You’ve decided to brave the convention scene and you’re finally taking the dive to go see your favorite games/comics/cosplay/etc. for the first time – awesome! I’ve been asked over the years to cover this topic, and while DreadPixie has mostly had you covered especially when it comes to bringing kids ,today I’ll throw down my own version of what you should do before going to your first trip into the heart of your fandom.
Hotels & Lodging
Aside from purchasing your badge for the convention, your next absolute must is to book a hotel room. Unless you’re lucky enough to live nearby or have friends/relatives in the area you’ll want to do some hunting for the best price for a place to stay. I must stress that doing this as early in advance as possible will save you a lot of headache (and money) down the line. For example, if you were about to take part in the upcoming Las Vegas Comic Con, you’d probably want to check out the travel deals before you head down. You’d also want to have done so way before now, because it starts tomorrow!
Anyway, depending on the convention’s popularity you may need to make these reservations almost a full year in advance, so don’t hesitate. The two biggest factors for convention lodging are convenience and cost, the closer the hotel is to the con the more it’s going to cost you, but also potentially the easier it’s going to be to get to/from the show. Then again, you spend a majority of your time at the convention and basically only return to your hotel to sleep, so keep those things in mind.
Quickly, I’m going to give you guys a bulleted list of Do’s & Don’ts for cons that should apply to basically any fandom. However i’m not going to remind you to bathe, if this blog post was the only thing standing between you taking showers each day after your convention visit, we’ve got bigger problems.
- Bring Cash – While most will, not every booth or vendor will be able to take your card. Also, some give discounts for paying in cash.
- Pack Light – You’re wandering sidewalks and hotel lobbies, don’t look like you’re about to climb Everest. Essentials, a light snack, a water bottle, you’re good.
- Be Mindful – Be aware of things like your backpack / bag / giant sword and make sure you aren’t accidentally bludgeoning people with your getup.
- ASK – Unless someone in costume is already prepared and posing for a photo, don’t just take pictures of them without consent, don’t be weird, say hello and snap a pic.
- Be Rude – Having a conversation with a friend or newly-met fellow con-goer? Great! Don’t have it while standing in the middle of a busy aisle of people, or in front of a booth that could potentially be pulling in more business if you weren’t loitering around it.
- Haggle – Booths have prices listed on things for a reason, this isn’t American Pickers.
- Ignore the Artists Area – At gaming cons specifically, the artists alleys and author’s areas are always such ghost towns. Go and say hello to these people, let them know how great their work is, without them none of this stuff would be possible.
- Be Weird – Mind people’s personal space, conversations, and beliefs. Everyone is here on common ground, keep that in mind and just be cool.
Definitely pack a camera if you plan on taking lots of photos, unless the one in your phone gets the job done well enough. If you’re wanting to share your experience with others during/after each day at the con be sure to bring your laptop, webcam, etc. – and if you require internet I suggest your cell plan be enough to accommodate or also bring along a mobile hotspot of some sort – relying on convention center or hotel WiFi isn’t the greatest option and usually results in heartbreak.
Definitely bring an external charger (I use this one) for your devices, wall outlets aren’t always accessible, unoccupied, or available. If you’re planning on live-blogging of any sort, bring something you’re comfortable typing quickly on, if that’s your phone – awesome, but a chromebook or something similar is my preferred method. Also, if you’re not used to walking around a ton, I suggest getting some good walking shoes or even just some good insoles for your shoes before you head out, you’ll thank me later.
It should go without saying to dress appropriately for the season and area the convention takes place in. Jeans might seem more fashionable sometimes, but when you’re wandering around in 90 degree weather waiting in line for an hour at a food truck because you’re starving – you’ll really wish you’d worn shorts. For those of you dedicated enough to wear full costume and also stand in the blazing hot sun, well, my hat’s off to you – keep on keeping on! Pack some extra shirts/pants for when someone inevitably bumps into you spilling something, or if you’re a slob like me and always manage to get condiments on your clothing.
The main hall can be overwhelming your first time, there’s WAY too much to do and see and that’s okay. For your first day, at your first con I recommend taking it all in by simply wandering around aimlessly marveling at all of the greatness and soaking it all in. Just let it happen. Don’t worry, on the second day you can take a more measured approach by using the the convention guide book the evening before and mapping out some things you missed. Remember the aforementioned Do’s & Don’ts!
Activities, Events & Panels
Depending on what type of con you’re going to, you’ll want to make sure you plan ahead of time what events you’re going to be attending. Sometimes these require tickets, and most of the time they’ll take at least an hour or more of your time which is why planning meals and bringing snacks is so important. Adhere to whatever rules the panel may ask (no photos, silence your phones, etc) and be sure not to be “that guy/gal” who has their phone blow-up and disrupt everyone’s experience.
If you’re gaming, make sure you’re courteous because the people at your table are total strangers, sometimes kids are present and you need to watch your language also. Overall, plan these events as best you can, and if you purchase tickets for something you will wind up missing, try giving them away so at least that experience doesn’t wholly go to waste, spread the love!
Above all else, enjoy yourself!