Con season is still in full swing and, as you know, I’m preparing for my upcoming appearance at Dragon Con. While talking a friend of mine (hey, Crystal!), she suggested I do a list for con newbies. This list is going to be a generic one full of my favorite con tips. All right, folks, I’m not going to lie. This is going to be a short list. I know you’re used to seeing 11 items on my lists (or more if I’ve got some honorable mentions included). Today, though. . .well, it’s been a day and I couldn’t think of 11. What this list may lack in size is more than compensated by its quality.
7. Plan Ahead
As you may have noticed on the Weekend in Geek, there are tons of cons going on all over the place. While I may only post events happening that weekend, you’re always welcome to check for conventions that will be coming up in the future by checking here and here. I know that a lot of fandom Tumblrs and celebrities also talk about conventions that are coming up. Be on the look-out to see what strikes your fancy. If you’re interested in going to an out-of-town convention, start planning months (if not nearly a year) in advance. First, get your membership sorted. Sometimes you can get some pretty sweet deals by pre-registering. If you’re on a budget, that’s one of your best options. Once you’ve got that all taken care of, look into lodging. If you’re heading to a convention like Dragon Con or San Diego Comic Con, rooms nearby are going to fill up fast. Try to get together with some friends and save money on a room.
Okay, let’s now assume that you’ve got your room and membership ready to go. The con is nearly upon you and you’re all excited. What I recommend doing next is taking a look at the schedule to see what you feel like doing. When I first started going to Dragon Con, I’d go through my pocket guide and circle or highlight the panels or events that I really wanted to see. It’s a tactic I employ whenever I go to a convention or festival.
Some folks, like Micah, are not planners. That’s okay too. Some people can walk into a convention and just fly by the seat of their pants with regards to food and lodging. If you can pull that off, I applaud you. I’m afraid my neuroses would never let me manage that.
6. Pack Well
I’m not going to tell you how to pack because that’s something I’m learning myself. I know folks who are experts at packing lightly. I know others, like myself, who have a tendency to over-pack. All I can really tell you here is to really sit down and ponder what you think you’ll need. Just remember to bring enough clothing and clean underwear. If you’re going to be wandering around in a costume, have some supplies handy just in case you need to make any last-minute repairs or adjustments. Maybe pack some snacks to munch on between meals. Don’t forget your medications if you’re taking any. Do pack a bit of a first aid kit with some bandaids for blisters and Advil or something for the inevitable post-wandering soreness.
That’s why I’m just advising you to pack well. Assess your needs and what you’ll be able to cart around. If you’ve got an industrial-strength hair dryer, you may want to leave that at home. Just sayin’.
5. Pace Yourself
When you get to a convention, it’s really easy to get into the idea that you need to do all of the things. You do not need to do all of the things. You really do not need to do all of the things. As I mentioned in my planning tip, look at the schedule and figure out what you need to do. Prioritize and come up with back-up plans if it doesn’t work out. Don’t push yourself too hard or you may just end up wearing yourself out long before the convention is over. You don’t want to do that to yourself, do you?
I didn’t think so.
This brings me to my next tip.
4. Take the Occasional Break
Conventions are hugely fun events with so many things you could be doing and people you could be meeting. Despite the non-stop fun, I think it’s important to carve out some time to relax. With Dragon Con looking at a record attendance this year (62,000 estimated attendees!), I know I’m going to need a break from the crowds. Go back to your hotel room and chill for a bit. Find a quiet spot. Eat a meal. No, seriously. Eat. Eating is very important. You should be doing that multiple times a day. How else are you going to have any kind of energy for all of the fun you’re planning to have?
3. Be Considerate
One of the things I remind myself of when out at conventions is that everyone is there to have fun or help you have fun. The venue staff are busy people trying to do their jobs. Smile at them and be polite. Even if things aren’t going your way, try to remember that they are people too. The volunteers and staff at the conventions are also people who want to have fun and help you have fun too. They’re friendly and willing to help. Be nice to them. Above all, be nice to your fellow fans at the convention. Treat everyone with respect. This is particularly true for people in costume. Many of them have spent tons of hours and lots of money to pull their costumes together. Ask politely if you want a picture of them. Don’t be rude if they refuse because, hey, they’ve got stuff they might want to see at the con too. Some people may be in costumes that leave little to the imagination. This does not give you licence to grope or treat them as anything less than a person with agency and a right to enjoy the convention just the same as anyone else. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be That Guy. No one likes That Guy.
2. Bathe and Sleep
I really hate having to mention this. I want to believe that we have evolved beyond the need to remind people to bathe. I am, unfortunately, wrong. So, folks, I know it’s tempting to just skip showering while you’re at conventions. Why would you shower when you could be sleeping/eating/enjoying yourself? Well, to put it bluntly, you shower so that you don’t stink. You might not think that you’re particularly malodorous. Our olfactory receptors would respectfully disagree. So, please, do everyone (and yourself) a favor by taking a daily shower.
While we’re on the subject of things you should do daily, I’m going to just tell you guys that sleep is good. Grab at least 6 hours of sleep a night. It will help keep you coherent and not cranky. Remember that thing about being kind and respectful? Sleeping helps you do that.
1. Have Fun
This is the big tip. Just relax and enjoy yourself. Conventions are a celebration. Treat them accordingly. Meet some new people, learn some new things, and make a bunch of new memories. May they all be wonderful and cause you to smile for years to come!