San Diego International Comic-Con 2014 Recap

Lessons learned from SDCC 2014

In the aftermath of my first ever San Diego International Comic-Con (SDCC), I was reflecting on my experience & trying to see how to make next year even better.  I’m definitely going to come back next year! I’m still working on my daily recaps, with special focus on Hall H on Thursday & Ballroom 20 on Friday, but both posts should be up shortly.

So, I’ve broken down my experience into a few categories & listed the Pros & Cons of each.  I hope this is helpful to anyone else who is looking to go to SDCC, too.

Hotel

I thankfully selected the little box stating that I would rather be placed in a hotel along the shuttle route if my 5 choices were unavailable during the Early Bird Hotel Sale.  Staying so far from the convention center, 2nd to last stop on the red shuttle line, has its pros & cons.

SDCC 2014 Red Shuttle RoutePros:

  1. It is much cheaper than staying downtown.
  2. Once you get on the shuttle, it is a short ride.

Cons:

  1. Long waits for the shuttle, especially in the morning & after 10 PM can be at least 45 minutes.
  2. The shuttle is sometimes almost to capacity when it finally does arrive to the hotel to pick you up; you may have to wait a couple of shuttles before actually getting on a shuttle towards the convention center.

Take away from experience:

This year, I came solo to SDCC, so I bore the full cost of my hotel room.  Hopefully next year, I will be able to come with some buddies to help lessen the cost of the hotel room.  While I was thrilled to have secured a room, I will definitely try to get a hotel closer to the convention center next time.  The ability to stop by my hotel room during the day/afternoon to drop off merchandise, shower, power nap, &/or change is even more appealing to me after my 1st SDCC.   I had to take a change of clothes with me for evening plans/activities & change in the bathroom of the convention center before heading out to dinner because I didn’t have the time to wait in the line for the shuttle, get to the hotel, shower & change, wait for the shuttle again before heading out to dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter.  Due to my fibromyalgia, I get fatigued a bit sooner than most, so the idea of accessing my room without much of a wait is definitely moving my hotel situation to a higher priority for my budget next year.  I would rather buy less things & spend that money on my overall comfort while at SDCC.  Also, being able to carry less weight throughout the duration of the day will be a huge improvement & help reduce my overall fatigue level.

Cosplaying

I decided to cosplay as part of my first SDCC in order to try to get the most out of the experience.  This was also my first time cosplaying, so I was a bit nervous.  I described my process trying to decide on who to cosplay as in a previous post <click here to check it out!> & I’ll be posting about the details of each cosplay I wore while at SDCC in an upcoming post.

Pros:

  1. You definitely fit in.
  2. You can interact with fellow SDCC-goers on a different level.
  3. It is fun running into or meeting others who are cosplaying.

Cons:

  1. It can get intensely hot while outdoors & then a bit chilly once inside in the air conditioning or in the evening.  I met a woman who was cosplaying as the Black Widow in a full black pleather body suit.  She almost melted in the sun waiting for the Indigo panels.
  2. Depending on what components your cosplay entails, you may be carrying accessories all day long while navigating the masses on the exhibition floor & in lines. I met a woman who had an almost life–sized TARDIS on wheels.  Initially I thought that was a great idea, until the impracticality of it was brought to my attention: she needed to check it into the coat-check because it was near impossible for her to go anywhere with it.  Come to think of it, how did she get to the convention center with it?!
  3. Footwear: choose wisely!

Take away from experience:

I had a blast cosplaying.  I was by myself, so I had to take my trusty backpack each time I was cosplaying, which contributed to what I decided to cosplay as due to practicality.  If you are going to have an elaborate cosplay, you’ll need an assistant of some sort to help hold your things & navigate the exhibition floor.  You need to be aware of your surroundings.  I came across a lot of people who had parts of their cosplay that extended out in some direction & would end up hitting someone in the face or body because of not taking in account the new dimensions of his/her cosplay.  I purposefully choose to cosplay with sensible footwear & my body definitely thanked me for it!  It’s easy to not notice the actual amount of distance you end up walking during a day, plus a lot of standing in lines.  Both take their toll on your feet & rest of your body.  I will definitely be cosplaying again next year!

Food & Staying Hydrated

This was something I did a decent job of preparing for, but I will definitely be making adjustments for next SDCC.

