Graphic by John Seitz
Between the swag and your own gear, you absolutely need a backpack to get by. Don’t rely on the bags the convention hands out, they are usually flimsy, way too large to be practical, or far too small to be of use. Pick a good sturdy backpack, deck it out with your favorite geeky patches, and make sure it fits your needs.
The lines for food can be worse than the lines for panels and celebrity guests. Typically convention centers only have a few places to buy food and the food is usually an assortment of unhealthy and pricey options like pizza and soda. Save yourself a lot of time and money by packing your food and snacks for the day. For healthy lunch and snack options, consider sandwiches, string cheese, pretzels, applesauce, nuts, beef jerky, cut-up fruit and veggies, crackers, protein bars, or any other non-messy, non-refrigerated options. If there’s something you want to see but it’s a particularly long line, tackle this line during lunch; most people will be taking a break and you can take the time to sit down and eat. By the time 5 or 6 rolls around you will have a lighter pack and a little extra money to spend out on the town.
External battery and phone charger case:
Conventions will absolutely kill your battery life. Between social media, trying to meet up with your friends, and thousands of other people trying to connect to the wi-fi, it’s easy to run out of power by mid-afternoon. Invest in an external battery source or get a charger case for your phone. Both options will give you at least another day of power and you don’t want to be trying to meet up with your friends at a giant convention with a dead phone.
Your mom says it, your doctor says it, and now we’re saying it; stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle. There are typically water fountains placed sporadically through a convention center, but that’s not very helpful when you are stuck in line or would have to squeeze through a few hundred people to get to it. Buying water is an unneeded expense if you bring your own bottle. Vapur bottles are a great option; the water bottles are bpa free, odorless and tasteless, clip to your bag, and fold up when you are done with them, minimizing their footprint.
Painkillers/Your Personal Medications:
Conventions are usually an all-day undertaking, and often the party continues into the night with tons of post-con activities throughout the town. Make sure to bring your personal medications and throw in some Advil or ibuprofen for good measure. It’s easy to get a headache, especially at video game conventions like PAX, so think ahead to what future you will be thanking you for later.
Especially if you get overwhelmed or you are an introvert that needs to recharge. Bring a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and your ipod and take a break to walk around the convention, outside the town, or sit in line and relax with your favorite tunes.
Have we mentioned the lines can be really really long? You could be standing or sitting for hours so bringing along some entertainment is a smart thing to do. A DS, comic books, and/or your Kindle/book are all good options and saves you from burning your phone battery down playing Star Wars Angry Birds out of boredom.
This one is for cosplayers. Even if you are not wearing an intricate costume, there will be some wear and tear to your outfit after a day at the convention. A small sewing kit with a needle and thread and some scissors could save you a lot of stress. OR, be a hero to someone and make a new friend!
Another way to save your phone’s battery life and also much needed if you want to capture all the cool cosplay you are going to see. Remember to bring an extra memory card for in between trips to your computer.
Pens/Swag to Sign:
Do your research before going to the con on which of your favorite creators, writers, and artists will be there and come prepared. Always carry a pen on you just in case you run into someone outside of the signing tables and pack your comics or anything else you want signed so you are not scrambling to buy something there.
Definitely bring some cash along with you. Some food places will not accept cards and most vending machines won’t either. Also, sometimes with everyone bogged down on one Wi-Fi signal, exhibitors are unable to access a signal to use their card readers so they resort to using cash as well. Don’t miss out on some exclusive Matt Fraction swag because they can’t accept your card (seriously, it happens).