Comic-Con International: San Diego limits the number of attendees to a meager 130,000. This year, every single one of the 130,000 general admission badge sold in less than two hours when the sale opened on March 15. If you managed to score one of those elusive $45-a-day tickets (you lucky duck!), you don’t have any time to waste – you have a lot of work in front of you! San Diego Comic-Con easily outshines all other comic and pop art conventions in both size and scope, so getting the best out of the experience requires some careful planning. Luckily, it’s the most joyful, pleasant kind of task, because YOU’RE GOING TO COMIC-CON!

Unfortunately, conference organizers will not release a detailed schedule of the weekend’s events until around July 10, leaving you only two weeks to make an efficient plan for sifting through the hundreds of panels, booths, signings, games, previews and goodness knows what else the event will feature this year. It’ll be a Herculean task.


But! You can at least get started planning right now. The official Comic-Con website already lists 60 “confirmed special guests,” with more on the way soon — and though we won’t know for a while when and where these folks will be at the convention, you can still sort your priorities. Would you rather see Dan Slott, writer for Amazing Spider-Man comics, or Jane Espenson, writer/producer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Make those decisions now, and the two hectic prefestival weeks in July will be much, much simpler.

Regardless of how the schedule turns out, the sheer size of Hall H means the most universally appealing panels and previews will appear there. Choose now: do you want to wait in line for six hours like the 6,500 people who strained to catch a glimpse of the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia last year? Or do smaller, more intimate – sort of, the smallest room still seats 280 people – panels sound like more fun?

When Comic-Con opens on at 9 a.m. on July 24, you’ll have another challenge to face —getting around. You may think that you will be walking a lot, but you’ll mostly be bobbing and weaving, weaving and bobbing. The guy in front of you will abruptly stop to take a picture of that very convincing Predator cosplayer, and as you step around him, a rippling wave of folks trying to get an impromptu autograph from Eleanor Davis will push you back into the waiting arms of a rancor. (How did that guy make a rancor costume?!) So wear comfortable shoes, flexible clothes and get those stretches in.

You’ve waited a long time and traveled a long way for this exciting opportunity, and of course, to make your friends jealous with updates and pictures from all your favorite stars. So do yourself a favor and invest in a portable smartphone charger. (You can get a good one for about 70 bucks.) And while you’re charging things, pack yourself a lunch, a dinner and some apples, granola bars and water bottles to nosh on throughout the day. Even if the convention’s food carts were reasonably priced (they’re not), you don’t want to run into your favorite Daredevil artist on Sunday after four days of nachos and pretzels. He’ll know.

Chances to interact with creative professionals abound, especially in the Exhibit Hall, which occupies the entire ground floor of the Convention Center. You know these people fairly well through their work, but they don’t know you. They came to the convention to sell you something. If you want to make a friend, buy a print or an autographed book and follow up with intelligent (non-crazy) questions. Act like you meet celebrities all the time. And if you really want to make an impression, always pay with cash in small denominations.

At around 10 p.m., the conference’s official events will be winding down, but your experience will be far from over. Your friends are already missing out on the most happening entertainment convention of the year, so you’re kind of obligated to make it even worse for them by going to all of the dope, celebrity-spotting bars in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. If you can’t get into an invite-only party, just sit on the giant patio at Dick’s Last Resort for cheap drinks and the city’s best view of inebriated cosplayers streaming by until last call at 2 a.m. You’re not going to get much sleep anyway, so you might as well stay up in style.

Every July since 1970, Comic-Con International: San Diego has put on an unforgettable celebration of comic and pop art, and if you’re lucky enough to already have tickets to the 2014 show, well we just couldn’t be happier for you. (And maybe more than a little bit jealous.) Just keep a cool head, make meticulous plans and you will have the most unbelievable weekend of your life.