Pros:

  1. If you plan correctly, you can camp out in line or in a panel all day & not worry about missing meals.
  2. Bringing your own food means saving lots of money.  Convention food is costly & very limited in selection.  If you have food or dietary restrictions like me, you won’t find anything at the convention center you could eat even if you wanted to shell out the money for it.
  3. There are various restaurants near the convention center & the events guide has a list & map to help you choose for the wide selection available.

Cons:

  1. Gaslamp Quarter restaurants close at 10:00-ish, even on Friday & Saturday evenings.  I grew up in Miami & this fact was a huge surprise.  I’m used to restaurants, not just bars with appetizers, staying open on South Beach until midnight or 2 AM.  I missed dinner on Thursday night due to what ended up begin the perfect storm of events: I was in Hall H all day & so I ate all of my pre-determined packed food, I didn’t have time before the Video Game San Diego Symphony Concert that started at 7:30 PM because I underestimated the amount of time it would take to walk up/down 5th Ave in the early evening with everyone else, & I had no idea restaurants would be closed once the concert concluded. I walked to the Gaslamp Quarter everything was pretty much closed.  Thank goodness I had leftovers in my hotel room’s mini fridge from the night before to hold me over until breakfast!
  2. Forgetting to hydrate was a problem on a couple of days.  I was in Ballroom 20 all day on Friday & didn’t realize there were water coolers available for me to refill my water bottle inside the ballroom until towards the end of the day.  Also, standing in line outside means limited or no access to water fountains & you can quickly dehydrate standing in the sun & sweating for hours.
  3. Not packing enough food.  I ran out of my non-perishable snacks on Day 2 & didn’t have time to go to the store & buy replenishments, so I was stuck with having to take time & extra money to eat lunch at a restaurant next to the convention center on Sunday.

Take away from experience:

I will definitely make sure to bring more of my nonperishable snacks & flavor packs for my water bottle with me.  The water fountain water tastes very different from what I am used to, so I think a little bit of single-serve instant tea would help make my hydration more palatable.  Plan dinner with anticipation & make reservations for anything in Gaslamp Quarter to avoid waiting even longer at the end of what is already bound to be a long day of waiting.  Bring more relatively lightweight non-perishables to the convention center in order to save money, time, & energy.

Panels

I had originally thought that seeing anything in Hall H & Ballroom 20 was not in the cards for me.  I was not willing to camp out the night before nor was I going to be able to withstand waiting in a line for over 1 hour.  However, due to the marvel of technology & Twitter, I was able to get into both Hall H & Ballroom 20 with relatively little waiting time on Thursday & Friday, respectively.  By following @Ballroom20Line & @HallHLine on Twitter, I was able to get real-time updates on the line status, capacity, length, etc.

Inside Hall H during SDCC 2014On Thursday, I was able to walk into Hall H right after Benedict Cumberbatch & the other panelist exited the Hall & the 2 minute preview of the new Penguins movie were showing.  This enabled me to get a great seat & stay through the following panels: The Giver, Paramount Pictures, & Entertainment Weekly‘s Visionaries.

Ballroom 20 during Sand Diego International Comic-Con 2014

On Friday, I was able to walk into Ballroom 20 right after the Legend of Korra panel finished.  I maybe waited a total of 20-25 minutes before being let in & finding a seat.  I was able to see the following panels: Bones, Marvel TV, Entertainment Weekly: Brand New WarriorsThe OriginalsThe Arrow (TV), & the world premier of the animated movie, Batman: Escape from Arkham, followed by its panel.

Pros:

  1. If you plan it correctly, stay up to date with the status of each line with anticipation, & have a fair amount of luck, you can check out panels in the big venues.
  2. Seeing footage & the panel guests along with a venue full of equally excited fans is an experience definitely worth experiencing live at least once.  The energy can be exhilarating in the panels.
  3. Free swag.

Cons:

  1. You might need to try to get into the venue 1-2 panels before the one you really want to see.
  2. Being in the venue means you can’t really be in the exhibition floor.
  3. Once you are in Hall H, you must stay inside or you will need to stand in line again.  There are restrooms & food vendors inside of the Hall.
  4. Ballroom 20 provides you with bathroom passes, which allow you to exit & return but only during a panel.  If you don’t make it back before the end of that same panel, you must go through the line again.
  5. Sitting all day can be tiring in its own right.

