By Tara Bennett
Convention season 2014 is well underway. Name your poison and there is a con just for you. San Diego Comic Con, Dragon*Con, LeakyCon, Anime Expo…one can rack up some serious frequent flyer miles over the course of one summer. Attending a con is a great experience, but how does one prepare for and come back from a con in one piece? Here are the top survival tips for any convention attendee for the first timer or seasoned pro.
1. Plan ahead
You don’t have to have a whole play by play of your day, but you should be aware ahead of time of the panels and events that will be offered at the con. Take your first opportunity to sit down with a highlighter and select what panels and events you want to see. Next time you want to see what’s next, you’ll be able to see what you wanted to do next at a glance instead of having to re-examine the schedule every time. Better still, if the convention has a smart phone app, you can reference that and mark all the events you want to attend. You won’t have to carry around a dead tree all weekend and can just refer to your phone.
2. Pack (Lightly)
At cons you’re going to want to buy souvenirs, and you’ll need room for them in your suitcase, especially if you’re flying back home. If you don’t have any room in your suitcase for your newfound stuff, you’re going to be scrambling to figure out how to be able to get it all home with you. Don’t sacrifice good hygiene though. There are plenty of travel-sized products. You may also want to bring:
A camera with extra batteries and memory cards.
iPod, iPhone, iTouch or Blackberry. Whatever you need to kill time waiting in line.
Several comic book bags and boards to insure your exclusive comics get home in grade A condition.
Gum or breath mints. For you and the guy next to you.
3. Get there ASAP
Standing in line can be a really big hassle. Don’t assume that the lines will be short for VIP badges, one day passes, etc. or you risk wasting half of the first day just to get inside. If you arrive early, you’ll get inside early. Just like getting your badge early, you’ll also want to get in line early, especially for special guest stars at conventions. Be aware of the time of the panel, and then stand in line an hour beforehand. Trust me it’s worth it rather than sitting in the nose bleed section.
4. Groups are your friends. Literally.
Going to a con with a group of friends is great fun, and you will enjoy the convention more if you have someone to enjoy it with. Also, hotels, gas, and parking can get expensive, so it helps to have a few friends who can split the cost with you. However, in order to make sure you don’t get stuck with the bill, make sure they know you won’t give them a hotel key until they pay their share of the bill up front.
5. Set up a budget & compare prices
After you know how many friends can join you and how much you’ll be paying for the hotel, you should have a fairly good idea of how much it will cost you to attend the convention. Set a budget for things like registration, food, travel and how much you can spend in the dealers room. You may even want to make a list of specific things you are looking to get. Also compare prices because buyer’s remorse weighs heavy. Sure you could buy that action figure the minute you see it, but I highly suggest taking an initial browse of the dealer’s room first to check prices. That must have item may in fact be cheaper.
6. Buy real food
When you’re initially planning your trip, make note of the restaurants in the area because after a while, a person can no longer run on Mountain Dew alone. Also carry on hand some bottled water and snacks with you to have throughout the day. Beware buying food at the con. Convention centers are notorious for charging ridiculous amounts of money for food.
7. Always have water
Yea, I already mentioned this, but it’s really important to say it again. Keep water on hand with you because dehydration is the worst. You may not realize it, but attending a con can be physically draining so it’s best to always have water on hand. Besides, if you have your own water supply, you’ll have more money for that Batman comic you were eyeballing.
8. Invest in good footwear
You’re going to be doing a lot of walking and standing, and if you don’t have comfortable shoes, your feet are going to by dying by the first hour of the day. If you simply must wear your 10-inch heels for cosplay reasons, then I suggest carrying a different pair for when your feet begin to ache.
9. Stay healthy
To enjoy the con at it’s fullest, follow the 5-2-1 rule. The 5-2-1 rule is a time-tested rule that you should follow at every convention. It means: a minimum of five hours of sleep per night (in a bed, not in a video room), at least two good meals per day (energy drinks are not a meal) and one mandatory shower each day (con funk is real, so do your part in preventing it).