Use the sign up form at the bottom of this article for a free printer-friendly checklist to prepare for any con, and read on for more tips and ideas to survive them!
After my first out of town convention, which was in Calgary earlier this month, I went over everything I brought and didn't bring, and came up with this detailed, printable list.
Preparing for a convention is a very big ordeal. You can't just throw some clothes and your toothbrush in your suitcase the night before and head out the door. Preparing for a convention starts long before the con even starts.
Having your cosplays organized will save you from last minute headaches, or worse, last minute cosplay repairs. However you choose to organize your cosplays, whether it be in a garment bag, or a tote, make sure everything is together. On the outside, attach a photo of the full cosplay, and write a list of everything that goes with it, including wigs, shoes, under things, and makeup.
Along the same lines as cosplay organization, if you're planning to attend a convention in cosplay, expect people to take your photos. It's good practice to learn about the character, and develop at least three poses to do. Yes, costumes are nice, but people want to take pictures of their favorite characters brought to life! So research your character, pose in front of the mirror and take hundreds of selfies!
Once you have a convention in mind, you can start making all the preparations you need to get ready for the big weekend! Like for example, what the heck cosplays to bring! Of course if you're making a specific cosplay for the con, you will bring that, and other obvious selections.
Local cons are the easiest to prepare for; you can wear anything you want, you don't have to worry about packing or travel, and you get to sleep in your own bed at night!
Semi-local is what I consider a road trip convention. Calgary Expo was my first of the kind, and it was definitely an experience. You can bring anything that can fit in the vehicle!
Long distance cons are probably the hardest to prepare for. Your cosplay needs to be compact or collapsible, or you will be shipping your cosplays and props to meet you at the hotel. You'll need to prepare for this in advance. No night-before-the-flight last minute crafting.
Another thing to consider is the weather. If you're going to a summer con, don't overheat yourself by dressing like Jon Snow. Likewise, don't cosplay as Red Sonja in the winter..... huh, I think I'm experiencing de ja vu...
If you insist on being Jon Snow in the dead of summer, make sure you're staying hydrated, you can remove layers easily, and you can handle the heat. On the opposite end of the scale, if you insist on being your favorite She-Devil with a sword in the coldest winter, bring gloves, coats, sweat pants etc and leave it at coat check or in a locker, stay indoors as much as possible, and keep a warm drink on hand as much as possible! Or, do what I did, and add a warm cape!
The last thing to prepare for your cosplay is your repair kit. Shit happens, and it's better that you're prepared rather than hoping for the best. Needle and thread, hot glue gun, duct tape (it's not glamorous, but it does the job for the weekend), safety pins, and any other miracle tool that can cure your mishap. You can also pack a lint roller, stain remover (like Tide to Go), and Febreeze to keep your costumes fresh til' death.
Now that we have your cosplays prepared, it's time to think about everything else! I won't go into too much detail; pack some human clothes, pajamas, bathing suit, etc.
I want to talk specifically about at the con; things to have on you, or close by at all times!
At the Con
There's tons of checklists out there, but there are a few things a lot of people forget or don't really consider. You can find the whole list on the downloadable checklist, but the top five most important things you should have at a con are as listed below.
5. High protein snacks. They're compact, and easy to eat, and necessary if you don't have time for con food.
4. Water. Always have water! Avoid headaches, nausea, heat stroke and other illnesses by staying hydrated.
3. Cash. Save on ATM fees by taking out cash before the con. Even if you think you won't buy anything, what's the harm in taking out some cash?! Be prepared, and be smart.
2. Deodorant. Please. And ONLY deodorant. Your BO stinks, but to some people, your cologne or perfume could stink even worse. Apply deodorant multiple times a day if you really need to, but we've all been there, we can cure this one person at a time!
1. Hand Sanitizer. The con flu is something so many people deal with. With so many hands and germs touching everything, just save yourself the hassle. Apply it liberally and often. Another tip for avoiding the con flu is to take vitamins like echinacea and vitamin C every night after the con.
Some honorable mentions are cell charger, Advil, shoe insoles, bandaids, and a small cosplay repair kit.
Pro Tip: If you can design pockets, or pouches into your cosplay, it makes it easier than having to carry an extra bag with you, or relying on friends to handle your things. Plus it's neat and innovative, and you can show it off to everyone!
You can download the checklist using the form below. If you end up using it, let me know what you thought of it! If you have any other unique convention survival tips, write them in the comments below.