On Wednesday through Sunday of this week, the biggest of the world's pop culture conventions will take place in sunny San Diego, CA. Along with the celebrity encounters, crazy costumes, and Hoarders-esque shopping that's sure to take place at the San Diego Comic-Con, there will be lots of chances for the dreaded "con fatigue" to set in. When you're crammed into one building—no matter how big—with tens of thousands of people, each with their own agendas, for days at a time, things can get a little nuts. You certainly don't have to be at the San Diego show to feel this way; the New York Comic-Con, for instance, was famously shut down by an NYC Fire Marshall in 2006 after it oversold.
Pretty much no matter where you go, pop culture conventions are big business, and that means they could be a big hassle. That's why The MindHut has put together these tips for surviving any convention, no matter how big or small. Follow this advice and you're pretty much guaranteed to have a more fun, easy-going show. And isn't that why you're there in the first place?
1. Bring healthy(ish) snacks! As with sporting events or concerts, paying for food at most conventions is ridiculous… unless it's your dream to spend $10 on a slice of microwaved pizza and a can of pop. At the same time, many folks who go to conventions are in it for the long haul, which means 12-plus hour days of waiting in lines, crowding onto convention floors, or on rare occasions taking refuge in whatever out-of-the-way corner you might be lucky to find. How, then, do you refuel? A small box or bag of healthy (or mostly healthy) snacks! The healthier, the better, but you want something that will withstand transportation, so, like, fresh fruit is probably out. Things like cereal bars or trail mix work wonders. Stuff that's a little sweet is okay, but salty or sweet snacks like candy or chips are probably a bad idea, because you really don't want to deal with a sugar crash. Generally, stuff that will keep you going for a few hours is good; there'll be plenty of time to gorge when you leave the con floor.
2. Water bottles are a must! Related to the first point, water will likely be your best friend in the convention jungle. Bring a refillable bottle; any convention hall should have tons of fountains where you can fill it up, and you don't want to risk overloading on caffeinated beverages like pop or coffee that will seriously bring you down as the day drags on.
3. Make a schedule! Yeah, yeah, only nerds make schedules. Well, for one, you're at a comic book convention, so suck it up. For two, your days will seriously go SO MUCH BETTER if you have a rough idea of where you're supposed to be and when you're supposed to be there. Why is that? Because of you don't pre-game, you'll spend about half your time at the show paging through the program trying to figure out what cool thing to do next. Then you'll find long or capped lines that inhibit your fun, or you'll end up regretting not looking past that kinda cool thing to the super-cool thing that started 15 minutes later. So, seriously, jot down a rough schedule. This is especially important in San Diego, where panels tend to fill up FAST. If you're really feeling enterprising, you could even look at a map of the convention floor and draw up a plan of where you want your body to travel. When you don't always have to worry about your next move, you can spend time enjoying your current one.
4. Don't become a horror movie victim! Are you going to a show with friends? Usually people do (unless you are a lonely blogger like myself). In that case, you will inevitably get separated from your buddies… this is pretty much the law. So before you venture out on the floor, pick a place to meet either at the end of the day or mid-way through it (like for a snack). DO NOT trust your cell phones to coordinate things later… reception in giant convention halls is spotty at best, and there are so many people there at any given moment that networks will typically be overloaded anyway. If you REALLY want to go all-out, run out to your local big box store and pick up a couple cheap walky-talkys, then split them up among your pals. It's like your own personal cell network!
5. Find an oasis! We touched on this briefly above, but if you've got the chance, scope out whatever relatively low-traffic places you and your friends can spot, and use that place as a retreat when you need it, because at some point standing in crowds for hours is gonna get to you. Lots of shows have designated seating areas, some even in front of a stage, so you can catch a nerdy performance while you rest. Other shows have lounges for con-goers who've purchased VIP tickets.
6. Be polite! This is not so much an imperative as a request… please, please treat your fellow con-goers the way you want to be treated. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, brush it off. If you run into a celebrity out on the floor, try to only geek out a little; don't assume it's cool to monopolize all their time, because they probably have somewhere to be. In crowded panels, don't save an unreasonable amount of seats for your friends, and be prepared to make new friends, since you'll almost definitely have to sit next to people you don't know. If you're in line for an autograph session and there isn't already a limit on how many items you can have autographed, try to keep it to between two and five. There are people who bring literally hundreds of comics for one person to sign, and guess what, that kills everybody's enthusiasm.
7. Save the Enterprise and rescue the Genesis Device! Oh wait, sorry… that's KHAN survival. My bad. #StarTrekIIJoke