It has been a wild few years, but cons are making a comeback, and with it – people are venturing to said cons.
Whether you’ve never been to a con, or you’ve been to twenty – there’s always new things to learn. So I’m going to share with you some of the tips, tricks, and generalized advice I’ve absorbed after several years of con-going.
1.) Consider having a designated con bag. This has been an ever evolving journey for me, but I’ve fallen in love with the last con bag I purchased – a ThinkGeek Bag of Holding messenger bag. It’s been my companion for cons for 5 or 6 years now and going strong. But, why should you have a designated con bag? Easy – it’s going to be your life saver. Now, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy like mine – a backpack or messenger bag could work just fine! But something to keep any printed photo op tickets, purchases, snacks, water, chargers, etc in will come in handy – trust me.
2.) Consider investing in a Comic Stor-Folio. If you’re taking comic books to get signed, or plan to buy any at the con, then this is definitely going to save you from a lot of unnecessary stress. I did a full review post about the benefits of a Comic Stor-Folio here, if you’re interested!
Order a Comic Stor-Folio here using my affiliate link!
3.) Stay organized and plan your day. I usually have a map of the convention floor that I analyze strategically the week leading up to con. I go over the schedule of panel times, photo op times, costume contest, etc. I have a small accordion file that I use to keep things organized for myself and usually my group – a slot for my tickets, one for my photo ops separate, a slot for everyone else’s tickets, their photo ops, maps and schedules, etc. I’m VERY organized, and it’s something I’ve picked up after my first two cons were a tad chaotic. It’s much easier to know you have everything sorted and ready, so you can spend more time focused on all the fun your day entails.
4.) Celebrities: are they worth it? Excellent question I receive a lot. People seem to be very split down the middle about this. Some people like to argue cons that are celebrity focused are a waste and trying to drain fans of their money, perpetuate the ‘celebrity worship’ mentality, and that they’re missing the point of the con entirely. Some people think the celebrity guests are a great way for fans to get to meet and connect with some of their idols, especially in cases where the celebrity has made a huge difference in their life somehow. Where do I stand on the subject? I walk the line, really. I think that con can be about BOTH things – meeting heroes, and being surrounded by your fellow geeks. I partake in both the geek community aspect as well as the celebrity stuff. I browse the vendors and artists, geek-out with others that enjoy my fandoms, and check out the awesome cosplays. But I can’t deny I’ve met some heroes via con and made connections that I never could have had otherwise. In my opinion – if you can meet your hero, do it. Not everyone will have time to spend forever talking to you, but the ones that can will make the entire experience worthwhile.
5.) Decide what you want signed beforehand. This may sound like a no brainer, and it honestly goes pretty hand-in-hand with staying organized, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize there are usually 8×10 photos available (along with other merch, occasionally) at celebrity signing tables. But some do charge different fees depending on what is being signed. For comic guests, it isnt uncommon for the artists and writers (etc) to have copies of their work for sale in some capacity. Artists even tend to have prints. But if you want your favorite issue of a comic signed – make sure you bring it with you.
6.) Pack appropriately. DO bring important papers – like tickets. Bring important things – ID, money, water bottle, bandaids, etc. Do not bring more than you are comfortable carrying around all day. While some things may seem like a wise choice to bring along at the time, they can get cumbersome after a few hours of hauling them around. Be kind to your body, and don’t bring too much extra.
7.) Dress comfortably, but embrace your fandom. This is really up to you, but I think if you’re going in casual attire instead of cosplaying at the con, then you should be embracing your fandom(s). You are among your nerdy brethren! I like to plan fandom shirts based on what I’m doing for the day, but you can wear what you see fit. Another tip, also if you aren’t cosplaying – wear comfy shoes. Seriously. I know your super awesome heels SEEM like a good idea, but they won’t be an hour or so in. For me? Converse all the way. Preferably Batman Converse. Ooooh yeeeah.
8.) If you get an art print with a plastic sleeve – keep it! I know this sounds like a weird thing to some people, but you wouldn’t believe how many people end up buying plastic sleeves to hold art/prints/autographs/photo ops. I learned at my first con, when one of the first prints I bought came with a sleeve, that this was a handy thing to have. I could easily fit any 11×17 sized prints (very, very common at conventions, from what I’ve noticed) as well as anything smaller – such as the 8×10 from photo ops, autographs, etc. So, SO helpful. And a lot of people kept asking me where I found them, so I wasn’t alone in thinking they were pretty handy.
9.) Art portfolios can be lifesavers. Similar to the plastic sleeve to keep photos, autographs, art, etc safe, taking an art portfolio along with you to store prints in is a great idea. You can unload your haul into it at the end of the day and leave it in your hotel, keeping your pretty new prints safe. Especially if you’re like me and buy way too much art every single time.
10.) Extra bag for con purchases. This is purely a leave in the hotel thing for me, so I have something to put all my new goodies into. I’m a collector – it isn’t unlikely I’ll be buying figures, statues, etc. If you’re driving, something as simple as a large shopping bag works. Flying? Consider packing an extra bag you can check on your way home.
11.) Bring a portable battery/charger. I use Halo portable battery packs, usually. I run down my phone during the day, so this is an easy way for me to keep it from dying.
12.) Bring cash. This is easy enough. You want an autograph? Cash. A lot of vendors? Cash only. Yes, there are ATMs, but trust me. Going in prepared with your cash is much, much simpler. Plus, you can avoid ATM fees.
13.) Don’t be defeated by your own thirst/hunger. I deal with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks my moisture producing glands, so I have to have some means of drinking water throughout the day. I try to remember a water bottle or keep track of every single water fountain in the convention center. Keep a water bottle handy, and a few light snacks in case you get hungry. While every con I’ve been to has had concession stands of some form to eat at, I usually only tried to do that once a day, if I needed to. Why spend extra money on corndogs that you could spend on sweet nerd stuff?
14.) Take precautions to prevent Con Crud. Catching an illness around crowds has been a big topic for obvious reasons the last two years. But even before that, Con Crud was a thing many of us complained about getting after cons. Usually some form of cold, it can be prevented through similar protocols that we’ve all learned and adapted: wash your hands (duh), sanitize, don’t go to cons if your sick, masks, etc.
15.) Don’t spend all of your money right away. I’m still trying to master this one. Unless you run into something one-of-a-kind, or your holy grail for your collection at the most unbelievable price – try to show some restraint until you’ve properly scanned the show floor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve over spent and then found something I wanted desperately – after going broke.
That’s it for now, folks! Feel free to drop questions in the comments, or let me know if you found anything helpful!