SDCC Newbie Guide – Part I: Offsite Events and Scheduling [Updated for 2012]

There can be only one…

Whether you’ve attended a local Wizard con, or even the bigger cons like C2E2 in Chicago or New York Comic Con, you’ll never experience anything as awesome as San Diego Comic Con. Take even your most inflated expectations, multiply them by 100, and you’re still just a fraction of what you’ll find yourself a part of during the weekend.

The weekend moves way too fast, so you too have to be prepared to move fast to keep up. That’s where we’re here to help. Over the next few weeks we’ll be writing a series of posts here to pass along what we’ve learned in years past. Whether this is your first trip or your tenth, we hope you get some useful tips out of them!

Put Your Money Where The Con Is

Companies like Hasbro and Mattel are already announcing their exclusive SDCC merchandise, and you’ll most likely want to save your money for some of these limited-edition mementos for your geek mantle. The best way to do this is to limit the amount of cash you spend outside of the convention center by keeping an eye out for free events and parties. There are always events hosted by Hollywood studios, video game companies and entertainment blogs where you could partake in SDCC-exclusive merchandise giveaways, meet celebs, and most importantly score free food and drink. Keep an eye out here for offsite events as they are announced, and jump on them quickly, as the free ones are limited capacity and fill up fast.

Schedule Anxiety

In a couple of weeks when the schedule is released, you’ll undoubtedly go through the descriptions for each panel and give an enthusiastic “yes!” to attend each one. The problem with this, as you will soon find, is that you’ll look at your schedule and find you’re triple and quadruple-booked for almost the entirety of the weekend. Even after a third and fourth elimination round, you’ll still find yourself having to be in more places at once than humanly possible. Wait, this is SDCC we’re talking about – dare we say you need to be Superman?

First, prioritize. Identify the panels you absolutely can’t miss. You’ll still have some schedule conflicts, because there’s just so much going on during the weekend, so you’re going to have to make some tough choices.

Second, adjacent panels in the same room are a smart bet, because they don’t clear out the audience between panels. That means once you get a seat, you can squat as long as you want. Look at your schedule and make sure you save time before an important panel to get there as early as you can. This is advised for some of the bigger panels in Ballroom 20 and Hall H – for the really popular ones, you’ll need to get in line at least a couple hours in advance for a better chance for a seat.

Third, we recommend to always have a backup to the most popular panels. Instead of waiting two or three hours in line without knowing if we’d ever get in, we bailed and went to several smaller but just as enjoyable panels. And remember, the bigger panels always get the coverage from the blogs, so you can always catch up on all the headlines online or from conversations with others while waiting in lines, which brings use to our fourth tip – expect waiting around in a lot of lines. Be flexible and don’t stress out about getting into everything. You’re going to have to sacrifice more than a few times when it comes to the schedule, but SDCC is just as much about the experience as it is the panels, so you’ll be blown away at whatever you do!

Last, we recommend you plan most of your time on the show floor on Thursday. The crowds really fill up Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with the big panels you’ll most likely want to attend. Hit your favorite booths and gather your swag early.

Check back next week for more tips on preparing for this year’s SDCC!

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