Countdown to the iPad: What To Expect When You’re Waiting in Line

So call me Captain Obvious, but the iPad comes out tomorrow at Apple Stores all around the U.S. If you’ve pre-ordered yours (early enough), then you should have one waiting for you, or arriving in your mailbox. Then there are the rest who are just showing up to try to grab one on the fly. Regardless of your station tomorrow, this is an event, and one you should be prepared for. If this is your first proverbial rodeo, I’ve got a few tips for what it may be like and how to show up prepared.

First and foremost, be prepared to wait. Whether you show up tonight to get in line (oh yeah, if the lines haven’t formed already, they will shortly) or try your luck tomorrow morning, you’ll be there a while. Those who get in the door first are likely going to linger a while. And while the line will regenerate as fast as it dissipates, it’s likely there will be no great time to go if you must be there tomorrow.

Take a page from the boy scouts, and be prepared. Bring a canteen, day pack, bed roll, etc. Well, I’m partially kidding at least. If you’re there tonight, you’ll want to be comfortable (and dry if you’re outside and there’s weather). Have some snacks on hand, and a plan for potty breaks. A dolly with a car battery, power inverter, and a power strip will make you mighty popular with your line mates too. Just saying.

Everyone around you has a story, so take in the scene. It’s easy to show up with your iPod/iPhone or MacBook and just plug into the free Apple Wi-Fi and wait. But it’s a safe bet that there’s a guy next to you who was working on the very first Mac prototypes, or a lady who programmed part of NeXT back in the day. I’ve only been to a few events, but each time have met folks with pretty amazing Apple stories and experiences.

The Apple Store doesn’t want your money for anything but iPad tomorrow. This may not be absolute, but last summer when the iPhone 3GS came out, I already had mine, and ran to the store late in the day to pick up an accessory or something only to be turned away — they were only servicing iPhone sales for the day. So if you need some little widget, plan to head over today, or wait until Sunday, otherwise you may potentially be turned away tomorrow.

Document your experience. New product releases and store openings aren’t a very regular thing. It’s pretty neat to say you were there when… What Apple’s doing these days is special, and not many (if any) brands are replicating the experience that comes with buying a product. Take photos, blog it, and share the experience with others.

Oh, and while I won’t count it as a specific tip, be prepared to answer the question over and over again when asked, “What in the world is everyone standing in line for?!” There’s probably a lot more to know, and we’d love to hear other ideas from our great readers who’ve been there and done that. Feel free to let us know how it goes tomorrow too. Enjoy the show everyone!