My introduction to conventions was a little backwards. Instead of testing the waters at a small local con, I jumped into the deep end: San Diego Comic Con International. Overall, it was a huge success. I made the cover photo of the Official Star Wars Blog’s Best Star Wars Costumes and even managed to walk right into Hall H on Sunday. Since then, however, my convention style and pace have seen some drastic changes. These days my time at con is spent at cosplay meet-ups and Artist’s Alley, with only a few panels here and there. No matter what your style is, this con survival pack will help ensure your convention is everything you want and more. Here’s my list of things I never leave for a con without:
- Cash. Though many vendors have readers that let you pay by card, it’s always a good idea to have cash too. It’ll save you from ATM fees at the convention center. And in the event you don’t feel like waiting in yet another line at a food truck, I’ve yet to meet a bacon-wrapped-hot-dog cart that takes plastic. 😉
- Keyback and card holder. Most of my costumes involve a belt, and few things ruin a cosplay picture more than a bright lanyard and badge. I clip mine on the side I’m less likely to pose towards the camera. I have easy access to it (and to making sure it’s still there) but it’s hidden away for photos. I also attach a card holder for a CC and ID (always make sure to have the info facing inward, just to be safe).
- Sketchbook. Did you know, in addition to selling prints and a variety of other treasures, many of your favorite artists in Artist’s Alley are available for commissions during conventions? I mentioned in my last post that wall space is pricey real estate in my house so a sketchbook is a great alternative. My husband and I have our own, each tailored to our personalities. While this is my favorite part of my con survival pack, it’s also the first to get the cut if we’re in heavy costumes that can’t accommodate a backpack.
- Silver sharpie. Planning on getting an autograph? Whether you’re paying or if it’s free, it’s planned or impromptu, you’ll thank me that you got it in silver.
- Poster tube. At larger cons you can usually purchase poster tubes in Artist’s Alley or the Dealer’s Hall. But if you’re like me and know you’re going to be buying at least one print, it helps to have a tube on hand. Now you don’t have to worry about the art getting damaged throughout the day. Plus, if you’ve ordered posters from TeeFury lately, you’ve already got one handy!
- Hand sanitizer. Don’t underestimate the power of the germy side! You’re surrounded by thousands of strangers, many of whom will have recently traveled through equally germ infested airports. You’ll all be touching the same comics, collectibles, and handrails. Avoid the Con Crud and smell nice while doing so. Bath and Bodyworks even has handy-dandy carriers that you can attach to the bottom of your lanyard for super easy access.
- Power pack, phone cord, and wall plug. The trinity of a healthy phone battery. The power pack will have your back when battery power is low (and trust me, it will get low). Having a wall plug lets you save the power pack for later. When you’re waiting for your panel and there’s a wall outlet, you’ll be happy you planned ahead.
- Safety pins & industrial strength Velcro®. These are the most important part of my con survival pack. They’ve saved the lives of more costumes mid-day than I can count. From holding Alistair’s pants together at last year’s SDCC Dragon Age meet up to completely saving Black Widow jumpsuit after the zipper broke, safety pins are truly invaluable to have on hand. But when you’re wearing armor, be it plastic or foam, a safety pin just won’t do. In these cases, just a little bit of industrial strength Velcro® can save the day. These aren’t permanent solutions but they can save you valuable time by avoiding midday trips back to the hotel. This is especially valuable if there’s a shuttle ride between your hotel and the convention center.
- Business Cards. One of the first things you learn cosplaying is that very few pictures taken of you are on your device. Business cards are great for helping photographers find you post-con, especially if you have a cosplay page set up. They’re also a convenient way to share your information while preserving the precious battery life of your phone.
Everyone’s experience is different, but I hope this helps! If you have any tips or must-haves in your con survival pack, share them in the comments below. And if you see me around the con floor, be sure to say hi!