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How To: Survive Comic Con

by Jeff “The Mighty Jerd” Mueller on July 15, 2013

in Geek Culture, How To

How to Survive San Diego Comic ConIt is known by many names – Nerd Prom, Geek Christmas, the Nerd Orgy, Nerdvana… but no matter you want to call it, the fact doesn’t change. San Diego Comic Con, is without a doubt, the largest convention of its kind! It is a literal sea of people, all coming together to celebrate their love for comics, movies, video games and geek culture, and if you’re attending it doesn’t matter if you plan on spending your entire time in the convention center or if you are going to venture out to the many off-site events like NerdHQ or the Geek & Sundry lounge because either way you are in for sensory overload and a lot of stress!

So how can you survive a mega-con of this proportion (or any convention really, be they for fun or for your job) with your sanity and your health and fitness goals intact?

The Basics

While these rules can apply to any convention, they are vital to your survival of a con of this magnitude:

  1. Budget – You will spend more than you thought you would. Just accept that fact and move on, but to keep it from getting out of hand I definitely recommend splitting up “floor” money and “entertainment” money. Know how much you are wanting to spend on all the cool stuff you are going to see on the convention floor and separate it from what you plan on spending on tickets to off-site events, going out drinking with your friends, etc… That way, when you find that Limited Edition Bedazzled My Little Pony Galactus variant figure you just can’t live without you know you won’t be relegating yourself to sitting your hotel room at night because you are broke.
  2. Bring Snacks – While I could have lumped this into #4 below, I felt it important enough to call it out on its own. You will be walking around non-stop all day long, and you will get hungry. Now you could stand in one of the ridiculously long concession lines to spend $18 dollars on some cold and nasty chicken fingers or you could toss a few snacks in your bag, freeing up your time, cash and saving you from the shame of having put that foul “food” in your mouth! I recommend tossing an apple, a banana, a bag of raw almonds and maybe some jerky or a Lara bar into your bag each morning.
  3. Line Up Early – There are a crazy amount of panels going on over the course of these four amazing days, and chances are you want to attend a lot of them. Here is my advice, pick the top ones you have to attend and then A) realize that 49382 other people probably also feel they have to attend it and B) line up waaaaaay early to get a seat (and if you want a guarantee you should probably sit through the panel beforehand as well.)
  4. Be Prepared – Adopting the perennial Boy Scout motto will definitely serve you well when you make your way to the convention center. Here are just a few things you need to remember:
  • A Bag – Yes, you get a swag bag when you pick up your badge. No, it is not useful at all. Bring a backpack or a messenger bag with you every day.
  • Art Tubes – If you plan on buying prints (or especially if you plan on getting a commission done) invest in a sturdy art tube! Nothing sucks more than buying a cool piece and then getting home to find it dog-eared or creased.
  • Extra Phone Batteries – The convention center is a swirling vortex of battling cell signals. You will only get service about 1/3rd of the time, and the rest of the time your phone will be draining battery life trying to find its way back onto the network. Bring an extra battery or a flash charger.
  • Comfortable shoes – This should be self-explanatory.
How to Survive Comic Con

Outside the Convention Center on Preview Night – 2012

Staying on Track

The hardest part about going to conventions or trade-shows, be they work-related or something as nerdtastic as Comic Con, is that it takes a lot of will-power to try to stay on track with your diet or fitness routine. So here are my tips for making it out of Comic Con alive!

