The Ultimate Guide for Saving Money at San Diego Comic Con

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

San Diego Comic Con is the top trade show for every major film studio, video game producer, and publishing house within the nation, so it’s no wonder that attendance can be a little pricey. Every year, more than 130,000 official attendees flock to San Diego to attend the event and spot their favorite celebrities. Over the years, the convention has grown so exponentially that has become too big for the famous convention center that it is annually held in. Due to this, parts of the festival have leaked onto the streets of San Diego.

Partially due to its ever-growing popularity, San Diego Comic Con has become more and more pricey over the years. But attending an iconic festival like Comic Con doesn't have to mean dipping into your savings account! Check out the categories below to find out exactly where you can save money during your convention adventure this July:

San Diego Hotels and Housing Options

Hotels & Housing

When it comes to conventions, hotels and housing accommodations tend to take up a huge portion of a budget. This is partially due to how popular and well-known the event has become over the years. However, Comic Con takes place in downtown San Diego and, luckily, there are many surrounding hotels near the convention center. While you might be able to find an open room here, be aware that these hotels tend to raise prices during convention season and quickly become booked. The hotels that are closest to the convention center can only be reserved through a lottery system, which begins in early April. Savvy con-goers know to check the official Comic Con website frequently in order to find the times when this lottery system will go live. If you aren't one of the lucky few who can land a nearby hotel room, don't worry! There are other wallet-friendly options that you can turn to.

One viable housing option is to use a third party, vacation-booking site such as Airbnb. Airbnb allows users to live in actual homes near the event space which means they can experience San Diego just like the locals do! But be warned: most locals in the San Diego area know about San Diego Comic Con and will raise their prices accordingly. This means that it might be slightly more challenging to find a deal if you wait until the last minute. Due to this, we recommend looking outside of the downtown area to find a hotel or Airbnb. This way, you can have reliable housing without the inflated price tag.

Transportation Options: Uber, Taxi, Shuttle, Public Transportation

Transportation

It might be tempting to drive or take a rental car, but public transportation is definitely the way to go. The convention center in downtown San Diego has a severely limited number of parking spaces (which are also randomly distributed via a lottery system). Not to mention, traffic is sure to be a mess after the convention is officially over at the end of the day. Instead of dealing with this headache, we highly recommend opting for public transportation during your adventure.

If you managed to land a hotel room near the convention center - don't stress about transportation! Comic Con provides a free shuttle bus for registered attendees, which runs every 20-30 minutes. This shuttle operates throughout the day and travels from the convention center, to all major surrounding hotels.

However, if your housing is outside of downtown San Diego, there is still hope. San Diego is home to a famous trolley system that can bring in fangirls and fanboys from all over the city! The trolley is a quick and reliable form of transportation that allows you to skip over all of that frustrating traffic. Not to mention, it also expands your hotel options to outside of the immediate downtown area. But, if this isn't an option for you, you can always rely on the city bus system which travels to even the most distant residential districts of San Diego.

Meal Planning at San Diego Comic Con

Food & Drink

If you don't want to waste your money on snacks and meals, then we have two words for you: Meal plan! Before you leave for sunny San Diego, you should plan out all of your meals and snacks ahead of time. You can even visit a few local grocery stores during your trip to pick up healthy treats. Planning out these little details will keep you from getting dehydrated or "hangry" in the middle of a panel. In addition, it will also save you from spending on overpriced and unhealthy fast food options.

You should also keep in mind that there are water fountains all over the convention hall! That means you should bring along a reusable water bottle and refill it on the go. And remember, staying hydrated is key to surviving jet-lag and navigating through a crowded convention hall.

Cosplay Costumes for Comic Con

Cosplay

Comic Con wouldn't be the same without Cosplayers! If you are interested in paying homage to your favorite characters, we have a few tips on how to make a killer cosplay on a budget. One lesser-known cosplay supplier is Spirit Halloween, which provides a huge variety of costumes, accessories, and makeup that will bring your character to life! Here you will find complete costumes for a umber of different movies, television series, novels, video games, animes, and more! They even created a special category for summer conventions, like Comic Con, where you can find tons of costumes that are Con-worthy.

Making your own cosplay can be fun, but it is also incredibly time consuming and can quickly use up your budget. Instead, you can but a finished costume that is complete will all the makeup and accessories you need from Spirit Halloween! Whether you want a hyper-specific side character from a classic video game, or the main character from your favorite franchise - you will find exactly what you need from Spirit Halloween!

Ticketing Prices and Discounts

Tickets

San Diego Comic Con has some surprisingly affordable tickets when you take into account all of the celebrities, panels, franchises, and events you'll experience there. With one of the most generous badge policies in the industry, Comic Con allows children under 12 to enter free when accompanied by a paying adult. Even teenagers and young adults who are aged 13-17 can get in by paying a reduced 'Junior' price for their badges. These discounted prices range between $21-$31 for a day badge. Yet another discount can be found for Seniors and Active-Duty Military Personnel, who pay half the price of regular ticket.

While tickets can be incredibly difficult to get your hands on, it's better to fight for tickets as soon as they go on sale rather than contact a third-party seller. If you wait, tickets are sure to be sold out or their prices will be heavily inflated from their usual $42-$65 range.

Comic Con Volunteer or Work

Volunteer Your Time

One quick trick to get a huge discount at Comic Con is to volunteer your time or to work at the event itself. While you will have to spend a couple hours monitoring lines or directing crowds, you can spend the rest of the day in the convention hall itself. Not to mention, you don't have to pay for entry and can use your badge to score discounts! Many conventions, including Comic Con, offer amazing benefits to workers and volunteers depending on how many hours you put in. These perks can include free badges, hotel rooms, meal vouchers, and even free convention swag.

Nightlife at local Hotels

Nightlife

We know that you want to spend as much time as possible inside the convention center, but we recommend spending sometime exploring downtown San Diego or unwinding in your hote room. This will allow you to take a break from the overcrowded convention halls and allow you to relax. Not to mention, you might spot a celebrity or two when you're wandering around your hotel. Or you could stumble upon one of the many After Hours Comic Con parties, many of which are free and held in surrounding hotels.

With the crowds, busy schedules, and costs that go into Comic Con, it's important not to get too caught up in the process. Also, when you're not sitting inside a panel or standing in line, be sure to check out beautiful San Diego and take in the local sights. There is so much to do and see there, even if you aren't inside Comic Con.

SWAG and Merchandise at Comic Con

SWAG & Merch

One-of-a-kind souvenirs and convention SWAG can quickly destroy your carefully planned budget. To keep from going bankrupt, you should put aside a set amount of money that you plan to spend on merchandise - and don't exceed it! While it may be difficult to pass up some amazing merch, your bank account will thank you.

Another money saving tip is to avoid Mystery Boxes at all costs! While Mystery Boxes have a long history with conventions, we found that it's much better for your wallet if you avoid them altogether. As a rule of thumb, you should always know what you're purchasing before buying and you should only get merch for franchises that you enjoy. For example, the Funko Pop of your favorite movie character is a better purchase than a Mystery Box full of miscellaneous products.

A final tip is to plan out what merchandise you want to purchase beforehand. You can do this by visiting the Exhibitor List to see which vendors will attend San Diego Comic Con and what products you can expect to see there.

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Kelsey Ferrara

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