Take away from experience:

I am glad that I was able to experience both Hall H & Ballroom 20 during my 1st SDCC.  I wish I had been able to check out a bunch of the smaller panels, but time is finite & alas it was not possible.  Seeing the panels was fun, but it did eat up entire days.  This left just a short amount of time to walk the exhibition floor & shop.  Also, because I waited until late Saturday to drop off my sketchbook, I ended up missing on various Sunday panels waiting for the artists to return my sketchbook.

Shopping

The intensity of Point Of Sale purchasing is staggering at SDCC.  I got up-sold on a storage tube because it was less than $1 for the 37″ one instead of the 26″.  Well, now I have an artwork tube that is 3/4 my height & is cumbersome to carry, especially amongst the hoards within the exhibition floor & pretty much anywhere surrounding SDCC activities & venues.

Pros:

  1. SDCC exclusive merchandise is pretty sweet.
  2. There is a lot of variety to choose from & selections from all kinds of genres & fandoms.
  3. Special deals on getting commissioned work from artist.

Cons:

  1. Where did all my money go?
  2. What am I going to do with all this stuff I just (semi-impulse) bought?  I had to buy another suitcase just to transport all my new stuff back with me on my international flights.  If you live in the U.S., you can ship it home, but if you are coming from abroad this is not as practical.
  3. Falling victim to the up-sell.  Case in point, me and the tube!  My thought at the time was, “I can’t lose money on this deal!”  Silly, silly, silly of me.  Everything I bought that could be rolled up & stored in my tube is maybe 12″ tall.  So … think three times about a purchase, if you can.  I ended up needing to buy hard protectors for the comic art boards & original sketches I bought anyway.
  4. If you wait until the last day to buy anything, the selection can be limited.  I wanted to try & buy the Nerdist Convention Hoodie but couldn’t get to until Sunday; there were none left.  I wanted a particular shirt from Her Universe & there were only XL & XXL left.  At the BBC America booth, they had sold out of a lot of Sherlock & Orphan Black merchandise by Sunday, as well.

As I look forward to SDCC 2015, I have a lot of planning to get started on & am really looking forward to returning.  I’ll be recruiting my friends to join me, because I’d like to experience SDCC with a friend or two next time.  I enjoyed the flexibility going solos allowed me, but I’d like to change it up a bit for 2015.  I hope this post has been helpful & I’d love to hear any lessons learned you have to share in the comments below.  See you in San Diego in 2015!

16 thoughts on “Lessons learned from SDCC 2014

    1. Izzy

      It was a blast, Megan! Thank you so much for all of your posts & tips! You were a huge resource for my having such a great first SDCC. I’m glad we got to meet in real life, if only for a few minutes. I definitely hope to get more time to interact with fellow Female Geek Bloggers next year.

      Reply
  1. Michelle Villalobos

    Great observations! This was my third year, and I definitely changed some things this time around (protein bars, water bottle).
    I also stayed at a hotel on the Red Route (Crown Plaza). Every year we are torn between saving money and convenience. The shuttle wasn’t so bad, but this year was so hot that I actually went back twice to change isn’t more weather appropriate clothing. At times like that the distance was a pain.
    But I’m still not sure I’m willing to pay more for a hotel room I’m barely in.
    Great post!

    Reply
    1. Izzy

      Thanks, Michelle! I agree that the shuttle was not terrible, it just was too much some nights for me. The line for the shuttle in the mornings was also a bit ridiculous, mimicked the one I was standing in for Ballroom 20 on Friday! Since I don’t foresee me camping out for Hall H next year, I will definitely be spending vital breaks between the end of SDCC events/panels & the beginning of nightlife in order to refresh & rest a bit by being closer to the convention center. This of course will depend on whether I can find a way to split the cost of said hotel room.

      Reply
  2. Al

    Hotels
    I went solo 10 and 11 years ago. Completely unaffordable nowadays. This year I ended up with 7 people in my room.
    Bonus hotel tip: do not go #2 in your own room. Go in the morning when the lobby restrooms are nice and clean.

    Cosplay
    Comfort is #1. I found having brand new thick socks very helpful.

    Food
    There’s a 24 hour Subway and the Ralphs supermarket is always a go to before Preview Night. I think there’s a 24 hour CVS pharmacy as well.
    Here’s a super secret: there’s a burrito truck parked behind the outdoor amphitheater. If you have a bathroom pass, you have enough time to get food from it. A notch up from convention center food.

