Yes, it’s a huge time investment, and no one really wants to sit outside an Apple Store for a couple of hours before the break of dawn, but we’re here to help you make the most of your iPad mini launch line waiting experience. In fact, this could even be a lot of fun. Just follow this guide and you’ll be in and out of the store and cradling your iPad mini in no time.
Set Your Alarm Early
How much time do you want to invest in line? Three hours? Four? That’s completely up to you. Apple Stores will open up at 8am, but you’re probably not going to be first in line. If you start waiting in line at 4AM and the line isn’t too long then you’ll be out of their around 9AM. If you come at 8AM you might not get out of there till 12PM.
Figure out how much time you can spend waiting in line and set your alarm 30minutes before you need to be at the store. We don’t really care what kind of alarm you use — the alarm app that comes with your iPhone, one of the many ones on the App Store, a bedside speaker dock or even a good, old fashion clanger — but whichever one you pick, make sure to set it so you get there on time.
Find The Right Store
You usually don’t have to go to the Apple Store to get a new iPad on launch day because Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Radio Shack usually have a limited amount of stock as well. Whether or not your local stores have the iPad mini or not may vary, so we suggest calling ahead and asking if they will have any iPad minis in stock tomorrow morning. Lines are usually a lot shorter at these locations than at your local Apple Store, so you might be able to save a lot of time that way.
The only problem with waiting at Best Buy, Walmart or Target, is that Apple usually gives them a limited amount of iPads on launch day and hordes most of the stock for their stores so they can meet the huge demand of their long lines. When you’re heading to the Apple Store in the morning, swing by Best Buy, Target or Walmart on the way and see if there’s a line. If there are only a couple guys, you’d be better off waiting there instead if you want the quickest experience possible.
If you just want to go the Apple Store because it’s “The Apple Store” and you have a couple of Apple Stores in your area, then we recommend going to a smaller Apple Store. The larger stores will have more stock and more staff on hand to get customers in and out, but they’ll also have longer lines. Smaller sized Apple Stores usually have fewer people waiting in line on launch day so you’ll be able to get your iPad mini quicker.
Check The Weather
We’ve seen more than one Apple Store launch day line flooded out and every fan in line turned into a sopping, drenched mop of a human being. As soon as you wake up check the weather and dress appropriately. It’s 100°F in Phoenix still, but maybe it’s sweater weather already where you live.
Check the weather forecast so you know what to wear so you’re not miserable in line, and if your Apple Store is outdoors, do yourself a favor and bring an umbrella, a poncho or even a large garbage bag with holes ripped out for your arms and head.
Bring A Friend If You Can
One of your friends is probably wanting to buy the iPad mini too, and two people in line are definitely better than one. Standing in line is a lot more entertaining when you have someone else there with you. You guys can play a fierce game of Yahtzee, or have deep soul searching conversations, or just hangout and watch a movie on your iPad or something.
When you have a friend there with you, you’re able to go do a lot more crap than just sitting in line because you can work in shifts. If you have to go to the bathroom or are craving some breakfast a buddy can hold your spot while you go around. Need to go on a walk because your back is hurting you? You’ll have your amigo there to save your spot and you can do the same for him.
Should you decide to get in line early, one of you can get a few hours extra sleep tonight and be a lot less grumpy in line tomorrow. If you don’t know anyone that wants to wait in line with you, hop on Facebook now post and post a message that you’re going to be in line early tomorrow morning and see if anyone wants to join up.
Don’t Bring Food And Drinks
Unless you just totally need your Fiji Water and can’t stand the taste of the Smart Water that Apple hands out, we recommend saving some space in your bag by not bringing food and drinks with you.
Apple store employees are great about making sure everyone is taken care of by providing tons of bottled water, gatorade and snacks for customers waiting in line. One year I even had an NBA Basketball Player serving me gatorades and frozen yogurt samples.
A huge bottle of water is just a waste of space in your bag when you can grab one from the Apple staff along with a Pop-Tart. Plus, it’s free. You’re already shelling out at least $200 on a new phone so it’s awesome that you get to save $2 by taking Apple’s handouts. So unless you have a special diet where you can’t eat normal candy, granola, and Pop-Tarts don’t worry about food and water.
Bring A Chair
Standing on your feet for five hours while waiting for the store to open is never fun, and your derrière is going to hate you if you sit on the ground the whole time too. Bringing a chair will alleviate 75% of your discomforts and make the experience more enjoyable.
Most drug stores and department stores sell collapsible over-the-shoulder fabric chairs for under $20, complete with their own sack to sling over your shoulder. Go get one.
When you do bring your chair, make sure to put it back in your car before the Apple Store opens. Apple’s staff will probably tell you that you can’t bring it in the store. Don’t worry, people in line will be totally cool and let you keep your spot in line while you make the trek back to your vehicle.
Let’s be real, waiting in line for hours is boring as hell. You need something to help you pass the time. That doesn’t mean to take your flat-screen off the wall and buy a super-long extension cord so you can watch Friends will waiting in line (although that’d be pretty awesome).
Bring your old iPad if you’ve got one, or a new book. You could bring a board game like Monopoly or Scrabble if you want too, but those things just add extra bulk to what you’re carrying and more stuff that you have to worry about. But hey, you do whatever you need to do to entertain yourself. If that means playing some Mall Madness with a group of strangers outside the Apple Store, go for it.
Get Your Gear Ready The Night Before
Make sure all of your stuff is ready to go the night before. You don’t want to waste time running around your house trying find everything in a panic when you wake up, so make everything as easy as possible.
Before you go to bed tonight you should grab a backpack, put your iPad, book, sweater, umbrella, snacks, games, everything, inside the bag. Then put the bag in your car with your chair. Now all you have to do in the morning is wake up, take a shower, and head to the Apple Store.
There’s going to be tons of Apple fans there that have the same passion for Apple’s toys as you do. Reach out to people. Say hi. Be nice. Maybe you guys can bond over other topics as well. If someone’s waiting in line alone, try and talk to them or invite them to play a game or something.
You’re going to be standing in line for a couple hours so you might as well try and meet new people. Branch out. Maybe homegirl next to you recently discovered a great recipe for Baked Pumpkin Risotto, but you’re never going to know about it till you ask.
Know Which iPad Mini 5 You Want
Do you know how much storage you need? Are you going to be switching carriers? Are you sure you’re upgrade eligible? And the most important question of all – Black or White?
If you don’t know exactly which iPad mini model you want, it’s time to hurry up and make a decision before you get in line. We even made this handy guide to help you figure out which iPad mini is best for you. We think most people should get the 16GB iPad mini in black, but maybe you really want white or feel the need for more storage. The choice is yours to make but you need to decide which iPad mini you want before the doors open at 8am, so hurry up.
Knowing which iPad mini you want won’t just save you time, but it will make the line go faster and make all those beautiful people you just met love you even more because they’ll get their iPads quicker too.
Get In and Get Out
Don’t linger. You’re there to get the iPad mini, not ask the Apple staff fifty billion questions on when the iPhone 6 is coming out or whether they think Tim Cook is a good CEO or not.
As a courtesy to the other 800 people in line behind you, get the hell out of the store as soon as you purchase your iPad mini. It’s going to be a long day, so do your best to speed things up so everyone can share your joy of having a gorgeous new iPad mini that’s thin as a pencil and has a gorgeous, pixelated, non-retina screen.