We may be five or six weeks out of San Diego Comic-Con 2017, but that also means that we are less than eleven months shy of San Diego Comic-Con 2018 – that’s right, we’re playing The Game That Never Ends, people!
This does mean that, if you are wanting to attend the Big Enchilada next July, you have to start preparations to be in an ideal spot, sooner rather than later, but you also have to prepare from several scenarios: if you’ve never been before and if you were an Attendee in 2017. Oh, and another contingency if you happen to be coming from the UK. Yup, we do have to go and make it awkward, don’t we?
Let’s see what you can do to prepare for San Diego Comic-Con 2018, right now. Starting with…
FIRST TIME ATTENDEES (OR THOSE THAT SKIPPED ATTENDING IN 2017)
- Before You Do Anything Else… GET YOUR MEMBER ID!
This is the first step, and it’s absolutely essential: you simply cannot buy a San Diego Comic-Con badge without a Member ID. The good news is, it’s totally free to register for one.; the best news is, once it’s in place – and you’ve made sure you haven’t selected any Mail Opt-Outs – you’ll get updates direct into your inbox of all the latest CCI news, with no spam clogging things up. Thank goodness, they’re not total monsters over there.
Simply head over to https://secure2.comic-con.org/memberid/ on the Comic-Con International website, submit your details and sit back, secure in the knowledge you have firmly set your foot on the Yellow Brick Road to Comic-Con. Watch out for those flying monkeys, now.
- Set Your Holiday Dates
C’mon, get this done now, you muppet! Best to let your employer know that you might not be around for at the very least that week next July – San Diego Comic-Con runs from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd, in case you didn’t know, with Preview Night on that Wednesday if you’re that way inclined. Oh, and if you can, it might even be worth booking the following week, or at least the first couple of days of said, just to recover.
And hey, even if you don’t manage to land badges, you know you’ll be glued to social media throughout the entire week as all the latest news and updates roll out. And trust me, the boss never likes it when you’re too busy checking out ‘Marvel Studios in Hall H’ updates, and wailing that you’re missing all the fun, during the afternoon shifts. So take the week off anyway!
- Social Media
T’interwebs is the gateway to everything Comic-Con: for first-time attendees, it’s also a good move to get your bearings for the whole thing from people who have been before, else you could be swamped by the enormity of it all. There are sites and feeds on all sorts of platforms to jump on which will get you up to speed with all the latest updates, beyond those you’ll get from Comic-Con International.
There’s ours, of course, goes without saying, which you can follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, whatever preference floats your boat; there’s the raft of information which is the Friends Of Comic Con Forum, the ‘Wikipedia Of Comic-Con’; there’s the largest SDCC news site out there, the San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog, which will properly start to ramp up the closer to the event we get; there’s the many wonderfully supportive Facebook Groups available, such as the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) Attendees group… there’s loads of feed out there. And the instant any important SDCC news drops, believe me: they’ll let you know.
(We’ll also be putting up our own Absolutely, Completely And Utterly Definitive Comic-Con Online Resources post early in the New Year, as any new players take to the stage. That’s Comic-Con for you, there’s always new people to keep tabs on…)
- Turn ON Notifications – Admittedly, Just The One…
There may be loads of online feeds to keep an eye on but, when it comes to ‘word from the horse’s mouth’ about any badge sales or Comic-Con updates, there’s just the one that you need to follow: the official Comic-Con International channels. Turning on Notifications on the official Facebook page is fiddly (because Facebook, dammit); thankfully, it’s easy enough to turn them on if you’re a Twitter user. Simply head to www.twitter.com/Comic_Con, click on the Bell icon on its page and relax – because, admittedly, you’ve got a while to wait yet.
- Take A Seat For A Spell…
A benefit of keeping a check on stuff in the meantime is the preparation you’ll get for your Badge Sale – you’re not eligible for the Returning Registration Badge Sale but whatever method CCI go for this time, it’s more than likely going to be the process by which you’ll be getting yours, fingers crossed.
