Each year Comic Con is different and new but one thing has always remained the same; I bring more stuff home than what I came with. If I was driving this would not be so much of a concern but most of us fly to San Diego, which means we have to fly home with what we’ve bought, or ship it home. I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned over the years that will help you get your precious cargo home!
If you expect to purchase or acquire lots of goodies at Comic-Con then you need to come prepared to take them home. I suggest the following items to help you.
- A roll of clear packing tape
- Several new Sharpie markers
- A few large self-addressed address labels
- A poster tube that is small enough to fit inside your suitcase
- A flattened cardboard boxes that fit into the bottom of your suitcase
- A flat sheet of bubble wrap
- A few sheets of blank label paper (if your hotel will have printing capabilities)
Arriving prepared will put you streets ahead of other folks and you won’t find yourself having to buy packaging tape at the hotel gift shop.
Cardboard boxes are not difficult to find, you’ll run across piles of broken down boxes near garbage cans in the exhibit hall. Boxes can even be found from different retailers. If you are buying several items, it might be worth it to ask the employee if they have any available boxes you could have.
Airline Luggage Option
A method I have often used when traveling is what I call the “double suitcase.” I take a large suitcase and inside if I put a smaller suitcase, then I pack the smaller suitcase with everything I need for the trip but when I arrive, I have two suitcases to take home. If you don’t have an extra suitcase, you can also pack a large duffel bag. Use the duffel to pack your dirty laundry in on your return trip and the suitcase for your important stuff!
These days checking two suitcases could run you up to $50 or more depending on your airline, but the double suitcase method could pay off if you are planning to purchase items that are reasonably lightweight and unbreakable. Soft toys, shirts and small boxed items all travel well in suitcases. Action figures and small busts and statues that are boxed with styrofoam will also travel well when buffered with dirty laundry. Items that are more fragile should be surrounded by bubble wrap and placed in the center of your suitcase, padded on all sides.
The benefit to packing all your items in a checked suitcase is that everything is with you when you get off the airplane and you don’t have to wait for it to arrive. The downfalls are the price of checking an extra bag and the chance of damage in handling.
Shipping via Fed Ex or UPS
The San Diego Convention Center has a convenient Fed Ex center located within it. You can ship anything you want back, but it’ll cost you. A handling fee of $5.00 was charged the year that I sent a box home, in addition to the actual shipping charges. Convenience always comes at a price!
There is another Fed Ex shipping option located near downtown at: 532 C Street I have also shipped from this location with success and without the extra handling charge. I like shipping from this location because of their late hours (open until 11:00 PM on Friday and 9:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday) and because it is usually less busy than the convention center location.
If you have, or know someone who has a Fed Ex shipping account, use that account number to get the specific rates associated with the account, otherwise, you will pay the Retail Rate, which is the highest.
Another convenient place to send Fed Ex is also a place you can send stuff via UPS, The Postal Annex is located just a few blocks from the Convention Center at 611 K Street. In my experience it’s best to arrive at the Postal Annex with your packages taped up and all ready to ship but if you are in need of packaging supplies, they can also be procured there.
Shipping via USPS
This method of shipping has become my personal favorite in recent years. In full disclosure, I use it only to send stuff that is for the most part, unbreakable. It’s perfect for books, comics, any paper item, small toys, dirty clothing and all sorts of swag.
Shipping via USPS does require some pre-planing and it’s best if you are going to be at a hotel that offers you the ability to print from the Internet. Check with your hotel before you go! You can use this method without printing labels in San Diego but you will have to guess-timate the number of boxes you will be sending back in advance. Also, you cannot just buy the amount of stamps to mail a Flat Rate box, affix them and drop them off at any post office box, that is a “no-no.” To use stamps you will have to mail the box from an actual post office.
So, first thing, get yourself several Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping boxes. These are available free of charge at post offices. Find the ones that are the best size to fit into the bottom of your suitcase when flat. I find that the “Medium” size works best for my needs. Make sure you get the “Flat Rate” boxes so you won’t need to weigh them for shipping.
When you are ready to ship boxes home, just log onto a computer with a printer and purchase the proper postage. You do not need to worry about the weight of the package because it’s a flat rate no matter how much it weighs, up to 70 pounds, of course! When it asks for a weight, simply use your best estimate.
Address the labels to yourself, with the return address being your name but the hotel address. Do not put your address in both the ‘To” and the ‘From” section as that could raise red flags and delay your packages.
The cost to send a medium sized Priority Mail Flat Rate box is $10.95. The large size box is $4.00 more.
Print the labels and use packaging tape to affix them to your boxes. Ask at the front desk of the hotel to have them put out at the next mail delivery. It is often very nice to tip the person who accepts the packages from you.
If you will not have the capability to print postage when you are in San Diego, you might still be able to use this method.
On the day of your departure, before you leave home, pay for and print off the postage you think you will need. You will be able to select the date of shipment up to 3 days in advance. Select the latest date available. The postage must be used within about 1 day of the date that you select so if you are printing on Thursday, select Sunday as the date and then you will be able to safely mail on Monday. I usually print off a Friday label and a Monday label and then ship in two batches so I do not get overwhelmed.
You’ll want to be frugal when you estimate how much postage you will need because you don’t want to pay for postage that you don’t end up using. When you are ready to ship follow the suggestion above for leaving your packages at the hotel front desk.
I hope that I have given you some good ideas for getting your precious cargo home from San Diego. With a little advance planning, you can spend more time having fun and less time worring if you have room for those SDCC exclusives in your carry-on!