Managing Your SDCC Stress
SDCC is one of my best and worst shows. It’s the “best” in terms of the spectacle and immersion in geek culture and the people from all around the world I get to me. It’s the “worst” in terms of my stress level with planning logistics and crowds. 150k people, many in long lines and in the middle of mind-numbing crowds, are all feeling some degree of stress at a point. But it doesn’t have to be that bad!
I’m feeling a lot more prepared this year, thanks to many helpful guides I’ve found online and tips I’ve discovered through my own SDCC adventures. Here is my curated list. Feel free to comment with suggestions!
Arm Yourself With Knowledge Guides
You’re reading this blog, so you have the internet at your fingertips. YAY! Seriously, I have mitigated most of my pre-con anxiety by coming up with battle plans.
Unofficial SDCC Blog’s Mega-Guide – Any kind of general event questions you have, especially for a first timer, will very likely be addressed here. The Unofficial SDCC blog has helped me find so much information (and cool events/giveways!).
Also: Follow them on Twitter.
Outside Comic-Con Calendar – Giant. Events. List. Don’t panic! Some things will be full. This is normal. Stay flexible and be open minded as things open up. Stalk Twitter as people report back from parties (sometimes they report back when a party has room or is too full).
Also: Follow them on Twitter.
Comic-Con International FREE Shuttle Lines – I share this down below but I love it so much I’m gonna link it twice.
The Geeks’ Guide to Not Getting Hangry at Con – My friends are geek food bloggers and put together a simple tips guide that apply to all cons. I completely forget out room has a fridge and that instant coffee was a thing. 😛
Team Click’s SDCC Pop Culture Guide – I was afraid this guide would be a little hand-holdy (sometimes geek culture guides are), but it’s actually a great summary of the popular movies, comics, tv, and more that will be featured at SDCC. (A TON in here I didn’t know was coming out.)
Bonus: You can use the bingo at the end of the guide for a de-stresser game. 🙂
Packing Essentials for SDCC – This is my packing suggestion list!
Plan Your Schedule
Official SDCC App – The official app put on by Comic-Con internation has a helpful scheduler for panels! And will ping you with alerts!
Google Sheets – I use a personal spreadsheet that I link to my friends, so we can plan around each other’s schedules if we want to meet up.
Dealing With Crowd Anxiety at the Con
Crowds get intense. There’s no question about it. This is where a strategy comes into play. Think about might go wrong, and have a plan of action when you hit those “I gotta get OUT OF THIS CROWD NOW” moments. Your mileage may vary (YMMV), but here are some places you can escape to:
A Panel (not a massive one)
A good chunk of SDCC panels are half-full. Find one in the program guide that matches your interest. You get to sit quietly in the back and listen to cool people discuss geek stuff. Win!
Upper Floor (Hidden Halls & Areas)
There are some great nooks and crannies upstairs where security won’t hassle to you sit! Also:
If you don’t wanna leave the convention there is a nice open air walkway between registration and the exhibit hall. 2nd floor. They serve hot dogs right next to it, it’s the only place that people can finally SIT DOWN for a minute without anyone yelling at you to keep moving. Not many people up there either.
Note: If you have a professional badge, there is a pro lounge upstairs in 30AB. I always forget it exists. Honestly, there aren’t a ton of spaces to crash inside the convention center – security will scold you if they catch you sitting.
SDCC’s Con Hospitality Lounge
There is a free hospitality lounge to sit and relax in at the Marriott Marina Ballroom G. SDCC also provides free snacks, soda, and water.) Thursday through Saturday nights from 5:00 pm to 2:00 am.
Sails Pavilion Patio
If you don’t want to walk down to the park, there is usually seating behind the con by the Sails Pavilion. (Where folks line up to do autograph drawings, sign up for the blood drive, and more.) This seating overlooks the harbor and usually isn’t *too* occupied.
The Park Behind the Con
It’s beautiful back there. Have a sit. You can always bring a book or your music with you and just schedule breaks to exit out of con and have a breather.
Chill At a Restaurant Away From the Chaos
Honestly, I fully recommend plotting out 4-5 restaurants. Depending on where the crowd anxiety hits, you can sneak off, order a delicious snack or drink, and collect yourself. You can check out the general Gaslamp Dining website, or check out some suggestions below.
Seaport Village usually doesn’t have many events going on there and I’ve usually found it to be uncrowded, relatively speaking. It’s located behind the Grand Hyatt. There’s some nice food places as well, albeit slightly pricey since it’s kind of a tourist-targeted spot. You can also get there pretty quickly via the backside of the con center. (Random story: I randomly saw Adam Savage skateboarding while headed there once. 😀 Took me a second to register). I’ve gone there for lunch with a relatively decent sized group (8-10 people) and we got seated immediately, so that can give you an idea of how low-traffic it is. (from Dani)
On the side of the walking bridge there’s a little restaurant called Dragon’s Den that is just a short walk from Petco Park. It’s always been fairly empty every time I’ve gone and the food there is wonderful. The bartenders are always super nice and will let you chill at the bar even for a glass of water. (from Laura)
Sit down with some kitties, have a drink, and feel human again. 🙂 It costs a little bit, but it’s worth a mental health break.
