A Beginner’s Guide to Fandom Conventions
You’ve finally decided to let your geek flag fly and head to a fandom convention! Congratulations! Our family loves to attend these nerd-fests together and this is the guide I wish we had in the beginning. Let’s break it down into 4 easy sections: Research, Register, Plan, and Attend
First you need to find the right convention! We have never attended ComicCon and most likely never will (and not just because getting tickets is harder than winning the lottery). Our collective mental health can only handle so much. WonderCon is a great alternative for us and we have been attending for the past few years. It’s still a bigger convention and continues to attract big names, but I’d say it’s only a fraction of the madness that descends on San Diego every year.
Bigger Conventions = Major Companies = Massive Crowds
Do your research before buying any badges and find the event that feels like a good fit for YOU.
- AnimeCon.org are the “nerds who organize anime cons” and have an extensive list of conventions across the US.
- Creation Entertainment invented the concept of “traveling” fan conventions and leads the way for fans of genre TV and film (including Star Trek, Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, etc.)
- Comic-Con International: San Diego is the big mother of them all and here you will also find the link for WonderCon. Even if you never make it to one of these, it’s always fun to dream.
- D23 Expo is held every two years and is the premiere convention for Disney fans.
*SET A BUDGET* for your trip! At the very least you will be purchasing your badge, paying for parking, and buying food/merch. You may also need to factor in renting a hotel room or AirBNB, as well as transportation and any cosplay you want to create.
*Save on travel costs so you can spend more money at the event*
Tickets, travel and lodging eat into your convention dollars. Most cons will have great deals with hotels in the nearby areas if you make your reservations in advance. Pool your resources and bring your friends to split the cost!
- REGISTER EARLY! You should always pre-register for a convention, as this ensures the best price and shorter wait time for your badge. Even better, many conventions will mail your badge, saving you HOURS of time spent in line. Some badges go on sale more than a year in advance and can sell out quickly, so heads up!
- Make sure you will be able to attend all three days of the convention (if you are going to a larger one) before you pre-register. You might need to request time off at work and most con badges are non-refundable and non-transferable.
*BE PREPARED* Before you even arrive you should know what your expectation is: Do you want see your favorite actors on a panel? Be the first to see the sneak previews? Get your portfolio reviewed by experts in the biz? Have a chance to meet artists on the expo floor? There is no end to the experience at a convention, but just like Disneyland, you can’t expect to do it all in one day.
Pick the ONE thing you have your heart set on, then plan the rest of your trip around it!
- *Insider Tip* Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can see the obscure geeky panel in room 204b at 2:00pm and then be able jet across the convention center to make it in time for the 4:00pm screening of your favorite show in the main hall. Because, guess what? Thousands of other people love that show and they lined up at freaking 11:00am. Yeah, you’re not getting in. Same goes for super popular panels that feature well known writers/actors. People will literally sit through 4 hours of prior panels just to ensure their butts are in a seat for the desired spot if those are rooms that don’t get cleared between panels. (check the convention rules beforehand)
- As a general rule, there is a line for *everything* and you need to schedule in a time buffer between events. Give yourself more time for the popular panels! The wait is worth it so stay entertained by bringing headphones and having a movie already downloaded on your phone. Or, bust out the handheld gaming console and have fun!
- Also, be sure to study the map of the convention center so you can factor in how much time it will take to walk between events. That said, check the social media account or smartphone app for your event regularly, as panels and autograph sessions can move around like the TARDIS and end up in entirely different times and places.
The best advice for the day of the event is to get there early. Car traffic, foot traffic, parking jams, overcrowded sidewalks, you name it and a convention center will have it. Remember all that research you did? This is where you have the edge. Either your passes were sent out in the mail to you ahead of time or you figured out when they are available on-site and planned to be one of the first to get in line. This way you won’t waste precious time just hanging around to get your badge!
Wear comfortable shoes * STAY HYDRATED * Keep your phone charged
- Dress comfortably – yes, even if you cosplay. Convention centers range in temperature – it could be chilly in one ballroom and hot as an oven in another. You may also end up waiting in lines that travel outdoors at times, so remember sunscreen. Dressing in layers is your best bet.
- Remember, you are in a place that fully embraces your geeky self, so have fun because you are in good company! If you want to go all out and try cosplaying, DO IT! Your costume doesn’t have to be a head to toe recreation, it just has to make you feel good. And if you do dress up, PRACTICE YOUR POSES, because someone, somewhere, will want to take a picture with you. It’s more fun if you’re prepared!
- Pack a survival bag: PORTABLE PHONE CHARGERS! WATER! SNACKS! CASH! DEODORANT! GUM! SUNSCREEN!
- It is OK to split up with your companions if you have different interests! Just pick a time and location to all meet back up later. Conventions are a place where you may be alone but you won’t ever feel lonely.
- MAKE AT LEAST ONE TRIP AROUND THE SHOW FLOOR BEFORE MAKING ANY PURCHASES! Compare prices! Yes, there is an overwhelming amount of cool shit on the expo floor, but don’t get swept up in a buying frenzy. That manga volume you’ve been looking for could be half price, half an aisle over. You can always ask them to hold it for you while you continue to browse. Just be kind and come back to them if you *do* end up purchasing it elsewhere and let them know they don’t have to hold it for you any longer. Also (pro tip) the best day to get a deal is on the final day of the convention, so if you can, hold out until then to do your shopping.
*FINAL REMINDER* Please treat cosplayers with respect! *COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT* Be kind and remember the person inside the persona. DON’T TOUCH! It’s freaking rude. DO ASK! For a photograph or more info on how they made it. When you take a picture, be sure to tag them in your social media posts. Ask for their information and follow through! GIVE THEM ROOM! They have a lot more ‘ish to maneuver through a crowd. For more information about “Cosplay is Not Consent,” check out the movement’s Facebook page.
MOST OF ALL ~ HAVE FUN!
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