How to Survive a Con

With just about every town having its own comic/fan convention these days, “con season” is becoming a year-round adventure, but it’s still something I associate with the summer. Perhaps that’s because the largest convention of them all – San Diego Comic Con – is held every July, or because that’s when our local Awesome Con (which kicks off tomorrow!) occurs. But regardless of when your convention is held, it can be overwhelming, no matter how many times (or events) you’ve attended. 

The Mysterious Mr. C and I had a rough idea of what we were getting ourselves into with our first visit to Awesome Con last year, but there were still a few key “lessons learned” that we’re implementing this time around. As such, I wanted to share them in case you found them helpful too!

1. Go for the Duration of the Con

Not everyone’s schedule or wallet will allow them to attend all three or four days of a particular convention, but if you can swing it, I highly recommend that you go to as much of the con as possible. While this is mostly to make sure that you can take advantage of all of the panels and fully scope out Artists’ Alley, I also think it’s helpful in terms of getting the lay of the land.

Last year for my birthday, C got us tickets to Awesome Con and we headed over to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center after work on the Friday it opened. Though there was one DC vs. Marvel panel that I wanted to check out, we mostly went to pick up our packets and check things out so we had a sense of what to do the following day when things were a lot more crowded.

We found this scouting trip to be supremely helpful and will likely be using a similar tactic for any other multi-day conventions that we attend!

2. Do Your Homework

Walking around the convention center will definitely help you get your bearings, but it’s also important to do your homework too and read through the convention’s programming schedule, as well as the rules and regulations about what you can and can’t bring. This bit is even more critical for cosplayers, especially first-timers.

Multi-day cons are full of activities – from table-top games to celebrity meet-and-greets to panels on a whole variety of things. And more often than not, the things on your “must do” list will overlap. As such, it’s helpful to have a sense of when and where everything’s going down. That way, you can make sure you’re in line well ahead of whatever panel you just have to see, or skip it for something else if the queue is too long.

3. Be Comfortable!

One of the things that shocked C and I last year was the fact that the convention center where Awesome Con is held is absolutely massive! I mean, it looks big from the outside, but when you get inside, you realize that there is just as much space underground, if not more! While I’m pretty confident that we were both already planning on rocking our tennis shoes this weekend, this is a good reminder to make comfort a key part of your wardrobe picks!

Also, pack layers. I know that can sound a little strange when it’s 80 degrees outside, but the convention centers can be cold. One of the other things I remember the most about Awesome Con 2015 was how frozen I got during some of the panels – even some of the moderators complained! So do as the Boy Scouts do and be prepared for anything.

4. Pack Snacks

Though the convention center does have some interesting food options, the heavy, salty, and generally unhealthy meals do become a drag after a little while. And with C and I having just completed another round of the Whole 30, neither one of us is looking to throw away all of that hard work this weekend! As such, we will be packing some snack bags full of things like grapes, baby carrots, celery sticks, and – my personal favorite – green and red bell pepper strips to help get us through the days.

On a related note, if you’re attending a con in a new city or an area you’re unfamiliar with, do some scouting of nearby eateries as well. They may be crowded with other convention goers looking for additional choices, but at least you’ll have a sense of what’s nearby if you just can’t handle another order of chicken fingers and fries!

5. Have Fun!

This is the most important part of any convention, and can sometimes get lost in the hubbub. You will be surrounded by likeminded enthusiasts and there truly is no better place to let your geek flag fly! That said, cons can be intimidating. Or at least I know my first con was for me. For example, I had plans to take pictures of all the amazing cosplayers that I saw for a wrap-up post, but I got scared about asking their permission and just kept my mouth shut and my phone hidden. I also passed on a few art pieces that seemed too expensive at the time, but which I have spent the past year thinking about.

While you can easily blow your budget at conventions, if you see something that really speaks to you, go for it! And most cosplayers love to have their pictures taken, so if you see an absolutely incredible design, go ahead and ask. Don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

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