An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Crowded, Noisy Comic-Con

Comic-con is crowded and noisy.

There’s so much joy to be found at a comic-con. Meeting celebrity guests, attending fascinating panels, and seeing the amazing cosplay are just a few of the exciting highlights you can expect.

However, the jam-packed floors (where you can count on being elbowed and stepped upon regularly), the overpowering smell of sweat, and the constant barrage of noise can make these fabulously geeky events extremely hard on introverts.

Two weeks ago, I joined 110,000 people from all over the country to attend my first full-fledged comic-con. As an uber-geek who loves to cosplay, I was over the moon. As a highly sensitive introvert, I was… less than thrilled.

Fortunately, I found ways to deal with the onslaught of humanity — and I made it through the con relatively unscathed. As such, I’d like to share exactly how I went about not completely losing my mind in the hope that I can help those of you who may be contemplating attending a convention in the future.

Why Large Conventions Can Be Hard for Introverts

Generally speaking, introverts aren’t overly fond of crowds. Being surrounded by too many people is a major energy drain.

Unfortunately, comic-cons are exceedingly crowded events. One can expect to be crammed into a warehouse-sized room with thousands of strangers and no personal space to speak of. Top that with the uninterrupted noise and action — which again, many introverts are sensitive to — and it’s not unexpected that an introvert might have a meltdown.

So what’s an introvert to do? How can we enjoy comic-cons when everything about them is essentially anathema to our very being? Fear not, my friends; there are ways to savor such events without going off the deep end!

How to Make It Through Comic-Con in One Piece

Since I knew the trip was going to be rough on me, I did some serious planning ahead of time to make sure I’d be able to enjoy myself as much as possible. I’m happy to say that not only did my preparations work out perfectly, but I also picked up some survival tips from other con-goers along the way.

If you’re an introvert going to a comic-con, here’s what you need to do:

Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to calm travel anxiety is to plan, plan, plan. Start by planning what you want to do and when. Most large conventions post a schedule of events ahead of time, either online or in their apps. Take some time to browse the list and jot down anything that looks super interesting.

While it’s tempting to try to attend every event that catches your eye, you’ll likely end up miserably overwhelmed if you do. Instead, pick two or three things that are your “must sees” and attend the rest only if you have the energy.

Schedule Buffer Time

Make sure you plan plenty of solo time before and after your convention. Though you’ll likely have an amazing time, you’re probably going to be pretty worn out when you get home. If you have a little extra vacation time available, give yourself a day or two to catch up on sleep and process your adventure. You’ll be glad you did.

Bring a Friend

Conventions are much more fun when you attend them with friends you trust. This is especially true when said friends understand your introverted tendencies and don’t expect you to be “on” 100 percent of the time.

I went to my con with two friends (both introverts), and we had a fantastic time. We looked out for each other, respected our energy levels, and took breaks when we needed them. Having friends with whom I could laugh and bond with — not to mention lean on — made everything so much easier.

Choose Your Hotel Wisely

If it’s possible, stay in a hotel as close to the convention center as possible. Not only will this keep your Uber/taxi costs down, it will also allow you to easily escape to your room when you start getting worn out or overwhelmed. You’re far less likely to get trapped in a public space for eight hours straight.

Another tip — again, if it’s financially feasible — is to room alone. Having a place to spend some quality solo time decompressing and recharging after a long day of social interaction is absolutely priceless. And I can tell you from experience that going back to the peacefulness of an uninhabited hotel room at the end of the night is well worth the extra expense.

Know How to Handle Unwanted Interactions

If you’re the type of introvert that dreads the thought of uninvited social interaction, I have some bad news for you: Cons are chock-full of people who want to chat with you. It may be that you’re stuck in line together, or they have questions about your cosplay, or they just want to chat about geekdom in general — but conversation is going to happen.

There are a few things you can do to make these interactions easier. First, if you’re in cosplay, think about what you’ll say about your costume ahead of time, as people will ask you about it. Having an explanation or a few comments already in mind makes these conversations easier.

Second, accept that small talk is probably unavoidable when standing in line (it sucks, I know).

Third, if you’re trapped in a conversation and want to get out of it, simply say that you have somewhere to be and it’s been nice talking to them. This allows you to step away gracefully without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Take Multiple Breaks

It’s important to do a self check-in every hour or so during the con. Assess how you’re feeling, if you need food or water, where your energy levels are, and whether or not you need a break.

Then, follow through on what you need. Take your breaks in quiet places if possible. Most conventions have designated “relaxation zones” — make sure to locate them first thing in the morning so you’ll know where to go when it comes time to recharge.

Order In

After a long day interacting with people, the last thing you’ll want to do is sit down to eat in a busy/noisy restaurant. That’s where food delivery comes in. Each night after the con ended, my friends and I would head back to the hotel and cozy up in one of our rooms with some food delivered via UberEats. Being able to relax in our pajamas and nosh on some tasty food while watching Bob’s Burgers was an absolute godsend.

Comic-cons can be truly wondrous experiences — and are a must on the bucket list of any geek. That said, introverts will need to prepare ahead of time in order to truly appreciate the experience. Being both vigilant and proactive when it comes to your energy levels and other needs is the best way to ensure you have a great time.

So get out there and get your geek on — the world (and about 50 Deadpools) is waiting. 

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Liz Greene is a writer, anxiety-ridden realist, and full blown pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, ID. When not stalking the aisles of her local Ulta, she can be found shoveling down sushi while discussing the merits of the latest Game of Thrones fan theories. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene, or check out her latest post on Three Broke Bunnies.