You’ve heard about “cons” and you’re finally ready to dive in and give one a go. This is a great time of year for it, with everything from the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con on June 23-25 to the “grandfather” of them all Comic-Con International: San Diego on July 20-23 and all manner of other cons across the country. But if it’s your first time, there are some things you should keep in mind to make sure you have the best possible experience.
Rule number one of attending any con is to plan ahead. Sure, you know when and where to go, but consider buying your ticket (known at cons as a badge) early via the convention website to avoid at least one line. Checking the con’s website is the best place to find all the info you need about ticket pricing (single vs multi-day), schedule of events (panels), list of vendors/exhibitors and celebrity appearances. They also often have information on general location so you can plan your route to get there, find places to eat or check area hotels for deals and packages.
Know the Rules & Layout
It’s best to read the con guidelines before you get there (on the website), but they are typically included in the on-site program as well. Every con is different when it comes to what you’re allowed to bring in (size of bag, food, etc.), acceptable attire (which sometimes depends on the time of day/night), props/weapons policy (primarily for cosplayers), accessibility issues and other matters. You might find info about special photo shoots as well, both with celebrities and for cosplay. And check out the map so you can see where everything is located, where you want to head first, where the ATMs are… and the location of restrooms.
Take the Essentials
Comfortable clothing and shoes are a must for all the walking you’ll be doing. Plus, bring an easy-to-carry bag or backpack that you can stash some water and snacks in (protein-based snacks like nuts or jerky are great, energy bars, trail mix or even fruit), with room to spare for the loot you’ll be buying (pursuant to the guidelines, as noted above). And don’t forget a camera, cell phone… and portable charger (there’s no guarantee you’ll find an outlet or charging station when you need one)!
The vendor hall will have more items you want to buy than you ever imagined, including exclusives and artwork that you won’t find anywhere else – but it’s going to cost you. Plus, celebrity autographs and photo opportunities are seldom free. (Note: vendors and celebs sometimes only take cash, but even when plastic is an option, cash is quicker!) Then there are parking or transportation fees and the cost of food (because you will need more than just a snack). Plus, there are incidentals and unexpected things like buying a phone charger because you forgot yours or needing bandages for the blisters (and a new pair of shoes).
- Maneuverability – make sure you can walk through crowds comfortably without inconveniencing people or knocking things over
- Temperature – even if there’s a/c, costumes can get hot and makeup can run
- Durability – you’ll likely get crushed by the crowd, so make sure your costume can stand up to it
- Repairs – not everything will survive, so keep a repair kit handy for emergency fixes
- Rules – as noted above, read the guidelines for dress code and weapons/props policies
If you’re there to enjoy the cosplay, remember “cosplay is not consent”. Obviously, this covers nonconsensual touching of costumes (and the people in them), but also applies to photos. Sure, random crowd photos are fine, but if you spot a cosplayer you want a pic of (or with), ask nicely. They’ll probably even strike a pose for you!
You Can’t Do It All
Regardless of the size of convention or how many days you attend, you probably won’t be able to see and do it all. Check the schedule of events and appearances as early as possible and prioritize so you won’t miss what’s most important to you. (Seriously, write out a list or save a memo to your phone with the things you don’t want to miss at the top, down to things you’d like to see but aren’t as important.) Keep in mind that doing things back-to-back is often impossible because of wait time – popular appearances or panels will have lines forming an hour or more ahead of time. And keep logistics in mind – you can’t be in two places at once, nor can you leave one panel and get into one on the other side of the building instantaneously.
Being prepared and keeping these tips in mind will help you get the most out of your first convention experience. And it becomes second nature the more cons you attend. There will be lots of walking and standing in lines, crowds of people and more to see and do than you thought possible. But it’s all so much fun!
We would love to hear what you think! Did we miss anything? What was your first con experience like? Share in the comments below, tweet us (@GeekWatchOne) or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) – we might even mention you on an upcoming episode!