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Doing Comic-Con on the cheap: Day -2

My first year at San Diego Comic-Con International was 2003. I have attended each year since then except for 2006 when we were having some extreme financial difficulties and travel of any sort was completely out of the question. This year, if we had not purchased my plane ticket prior to cat health problems, a vehicle burglary resulting in a broken window and stolen car stereo, and a myriad of other monetary issues, I likely would not be going again. But, with a lot of assistance, we’re still pretty broke, but I should be getting on an airplane bound for San Diego (with one short layover) this Tuesday.

Over the last few days, I’ve tried to find a “How To” guide on attending the Convention on an extreme budget. Things to do, what to see, what you can basically do and how to do it without spending money at a place designed to empty your pockets and bank account. I have not been able to find one. So, I figured I might as well take a stab at blogging my journey through Comic-Con as cheaply as possible.

As you can tell from the title’s “Day -1” indicator, I am getting a jump start on things. I knew if I waited until I was actually in San Diego, I’d just put this all off until after the convention and then I would never get around to it, so hopefully starting early will motivate me to continue blogging through the next week. Today’s information is about planning ahead…what you need to do to get into the convention, stay in San Diego, park, etc. on the cheap.

First, if you’ve tried to acquire passes recently, you might have seen that they are completely sold out. This has been the case for a couple of months now. You’re definitely going to have to plan in advance if you’re considering attending Comic-Con. The 1-day and 4-day passes are not cheap, though for the amount of entertainment you get out of them, they are a good deal. But there are ways to make the experience even less expensive if you are willing to work or have the right credentials.

If you volunteer at Comic-Con and work a 3-hour shift, you are allowed in for the rest of the day for free! If you volunteer for all 4 days, you get a free t-shirt to boot! Creative professionals can apply for a complimentary registration…have you created anything recently that might qualify you? Retailers can need assistance at their booths…if you know a retailer that is showing at Comic-Con, ask if they could use your help in trade for a pass. These generally go to full time employees, but if you are already planning to be in the area, it might be cheaper for them than flying someone out. Press passes are also available for those who work in the media and are there to cover the convention. Bloggers and online media are welcome to apply!

Finding a place to stay in San Diego can be one of the most difficult and costly parts of coming to Comic Con. Hotels near the convention center fill up almost immediately upon being released to the public. I have been lucky enough in that my wife’s family lives in an area just North of San Diego. It is cheaper to rent a car and drive in each morning than to try to fight the hotel battle. I would almost recommend finding a cheaper place outside of the convention center area and driving in, but everyone has their preferences on this. Some will want to stay close so they can run straight back to their room without the hassle of parking and cars, while others will not mind dealing with busses or taxis. Splitting rooms seems to be a big help for most in cutting costs.

Typically, my wife is with me on our San Diego vacations and she drops me off in the morning at the convention except for the one day out of four that she attends. So we do not have to deal with parking very often, but this year I am making the trip alone, so I am going to have to find a way to cut the parking costs. Parking alone is quite pricey…$15 a day is about what you can expect for anything close to the convention center if I remember correctly. Four main days of the convention plus preview night equals $75 just for parking alone! I really do not have that kind of money to spend this year!

I did some research on ways to cut down on this expense, and San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) – the trolly – has a special Comic-Con schedule. The have a day-pass for $5 and also special rates that include a 4-day pass for $15. So I guess I’ll have to get a 4-day pass as well as a regular 1-day pass to cover the whole show, but that is still only $20 instead of $75 for parking! Yeah, I’ll have to get up earlier and spend some time on the trolly, but when you’re broke, you do what you gotta do :)

One side note, and probably a fairly obvious tip…a way to come up with a little bit of spending money for the convention is to sell previously purchased convention exclusive items or other stuff you might have lying around via eBay. I started a couple of weeks ago, just throwing a few things up there at a time…I did not make a ton of money, but what little I have available to spend is all from eBay sales of things I had lying around just taking up space that I did not really need, no longer wanted or could buy again when I have more money.

All right, that is enough for one night. I still need to go over what to pack, where to eat, etc. but that can wait until tomorrow…or later. If you have any questions, feel free to post ’em.

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