Convention Advice

I’ve been attending conventions for some time now, and while they can be a tremendous amount of fun, they can also be tiring, and a huge drain on finances. I’d like to share some tips for how to stay sane, rested, and financially solvent during convention season.

First and foremost: follow the 6/2/1 minimum rule: 6 hours of sleep a night, 2 meals a day, and one shower. Trust me, these are all important, not only for your own health and well-being, but also for those around you.

The Buddy System may save your life. Make sure you have a reliable friend with whom you can make an agreement to check on each other at least once a day during the convention. It can be especially important if you have a sneaky medical condition (diabetes comes to mind) that could physically disable you if you aren’t careful. On the flip side, be a good friend yourself: check on your friend regularly. Catch their eye in social situations to see if they need help. Maybe they need to be rescued from a boring conversation, or maybe someone with ill intent spiked their drink. Be aware of each other and check in frequently. STAY SAFE.

Get off your feet as often as possible. These’s an awful lot of standing around that goes on at conventions, and it wears on you more than you realize. If you’re going to talk with someone, suggest you move to a place with seating, or better still, someplace that serves beverages or food.

Hydrate. Drink plenty of water. I know, I know: water is boring, and doesn’t have as much flavor as other drinks. True, but water is also better for your body than just about any other beverage. Plan on starting and ending your day with at least one glass of water, and have more during the day as needed. Plus, for the budget-conscious, water is usually free at conventions.

Look over the program book FIRST. This is the one piece of advice I fail at most often, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve been disappointed at missing a panel or event that sounded really interesting to me had already happened because I forgot to look through the convention programming listings first thing. Don’t be like me and miss out of fun stuff: read your programming information ASAP.

Even if you don’t expect to have sex with anyone at a convention, take a couple condoms with you. You may not need them, but someone else might. STAY SAFE.

If you plan to be drinking alcohol: drink extra water. I try (but don’t always succeed) to alternate alcoholic beverages and glasses of water. Staying hydrated while imbibing helps reduce the unpleasant effects of a hangover. Also, those tasty alcoholic beverages can sometimes taste too good, causing you to drink them too fast. Alcohol impairs judgement, plus, mixed drinks can be expensive. Alternating a glass of water in between slows down your alcohol consumption, and can help cut down on your bar bill. Also: keep an eye on your drink. If you see someone put something into another person’s drink, don’t let that person drink it! Knock it out of their hand if you must. You may be saving their life. STAY SAFE.

Short on cash? Many conventions offer a partial refund of your badge fee if you work a certain number of hours as a volunteer. Note that not all cons are created equal: some require near herculean effort just to get back $20. It isn’t always worth it, though volunteering even a few hours is ALWAYS appreciated by con staff, who will remember you favorably for helping them out.

Eating well during a convention can be tricky: time constraints, lack of availability of healthy options, and just plain lack of money can all make it tough to eat decently. Even though many hotels have plenty of restaurants nearby, it isn’t always feasible — or desirable –to eat restaurant food every meal. Try this: pack a few ziplock-style baggies with dried fruit (raisins, apricots, and pineapple work well) nuts (peanuts, cashes, or almonds) and veggies (carrot and celery sticks, and radishes) can help give you a quick, healthy snack, or serve as a meal if your budget is really tight. Bring a box with a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and jelly, and a few disposable plastic knives for a quick sandwich between events. If you’re able to eat dairy, individually-wrapped sticks of string cheese provide some calcium and a good dose of protein to keep your energy levels up. Apples are durable and a healthy snack with a bit of sugar for quick energy. The advantage to all of these food items is that they can last for a weekend (or longer, if you’re careful) without refrigeration. S mall cooler can keep more perishable items chilled, as long as you remember to make use of the hotels ice machines. Bring an extra ziplock to pack ice into: it keeps your food from getting water-logged as the ice melts.

Sharing a room has plenty of pitfalls, so be mindful: share only with people you know personally. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about friends of friends stealing from or even assaulting roommates, not to mention simple lack of courtesy such as spending hours in the bathroom during early morning crunch time when everyone needs to get ready. The hotel is often the largest expense of the convention, and it’s tempting to cram as many people as possible into a room to save money. Just be cautious about whom you trust.

I’ve had a LOT of fun at conventions. From science fiction cons in the 1980s and 90s, to steampunk and gaming conventions in the 2000’s and more recently, I’ve spent plenty of time wandering hotel hallways and meeting rooms. Conventions are great places to meet new people, try new things, cosplay, play games, and generally enjoy the company of your fellow human beings. Remember to stay hydrated, stay fed, get enough sleep, shower daily, and above all, STAY SAFE.

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