My wonderful boyfriend and I will be attending Anime Weekend Atlanta 2015 in September. This isn’t our first convention (it’s actually my third together with him), but it is the first one we’ll be cosplaying at! Needless to say, we are both excited and have been planning like crazy. The purpose of this post is to pass on our wisdom and tips to make the most of your experience at your first convention, whether you cosplay or not.
Before the con:
- SAVE. SAVE. SAVE. Save all the things! (Mostly money.) This money is for the badges to get into the convention, hotel stay, costume(s), food, travel expenses, and of course to buy things at the convention. Give yourself a healthy budget for all these things.
- Buy/make your costume if you plan to cosplay at the convention. It’s best to allow time for shipping, altering, and any unexpected issues you might run into as you create your costume. You need to order your costume a few months in advance, or you may have been working on this epic costume for 6 months already so this step is way too late in the game for you. For example, my boyfriend and I are buying our costumes. The seller I’m purchasing from has a timeline of 23 days for processing and shipping or your money back. This may taking longer than the initial 23 days, BUT we have about 3 months until the convention. This is plenty of time for the costumes to come in and get altered. Stay tuned for this cosplay post!
- Scope out the convention’s website for when passes will be on sale, it’s time, location, rules and hotels they recommend nearby. Keep a notebook to write down all information including addresses, prices, email addresses, and phone numbers. Please follow all of their rules! They are in place for a good reason!
- Buy your badges! The sooner the better. Most conventions will have an “early bird special” online for so long before the badges go to regular price. This is a chance to SAVE. You can buy on their website for awhile before you’ll only be able to buy your badges at the door. Sometimes the website will offer to mail your badges to you for a fee. This will save you time from standing in line to get your badges when you arrive (which you might be doing for an hour or two depending on how large the convention is). Save time versus save money. I chose to save time this go around. This way we can go straight into the convention to grab photos and check out everything that’s going on.
- Book your hotel room(s). I usually check out the hotel the convention is taking place at first. See what deals you can find here. The sooner, the better because these rooms book up fast due to convenience (and you also save on driving to the convention since you’re already there!). Sometimes the convention’s website will also have deals for hotels nearby as well; check these out too. Then, do your own research.We found an awesome deal on a three-night stay in a nearby hotel within walking distance. Walking will save you gas if you can swing it. We walked to our second convention from the hotel, and it was super nice to do.
- Put together a meal plan. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Depending on where you’re staying, you may have the option to pre-make meals, pack them in a cooler and store them in your room in a fridge. Some hotels even feature a full kitchen so you could prepare your meals in your room. However, most hotels simply have a mini fridge or no fridge at all. This means you’ll likely be eating out for all of your meals. If you choose this option, make sure you budget for each meal every day you’ll be at the convention. Other ideas if your hotel room has a mini fridge: snacks that don’t have to be refrigerated, sandwich stuff (bread, lunch meat, convenience packages of condiments, peanut butter, etc.), milk, cereal, etc.
- Pack! Pack what you need and leave room for new toys and loot! Pack according to the weather; these conventions get hot, so it’s in between hot and cold, back to be cool while at the convention. Wear comfortable shoes; there’s a ton of walking!
During the con:
- Set up your hotel room upon arrival. This will save you so much time while cosplaying, shopping, making it to panels on time, and whatever else you have planned at the convention. What I mean by “setting up” your room is this: put your clothes in the closets/dressers provided, lay out costumes & wigs, put away all food, plug in chargers, and make sure cellphones, cameras, etc. are all fully charged. Basically, have the room ready to be lived in and slept in so you can enjoy the convention scene without searching through bags for a phone charger and hyperventilating when you can’t find it and your phone is at 1%, not that I did that…
- Pick up the itinerary; you’ll need it. This little brochure will have everything that is going on at the convention with times and locations. Plan accordingly! You can’t be in two or three places at once so pick all the cool things you want to see and set timers on your phone. Allow for ten minutes to get through crowds and finishing purchases. Or have a designated person keep an eye on the time to get your group to each panel/show/whatever!
- Keep hydrated! Keep bottles of water in a backpack to keep you and your friends from getting dehydrated and cranky.
- Keep a photo ID’s/money/valuables close by or to a minimum while out and about. Some panels will require a photo ID (but don’t forget you need it to pick up your badge the first day of the convention!), otherwise you should probably keep it back at the hotel room. Don’t bring any jewelry that has sentimental/monetary value with you to the convention. If you have to have it, leave it at the hotel room! If it gets lost or stolen, you may not ever see it again. As far as money goes, bring cash and allot yourself an amount per day and keep it on your person or secured in a backpack/purse that you keep with you at all times. Don’t bring your debit or credit cards. Most sellers in the artist alley and dealer’s room can’t take them anyway. Technology is starting to make small appearances in some of these transactions (iPads with card readers), better safe than sorry! Plus you may have really wanted that stuffed Pikachu, and the seller couldn’t take your card and you have to leave empty handed. Sad day.
- Keep yourself clean/deodorized. Being this is your first convention, you have not smelled the con-funk yet. But you will. On the first day. So shower daily, two or three times if you need to. Keep your cosplay and wig clean and smelling fresh. Keep some deodorant in your bag and reapply in the restrooms. I’m SO not kidding. Keep some mints on hand as well. You don’t want to meet awesome people, cosplayers, singers, and actors with smelly breath. You will see employees spraying Lysol after smelly con-goers to try to keep the con-funk down, but do your part and keep yourself clean and smelling good. On another note: don’t drown yourself in perfumes and colognes. This can be just as bad as con-funk!
- Bring sanitizer. On top of con-funk, you can also catch con-colds. That’s not fun for you or your group if someone winds up with a con-cold. Bring hand sanitizer and use it! A LOT. Some con-goers recommend Emergen-C tablets to keep sickness at bay.
- Respect everyone’s personal space. This is a long one to cover… Basically, try not to get into anyone’s bubble while in a line or in a panel. Sometimes it’s truly unavoidable and you have to be super close together in a crowd. Don’t try to squeeze past people to jump in front of a line; it’s rude and everyone will be giving you the stink-eye. Politely wait your turn, make conversation, play on your DS (with sound off), play on your phone (with sound off), or find something else to pre-occupy your time with annoying those around you who are also politely waiting.While taking pictures with other people, use common sense: don’t grope, pinch, or put your hand on anyone with expressed permission. This is unwanted interaction and sexual harassment. No one being in costume gives you the right to touch them.
- Take lots of pictures, but ask permission. While con-goers can be super sweet and nice, there are those that are downright appalling when it comes to being respectful of others. When taking pictures of cosplayers, just simply ask if you can get a photo of them or with them. If you’re taking a photo with someone, ask if you can put your arm around them, hold their hand, pose, or whatever it is that you want to do with them. Or just stand there beside them like I did haha! If they say no, respect that and move on. If you ever feel like you’re being harassed, inform one of the employees; they’ll have special arm bands and badges. You can’t miss them.
- Don’t buy all your stuff on day one. There’s always a huge sale on Sunday in the dealer’s room. Save some money here! Unless you NEED it, I would wait a little while on the item in question. Also, bring a list of must-have items to the convention to stay on budget.
After the con:
- Take time to pack all of your belongings. Make a checklist if you need to! You don’t want to forget anything.
- Put all new toys and loot in bags. You don’t want all your new things rolling around in the car so pack them away.
- Double check, triple check all of your things before leaving the hotel!
- Enjoy your new loot, photos and memories and prepare for next year, now that you are totally hooked on conventions!