    Exhibit Hall
    Best days for regular shopping are Preview Night (everything is in stock) or Sunday (discounts!). Exclusives are tricky and you need to be in line at like 4am.
    The Fox booth gives out poster tubes every year (this year’s tube sucked though)

    Reply
  3. Chris

    How long would you say you stood in line all told on a given day? My girlfriend and I spent a day at the Tampa Comic Con last year, mainly so we could get a photo with Maisie Williams, and probably spent 4.5 hours in lines for an 8 hour experience. Everyone we talked to there said the organizers did a particularly bad job of making the lines efficient, but it definitely turned us off from Comic Cons a bit.

    Reply
    1. Izzy

      Hi Chris, thanks for commenting with a great question. Disclaimer: I admit that I do not think my experience was the norm from what I have heard from other SDCC con-goers, because I had an amazing string of luck throughout the whole SDCC process this year. I stood in line for Hall H on late Thursday morning for approximately 20 minutes & in the line for Ballroom 20 on late Friday morning for maybe 30 minutes. I stood in line about 30 minutes to get my copy of Designing the Secret of Kells personalized, signed, & free-sketched by both Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart on the exhibition floor.

      There were only two lines I waited over 30 minutes in & bailed on because they were not moving fast enough for me: the Lego exclusive line & the Indigo line for John Barrowman’s panel. The Lego line was brought on by a hugely misrepresented wait time projection by the guy holding the “end of line here” sign. After waiting 30 minutes (his projection), I still wasn’t even on the stairs to get into the convention center! Also I found out it was a random drawing for the possibility of getting a Lego exclusive. I was not about to miss lunch for that. As for the John Barrowman panel, I really wanted to see it but due to the rain in the morning I had a late start. By the time I got to the Indigo line, the panel before it had already started & so there was no movement whatsoever. I decided that trying to make it to the Gargoyle’s anniversary panel would be a better chance due to the time, so I bailed.

      I didn’t try to get a photo with anyone this year, so I can’t speak to that, but the ones I walked by seemed to be better organized than what you are describing. The lines at SDCC are really well coordinated, even with all the sneaky stuff this year for Hall H due to the giant alpha test of the wristbands. I am sure by next year, the wristbands will be better executed.

      Try checking out MegaCon in Orlando. It is more established than the Tampa con & should be better managed regarding crowd flow.

      Reply
  4. Liana

    I wish I had known about Hall H on Friday! I would have tried to see some of that stuff. I did get into Ballroom 20 on Thursday though. Good tips!

    Reply
    1. Izzy

      Thanks for commenting, Liana. I’m glad you found my post helpful. Following @Ballroom20Line & @HallHLine on Twitter were huge lifesavers. I also made a point to tweet updates as I came across those lines or was in them personally, because I wanted to help others as much as possible, too.

      Reply
  5. Chymere A.

    This was very detailed, thank you for sharing! I ill-planned for SDCC 2k14, so this will help out a lot as I’m preparing to go (for the first time) next year. I think the real key with anything is to know the area well. Convention anything means capital/revenue, so of course it’ll be pricey to rely on what they have available for meals. It’s always good to explore the area for food places as alternatives.

    Also, I loved your CosPlay options, especially for Carmen SanDiego (classic!) and Lara Croft! I need to start thinking of costumes for next year. How many times did you change characters?

    Reply
    1. Izzy

      Hi Chymere, thank you for commenting. I’m glad I could help you plan for 2015. I ill-planned for SDCC 2013, so I know what you mean. My food plan was drastically affected by my flight delays, so my venturing around for alternate food was bumped due to time constraints. Next year I shall definitely be better prepared! I also think begin closer to the convention center will give me more time to find a market or something nearby with more ease than being out on Hotel Circle did.

      I’m glad you loved my cosplay ideas. I took 4 options & only used 3 this year. Thank goodness I had an alternate, because it rained early on Sunday & I was able to choose the one with the least rain hinderances. I’m in the process of finishing my SDCC 2014 Cosplay post, I’d love for you to check it out when it’s posted this week.

      Reply
  6. B

    I love the way you broke this down! Staying Downtown is def something I always recommend even though it can get costly!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: SDCC 2014: Day 1 Recap or "How I just walked into Hall H" (Part 1)

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