However, the Open Online Badge Registration (the badge sale you ARE eligible for) will be happening in the New Year so kick back, relax, and watch Comic-Con videos to gear yourself up for the whole she-bang. Seriously, you’ve got bugger all else to do between now and then. Everyone else, however, it’s time to get your stress on..
- Clear Your Calendar For Returning Registration Saturdays
We don’t know the dates of the SDCC 2018 Returning Registration badge sale yet – that being said, we do have a window that we’re know it’s happening. At the CCI Talkback Panel at this years convention, CCI President John Rogers confirmed that #RetReg2018 will be happening ‘in the Fall’, so that means Autumn for us Brits.
‘Fall’ technically being from ‘the end of September (22nd) to the end of December (21st)’, and it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing the Sale happening before then – there was the tease that we could be seeing a Sale taking place much sooner, thanks to a recent CCI announcement regarding 13-year-olds that attended in 2017 being eligible for next year, completing a Child-To-Junior validation process. However, CCI have since extended the deadline for this process, now having to do this by Friday 6th October. A few weeks later, once the admin for this has been filed, stamped and numbered, that ‘Fall’ window opens. The Sale in that time, sooner rather than later? We’ll soon find out… but best to have a couple of those Saturdays free, just in case.
- Gather Your Forces
Something that has become a simple truth of Comic-Con is that you will get the best of the event in numbers: this includes getting your badges in the first place. Of course, thousands of people can land those prized Golden Tickets flying solo but it doesn’t hurt to game the odds by joining a Badge Team.
The current Badge Sale process randomises applicants to get their badges by placing everyone in a Waiting Room and choosing people in buying groups – if a team of people work in a coordinated effort, meaning that the first of the team in can buy for the rest: sorted. But this requires trust and faith in the people that you’re teaming with, you’re relying on them on getting your details right and they’re relying on you to financially recompense accordingly and swiftly. So, you need that solid team in place.
You can either call on your Con Buddies to join you in your efforts, or you can head to the Friends Of Comic-Con Forum ‘Badge Team’ threads to find like-minded souls with which to align yourself with, or even join the Forums bulk efforts – a little riskier, for sure, but at least there’s a level of accountability as the smaller teams all work within the larger structure by people who must have spreadsheets on the brain.
- Look Into Accommodation Options
A little early, maybe? Well, as the onPeak Hotel Sales of recent years have shown, securing a bed for the convention can be as fraught and frustrating as getting a badge in the first place, especially if you are wanting a hotel room in the ‘Promised Land’, aka Downtown or Gaslamp. If there’s a way to make sure that piece of the puzzle is locked down sooner rather the better, that’s another worry off your mind.
I’m a big proponent of going the Condo route: getting a bunch of Con Buddies together to chip in and find a sweet spot, via sites like Vrbo, Homeaway, Flipkey and Airbnb. True, all of these have been hit with some nightmare stories in recent years – people being bumped from their booking as renters realise the dates of the booking and want to bump up the asking price, double bookings, etc. – but I’ve found that, if you book far enough in advance and start up a regular rapport with the owner of the location through email or social media, it can go a long way in making sure there’s definately a place to hang your hat, next July.
(One thing you should be aware of: renters of properties in San Diego are subject to some delightful pieces of administration, if they lease their properties to visitors like us Comic-Con attendees for less than a month: the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and Transient Occupancy Registration Certificate. Such administrations do mean that there has been a ballpark 11% price bump since 2013 so do make sure that your room renter has that in place when booking and they’ve priced accordingly. If they haven’t, and they’re narced on in the meantime, that could be your stay flummoxed before it’s even got started. Just a head-up.)
HEADING TO COMIC-CON FROM THE UK
Above getting a Member ID, a Comic-Con badge, and a place to stay while in California, you have to get into the country in the first place and, for that, you’re going to need an ESTA – an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, a Visa Waiver Program which tell US Customs & Border Protection who you are and why you’re heading to the States.
