I hadn’t really planned on attending a convention other than a couple of local Comic Cons this year, but then Cal Mah – a fan-run Stargate con – announced Cliff Simon as one of their guests. So this very happy fan is now planning for a weekend away, despite the fact that the convention is seven months and two days away (yes, I am counting!)
So how does one plan for a convention?
It depends on the length – the amount of prep needed for a single day is different than a weekend – and then where the con is being held. For example Vvorp is one day in Manchester. That’s 20 minutes’ drive, so requires a lot less organising than a weekend in Melton Mowbray, which is over two hours away and involves a hotel stay.
So location effects costs. If a con requires an overnight stay (or more) I recommend finding and booking a hotel ASAP. Often, conventions are held within a hotel and offer a deal on rooms. Staying in the con hotel cuts down on travel costs, but you might find a room cheaper elsewhere. Make sure you check on cancellation fees, if any, and accessibility if necessary.
With your travel and accommodation decided on, you need to figure out what you’re going to eat. Convention halls such as Event City will cost you a small fortune, so definitely buy in for one day cons. Check out the hotel’s menus. Breakfasts are usually decently priced and your room will have a kettle if not a mini fridge. If your budget is tight, shop at a supermarket and pack some things in your suitcase.
A convention day is a long one. Get yourself a backpack and stuff it with snacks and bottles of water. The latter is vital if you’re wearing cosplay – do not underestimate how quickly you can dehydrate!
Once your basic budget is set comes the fun bit! You have to decide on guest photos and autographs, plus saving some spending money for the traders’ market. A well-organised con will have photo op and autograph tickets available in advance and this is a great way of spreading your costs. Buy for the more popular guests first, then anyone else you fancy.
When it comes to the traders’ hall, be wary for over-priced wares. Scan the entire hall and then go back for what’s really grabbed you. And, while cons are usually very friendly and nice, keep your wallet close. It’s a good idea not to carry all your money around at once, and to let your bank know in advance so your cards don’t get frozen (I have had this happen and it scared me silly! Thankfully the customer service centre was open and the issue was cleared up quickly.)
Talking of which, a quick Google of nearby supermarkets will stand you in good stead if the hotel cash machines charge a silly amount for withdrawals.
Deciding on your wardrobe is another fun part. Cosplay can be done on the cheap, and don’t feel pressured to make things – you can put most outfits together on eBay in no time. If you’re not cosplaying, I recommend layering. Hotel halls tend to be air conditioned, so the temptation is to bundle up, especially in winter. However, you’d be surprised how hot it can get when you’ve get 200+ people in one place! Also note that you’re able-bodied you’ll be on your feet a lot – don’t put on footwear that’s going to leave you sore.
This is a quick guide that covers the practical basics. I’ll be posting about mentally coping and dealing with accessibility issues in another post.