Welcome back to The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Geek Convention Part 2: What to Take to a Con. If you’re just joining into the fray, be advised that this is actually the second blog post in a series of three:
As I mentioned in the last post, Dragon Con is quickly approaching and I wanted to share some of my personal thoughts on what to take to a con. There’s actually a lot that goes into getting ready – and there’s a lot that should go into your bag as well! So, without further ado, here are a few things you really shouldn’t do without at your next convention.
What to Take to a Con
Cell Phone and Wall Charger
There’s little else on this list that will be as important as your cell phone and charger. When I start planning what to take to a con, it’s one of the first things I ensure I have. I also tend to keep an extra charger stowed in my luggage at all times, that way if I forget to bring the one I use daily for some reason, I still have a spare available to use on the trip.
On that note, you should plan to bring a portable charger as well. While you’re likely to spot outlets here and there throughout the day, you’re not going to want to stop and attach yourself to a wall long enough to charge your phone. Letting your phone die also isn’t an option. How else are you going to snap that candid of Nathan Fillion as he walks by!?
Definitely add a portable charger to your list of what to take to a con. Don’t have a portable charger? Check some of these out.
Whether you plan to drink or not, don’t forget your ID! You’ll likely need it to pick up your convention badge. It would be oh-so tragic if you made it all the way to your convention only to be turned away because you can’t prove you’re you! Additionally, some convention events are held off site at bars that will card you before allowing you in. Further, it’s just not good practice to travel without your ID.
If you didn’t think packing a camera would be part of the “what to take to a con” list, you’re a doofus. You absolutely want to bring your camera! I literally take hundreds of pictures when I go to conventions – of the guests, the cosplayers, the panels, and the crowds. Seriously…hundreds! There are so many awesome photo opportunities around every corn. You’ll totally be kicking yourself if you forget your camera.
And also SD cards. I hate having to download my pictures onto my computer before I get home. Just as waste of valuable con time. I recommend at least a 16GB SD card like this one:
Lots of Cash
While most convention vendors take cards, there are plenty of reasons you want to bring cash along as well. Most star guests, for example, only accept cash for autographs. The cost for these vary year-to-year, ranging anywhere from $20 to $60 (which, frankly, I think is outrageous). You can also pay cash for professional photo ops with guests. Many of the companies that provide these ops accept cards, but will charge an additional fee for processing them that way.
In general, when I think about what to take to a con, cash is pretty high on the list. Also, it’s better to have too much cash on hand and not need it than it is to need it and have to run around the hotels or convention center looking for an ATM.
Oh Lordy, this is an important one! Comfortable shoes are an absolute must. Like, there’s no getting around it. Even if you plan on cosplaying and have special shoe requirements for your outfit, bring comfortable shoes to change into afterward. You’re going to do a significant amount of walking and standing; without comfortable shoes, you will be miserable.
A Water Bottle
My husband is a huge water bottle guy. He carries one everywhere, all the time. While I don’t have one on hand quite that often, one should be part of what to take to a con. Bringing a water bottle is way less expensive than purchasing water from concession stands. Additionally, most hotels and convention centers have water bottle filling stations, so you’ll always have water on hand.
If you don’t have one, here are a couple water bottles definitely worth considering:
The Nalgene bottles are particularly awesome if you like to personalize things with stickers. My husband covers his Nalgenes with all sorts of fun (and geeky) stuff. The Zulu bottles are just really cool looking. Be warned, though, that Zulus are a little heavy. They’re made from glass, so they may not be the best for lugging around a convention.
Dislike drinking water all the time? My husband and I love using water drops. One squirt and you’re good to go!
An Extra Bag
Another good thing to put in your “what to take to a con” pile is an extra bag. You always leave a convention with more stuff than you came with. I typically leave extra space in my luggage and throw in a small, foldable bag just in case. The brand I purchased have is Coalatree, but I’m not seeing them on their site anymore. Amazon has a few great (inexpensive) options here.
I like these because they don’t take up much room unless you end up needing them to carry stuff back with you. They’re just useful little buggers!
Any Cosplay Costumes and Accessories
What to bring to a con if your cosplaying? Well, your costume of course! Obviously, if you’re planning to cosplay at your con, you need to bring your costume! ‘nough said.
Entertainment (of any kind)
I mentioned that I like to bring a game or book along with me previously, but I wanted to briefly touch on why. There’s going to be a lot going on, so why in the world would I have my nose stuck in a book? Because of the lines. Much like going when you go to Disney World, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time in line…waiting…bored, especially if you plan on hitting up some of the high-profile panels.
So part of what to take to a con should absolutely include some entertainment to – well, keep you entertained!
May I recommend a couple things!?
Any of the Fluxx games. These are fast and easy to play with multiple people. I’ve spent many a line-time playing Fluxx with complete strangers and it’s always a total blast! The best part? There’s all sorts of cool version to appeal to your geeky nature!
Another great options is Exploding Kittens. This is an awesome little game my husband and I like to play with dinner guests sometimes. It’s easy to learn, quick, and different every time you go through it. It’s a perfect options, really.
Something else I like about these games is that they are light weight, so carrying them around with you shouldn’t be a problem.
An Autograph Book
You’ll also want to include bringing an autograph book in what to take to a con. Simply put, you never know who you might run into! While most star guests will have booths and a 5” x 8” comes included when you pay for their autograph, it’s completely plausible that you run into someone famous just walking through the lobby.
