And now for the geeky part of my blog! I decided to write a post on convention travel! I’ll be covering some of my favourite convention tips, do-s and don’t-s, some must see places around some of the more well known conventions and how to get a few minutes of rest in between all the crazy!!
I have been to conventions around the Western world, both as a fan or as part of an entourage and this blog post is design to share with you some of the things I have learned along the way.
Schedule – it doesn’t matter if you’re attending the convention as a fan or as part of someone’s entourage, knowing the schedule is key to a successful convention. Most conventions will release their schedules within a set period of time. Some will have apps, which are great if you want to co-ordinate with others, Dragon*Con in Atlanta, for example. Others will post their schedules to their websites the week of the convention for you to print out or jot down important times and places. Schedules are a must for working out where you need to be and when, but and there is a but here, schedules are subject to last minute change, so if you do find that panel you wanted to go to suddenly clashes with the photo op you’ve already paid for, unfortunately there’s not a lot you’re going to be able to do, except perhaps make it to only part of the panel instead of the whole thing, depending on queuing.
WHAT SHOULD I PACK FOR THE CONVENTION?
First and foremost on any list should be a bag that is ideally going to carry everything you need but is small enough that it’s not going to get in your way. Don’t forget you’ll also probably want to put anything you want to buy in there too. This is going to make it a little more difficult to work out the size, and why my sister and I are currently eyeing up ThinkGeek’s various BAGS OF HOLDING and my sister is praying they come up with a wheelchair version.
If you’re like me and you want to make sure you look good for the photos, I usually pack a MINI BRUSH and MIRROR in one, DRY SHAMPOO, PHOTO FINISH POWDER, LIP BALM and WIPES. as well as HAND SANITIZER because with all those people, con crud galore and the con blues are already bad enough, picking up con crud together with that is never fun.
DEODORANT, because no one wants to hug a sweaty mess, but be considerate with it. If you can, pack a roll-on. It’s easier to carry, won’t destroy your bag, and you’re less likely to set off someone else’s asthma in the restroom.
SHARPIES, you can never have enough sharpies, and from experience, when a guest’s sharpies just don’t want to work, or they’ve run out of the particular colour you wanted using on that item from home, it’s far better to already have a working one in your bag.
POWERBANK – conventions are notorious for draining battery power on mobile devices. Even if you can’t get a signal (which lets face it, at a lot of conventions you can’t because too many people are trying at once, or you’re in a building that just won’t let those signals bounce through, or the wifi is ridiculously slow, you’ll still need your phone or tablet for a million different things like checking the schedule and taking photos, jotting down people’s twitter handles, facebook names, etc. I usually carry one that has approximately three charges on it when full and charge it each night of the convention to ensure that I have a full phone battery each day.
SEWING KIT / EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT – because you never know. A needle and thread, a few safety pins, a small pair of sewing scissors, and any cosplayer has the right kit to do some emergency repairs to their costume. A few bandaids, some antiseptic cream, and wipes, and you’re pretty much set to go on the first aid front.
If you can, WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES, or at least pack them in your bag for when your cosplay ones get too much. Queues that go on for hours, stairs that you’ve traipsed up and down repeatedly, all make for sore feet and legs and comfortable shoes like a decent pair of sneakers can make all the difference.
WATER, WATER AND MORE WATER – I know it’s tempting to go nuts on the coffee and I have to admit my usual attitude is ALL THE COFFEE but make sure you know your limit or you’ll just feel worse the next day. I can’t stress this one enough, drink plenty of WATER, make sure you have a bottle with you, preferably a reusable one because we all love Mother Earth, and because we all love saving money on the ridiculous cost of plastic bottles filled with Her most precious resource.
MUESLI BARS are live savers – ideal snacks to boost your energy levels, they fit in your bag, and they can also count as a quick and easy lunch when the queues are just too massive and you don’t have time on the go to grab one, I wouldn’t suggest doing it every day, but it’s worth remembering.
A MINI FAN, because it can get hot at conventions, especially in the summer.
CAMERA – and along with it, memory cards and batteries. You aren’t going to have anywhere to charge your battery at the convention so remember back ups, and memory cards will ensure that if you run out of space on the one you’re using, you don’t run out of opportunities to take more photos. But remember as well to enjoy yourself and not just take photos all day.
CASH- Make sure you’ve got cash, lines at the ATMs are NUTS. And if you’ve had the chance, make sure you’ve got some small notes with you. Convention staff and vendors are forever grateful for things like fives (pounds or dollars), because no one ever seems to have them, and getting change is difficult, especially when you’re run off your feet. If you can take at least half your cash in smaller notes, you will make someone’s weekend.