(EDIT (09/04/2019): Thanks to eagle-eyed reader Tanja Badelj, there is an online way to check if you qualify for an ESTA in the first place. Not all citizens of visa waiver countries can travel to the US without a visa – if you are visiting the US from another country, here’s an ESTA Eligibility Checker for you to visit and check your country’s status. Thanks, Tanja!)
As you can imagine, entering the US right now is a series of jumping through hoops in terms of passport control, security, baggage and tech gear allowances, so getting an ESTA is the first step in making sure you’re not refused at point of entry.
That’s right: if you don’t have an ESTA in place, there’s a real possibility that you could reach Customs in a US airport and get told you are required to get on the first plane back home. Last thing you need.
So get an ESTA. It’s $14 an application and takes a few minutes to complete, you only need a few personal details, some info about your trip (not completely necessary to complete the forms at this early stage) and a valid passport…
- Check Your Passport
…good grief, you do have a valid passport, right?? Has to have at least six months on it, at the time of travel. Phew! It’s an easy thing to forget, best to check now than too late.
- Alert Your Flights
However your desired options of travel – a direct route or round the houses, First or Economy, the steak or the fish (I always have the lasagna) – it’s best to book sooner rather than later. It’s one of the reasons why the delayed Badge Sales for SDCC 2017 were such a pain in the bum, those delays added an ballpark average of £470 on top of flight prices* by people who wanted to secure their badges first before booking their flights.
(*figure from poll of 26 SDCC 2017 UK Attendees)
However, if you are willing to hedge your bets this far out or if you are lucky enough to lock down your badges in the Returning Registration Badge Sale, getting those flights book will save you cash down the road. Turn on a Incognito browser window, head to a site like Skyscanner or Kayak, and set up email alerts for price drops and increases.
Also be aware that, while there are services that get you into San Diego directly, it’s usually cheaper to fly into Los Angeles. And once you’ve taken a one hour bus across L.A. to Union Station, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is a cracking way to get into the city with some amazing views and a relaxing ride. And there’s a bar on board with craft beers.. So, y’know, there’s that.
- Strength In Numbers
To be forewarned is to be forearmed and when it comes to Comic-Con, it’s best to be done so by calm constitutions, level heads and confident demeanors.
That’s right. By Brits.
By all means, check out all of the social medias as listed above but, if you’re headed to the Mecca of Pop Culture from the UK, we advise to keep informed by people who know what a trunk of a car is and can bloody spell ‘color’ correctly. In that regard, may I draw your attention to the legendary and (in)famous SDCC UK Attendees Group on Facebook, also known as The British Invasion (Spirit Of ’86). This is a fine collective of long-time Comic-Con veterans and brand new blood, all keeping a close watch on the latest news from a UK perspective – security issues, transcontinental flights, UK meetups, Brit talent on display at the show and much more.
As well as SDCC, they keep a watch on con culture here in the UK in order to arrange mini-meetups at our favourite cons here, too, because they’re a friendly bunch and everyone likes getting in a pint or two and bragging about the con experiences they’ve encountered. They also get in a line of group-only tees and apparel which has become the envy of Non-Brits the world over – the ultimate San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive, if you will.
Find out more and apply to join today at www.facebook.com/groups/comicconukattendees
And there you have it – what you can do now to start preparing for San Diego Comic-Con 2018. Ooh, almost forgot: it’s never too early to get into an exercise regime to make sure you enjoy your Comic-Con, rather than endure it. Do check out SDCCFit on their various social media platforms for practical help, advice and motivation on getting, er, fit for SDCC. Clue’s right there in the name, gang.
Ooh, and money! Put a fund together now which you can just drip any spare cash into over the coming months – if you land those badges, you’re going to need some money handy to pay for all those drinks you’re going to buy me for all this handy advice. Right?
Have I missed anything? Put your suggestions for things you can do to prepare for Comic-Con in the comments below…