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On The Road: Tips for Travelling Con-Goers

The start of convention season is upon us. Conventions will be opening their doors to the masses practically every weekend over the next 6 months. Many attendees plan their vacation schedule around the biggest and best conventions the world has to offer and with that comes the potential for a lot of travelling. So what are some things to keep in mind when you’re travelling to a con? I’ve got some tips and tricks to help make the trip smooth and enjoyable.

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Preparing

I cannot stress this enough: do your research! Don’t just go booking things without planning first. Ideally, start planning well before the passes go on sale. If you’re hoping to attend something immensely popular like the San Diego Comic Con, you need to be signed up with them before you can even buy tickets when they go on sale and keep in mind how fast passes can sell out. An event of that caliber can be sold out in minutes. Don’t get your hopes up and focus all your attention on only going to that one event. Keep an open mind as there are plenty of other amazing cons out there that bring in over 50k attendees a year and don’t sell out right away. Do some research of the area around the event centre as you’ll probably want to look at the various hotel options that put you close to the action without over-paying too much because of the popularity of the event. You also don’t want to be too far away from food or other amenities you’d like to have access to. It’s a bit of a balancing act, which is why early preparation is key. If you’re going with other people, be sure to give everyone ample time to save and plan.

Booking

So you know what event you’re going to, who you’re going with and how to get there. You’ve got some options on where to stay, where to eat, and if you have time, maybe some attractions you’d like to see. After all, it’s still a trip and you may not make it back to that city again. Now, you’ll need to review and find the best option for you and, if applicable, your group.  While normally it’s nice to save some money on the trip itself, so you have more to spend, the cheapest option may not always be the best. The most affordable option for a flight might mean arriving at 11 pm the night before the event starts and leaving at 1 am in the morning after the event ends. This leaves very little time for sleep, travel recovery, and exploration of the city. The cheapest option for a hotel might mean poorly reviewed accommodations in a less than ideal area, either due to the neighbourhood itself or due to its distance to the venue and other amenities. If you’re planning to attend with other people, try to make the booking process fun and easy by having a pre-event booking party, where you can all book the trip together at the same time, making sure you’re on the same flight and at the same hotel. Keep in mind, it might be easier to have one person pay for the cost of part of the trip and everyone reimburse them. For something like passes, which may sell out quickly, it’s a lot easier to have one person buy for everyone than buying them all separately, you may find out some of your group didn’t get in before the event sold out. Also, take advantage of anything you can prepay for in advance. Many of the online coupon services offer coupons for the city you’re visit for things like food, beverages, and grocery stores. This can help you not only by saving you money but by also allowing you to budget for those expenses before your arrival and not when you’re paying your restaurant bill.

Packing

I’m not going to tell you to remember to pack your toothbrush, deodorant, and some clean underwear because, hopefully, you understand what you should pack for yourself when you’re away from home. What I will tell you is to remember to leave some space in your suitcase as most conventions have a marketplace on site or you may take the time to visit some shops you may not have in your hometown. You can’t expect to bring home any souvenirs from your trip if you don’t leave space in your suitcase for them. If you’re planning to fly, make sure you also check their policies regarding carry on and checked luggage. Many airlines have fees and standards for what you can bring and where it can be stowed. If you’re travelling with cosplay in tow, you’re going to need some Tetris skills to organize your suitcase to accommodate it with minimal opportunities for damage. My preferred method of packing up cosplay is to wrap the contents in bubble wrap before putting it into my suitcase and include a note on top of the bubble wrapping (explaining what it is) if any security personnel do an inspection of my bag. Some items that I like to include in the note are:

  • Who I am
  • Where I’m travelling to and from
  • Basic information about the event
  • Basic contact information
  • A photograph of the cosplay
  • Materials and products used to build the cosplay
  • Approximate time in hours and dollar value invested into the cosplay
  • A polite reminder to handle with extreme care
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An example of the note I included with my Catwoman cosplay.

If you have enough time and money set aside, you also have the option to send your cosplay by air or mail to the hotel and pick it up when you check in. Be warned this can be a costly process as you’ll need to ship it both ways and you’ll need to consult the hotel on their regulations. They may also charge a receiving or holding fee for accepting and storing the package on your behalf. I would only recommend this option if your cosplay is too large to pack yourself or costs are not a concern.

These are the basics for travelling to a convention. If you want more information about how to survive once you get there, you can check out my Con-Goers Primer. Let me know if you have any other tips to share and/or how your experiences have been when travelling to an event.

Happy Con Season!

J. Tanooki is a Contributor for aybonline.com. She has been a lover of cosplay for over 10 years and regularly works on new and exciting cosplay projects. She actively posts about her cosplay plans, progress, and random shenanigans on her Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. Her opinion is her own. 

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