Entrance line at PAX East

Convention Lines

One thing all fandom conventions have in common is lines. How bad the lines get scales with the size of the convention.

Smaller, local/regional conventions will likely have shorter lines, and those will be limited to things like registration, dealer’s room, and seating for the keynote or costume contest.

Your national conventions with 60,000+ attendees will have longer lines and plenty of them. Getting in the door might not be too bad with an advance badge system, but you’ll quickly find yourself in a line to see a panel, play a game, and get lunch.

At the largest conventions, with over 100,000 attendees, you could literally spend more time in line than anything else.

Lines are an unavoidable part of attending a convention, but with a bit of advance planning and the suggestions below you can survive the lines, maybe even make the experience tolerable.

Plan Ahead
  1. Go through the posted schedule in advance and mark any panels or events you’d like to see.
  2. Set your priorities. You won’t be able to see everything, so know (and mark) your can’t miss events.
  3. Have a Plan A and a Plan B for most time slots. Plan B should be a lesser desired panel, or something less schedule base such as walking the expo hall or checking out the free play area.
Find Out When To Get In Line

This will vary greatly from con to con. For larger cons check their community forums, Reddit subreddit, or online guides for specific tips. For smaller cons as the staff.

Find out if the convention usually clears the room between panels or not. This will impact your strategy significantly.

San Diego Comic Con does not clear rooms so the lines are for the rooms, not a specific panel. You may need to line up and enter the room one or two panels early to guarantee yourself a seat for the panel you do want to see.

PAX conventions do clear the room between panels, unless otherwise noted in the schedule. This means you can’t line up until 90 minutes before a panel, and for less popular panels you can line up 30 minutes before hand and get a good spot. PAX handles their lines quite well and even have a PAX lines Twitter account, which announces line status on Twitter and in the PAX app.

Surviving The Lines
Once you’re in a line for a while make the most of it:
  • Play a game.
    • Breakout your favorite Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Switch game. If you have a multiplayer game see if anyone around you want to play.
    • Bring a small, easy to play card or dice game and ask your neighbors if they would like to join you. Zombie Dice is a popular choice.
  • Sit down and relax, it is one of the few times you’ll be able to do so.
    • Have a snack.
    • Drink some water.
  • Send someone from your group to get food. People usually won’t mind your companion coming back into the line, just be cool about it.
  • Make some “line friends.” You’ll see this happen at more niche focused convention. People talking about something, someone new says, “Hey, I like that, too!” Boom, new line friends.
But I Hate Lines
Nobody likes them, but if you just really can’t deal with lines then plan to do other things instead:
  • Show up a bit after the convention opens to avoid the morning crowd.
  • Take your time wondering the expo hall/dealer’s room/artist ally. Really popular game demos will have lines, but there will be plenty of other booths with little to no wait time, or setup just to browse.
  • Some events have advance sign up, so take advantage of those.
  • If there is a tabletop game area check that out. Usually you’ll find pick up games available.
  • Sign up for scheduled tournaments.
  • Explore the entire con.
  • Bring your own food and water, or eat at off times to avoid the lunch and dinner crowds.