As I head to my first big con for the year - Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle - to be followed quickly by my third con in a month (do not ask why I do this to myself), I wanted to share some tips and tricks for happy con going. You already read about how to be a polite con-goers, now it’s time to be a well-preapred one! Just so you know: the following advice is all based on various successes and (mostly) mistakes I’ve made at cons.
Rule 1: Make a Plan.
Though it’s fun to just throw yourself into the madness, there’s often so much going on at a con, especially a big one, that if you don’t plan ahead you might end up missing out on a lot. Make room in your schedule for everything, including snack time and rest cause you'll need it, as well as picking up souvenirs and con exclusives. Weigh (literally) how much you want to be carrying around by the end of the day - I always try to get merch at the end of the day or con, so I don’t end up hauling stuff around all day, as it can accumulate fast and get heavy. Also, you don’t want to smoosh things.
If there are lots of panels or events going on at the same time, prioritize. Some cons will stream panels, or at others things are almost sure to be on youtube later. Consider if you’re okay with going to a smaller, less likely to be recorded panel and missing a big one.
If you can download the app. Not all conventions have apps, but it’s an increasingly popular trend. The ones I’ve used ave been extremely helpful and are a great way of planning things out!
Rule 2: Bring the Right Equipment.
As I mentioned, all the stuff you’ll want to buy and bring to a con can get heavy. A small purse isn’t gonna cut it. At a lot of cons you can snag a promotional bag, but that’s never for sure and they can get really flimsy and break. I’d highly recommend a backpack or your biggest purse (though a backpack will be more comfortable).
Another essential: more than one pair of shoes. No matter how comfy, wearing the same pair of shoes for three or four days in a row while you’re constantly walking leads to pain and sadness. Believe me: I wore the same pair of boots for four days at SDCC last year and I was limping by day four. Insoles are a great idea. Heels are not.
Also essential is to bring your cell phone charger and, if you have one, a portable charger. The amount of bandwidth used at cons in murder on cell phone batteries, especially if you’re like me and want to use apps, keep in touch with friends and tweet. Some cons, or hubs like Nerd HQ at SDCC have charging stations specifically for this. Scope out where you can charge your phone and take a break there when you can. It’s great people watching time; I was doing this in the hilton when George RR Martin walked by.
Rule 3: Snacks! (And water)
The hardest thing to do at cons is staying nourished and hydrated. At my last con there wasn’t a single food source at the con itself or even conveniently close, and we all ended up lunching on pringles from the hotel florist. Even at big biggest of big cons, food is expensive, hard to find, and, like anything con related, has a line. (A personal pizza at SDCC ran me $8, but I hadn’t eaten for 8 hours so it was the Best Pizza Ever.) So: pack snack and water. I’m a fan of protein rich nibbles like nuts, beef jerk or granola bars for your complex carb needs.
Rule 4: Budget
It's amazing how fast money can go flying out of your pockets at these events. There's so much great art and merchandise to buy, photo ops to get and autographs to collect that it adds up fast. My best tip for not sending yourself into financial ruin is to pick an amount you are okay spending on everything (food included) and bring that money with you in cash. Once you're done with that, you're done. This way you can avoid getting a really scary credit card bill a month later.
If you're on a budget - prioritize. Can you buy that Funko Pop for cheaper at hot topic? Do you really need the limited edition DVD? For me personally, if I'm trying to save money and have to chose between photo ops and autographs, I always go for autographs because you get a bit more of a meaningful interaction with the celebrity and they're generally cheaper (and the lines are sometimes shorter).
Rule 5: Make Friends
In general, people I’ve met in lines, at street crossings and in panels at cons have been incredibly nice, interesting people, many of whom I’m still friends with. Don’t be shy - you’re already there because you love the same things, so strike up a conversation! These are the people that might give you the best tips, or know about some under the radar even that you would otherwise never know about. Especially if you're a lone con goer like me, this is awesome.
I hope that some of these tips saves you from the blisters, empty tummies and scary credit card bills I've enjoyed. If you have more tips or questions - sound off in the comments!