Congratulations! You’ve managed to get through the infamous cyber waiting room and have acquired the elusive tickets to New York Comic Con. No longer will you mope around every October while you see pictures of the best cosplayers, your favorite stars from geek culture, and tons of merch that you don’t have access to. This is going to be the most epic weekend ever, hell yeah!

Fast forward five months. You’ve carefully put together your travel plans and managed to find a place to stay that will not cost you your firstborn child. You’ve planned out your day using the NYCC app so you can get into all the panels you want. You’ve got this. You finally arrive Thursday morning, after a night of no sleep because you were so pumped. You get to the con, make it through the entrance line, and you realize:

Holy Fucking Shit Batman. It is very crowded here.

God damn it, Nappa, I told you to get me the rifftrax of Dragonball Evolution, not take pictures of Eevee-lution cosplayers

God damn it, Nappa, I told you to get me the rifftrax of Dragonball Evolution, not take pictures of Eevee-lution cosplayers

This is not just a bigger version of your local anime convention. Showing up an hour ahead of the panel you want to get in? Good luck with that. Getting the exclusive merch you want? Maybe if it’s not sold out within the first few hours of the convention. Taking pictures of awesome cosplayers? If you can manage to squeeze out of the sweaty herd of Captain Americas, Elsas, Marty McFlys, and Harley Quinns that surround you. Never before have you even been remotely agitated that the geeky things you enjoy actually have a ton of other fans, but now your cortisol levels are over 9000 and you just want to hide in a small, quiet corner.

But fret not, noobs, you can survive this cesspool of Deadpool. I have emerged relatively unscathed from the madness, and present you with my wisdom.

Advice for NYCC Noobs:

  1. Accept that not everything may go according to plan. You’re going to ask yourself some tough questions: Is it really worth camping out overnight for this panel? Do I go straight to the panel or do I try to hit the vendors before the item I want gets sold out? Is this autograph really worth $60 and four hours of my time? Make a list of your priorities for New York Comic Con ahead of time so you can decide whether you want to pour all your energy into seeing the one thing you want, or you want to have a more balanced experience.
  2. Take breaks often. Your legs will feel like they are going to collapse by the end of the day. Although it’s not always comfortable, you can sit down almost anywhere (I wouldn’t recommend the middle of the vendor hall, however, no matter how fun the game “How many Deadpools can I trip?” sounds).
  3. Don’t ignore your needs. Fill up your water bottle when you need to. Eat when you’re hungry and pack lots of snacks. Use the bathroom fifteen minutes before you think you have to go, because the lines get long.  It doesn’t matter how much stamina your friends have: you do what’s right for your health and sanity.
  4. If you have social anxiety, autism, claustrophobia, etc., the quiet room can provide you with some much-needed relief. You can recharge (in more than one way) by sitting down or plugging in your devices. On Friday evening, I also happily found the Family HQ room allowing attendees to hang out on comfy yogibos.
  5. Make long lines more bearable by making some friends. Even if striking up conversation with strangers seems like a daunting task, the beauty of Comic Con is that chances are, you have at least one common interest with the person you’re standing next to, so you don’t even need to start with awkward small talk. Most people are just as excited as you are to ramble on about inane details from your favorite shows or why you love your favorite comic book character of all time.

    Katy met Steven...and Stevens! while waiting in line for a cookie cat

    Katy met Steven…and Stevens! while waiting in line for a cookie cat

  6. Don’t just bring one bag. Bring a large, sturdy bag (like a paper grocery bag) that serves the sole purpose of carrying around your loot. I unfortunately lost a poster because I had nothing to carry it around in.
  7. Invest in a portable charger. You might not always be close to outlets, so bringing a portable charger to charge your devices on-the-go can be a lifesaver.
  8. Get something for a friend. Even if you didn’t get that special item you want, getting something you know a friend will appreciate will make you feel better.
  9. Get some fresh air. You don’t have to stay in the convention center all day. Take a breather in the open air where there’s plenty of space and it doesn’t smell like Chewbacca. There are also plenty of food trucks and hot dog stands surrounding the area if you’re hungry, too.
  10. If New York Comic Con isn’t what you thought it was going to be, don’t let it ruin your experience. Even though going to Comic Con is a privilege, a convention that has a warm body count of over 100,000 people is not going to be for everyone. As long as you’re willing to try new things, you can always gain something positive from any experience. Ask questions; go to a panel for something you’re curious about. Who knows? You may just discover your next obsession.

Also remember that if you can’t get tickets to Comic Con, can’t make the trip, or don’t think it’s the right con for you, there are plenty of other ways to embrace your inner geek with other fans. In light of convention numbers and dramatic price increases, fans have started forming their own regional meetups on social media. These groups organize cosplay events, get-togethers, discussions, book clubs, movie viewings, etc. After all, this is how conventions started in the first place: with the fans. Think outside the con.

Header image and image of Stevens via Katy Mastrocola. Image of Vegeta via Dragonball Wikia.