San Diego Comic-Con starts in two weeks from today and that means the panel room schedule will begin to be released!! For any convention goer, the panels are one of the major draws of attending. You get sneak peak looks at new seasons, movie trailers, and answers from the directors, producers, and actors about their experiences and what we can expect for the future. As someone who has been a few years in a row, I personally LOVE the panels! There are some things to keep in mind; some panels draw more attention than others, so here are some tips to make your SDCC trip more enjoyable.
1. Get the schedule
There are a few ways you can do this: online here, in the Events Guide you receive on arrival, or the phone app. The 6 Nerdy Chicks utilize all three. The online schedule will start to be released two weeks from the first day, and each day will be released one day at a time concluding with Sunday. This is when you can really start to focus; there are even printer-friendly versions, You can also use the My SCHED feature on the site. The Event Guide is given out in the souvenir bags (I LOVE the souvenir bags and always get very aggressive with which one I get). This book has the schedule nice and color-coordinated for each day. I like to rip this out and keep it in my bag for easy access. The phone app is also very handy, and you can link your schedule with your friends, so they can see what you would like to see. You can get the app through this link or check your app store. I really do like to rely on the paper copy because the convention will really suck the life out of your phone, so better to have the paper version just in case.
If you really want to see the Bones panel at 12:10 in Ballroom 20, but want to check out the Bates Motel Panel in Room 6A at 3:30, then the Science of Science Fiction discussion on Room 7A at 6 pm, you really need to organize your time. You need to understand that there are lines for almost everything. If you want to get into a super popular show, you need to be prepared to wait many hours in line and may not even get in (I still get teary eyed about waiting in line for 8 hours to see the Firefly panel, just to get stopped right outside the door ).
Wristbands are everything: For the mega trendy panels (Game of Thrones, Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, 20th Century Fox, Supernatural, etc.…) you will need to get in line the night before. These are mostly in Ballroom 20 and Hall H. Those are the rooms that hold the most people and yield the longest lines. For both, you can score a wristband, which I encourage you to do. These wristbands are given out when the line “officially” opens, and you need your entire group in attendance. Once everyone has a wristband, two or three of you can stay, (at least one NEEDS to stay), and the rest can come back in the morning with coffee and muffins. If you do not get a wristband, you are basically SOL, but sometimes people still do get in when the crowds thin.
Overnight lines: Adri and I did an overnight for Doctor Who in 2013, and Angie and I did an overnight for Supernatural in 2014 – both very successful and very cold. Bonus: the actors sometimes like to comb the line. Last year, Angie and I snagged selfies with the handsome Jared Padalecki, and the group got a pic with Osric Chau. Like I said, at least one of you with a wristband needs to stay, but it is always nice to have a buddy. If you are doing an overnight, I would get there between 6 pm (Game of Thrones) and 11pm (Supernatural), depending on the panel. There are easy ups/tent-like covering for the first couple hundred people, but after that you are out in the elements. If you brought a car, or one is coming, bring a sleeping bag or some blankets. It gets cold because it is right in the harbor. A lot of people bring folding chairs and other comfort items (many of which are left behind when the panel starts to move). There are available bathrooms, and you make friends in line, so no need to worry about taking all of your stuff. If you are not going to have a car to drop stuff off at, make sure you bring as little as possible. You will be cold, but you won’t have to lug around a sleeping bag all day. A book or iPad is also a good idea because they are portable and long lasting. Last year, Angie and I watched movies during our wait.
Space out your panels: Remember that there are lines – long, long lines – so you want to space out your panels if they are in different rooms. Sometimes, you may just want to stay in the panel room all day or for a few hours then scope out the Exhibition Hall. If you do this, you can come and go if you have a larger group and get a bathroom ticket, but you need to be back within the designated time on your ticket. Other days, you may want to hit a few different panels all in different rooms. Try to gage the popularity of the panels, then gage when you should get in line. Start with the big panel rooms (20 and H), then move on from those. Also, remember this convention center is huge and like the Indigo Ball room, some of the panel rooms are in the surrounding hotels. Travel time, bathroom visits, food breaks, and distractions should be accounted for. If you are in cosplay, give a little extra time for speed and picture taking.
3. Be Prepared
These panels and lines are no joke. You can plan to spend at least 15 hours in line then in a panel room for a main event. This means little to no sleep, no outlets, con food, and cranky people. Make sure you bring water. You can buy water, but there are water fountains for free refills (check out the food post in this series for some tips on snacks and food options once you are at the convention). Beef jerky and Monster energy drinks keep me alive during convention time. You also want to bring a portable phone charger. With all of the waiting in line, pictures, and app usage, your phone will die. If you are in a group, it might be a good idea to have a communal backpack for chargers and snacks and take turns carrying it around. Especially if you are staying in a longer line, bring just one bag to share so you have less stuff. One last thing is that there are many other people there who may be a little crankier then you. These people do not like it when your friends get in line with you (unless you have a wristband!). If you are too loud, or in one situation, your headpiece is too large, sometimes they can’t deal with it. These people will be there, but just kill them with kindness and move on with your day.
Check out the SDCC website for more tips and links about the panels.