  • Don’t Skip Breakfast – Eat a hearty breakfast at your hotel. Omelets with lots of veggies, oatmeal and fresh fruit are your friends. Pancakes, waffles, Fruit Loops and other assorted cereals are your enemy. You want high quality protein and fiber to maximize how long you feel full. The longer it takes you to dip into your snacks as you wander aimlessly, the better!
  • Plan your lunch! – If you are relatively local to the convention you can bring food with you (sandwich makings, bottled water, fresh fruit and veggies, etc…) and even if your hotel doesn’t have a refrigerator you can just pack it all in a cooler. Just make morning trips to the ice machine to fill it up and keep your stuff cold! For those of you flying in, avail yourself on Ralph’s Grocery Store on 101 G Street. Not only is it the closest grocery store to the Convention Center, it is also open 24 hours and on the shuttle line. Score! They sell sandwiches, drinks and snacks at a reasonable price so my recommendation is to pick something healthy up ahead of time each day and avoid concession stand hell.
  • Don’t Skip Your Workout – Almost all hotels have a small gym, and even if they don’t you can bang out a body weight circuit (Try these simple workouts… Upper Body, Lower Body, Total Body if you are just starting out) in your hotel room pretty quickly. Taking 15-20 minutes to do a quick workout every other day you are there will help keep you from slipping too far off your fitness goals. Having fun is no excuse to be completely lazy (and before you say it, no. Walking all day does not count!)
  • Decide What Your Cheat Is – Remember, you are on vacation. You are there to enjoy yourself! So unless you are trying to hit a very specific goal by a certain date in the near future it is okay to relax a little and just enjoy yourself, just don’t go overboard! A lot of people survive the constant struggle between food urges and willpower by being extremely vigilant with what they eat (we talked about this here), so it can be a little dangerous letting yourself fly by the seat of your pants. So what I recommend is that you decide where you are going to relax your hold on the reins. Is it going to be a specific meal of the day? Is it going to be with drinking and partying it up with your friends? Just pick something and stick with it! If you know you are going to be hitting every party conceivable at night and boozing it up with your friends, then make sure you are being vigilant with your meals and just ignore the extra calories from the partying while the Con rages on. If you want to experience all the city has to offer in the form of cuisine, then perhaps you should allow yourself one meal a day (probably dinner) where you just enjoy yourself, but then be sure to be on-point with your other meals/snacks and stay away from the evening drinking festivities. It is all about compromise!

Then as soon as you get home, get right back on your fitness and diet program. The damage from your few days of indulgences will quickly disappear and you should be right back on track!

Have fun

Batman says "Remember to have fun, old chum."

Batman says “Remember to have fun, old chum.”

I shouldn’t have to say this, but remember you are there to have fun! You are not going to be able to see all you want to see, you will miss things, but the things you do experience will be amazeballs and that is the magic of Comic Con. Don’t let the little things ruin a great time! If the vendor three booths down from where you just bought that nifty Deadpool paperweight has the same thing for $3 less, who cares? Don’t sweat it. If you couldn’t get into whatever hall is hosting the latest Joss Whedon fan-fest don’t worry, it will be up on YouTube in its entirety by the following morning. Go explore, meet people and relish in the fact that you are in the happiest place on Earth (that’s right Disney, I said it… wanna fight about it?)

That being said, I leave on Wednesday for my second annual pilgrimage to Nerdvana and I will be back next week… if you are going to be there, and you happen to see me swimming through the ocean of my fellow nerds, definitely stop me and say hello. I would love to meet each and every one of you reading my ramblings! In the meantime, if you want to keep abreast of all the SDCC happenings as they occur, I will be chronicling most of it via Instagram and Twitter so make sure you are following me for all the up-to-date news/gossip/awesome cosplay and celebrity sightings!

Let me know what your Convention kryptonite is, and how you try to overcome it, in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the new YouTube channel, like us on Facebook and Google+ and be sure to Sign up for our free newsletter! (Word on the street is that next month, all subscribers get a free e-book!)

Signed by the Jerd




Join in on the conversation!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 becca July 15, 2013

I am a total dork! I have never been too interested in comics but my “dorkdom” (as I call it) comes out easily in other ways. I am a massive gamer chick and well let’s just say I have quite a few goofy moments that make it so that I never have to wonder what to write a post about! lol :)

These are wonderful tips for comic con. I like the very first one…budget..but you will go over it lol


2 Melinda July 15, 2013

Great advice for any con — of any type.

I used to love Science Fiction Conventions in my younger days and even went to WorldCon once when it was here in Boston. Maybe I’ll try it again someday.

Thanks for a great post! Have fun at Nerdvana!


3 Stacy July 15, 2013

That was funny and informative. I doubt I will ever make it to Comic Con due to living on the other side of the country…and honestly, very little interest in comics. The closest I will get is via The Big Bang Theory and I do know enough to agree with Raj that Aqua Man does suck. ;)

Enjoy your trip!