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New to Boston Comic Con? A few survival tips

Fans waited for one of the panels at Boston Comic Con 2014 to begin.
Fans waited for one of the panels at Boston Comic Con 2014 to begin.(Zack Wittman for The Boston Globe)

Ever wonder why thousands of people in the summer flock to the Seaport District, many dressed head-to-toe in costumes? That's the fault of Boston Comic Con — a fun, but often overwhelming three-day event at the Seaport World Trade Center.

This year, the convention is expected to bring in close to 50,000 fans, who will crowd in for dealers' booths, impromptu photo sessions, panels, and autograph signings.

It's a crazy event, but it doesn't have to be too crazy.

As someone who has attended "cons" for years, I've racked up tidbits of knowledge on how to survive the long weekend. The freshman attendee will likely have a lot of questions about how to best navigate the field, so here are a few tips to help your first experience so it doesn't go horribly wrong.

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Costumed superheroes kicked off Boston Comic Con at Fenway Park on Thursday.
Costumed superheroes kicked off Boston Comic Con at Fenway Park on Thursday.(Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

What are the rules regarding costumes?

Try to dress up at least once. It's worth it. A good portion of attendees "cosplay" — or dress up as their favorite characters — at these kind of media-based, fan conventions.

As long as your costume is family-friendly, you wear shoes, and you don't bring any real or replica weapons, you should be good to go (it's important to note that any props you bring are subject to confiscation by Con officials, so make sure any handheld "weapons," such as fake swords, stay sheathed). So dress up as Hawkeye from the Avengers but make sure your arrows have no points and are clearly nonthreatening (in other words, don't bring a real bow and arrow). Also, skip bringing live animals. You'll look cool dressed up as Jon Snow from "Game of Thrones," but unless your direwolf is a certified service animal you can't bring it into the convention. You can find more specific rules on the Boston Comic Con website.

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What if my costume breaks?

If you're going in costume, it's a good idea to bring an emergency repair kit catered to your needs — think a small tube of glue or extra parts. You also never know what other costumed heroes you'll be able to help along the way. The same rules at airport security tend to apply, so if anything in your kit is sharp, you're better off leaving it at home.

Can I interact with "cosplayers"?

When in costume, the crowd will want to take your photo — and it's highly likely that you will also want to snap some shots of your favorite cosplayers. This is encouraged, but it's important to remain respectful. There's a phrase that goes around cons: "Cosplay is not consent." Just because someone is in costume doesn't mean they're not subject to their own standards of privacy.

When you want to take a photo with folks, pose with them, or hug them, ask their permission first. Most will be more than happy to oblige. If there's a large group waiting for a chance with the camera, wait your turn. Inversely, if you are in costume, you are entitled to the same rights, so don't be afraid to report anybody who crosses a line to Con security.

Don't forget: Cosplay is not a contest (unless you're actually in an official costume contest that is actually happening there).

The finalists of the 2014 Boston Comic Con costume contest stood onstage at Dick's Last Resort.
The finalists of the 2014 Boston Comic Con costume contest stood onstage at Dick's Last Resort.(Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe)

What happens if I'm wearing the same costume as someone else?

There will be people dressed up as the same character and some will pull it off better than others. Don't let that distract you from having fun. If anything, turn the situation into a good photo-op.

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Will I get "con flu"? What IS "con flu"?

The day after the Con is the worst — not only because you're trying to catch up on sleep, but also because you're waiting to start feeling ill. With 50,000 or more people crammed into such a small area, there's bound to be disease and a likely chance you'll catch something that's not exactly fun. It's known in attendee circles as the "con flu" and, according to Con lore, it comes with being packed tight with other fans for three days straight. You can always try washing your hands frequently and loading up on Vitamin C in an attempt to avoid the horrible week after. Unfortunately, there's no "Con doctor" with a special cure.

What should I bring? Pack light.

As they say in the "Legend of Zelda" series, "It's dangerous to go alone." You don't want to be lugging around a weighty backpack full of items, but you don't want to go empty-handed either. There are a few essential items that you should bring with you, including a water bottle to stay hydrated and snacks to hold you over (you could visit the nearby restaurants, but why leave the Con if you don't have to?).

Small entertainment options are a must if you plan to wait in long lines (and you will). Bring a card game or a portable gaming system to help pass the time as you wait to meet Stan Lee. Nintendo 3DS's are a popular item and a neat way to interact with other guests.

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How will I keep my phone charged?

A phone charger is optional, but a good idea, although you'll need good luck to find an empty outlet. If you have an extra phone battery or a solar-powered charger, you'll be able to avoid the lines.

Fans sorted through a collection of comics for sale during Boston Comic Con in 2014.
Fans sorted through a collection of comics for sale during Boston Comic Con in 2014.(Zach Wittman for The Boston Globe)

How much money should I bring?

It is very easy to overspend at such conventions. Almost too easy. A three-day badge will cost $100, and photo-ops with celebrities, such as "Doctor Who's" Billie Piper or "Agent Carter's" Hayley Atwell, will run you at least an extra $60. Then there's the merch. The majority of the main floor is filled with booths — from vendors touting discount comic trades, posters, and other swag, to local artists selling unique creations. Decide beforehand how much you are willing to spend and bring that much cash with you. You may also want to leave any credit cards at home or in your hotel room, so the urge to get more money doesn't get in the way.

I'm ready. How do I get there?

Whether you're already in the city or coming from afar, do your research on travel routes. But if you can, it's recommended that you either walk or take public transportation.

Should I take the "T"?

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Taking the T can be a good idea. You'll avoid parking horrors that come with a tightly packed convention, and you'll get the chance to meet up with attendees before you hit the doors. Since you obviously won't see the real Iron Man, the costumed-version will be easy to spot. And if you're new to the area, Con-goers can serve as handy guides — a great way to kick off your weekend as chances are you won't get lost. Check out the complete MBTA schedule for more info.

The convention's website has directions, along with options for hotel accommodations, which can help with the commute.

Boston Comic Con runs from July 31 - Aug. 2 at the Seaport World Trade Center. The show runs on Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For details on panels, special events, the full schedule, and more, visit the Comic Con website.


Carli Velocci can be reached at carli.velocci@globe.com.