The first time I went to Dragon*Con, I was in college. My boyfriend (now husband) picked me up from English class and we headed to Atlanta. I had no idea what to expect. When we walked into one of the many host hotels that Friday afternoon, I felt like Alice who had fallen down a rabbit hole in a world filled with beautiful, wondrous things and people. I rode an escalator up with a Highlander, Blade and Neo, and Trinity. I found myself lost in rooms filled with comics, fairy wings, wigs, corsets, jewelry, dvds, cds, and books. Bands played in corridors and there was every shade of hair color I had never seen in real life. I had found my people. They are called geeks. Obviously.
Since that first year, nearly 10 years ago, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating this massive fan convention, with my husband and on my own. Whether you decide to go to Dragon*Con or a similar-sized convention, here are the top five tips that never fail me.
1. Have a game plan. While reserving the hotel can be hard (typically done right after last year’s con) it gives you an idea of how long you’ll stay and how much walking is required. Get in line for your badge as early as you can. Get a schedule as soon as you can. If you’re a big geek, many events will overlap and you’ll have to make choices. Typically, me and my husband circle all the events we’d like to attend and pare it down depending on how important something is or how tired we are day of. Between panels, celebrity autographs, dances, movie showings, concerts, and other events, it can be overwhelming. The key is to do the things most important to you and to have fun! Sign up for the Daily Dragon app as events can be cancelled at a moment’s notice and you’ll have walked from three hotels over and not known it.
2. Pack early and pack smart. As a costumer, it’s important you have all your props or important pieces with you, as well as back up options or a sewing kit if you encounter a popped off button or ripped seam. Many costumers have schedules, as they meet up with other cosplay friends and travel in groups, i.e. certain Doctor Who episodes, Hunger Games tributes, or Marvel and DC comic book meet ups. It’s a good idea to consider if you’re going to meet up with others or do your own thing.
Generally, it’s important to pack snacks and beverages. Granola bars, peel-able fruit, sports beverages and bottled water can save your life when you’re literally crawling back to your hotel room and the only thing that’s open is the expensive hotel bar or mini-mart. Dragon*Con TV is also cool when you’re tired and just want to lay in bed and watch William Shatner spar with people.
3. Con crud is real. You don’t want this. Ever. Wash your hands, take a multi-vitamin or vitamin C. Because other people won’t. I typically start the day with an Orange Julius or other citrus-based smoothie just to keep my immunity up. Try not to eat junk food or fast food all weekend. Most restaurants have smart options like oatmeal, salads, or sushi, which can keep you nourished without breaking your budget. Sleep. You’ll get sick if you don’t get it.
4. Be polite. Don’t cut in line–someone will typically tell you off if you do. Ask before taking photos of other costumers, and always say thank you. I did this before I started costuming and I do it today. Some costumers–an Iron Man, for example–might have been standing in the same spot for a half hour and be exhausted. Also be nice to hotel staff, especially if they’re working crowd control at the escalators. They’re not mad with you, they’re trying to maintain fire code. Don’t bum rush elevators or escalators if someone has been waiting or has a baby or disability or luggage.
5. Don’t be afraid to haggle. My husband used to have a comic business, so he knows how to talk the talk. Me, not so much. But if you’re really wanting to buy an item in the dealer’s room, expo room, or artist’s alley, politely ask what kind of deals they’ve got going. You might be able to get an excellent deal on multiple items at one booth. If not, shop around or wait it out. Dealers typically drop their prices or haggle more on Sunday and Monday when they’re wrapping up.
Dragon*Con is one of my favorite events of the year and I always enjoy catching up with many of the awesome Doctor Who people I’ve met through the years, as well as spend time with the geek boy who got me into all this.