Put your BADGE, LANYARD, or WRISTBAND, somewhere you won’t lose it! That doesn’t mean it has to go around your neck or wrist, but make sure it’s attached and VISIBLE to convention staff at all times. I have a habit of attaching mine to belt loops on jeans, or a bag I’m carrying with me all the time. That way it doesn’t irritate my skin, but it’s always readily accessible.
A PLASTIC FOLDER to keep your autographs, photo ops and other memorabilia in, It won’t get damaged and there’s less chance of losing them when they’re all safe in one place.
Your GEEKY/NERDY-NESS and an OPEN MINDED ATTITUDE we are all there to make friends and geek out over the things we love. Not to judge each other and create even more troubles in this world. Aside from that let’s not forget RESPECT, not just for your fellow con goers but for the guests and crew as well. Let’s keep in mind we are all human beings and there to celebrate something we all love and appreciate!
So you’ve traveled half-way around the world to meet your favourite actors, writers, artists and make new friends but don’t you want to explore a little of the area you’re in too? No matter what convention I go to I always make sure I have at least one day to just explore the city I am in, which is a nice balance to being in a convention hall for a full weekend surrounded by people and noise, exploring a new city brings rest and inspiration (at least for me)
Here’s a few examples…
If you go to a convention in Toronto like Fan Expo which was one of my first and still favourite cons, there’s so much to explore… you can take a bus tour around the city, go to the Royal Ontario Museum to check out one of the many amazing exhibits they have on or take the ferry and explore Toronto Island while getting some great shots of the Toronto Skyline!
London has LOADS of sci fi conventions BUT it also has loads of history and is one of those cities that has something for everyone. Take a Harry Potter walking tour, go see a play, check out the Natural History Museum or the TATE or one of London’s many other museums, walk along the Southbank, discover London’s history by walking tour with the awesome Richard! Take a bus tour, go to the park for a day, there’s so much to do, and taking that extra day is SO WORTH IT!
Hawaii, there’s a convention called HawaiiCon and it’s been on my bucket list for YEARS. If you are planning on going I’d definitely recommend you sign up for a Quest Retreat with Pat Tallman which is run alongside the convention AND some of the guests join the group on the adventures…… Also do I really have to mention the BEACH and the beautiful nature that is part of Hawaii?
Vancouver is location to a LOT of sci fi shows and has lately started being the home to a lot more conventions, now I have a blog post about Vancouver coming up but in the meantime, there’s loads of things you can do in Vancouver, go to one of the beaches, go for a hike, go for sushi because seriously Vancouver has some of the best sushi! You can go for a shopping spree around Gastown and Granville. Find all the locations from your favourite tv show, and my personal favourite, go to Deep Cove!
San Diego, SDCC is absolutely crazy, the whole area is full of people and I can imagine if you want to get away from that! San Diego has so many amazing things next to the convention so after the con wind down by going hiking (yes you’ve been walking around the convention but just think of all the fresh air and space you’ll have!) Balboa Park is a great way to start or if that’s not your thing, why not have a lazy day at one of San Diego’s beautiful beaches.
New York – New York Comic Con is another big one, but let’s not forget the fact you’re in the Big Apple! For a bit of nature explore Central Park, or for a birds eye view of the city, get to the top of either Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building (personally I prefer the Rockefeller Center observation deck! Or visit the Statue of Liberty and take the boat to Ellis Island. Visit the South Street Sea Port and why not take one of the many filming location tours or visit 30 Rockefeller Center for a tour of the studios.
Atlanta – Dragon*Con is one of the biggest conventions in the US, and the biggest in the South. With tens of thousands of convention goers heading to the Peachtree Avenue area of Downtown Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, you’re sure to see more than one or two of your favourite cosplay characters. People even come in just to watched the famed Saturday Dragon*Con Cosplay Parade! But outside of the convention, there’s the World of Coca-Cola which is a family themed museum, the Atlanta Zoo, Underground Atlanta shopping experience, which truly is a unique look at old world Atlanta, housing things like one of the fifty gas lamps erected in 1856 by the Atlanta Gas Light Company. Also on your trip through downtown Atlanta, why not see if you can spot some The Walking Dead season one shooting locations?
No matter what city your convention is in, there’s always something to explore outside the convention centre! I’d love to hear your own suggestions.