor campers. Hardcore fans who camp out for an event the next day are the most likely to be rewarded by a celebrity visit. You may get lucky when a star drops by to thank you for your dedication!


  • Don’t sit except for in designated areas. The Exhibit floor is packed with people. You’ll obstruct traffic and, at worst, can pose a danger in the event of an emergency.


  • Generally just don’t block traffic. Taking a selfie? Step out of the way. Taking a photo of someone else? Suggest that they step out of the way. Want to gawk at something? Check your phone? Reconvene with your friends? Just step out of the way of traffic, please!


Other tips for first-time Comic-Con goers

  • Bring a light sweater. Despite the heat outside, the AC in the convention can be a bit much for some.


  • Get your morning coffee before you head to the Convention Center. There is no reason to battle the long lines only to pay exorbitant prices for a coffee that you could have enjoyed in peace in your hotel room.


  • Don’t pick up every freebie you see. Tempting though it may be, consider that you’ll have to lug all of that around with you for the rest of the day.


  • Ask before you touch a cosplayer. Sure, most people cosplay because they enjoy the attention, but you should always respect personal boundaries. Don’t hug someone our touch their homemade costume weapon without asking first.


  • A little bit of deodorant goes a long way. There will definitely come at least one point during Comic-Con when you wish your neighbor had put on deodorant. Pay it forward by making sure you do the same.


  • Don’t forget to enjoy the city! It’s easy to pack your schedule with official events and completely miss out on the great museums, parks, nightlife, and scenery that San Diego has to offer – make sure to get away from the Convention and experience the city.


Ready for the most fantastic, nerdiest four days of your life? Check out our Comic-Con travel packages and start planning your cosplay.


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