The few times I’ve been inside, it was relatively quiet! Ice cream + rest = yay!
Chill in Geek Lounges
Warning: these may get crowded. But I have managed to find some solace at gaming lounges. Nintendo and Geek and Sundry are hosting lounge space at Marriot Marquis & Marina, next to the con. They are a shot walk away and you might find a nice geeky area to hunker down and enjoy some gaming!
I used to walk everywhere. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. SDCC is, if anything, a game of endurance. Waiting in lines. Standing around. Walking from one side of Gaslamp to another to get from one event to another. Take care of yourself!
There is a free SDCC shuttle service (view the schedule here), during the con, 24 hours a day (kicking off on Wednesday). It’s big, it’s beautiful; the only problem is that during peak con times, it can be slow in traffic. But you can’t beat free. There are also signs posted at the stops with information the that shuttle line’s route.
The great news? You don’t have to show your badge. And you’re not locked to a single route. Sometimes, if I’m tired and want to get to a friend’s hotel, I just hop on the free shuttle to it.
Note: There are some changes from last year, so if you have a few stops you rely on, double check it.
Uber / Lyft
Yes, it’s a splurge. When my legs are starting to get achey, and I want to do more than a 20-30 minute walk to an event, sometimes I’ll just call a ride. The good news it that Uber and Lyft typically have free rides going on during SDCC to promote different shows. The bad news it that these can be hard to get.
If you see a free ride – GRAB IT. We’ve gotten free themed rides from Gotham, Colony, and Ghostbusters. If you don’t snag a free ride, 5 bucks is still a great deal to give yourself a well-needed rest (and you don’t have to wait forever for the shuttles).
If you haven’t used Uber or Lyft before and want a free ride via a code, you can use the following links.
Disclaimer: I do get a credit if you use those for free rides (up to the $ offered). 🙂 So you get a free ride and I get a free ride during SDCC if you use it.
Some of these are free (sponsored by the studios), though it IS nice to have a cash tip ready. Be warned: some of the “themed” pedicabs are NOT free. Double check with them before hopping on. Some of them won’t want you and try to gouge you after they drop you off.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ditch Your Friends
Initially, you’ll wanna walk around with your awesome friend group and enjoy things together. After a while, that friendship will strain when one person wants to stay at Petco Interactive Zone, another wants to sit in panels all day, and another wants to veg in the hotel room for a bit. This is normal. And honestly, it’s part of the SDCC experience.
It’s perfectly okay to split off for a few hours and reconnect! In fact, it can help you divide and conquer. You can’t do everything at the show, and some people’s priority will lean towards one event over another. Schedule time to break off, then reconvene. Sometimes my husband and I have done this, and came back with “You have to come back and check THIS out tomorrow!” I love the gaming stuff, he’s majorly into horror. If I want 3 hours in the Nintendo lounge, that’s 3 hours he can spend at the IT experience. We don’t feel like a burden on each other, we get a little break from being together alllll day, and then we meet back up and ramble about what we just did while enjoying the rest of the show together!
Don’t forget to stay in touch while you’re apart, either. I recommend a Facebook group or any similar group chat, so everyone can stay updated. This also allows friends with anxiety the chance to take a break without feeling like they’re being a buzzkill.
Accepting Murphy’s Law
Something can, and will, go wrong during SDCC. For some attendees, it’s traveling thousands of miles and not winning an autograph raffle. For others, it’s the party filling up that all your friends are in and you’re stuck outside, feeling like a loser. It’s missing the chance for a commission with your favorite artist because you could only get a Friday pass and they’re already filled up.
True story: It’s okay to cry. I find it helpful to accept that sometimes con life, no matter how nicely it’s planned and scheduled, will go wrong. Recently, I ended up sick with severe food poisoning at Emerald City Comicon and missed 75% of the show because I was curled up on a lounge couch. I felt like a burden to my friends and amazing host, but they took care of me and I still had a good time. I accepted I was in a crappy spot, and that it would pass. And I recovered enough by Sunday to walk around the show. Yay!
At SDCC, the stress opportunities are amplified. One thing might end up being the straw that broke the camel’s back of stress for you. If you do catch yourself in a moment like that, get away for an hour or so. Get some water. Watch some cute puppy videos. Center yourself. The crappy thing that has happened will pass. While the con is crowded, there are still a ton of people who would love to be in your shoes. Get what you can out of con, and work around challenges.
Take Extra Caution in Cosplay
I was in tears from walking around in full armor, from Friday-to-Sunday, and so exhausted I fell off a bus. DONT BE LIKE ME. Take those extra-self care steps, lots of breaks, and have a handler on standby if you are in cosplay.
YES you want to be seen.
NO you don’t want to die. 🙂
Through it all, planning can only take you so far. You really just have to listen to yourself and trust yourself. If you’re feeling a little unwell – stop and take that break. And don’t be afraid to communicate that to your pals.
SDCC will fly by no matter what-do what you can to mitigate the stress and have your escape plans ready! I still do, even though I’ve been attending the past few years.