Tis’ Con Season – Tips for First Time Con Goers

Not so long ago, summer Con season got my heart racing with anticipation (then RL interfered with my attendance).  We made annual treks to San Diego ComiCon and Anime Expo.  Sprinkle in a few trips to the Chicago Comicon and a few smaller anime cons, and I can sadly say I’ve spent way more than my share at conventions.  Here’s some advice for first time con goers.

The most important thing to pack up before you head off to the con – 10 pounds of patience.  You are going to need this.  If you want to attend any of the big events, you will be standing in line for a long time! Download a game to your phone, or a book, or bring a friend to harass while you are being a sheep and waiting for something. I certainly never take enough patience.

Print out all of your travel confirmations and make sure your bring them with you!  One year for Wizard World Chicago, I forgot the receipt showing that I had already paid for the first night at the Sofitel.  This led to a huge headache when we arrived at 1 am!! I was not a happy camper, even after the hotel sent a cheese tray and wine to apologize for the mix-up (it’s the call at 6am from the accounting person that really ticked me off).

Print out the daily schedules and events list if you are planning on attending any of the panels. Download them to your phone, too.  There is nothing quite so frustrating as discovering that you just missed an event that you really wanted see.  When you get to the con, check every day to make sure the schedule hasn’t changed.

Pack a bottle of water! Pack two. This is critical!  It’s going to be hot and humid in the dealer room, and there is nothing worse that suffering from dehydration!  Headache? Fatigue?  Go drink some water!

Charge your batteries! If you are planning on taking pics of cos-players, or entertaining yourself in long lines with PoGo, make sure you charge your batteries the night before.  Empty those memory cards and keep the chargers close at hand.  Purchase a portable charger, too. It’s no fun seeing that photo op walk away because your phone is out of juice!

Pack a few snacks.  Cons are hectic beehives of activity, and you need your energy.  If you’re standing in line and you suddenly realize that you haven’t eaten all day, a granola bar can tide you over until you can eat a real meal.  Breakfast is crucial, too!  Make sure you start the morning off with a hearty meal, or you will run out of gas long before the day is done.

Decide on a meeting place.  If you are attending with friends, and you decide to split up, make sure you have a designated time and place to meet back up.  Your cell phone might not get reception in the dealer hall, or worse, you might lose it, so make sure you have a meeting place.  It’s going to be really tough locating your buddies in that mass of otakuness!

Don’t rely on ATMs. The ATMs run out of cash, just like both comicbook fans and anime fans, so don’t depend on being able to refill your wallet from an ATM come Saturday afternoon!  Hand in hand with this, make sure your cash is concealed!  Keep it in as many different places on your person as possible!  Be smart about flashing that hard earned cash!

Wear a comfy pair of shoes!  You will be walking, and walking, and walking, and if you have blisters on your feet, you will be miserable!  A nice pair of moisture wicking socks will go a long way, too! I pack an extra pair of socks, but maybe I’m weird that way.

Don’t drop your cash at the first dealer booth!  Unless you have just located the perfect cel of ChuChu from Utena, walk through the entire dealer hall and check out prices before you start unloading your dough.  This is especially true for comics,  manga, and Tees – really anything in the dealer hall.  The prices will be all over the board, and you need to comparison shop.  Obviously, if it’s a rare or one of a kind item, snap it up!  Also, if you’re making a bulk purchase, try haggling with the dealer.  They might be willing to shave a couple more bucks from your total, more so at the end of the con.  The last day is great for bargains, because nobody wants to lug all of that junk back home again!

Think outside the convention center. One of my favorite activities at SDCC is going to the zoo.  Yes, the zoo.  I also love walking around downtown and discovering new restaurants.  Make sure you leave some time to explore the city you are visiting and take a break from the crowds at the convention.  Eat! Drink! Be merry!  Odds are, you spent a lot of money to get where you are, so make sure you don’t spend the entire time inside a stuffy convention center.

Veteran con goers, can you add any tips?  Please post them in the comments!

I recycled this post for two reasons. First, con season is upon us.  Second, I was contacted about the Amazing! Las Vegas Comicon.  Dean and I went to a comic convention in Vegas many years ago, and I had so much fun that I have wanted to go to another.  Unfortunately this year, Poppy’s surgery made that impossible, but maybe next year?  If you are going to the Amazing! Las Vegas Comicon, check out Vegas.com for the best Las Vegas deals on hotels, things to do outside of the convention, and restaurants.  If you go, be sure to grab dinner at Serrano, and dessert at Jean Philippe Patisserie, because YUM! 

{Ed. Note – This is a refreshed post from 2007}