Are you an anime geek? A comic book geek? How about a geek for one specific TV show that got unfairly canceled more than a decade ago? It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in. If you’re passionate about it, there’s probably at least one convention on your radar every year.
When conventions come to your city, you don’t have to think much about them. But if that convention is out of state, you’ll have to do some extra prep work to make sure you walk away with a good experience.
These are some of the best preparation and survival tips to make the most out of your out-of-state convention experience:
1. Research the venue. First, get to know the venue, inside and out. The last thing you want is a rude awakening when you can’t find its exact location or you’re not allowed in because of the details of your costume. Learn the location, and multiple ways to get there from your hotel. Learn the hours of operation, and if there are any security measures that restrict certain items or possessions from entering the premises. If you’re dedicated, you may even want to learn where your favorite vendors will be located once inside.
2. Find inexpensive accommodations. Conventions can be expensive, especially when you factor in travel costs. Hotels will book quickly when a convention is in town, and prices will spike the closer it gets to convention time. Find inexpensive accommodations by booking early, booking with multiple people, by staying with a friend in the area, or by couch surfing.
3. Make a plan to get plenty of sleep. Many people struggle to get a good night’s sleep when away from home, but if you wake up groggy, you won’t be able to enjoy your time at the convention. Make an action plan to get plenty of sleep while you’re away, such as going to bed earlier, avoiding caffeine, and investing in better sheets and pillows.
4. Understand the parking situation. If you plan on driving, make sure you understand the parking situation, both at the place you’re staying and at the convention itself. Do you have to pay? Can you get a pass? Are there restricted hours of operation? This is unfamiliar territory, so do your research in advance.
5. Learn the public transportation system. Public transportation will likely be cheaper than driving your car everywhere (or renting a car once you’re in the city). Get to know the public transportation system before you leave, and consider buying a transit pass in advance so that’s one less thing you have to do when you arrive.
6. Prepare your costume for travel and changing. If you plan to dress up in a costume, make sure yours is equipped with features that make it easier to carry around and change into. This is something you’ll likely be carrying on the bus, or walking around in for long periods of time, so make your costume design choices accordingly.
7. Travel together. It’s almost always better to travel with other people; it’s safer, it’s more reliable, and it’s more enjoyable. Plus, if anything goes wrong, you’ll have someone there to bail you out of the situation. Consider bringing at least one of your friends along for the trip, or contact other people traveling to the convention to make some new friends.
8. Have a plan for big items. If you plan on purchasing a couple of comic books at the convention, you won’t have to make much prep work. But if there’s a chance you’ll be purchasing statues, replicas, or large quantities of items, you’ll need a plan to carry those items home with you (especially if you’re relying on public transportation). Shipping them to your home address is always a valuable option to have as a backup plan, but you should still be prepared for that possibility.
9. Keep your money safe. Most convention vendors prefer cash transactions, but resist the temptation to carry around lots of cash with you. Instead, carry one or two credit cards to use as secondary lines of payment, and withdraw cash from ATMs only as necessary.
Making the Most of the City
Though you may be tempted to spend all day at the convention, then rest up at the hotel, try to find time in your schedule to explore the city. You’ll get far more out of the experience than you will in the confines of a convention center, and you’ll take advantage of already being within city limits. Do some research on top attractions within the city, and see if you can’t find time to hit them up before you leave.