Con Survival Tips: 10 Tips to Get You Through Any Convention, Conference, or FestivalBy: Pique Staff
In the past decade, conventions, festivals, and conferences for anything you can imagine have popped up all over the world. They continue to grow every year, offering new and exciting options.
Spring and Summer bring us The Book Con, San Diego Comic Con, C2E2, VidCon, AwesomeCon, and Y’ALLWest, DragonCon, Decatur Book Festival while this fall has brought us Brooklyn Book Fest, NOLA StoryCon, Salt Lake Comic Con, Boston Teen Author Festival, Archon, Anderson’s YA Con, and soon we’ll have WizardWorld Comic Con New York Comic Con and Y’ALLFest. We love the variety of convention and festival types – some are paid, some are free, some are huge, some are small, some are book-based, and some are for nerds of all kinds.
But even with the huge variety in how each festival and conference works, we still have some basic survival tips for whatever con you’re going to next!
1. Bring a water bottle! There are two different options here – you can bring a refillable water bottle you can theoretically refill anywhere, but then you also have to carry it all day. Or you can bring a recyclable water bottle (or several) and you can recycle them throughout the day and take some weight off of you. Either way, you avoid standing in a long line to buy a probably-overpriced bottle.
2. Bring at least one bag. A lot of these cons will happily provide you with free tote bags or sell you really nice ones. But I always come with one really good quality bag – either a tote bag or a book bag – that’s roomy and that can be closed or has pockets that can close. That helps keep my personal items secure and I don’t have to worry about getting on the floor and trying to find a bag. Plus, some of the free bags are very pretty, but break easily. Tote bags are great for books because a lot of them are well shaped for it and they’re convenient to reach, but for bigger cons where you might be buying a variety of things, book bags are better for your back/shoulders, more secure, and often fit more stuff.
3. Keep a small bag of essentials! At every con I go to, I have one small bag (pencil-case or makeup bag size) to store con essentials. My ipod and headphones for the commute, some painkillers, at least one portable charger, lightning cable, and outlet adapter in case I find a real outlet for charging, at least one pen, some post-its, my ID, my cash, my debit and credit cards, and my keys. It sounds like a lot, but they’re all fairly small and flexible things that definitely come in handy. Most cons I go to are in New York City, so I bring a MetroCard as well. Having it all in one small bag makes it easy to switch between tote bags and book bags and easy to find everything instead of it getting lost in all the cool stuff you’ve picked up.
4. Plan in advance! Personally, I make in-depth spreadsheets of all the things I might be interested in, things I want to look for, people I want to see, and more, but you certainly don’t have to! You could do something simple and just look at the website for your event and see what’s on their schedule as far as panels, screenings, and signings – you’ll often find the rules for how signings work and mandatory purchases here too. Another good resource is to check out publishers and vendors you may like on social media! They’ll like have a blog post or a website page or a tweet with some fun things on their schedule that might not make it to the official website. This all helps you craft your day and gives you a general idea of where to be and when.
5. Go to panels! There’s always so much to see and buy at cons, but panels can be so educational, a great way to meet friends, and sometimes they’re just great places to sit! It gets exhausting walking around all day, especially if your con is multiple days, so sometimes it’s nice to just sit in the back of a panel you’re interested in, put your bags down, check your phone, and maybe even learn something new.
6. Bring your own food! This isn’t always feasible, I know. It’s hard to find a food that’s not too heavy, easy to eat on the go, and not too messy. I’ve thrown granola bars in my bag many a con and then never eaten them. Instead, I try to run into a café on my way to the con and grab a bagel or two and eat them throughout the day so I can avoid grabbing something overpriced or having to wander away from the center for cheaper food options and just wait until I leave for the day to go pick up something.
7. Set a budget for yourself! Some places at cons are cash only and ATM lines are often long, so it’s good to take out cash in advance and try to limit your spending just to the cash you have. Think about any travel costs, any exclusives you know you want to pick up, any books you might need to buy to get signed, and food if you’re going to buy on site. If you’ve never been to the con before and don’t know what the food options are going to be like, assume $15-$20 per meal and be pleasantly surprised if you don’t hit that. Also consider if you want to pay for things like travel costs with one of your cards and if that counts towards your budget.
8. Don’t be afraid to go solo! I love meeting up with friends at cons, but I spend most of my time alone, wandering the floor. You and your friends might have some similar interests, but it’s not likely you’ll have all of the exact same priorities. Plus, wandering is a good way to see things you might’ve missed otherwise and to miss out on making new friends! I’ve been in lines on my own and made friends with other people, even if it’s just a temporary friendship so we can take turns getting into and out of lines.
9. Be comfortable! Whatever that means for you, wear comfortable clothes and shoes and make sure you don’t mind getting dirty. It’s pretty likely you’ll end up sitting on the floor or the ground at least once while waiting in a line or just when you desperately need to rest your feet.
10. If you’re on a serious budget, give yourself time before buying things. A good rule of thumb on things you’re interested in is to walk away from it and see if you’re still thinking about it/wanting it later. You might find something similar, but better or cheaper, or you might just decide it’s not worth the money for you. Additionally, waiting might get you a better deal – when a con is at nearing its end, a lot of vendors will give better deals so they don’t have to lug stuff home.
So, those are ten tips for any con you’re going to! Tweet us @piquebeyond if you have any questions or tips of your own! And if you’re attending New York Comic Con, we’ll be there! Be sure to see us in Booth #2228. Click here for more info.