I had the opportunity to grab Michael A. Stackpole’s autograph after a panel once. He wrote several of the Battletech books which, if you haven’t read, are incredible. The problem was, the only thing I had for him to write on was…a Twilight journal…
I know! Don’t ask me why I had it. I think I got it cheap and figured I could use it to take notes on during panels or something. But there I was, dying for this autograph from an author I really, really like and it was either ask him to sign my Twilight journal or somewhere on my body. So, as horrifying as it was, I had him sign my journal, red apple-covered page and all.
Moral of the story? Bring an autograph book.
Part of what to take to a con also includes snacks! Assuming outside food is allowed, I highly recommend bringing snacks along with you every day. Some of my favorites are below:
I’m actually a pescitarian now, but Slim Jims used to be one of my favorite con snacks so I figured I’d still include it in the list.
Yay coffee! Where would we be without you? I mean, seriously, remembering coffee is a an essential part of what to bring to a con. If you don’t bring coffee, then you’re going to end up spending a lot of money of coffee. I’m cheap, so I hate that idea.
We like cold brew coffee. I make it using our French Press, transport it in growlers, store it in our cooler, and then just grab some before we head out for the morning.
When you register for a geek convention, you’ll get a badge to wear. It basically tells the world that you’re allowed to be there and gives you access to panels, events, and the dealers rooms. The con usually provides a very simple lanyard. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I prefer lanyards that sport my geekiness. You can pick up a much cooler geeky lanyard beforehand for less than $10.
You may be thinking I’m crazy, especially if your con is during the summer. Trust me, I’m not. I always bring a sweater with me because I’ve learned that some panel rooms are frickin’ cold! Seriosly. I carry a light sweater around with me all day and I use it far more frequently than you would probably expect. It should definitely be part of what to take to a con.
An Umbrella or Poncho
Checking the weather is part of preparing for a geek convention, but even if there’s no chance of rain in the forecast, it’s a good idea to bring an umbrella or poncho along anyway. You can pick ponchos up at Walmart for less than $1 and I highly recommend you do!
This is another inexpensive, yet truly essential, item to include while packing. There are thousands of people at geek conventions – sometimes tens-of-thousands – and you know what that means? There’s ucky germs EVERYWHERE. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times and always use it before eating. Getting sick after returning from a con? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Anything You Want Signed
While you usually get a “free” photo when you pay for a star’s autograph, you can pay the same price to have them sign an item you already own. I almost always realize too late that I should have brought some piece of memorabilia with me to have signed. Don’t be like me. Check the guest list ahead of time and set aside anything you may want signed.
Protective Sleeves for Comics and Pictures
This is yet another item I always forget to bring when preparing for a geek convention. If you plan to have you photo professionally taken with one of the stars or buy an autograph, you should bring your own protective photo holders. Thesel keep your very expensive photos safe as you move around the convention.
They will have them for sale at the con, but they usually charge $5 for each one. The set above includes five for just over that. Frankly, it’s a no-brainer.
Here are some really cheap comic book sleeves you can check out too:
Cardboard Tubes (if you’re buying posters or art)
Similarly, if you know you’re going to be purchasing art or posters (or if you’re taking one to get signed), it’s a good idea to include a protective poster tube in your plans while preparing for a geek convention. You can get cardboard ones, but I prefer these:
The strap is super convenient and you can use it again and again for different conventions.
Another item you might like to help with preparing for a geek convention is a folding stool. I don’t have one of these, but I’ve always really liked sitting on the floor. If the thought of standing or sitting on the ground sounds appalling to you, it might be worth investing in one of these babies.
The weight limit on this one is 200lbs and it comes with a convenient carrying case. Again, being able to just throw this over your shoulder is a huge plus in my book.
Now that I’ve given you a hugely long list of what to bring to a con, you’re going to need something to carry it all in. While it may not match your cosplay costume, I do highly recommend bringing a backpack.
My husband is backpack crazy. He has a different one for everything. You don’t need to go that far, but keeping a “con bag” on hand isn’t a terrible idea. We like to collect patches and this year we’re attaching them to our backpacks. I think it’s going to be a really neat way to showcase the things we love.
If you don’t have a backpack you can dedicate to geek conventions, here are a few things I have to say in regards to selecting one.
- Make sure it’s comfortable!
- It needs a place for your water bottle or bladder
- Support straps are a huge plus
- Good airflow is important
- Plenty of blank space is necessary for attaching patches
- Lightweight is awesome
This is what I’ve purchased most recently:
I ultimately chose it over the others because it was smaller and is supposed to have good back support. I’ll let you know my thoughts after my next con!
ThinkGeek also offers a pretty cool backpack of holding. My husband and brother both use the fabric version of this bag at cons, although it doesn’t appear to be available anymore. For women, there is a handbag of holding option. I actually have this bag and have used it at conventions before, but I’ll tell you, it really starts to hurt your shoulders after a while. That’s why I think a backpack is better suited for events like this.
Find out More in Con Survival Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a geek convention Part 3
There’s a fine line between bringing too much and not bringing enough. In the last post, I know I said to pack selectively. With that though, I think it’s important to bring stuff you really want to have at the con with you. This is your trip after all, your escape from the mundane, so absolutely take whatever you need in order to make you happy.
Have questions about attending or preparing for your first geek convention? Think I need to add something to the list? Leave a comment below or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you!
Click here to keep reading Con Survival Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for a Geek Convention Part 3. There’s lots more great tips ahead!