With AnimeExpo next week, the biggest anime con on the west coast, I find myself prepping for the summer convention season with AX, San Diego Comic Con, SacAnime, and LA ComicCon being on the docket this year. Having attended conventions for over a decade as an attendee, exhibitor, panelist, musician, and volunteer in my time. Learn from my mistakes to hopefully make your first (or next) convention as enjoyable as possible.
First Stage: The Big R&R
Registration & Reservation…
Register yourself early if you can. If you register early and go for the 3-4 day pass you can usually save yourself some money as well as a lot of hassle when you get to the con. Beyond that check with the local hotels and see how early you can reserve a room because depending on the size of the con they can fill up quickly. You will need to check it out because many hotels have restrictions of like you can reserve only 6 months early, blackout dates, ect. Also, you want a chance to compare price and convenience.
Consider the following: How (if) do you plan to commute? Are you taking the bus? Are you going to drive? Never discount the shuttle busses because it can save you on parking fees. If you can you want to use public transit if at all possible because beyond just the fees parking is always a nightmare. If you are close enough, you can spend the night on the town and enjoy the city’s nightlife which is always a fun thing to do. For those in Los Angeles for AX the Regional Connector just completed and now more of LA than ever is connected to the convention center by light rail.
How much are you willing to pay? Depending on your budget it can dictate where you can stay. If your willing to go a bit farther away the local Travelodge or whatever can offer better prices in exchange for a short commute. If you have friends who are on a budget too you can consider shacking up with them as roommates. Typically you don’t want to exceed 6 people in a single room if you can help it. If you know some of your friends snore be sure to back Breath Right strips ‘cause they work wonders. On that note make sure you dun mind the people you room with ‘cause bad roommates can ruin a night.
Second Stage: Pack It Up Nice
What to Bring, What to Pack…
Preparation is key to turning what might be a good trip into a great trip. When going to a con there are a lot of things to consider with what you want to bring to be prepared and not be over encumbered because remember you are going to be carrying everything all day. Lets do a run down on the 5 most important things:
#1: Good Shoes – This is absolutely essential. Comfortable and flat shoes highly recommended. Throughout the con expect to do a lot of walking so it is really not the time to break in new shoes or wear heals. An old comfortable pair of tennis shoes or sneakers should work fine. A good pair of shoes can spell the difference between simply tired legs to tired legs and sore feat. Good shoes can not be stressed enough!
#2 : Bring Dough – Though you may not plan it many an opportunity to burn you cash can arise. From nifty collectables you can resist, souvenirs of the town for family, or simply food and a bite to eat you can spend money faster than you might think. Be sure to pack a lot ‘cause you don’t want to regret never picking up that super rare con exclusive 3 months later ‘cause you were $10 short.
#3 : Camera – For those photo ops and amazing cosplays you can’t resist be sure to pack in a camera. Lighting at conventions can be bad typically in the main hall so if you are using a consumer model camera or just a disposable make sure it has flash and a good charge. Be sure to pack extra film or memory (unloading digital pics onto your friend’s laptop works fine too). For those of you using SLR or DSLR cameras I don’t think I need to tell you people but be sure to pack an extra battery pack or two and if you can equip yourself with a “fast” lens.
#4: Backpack & Poster Tube – Well those big bags they give out at the con may work for most things but nothing works as well as a small backpack and a poster tube if you plat on getting posters. You can usually pick them up cheaper outside the con and if you can’t find them you can easily add a strap to a shipping tube or baseball tube and use it to store your posters be it bought ones or freebie posters they always give out. The backpack serves two purposes. Firstly to carry in snacks and junk food I and after those are eaten it serves to carry some of your more precious loot out. Again don’t want to over pack it ‘cause you will be carrying everything around but it sure beats paying +$2 for a single cookie. Best get the tube beforehand to avoid getting gouged and a good backpack ‘because the plastic one with strings they give you as a freebie isn’t adequate.
#5: Consumables – An area often overlooked when going to a con is the consumables. Be it cases of junk food stored in your room for late night snacking or things you pack in you backpack to bring in. If you’re going with a group buy in bulk. Stop by your local Costco or Sam’s Club and bring it by the case. Like the backpack the space it takes in the car on the way there will be replaced by your loot on the way back. Every dollar you save bringing your consumables in for snacking can go into getting more nifty loot to bring home.
Bonus Round – Though for most not seen as a necessity I really do recommend bringing proper hygienic materials. While some can make do with the freebie bar of soap and shampoo provided (some don’t even use that me thinks) doesn’t mean you can’t have to bring your own. Be sure to bring not just bathing supplies but toothbrush, toothpaste, and whatever but your deodorant too. Be sure to pack enough clothes so you dun have to wear something dirty as well. Finally just because you’re going to a big con and someone else in this huge throng of people smells doesn’t mean its ok for you to too.
Final Stage: The Attitude
Bring it on…
The proper attitude can get you a long way at a con. Remember to be courteous. These cons can get pretty packed and a good attitude can mean a lot. Be you a newbie or pro, dealer or attendee, just because you are at a con is no reason to suspend common courtesy.
Don’t be afraid to shop around and haggle. You want to make the most out of your trip so though you may absolutely love something don’t be afraid to shop around and look for a better price. You can always try giving haggling a hand. What’s the worst that can happen? Pay normal price? Also be sure to set some money aside for the last day because many times dealers who can’t pack everything up will knock prices down on the last day to clear out some stock. I would recommend walking the entire floor before you start dropping cash because there nothing worse than buying something and finding the same thing cheaper or something you like better 3 isles down.
I think Aretha Franklin said it best, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect the people around you, the pros that have taken the time to appear and the dealers that make the whole thing possible. Even with your fellow attendees we are all there to have a good time so you don’t want to be a spoil sport.
These are just general tips and enough to get you buy. There are of course more con specific ones so its best to have a chat with someone who has been there. For example, in SDCC you may want to consider going to a parking structure near a trolley stop and taking that to the convention center itself. SDCC is also a freaking zoo on Saturday so if you are going to take a day off and enjoy the town that’s the day to do it.