Preparing for a Con 101

I feel like there are a lot of posts out there about cons that include recaps, panels, cosplay, etc., but going to these cons takes preparation and it’s not often touched upon.  So I’m sharing some wisdom I’ve learned over the past 5-6 years of conning that could help newbies and experienced con goers prepare for a comic con.

 

First Timers

I have two main pieces of advice for first time con goers: 1) Plan your time wisely, and 2) Don’t worry about how you dress.

Agenda

Buy your tickets in advance.  Some places say they may have tickets available at the door, but I wouldn’t suggest that unless it’s a small con that is really only catered towards the locals.

If this is your first con, I wouldn’t suggest going all out.  My biggest piece of advice to first timers is to look at the agenda before going and figure out a schedule.

If it’s a large con like San Diego, Celebration, or NYCC, be prepared to wait in line.  A lot.  You probably are only going to see 2-3 panels at most in one day.

In between waiting in line for 2+ hours for a panel that could be only 45 minutes, you’ll need to eat and sometimes it can also be a pain to find food at these places as well.  You can either buy in the convention center, which might also have a line, or outside the convention center which depending on where it’s located, you may need to do some exploring.  I’ve found the larger conventions often have food trucks, but those lines can be quite long and crazy as well.  Way back when (I sound old), they used to let you bring in snacks and your own drinks but I’ve begun to realize that some of them are starting to crack down.  It’s really not fun when you bring food and drinks in a backpack, only to have them throw away all your Chex Mix and water (waaaaaaa!).

One of the lines at SWCA (back when I had completely brown hair!)

One of the lines at SWCA (back when I had completely brown hair!)

I also suggest First Timers check out the exhibit hall.  No matter what kind of convention, you can almost always find something unique and different in the exhibit hall.  One of my favorite trinkets was from ConnectiCon where I bought these cute little Mario Kart keychains for my siblings and I.  I also got some delicious Dr. Who tea at Rhode Island Comic Con.

You can see why I say first timers should really plan out their day(s) well.  If you aren’t used to a con, it can be quite exhausting and before you know it – it’s time to leave and you didn’t get to see everything you were hoping to.

Dress

At my first cons, I only wore Star Wars shirts.   I still do sometimes when I want to “dress down”, but I think it’s more fun wearing a shirt with your allegiance/passion than attempting something more elaborate.  Once you have the rundown of cons and are a more experienced con goer, you’ll have a better idea of cosplay if you want to go that route and you’ll begin to make connections in that group to help get you started.

Keep it simple in the beginning so you can get into your groove.  Wearing something that shows your passion also helps spark conversations between people in line and you can make great memories that way.  Don’t be afraid to chat it up!  Most people waiting in line are just as bored as you are.

 

Not Your First Rodeo

I would not call myself an experienced con goer (now that I’ve had my little Jedi, I haven’t been to any cons this year, sadness), but I’m definitely not a newbie anymore either.  I cosplay occasionally in my Old Republic Jedi Knight outfit, which I guess may put me in a more intense category.

I created a “con packing list” for when I go to cons because I have forgotten things too many times, separated on whether or not they are day trips or I have to travel for them.

Day Cons

I classify “day cons” as cons that you can drive to and back from within a day.  Though you may go over multi-days, you don’t need to stay overnight in a hotel.  My day trip list consists of:

  • Convention pass. Don’t forget it.  I never have but really.  Don’t forget it…that’s why it’s on my list.  It’s one of those things you say to yourself, Cosplay is not consent“I’d never forget it,” and then you show up without it.
  • Backpack. I have a drawstring backpack with the Battlestar Galactica logo where I keep random things.  It’s also great for anything I buy there, but please note – I do not use my backpack when I cosplay unless I have no other choice.  Usually my friend who comes with me takes his backpack and is nice enough to let me store some stuff in there if I decide to cosplay.
  • Water and granola bars. Like I mentioned, some places are cracking down unfortunately, but I still try to get away with it.  You’re going to get hungry!!
  • Glasses. This is more personal to myself, but I hate contacts and glasses mess up my cosplay if I wear them all the time.  Yet I want to be able to see the panelists so I have to bring them separately.  Though the glasses might not apply to you, it’s similar to thinking about where to store your car keys, wallet, etc., if you cosplay.
  • Travel brush/touch up face paint. I wear my hair down a lot so throughout the day, my hair gets tangled.  The mini brush comes in use so that I can make my hair look great again, especially if there are photos!  This is the equivalent of someone who has painted their face for their character.  Instead of a brush, they would need to bring touch up paint because you do tend to sweat if you’re wearing a heavy costume.

Out-of-State Cons

Traveling for cons is a headache in and of itself.  There’s so much more to think about on top of your normal clothes and toiletries.

  • Convention pass. See above.
  • Oversized cosplay accessories and getting it to the con. I realized my error when I was packing for Celebration and my lightsaber blade would not fit in my suitcase.  I was so sure it would…but, nope, too long.  I had to leave it behind and only go with my hilt which was a bit of a bummer. But any kind of oversized accessory usually needs separate packaging to be checked in on the plane or shipped directly to the convention.
  • Makeup and/or facepaint. This is a given, but can be easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of getting ready.  If you are going as a character like Darth Maul, can you imagine if you forgot the iconic black and red facepaint?
  • Costume(s) and shoes. I mean, duh, but it’s on my list anyway.  For some reason I tend to forget the shoes, so I like to have that on the list.
  • One “dress down” outfit. I know a lot of people who cosplay a different outfit every day of the con, but I like to have one “off” day where I’m more relaxed.  In that case, I bring a Star Wars shirt, jeans, and sneakers to explore the con.

ricc-2015-gotsw

There you have it.  Conning 101.  I hope this helps someone along their Internet netherworld travels!

If you are interested in finding cons near you, a good place to start would be Eventbrite.  You can find events and comic cons in your area by searching keywords and by your location.

Did I forget anything?  Give me a shout-out if I’m missing a key thing here!

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6 thoughts on “Preparing for a Con 101

  1. This is awesome and very helpful. I wish I had known about cons growing up. I”m sure they were around but as an adult who grew up just before the internet caught on, I didn’t have access to this information.

    I’m sure there are clever ways to hide disguise your rations if needed. Perhaps an empty saline bottle could hold emergency water.

    • You know… There were definitely cons but I don’t think there are near as many. I think the Internet did help tons. I mean, the first star wars convention was in 1987 (I think) and it was fairly small. The next one didn’t take place until 1999 when TPM came out. I noticed conning really began to pick up in the early 2000s.

      I’m glad you found this helpful!

  2. I’ve been thinking I might want to go to a con sometime, but honestly they sound a bit terrifying. Maybe next year I can convince myself to go to a local one. I’m sure it would be fun, and I’m a good planner haha, but the prospect of being around so many people is intimidating.

    • It’s one of those weird things though where you can be with tons of people and still feel alone. People are friendly but it also depends on if they’re with a bunch of friends, etc. I remember nycc was actually really lonely. The ppl in line weren’t too friendly either.

      I say give it a shot! If only to say you’ve done it once. I thought you were going to try to go to celebration next year?

        • That would be funny if it was your first con only because it’s SO big. It was actually my first con too in 2002…back before I even knew it was a con. All I knew was that it was a gathering of people who loved star wars and actors from the movies would be there. I remember being totally surprised when I showed up at the immensity of it. At least you won’t have that problem since you’re not 15 and know what conventions are lol

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