Convention season never really ends, but with C2E2 and WonderCon within the last couple of months, it feels like we’re only at the beginning. Naturally, attending any kind of convention takes a little preparation. Sure, you can just show up with your tiny purse or without the extra memory card for your camera, but the cool kids are prepared. Besides being organized, there are some important points about basic comfort to keep in mind when you head off to a convention. You should treat it like you’re going to a theme park. Lots of walking, potential for multiple long lines, and expensive food and water. I’ve been to a few conventions, and I’ve picked up some tips along the way. I pass this knowledge to you, Padawans. These pointers apply to most any type of gathering held at a convention center but especially crowded comic conventions.
1. This is obvious, but wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be covering a lot of ground between the parking lot and laps around the convention. Keep this mind if you are going in costume. I have made the mistake of cosplaying in relatively short heels, and the resulting pain wasn’t worth it. Be smarter than me and at least carry an alternate pair of shoes for when your feet start aching.
2. Research the food options at and near the convention center. Some convention centers have a food court or are within walking distance of dozens of restaurants. Some conventions are so big (San Diego Comic-Con) that every place will have a line. Once you figure out how hard or easy it will be to get meals and snacks, plan accordingly. Having protein bars on hand to prevent a hunger-fueled anger can save the day (and also keep your friends from disliking you). Always have bottled water with you and drink it. Dehydration headaches are evil and very detrimental to your convention experience.
3. Stop and get cash before you get to the convention if at all possible. Even though cell phone credit card apps are becoming popular, a lot of the little guys only take cash. I can deal with the obnoxious fee, but the lines for the ATM at conventions can be scary. I recently watched people stand in line for over 20 minutes at WonderCon just to get money. If nothing else, check the surrounding area for additional ATMs.
4. Bring gum. Everyone will appreciate it.
5. If you think you’ll make purchases, bring a comfortable messenger bag. It’s easier to carry items in a roomy bag, and they’ll stay in better condition. If you want to be serious about it, take a few books with you when you purchase the bag and test it out. The people in the store might give you looks; just don’t act like you’re going to walk out with it. I take choosing bags for conventions very seriously because the right one can be with you a while. My current bag of choice came from an Army/Navy Surplus store.
6. Get organized ahead of time. Conventions can offer a variety of panels, and the dealer hall is often crowded with exhibitors. Peruse the convention’s website in advance and make special note of things/people you don’t want to miss. I usually print the map and schedule out ahead of time and attack it with a highlighter.
7. Bring an extra memory card, batteries, and chargers. It’s not a lot of extra weight to carry around, and you’ll be really annoyed if you have to walk to the hotel in the middle of the day just to charge your phone.
Now that you are prepared, what does one do at a convention other than walking around and buying stuff? Plenty. Most conventions have panels discussing a wide range of topics. At a recent comic convention I went to you could listen to talks on building droids, new comic releases, Star Wars crafts, psychology of superheroes and villains, among many others. There have been times when I could have easily spent the entire convention in panel rooms. You can also usually attend a masquerade, gaming sessions, and film screenings. Again, if it’s a big convention like San Diego Comic-Con, you can usually find events to attend that don’t require a convention badge. It’s hard to be bored at a convention, and if you are, try out a different convention next time!