My first convention was a little Doctor Who event in 2008 called Dalek Invasion which was held at Yeovilton Fleet Air Museum. I met the 6th Doctor, Colin Baker, spent too much money (!) and was in awe of the fabulous costumes and prop displays I saw. Since then I’ve been to loads of conventions (normally 6 a year) and have picked up some useful tips, whether it’s your first comic con or your a seasoned convention-goer.
The next convention on my calendar will be London Film and Comic-Con in July, which will be my 8th time attending this event and marks my 4th convention so far this year. I’ve been asked by Eventbrite* to share some of my tips for attending comic-con as a newbie and what essentials I bring.
Eventbrite is a great resource for finding conventions and events worldwide and also offer convention and conference planning services. I use their mobile app to purchase my tickets to Collectormania and London Film and Comic Con yearly, it’s really easy to use!
Tips for your first comic con
For me preparing for any convention starts with list-making. I have a list of guests I want to meet, noting what I’d like to get signed by them, along with prices and whether I want to book a professional photo op with them too. I usually use an Excel spreadsheet for this and the =Sum() function to total how much I’m planning to spend.
Other lists I may have are a packing list (clothes, toiletries, memorabilia for signing etc), a separate cosplay packing list (if I’m going to costuming at the convention) and a list of memorabilia to look out for while I’m there. I have a large collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer memorabilia and it’s becoming difficult remembering what I do and do not have, so a list is a must for me.
I found this packing list on Pinterest years ago, it’s a great starting point to create your own list(s). Unfortunately, there was no link back to the original creator. 🙁
Once I know who I’d like to meet I need to plan my days(s). At some conventions a schedule is only released in the week coming up to an event and some smaller conventions only release it on the day with a brochure or guide book – these are usually free so it’s worth picking one up, they usually include a map or layout of the convention floor.
What to do when you have a ‘clash’?
A ‘clash’ is when one or more activities (talks, photo ops etc) are scheduled at the same time and I’d always say to go to the one you’ve prepaid for over the one that was on your maybe list or the free events.
If you find you have two prepaid events at once, tell someone! I’ve had clashes before and the staff should be able to advise you which event to go to first, for example, if you have two photo ops, one with one of the headline guests and one with a guest they’re expecting to be quieter, they’ll usually advise seeing the quieter guest first as they will often have a smaller time slot. It’s worth letting the staff at that photo op know as well, they may place you at the start of the queue.
3. Comfy shoes
You’ll be doing a lot of walking(!), so make sure to wear comfy, broken-in shoes, a convention isn’t the place to wear new shoes that could give you blisters by the end of the day. I’d also recommend leaving the heels and flipflops at home – you may have your toes, accidentally, stepped on. This has happened to me, I broke a bone in my foot and two in my big toe! – At a Stargate convention.
As well as comfy shoes, layers are a must. Walking to the convention venue may be chilly or wet and you may be expected to queue outside to get in, so dress accordingly. Inside the venues can get very hot due to the sheer amount of people.
4. Reading material
When you’re in a queue, if / when you have any downtime between activities etc. My partner always brings a stack of comic books with him while he’s waiting for me in autograph sessions. 😉
You should have budgeted for autographs, photo ops and panels beforehand, but what about stalls? A lot of stalls are cash only and cash machines are few and far between, often running out of cash. So I always take a little extra cash in case I see something I like or find something on my merchandise list.
6. Folders, top-loaders and poster tubes
I’ve been to conventions with and without these and always find it easier when I do bring them. They keep autographs, photo op prints, artwork purchases and comic books safe, secure and dry.
I remember at Collectormania Milton Keynes a few years ago, before I had a poster tube for my Agents of Shield banner, it rained very heavily and the banner did get some water damage. 🙁 💧 Luckily it was around the border and not on the image or any of the autographs!
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
There are so many prop displays, cosplayers and celebrity guests to take photos of or with, so a camera (or camera phone) is a must.
Don’t forget to bring a backup camera/phone battery or a power bank.
It does get hot in the convention venue and you may sweat; I always keep a small can in my bag to freshen up with.
9. Water and snacks
A necessity when you’re stuck in a queue for a long period of time, also the prices for food and drink at conventions can be very pricey! And there aren’t a lot of allergy-friendly options either.
What about cosplay?
I’ve dressed up at a few conventions as Kaylee Frye (Firefly, Serenity) and Kara Danvers (CW’s Supergirl), and am also planning a steampunk outfit next year.
For cosplay my packing priorities are slightly different, I try to choose characters that have wearable outfits or outfits that incorporate a bag or pockets so I’m not wondering what to do with my money or phone at the convention. You’ll need to plan for any cosplay mishaps so you may want to think about packing safety pins, a needle and thread, duct tape, sharpies, hairpins, eye drops (if you’re wearing contacts) etc.
I’ve not worn an outfit without pockets or a bag (yet!) but I do have friends who cosplay and incorporate a bag that suits their character, for example, a friend of mine made a red and dark green bag for a Miss Freddy Krueger cosplay. Some cosplayers I know also wear bras with built-in pockets or store cash in their shoes!
I’d love to hear any other tips or what your essentials items would be, especially if you cosplay!
* I received no endorsement or sponsorship for this post and all opinions are my own.