It’s that time of year! The sun is shining, there’s a warm breeze in your face and it’s officially time to board the convention hype train! That’s right, it’s convention season and you know what that means: planning, packing and eventually, enjoying. Obviously everyone has their own way of doing these steps which come just about to the same end (hopefully), but I have a few tips and tricks for the first two pieces of the convention plan that are sure to help cinch that last one into place.
First let’s start with planning. At this step, there’s the usual means–booking a hotel, buying your tickets, getting some roommates, that sort of thing. But there are a few things that many people overlook. Right off the bat, I want to bring up food. Many people do pack their own food and don’t plan on buying any while out and about at a convention, but my suggestion here is to look up affordable, nearby spots for some last-minute chow purchases. You never know when some of your con buddies will want to go all out and get a burger or if you’ll want to escape the con for a while to stuff your face a bit. It’s also helpful to other convention attendees who aren’t familiar with the area. You get to be the person who keeps them from collapsing from starvation! Hurray!
When it comes to the hotel, you should generally know what’s around it anyway; convenience stores, gas (if you drove), public transportation, basically anything you could potentially need between panels and grabbing swag. Also research if your bank is in the area. I could tell you about how many times I’ve needed one of those, but I’m sure we’ve all sung that song before.
Another key location you’ll want to know about is any nearby hospital or emergency services. I’ve known a few people who needed to go to the hospital during or directly after a convention. Take into consideration where the hospitals in the area are and have a game plan on getting there just in case something unfortunate happens.
Enough planning, let’s pack! The usual suspects are here–shirts, pants, pajamas, toothbrush, all the things that are pretty much old hat. But here are a few things I would add to the list to be extra prepared:
- A towel so you know which one is yours. We’ve all been there when there’s a million hotel towels and no one can seem to remember which is theirs. For health reasons, bring your own.
- Makeup remover. Ladies (and gents if it catches your fancy), please bring makeup remover of some kind. Whether it’s baby oil, the wipes, whatever, just bring it. Leaving makeup on overnight isn’t great for your skin or the look of your pillow case.
- Don’t forget your phone charger! That always tends to make or break a weekend.
- Garbage and Ziploc bags are a must. Ziplocs help keep all your things organized (and keep your shampoo from ruining your underwear and making them smell like tropical punch) and garbage bags are super handy in a hotel room full of nerds who just bought pizza, chips, sandwiches, and who-knows-what from the dealers room. To ebb the trash waves, bring those garbage bags.
- A small first aid kit. Hey, you never know.
- A con wallet with the essentials: ID, insurance card, cash, any kind of notification about allergies, emergency numbers in case of…well…an emergency, and if at all possible, a refillable debit card. This way if your card gets stolen, the thief only gets away with whatever was on it and not your account information. (Alert to my League players out there, American Express has a sweet League of Legends debit card. Mine has Teemo on it and I use it for conventions only. It’s awesome).
The final step to your packing should always involve food and drinks. I suggest oatmeal or cereal (if your hotel has a free breakfast, take advantage of it!), granola bars, protein shakes, dried fruit, nuts and TONS of water. Eating during a convention is essential, not only for enjoying it but for surviving it. I’ve known many a con-goer who has forgotten to eat and ended up having their whole day nosedive from the hunger pangs taking them down, myself included. Being hungry can lead to stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, fatigue, general crabbiness and a few other things that I’m not sure that I can mention here without making someone queasy. Let’s just say it’s not pleasant. Learn from my mistake and drink those protein shakes. Little side tip for buying water: get enough travel bottles for the amount of people you’ll be hydrating then get the gallons to refill them. It ends up being cheaper in the long run.
There you have it! A small guide for getting ready to go out there and be all the nerd you can be! And for those of you who Cosplay, don’t worry, a special guide for you is coming up soon!