Comic-Con is like nerd Christmas. Thousands of fans of anime, sci-fi, comic books and games flock to convention centers around the world to socialise, cosplay and check out the new things coming out of the industry. If you’re heading to your first convention, it’s natural to feel a bit nervous. Here are some tips to help you have the best day possible.
Plan in advance. Will you need to stay overnight? How will you travel there? How much can you afford to spend? Set a budget and save up for transport, somewhere to stay, food and spending money. Watch some convention videos from creators like Ryan Kopf to give you an idea of what to expect when you get there, so you can make a proper plan.
Check that the convention you’re heading to will cater you what you want, whether that’s a family friendly feeling, celebrity guests or a heavy focus on anime.
Take cash out before you go. Many traders at shows don’t allow you to pay with a card, and the queues for the cash machines in the venue are usually very long. Avoid disappointment and be prepared with cash as well as cards.
If you’ve booked a photo or signature with a celebrity guest, or want to attend a panel, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need to navigate around the venue. Convention halls are busy places, and moving across them can take a while at peak times or if you get stuck behind a bulky cosplay. Reduce your stress levels by giving yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be.
If you’re planning to cosplay, remember to factor your costume into your plans. Will there be somewhere to change into your costume when you arrive, or will you need to get ready at home and travel in cosplay? Think about any props you’re taking and consider how you’ll get them there safely.
Will you need a handler? A cosplay handler is someone who helps you while you’re in cosplay if your cosplay is restrictive. This can be as simple as helping you get the costume on, but could also mean someone who helps you navigate if your vision is restricted or helps you deal with people who want to take your picture. If you’ll need one, make sure you find a willing friend before you get there.
Look after your feet if you’re going to be wearing high heels. Practice at home in the shoes to make you can walk in them. Pack blister plasters in your bag, take breaks to rest your feet, and pack flats in case you need to change your shoes for something more comfortable.
Think about temperature. Convention halls are often hot, so make sure you drink plenty of water. Take breaks to take off the hottest parts of a costume, such as wigs, or maybe take a small hand-held fan to provide some relief. If you’re wearing a smaller costume, think about how warm you’ll be when you travel. If the weather is cold, take something to put over your cosplay when you travel, like jeans or a coat.
Pack a little survival kit. Have a small sewing kit or superglue to repair any cosplay mishaps. Take spare hair pins to secure escaping hairstyles or wigs. You could consider having business cards made so people can tag you in any pictures they take of your cosplay. Take any makeup that might need touching up, like face powder or lipstick. Take painkillers, makeup wipes and tissues to deal with headaches, spills or makeup mishaps. Cosmetic tape can be useful backup if you find your costume is moving in ways you’d rather it didn’t.
Conventions can be tiring places. You’re on your feet a lot, and they’re often hot, crowded spaces. Make sure you give yourself breaks to rest and escape the crowds. Drink plenty of water, as it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially if you’re in costume.
Eat proper meals, even if you’re rushing around all day. You’ll need the fuel to keep going. Try and eat something vaguely healthy at least occasionally during the convention, as it’ll help you keep going. It can be tempting to meal skip if you’re wearing a snug costume, but you’ll feel dreadful for it. Try to find proper food and don’t just fill up on snacks or other junk food.
Look after your belongings. Watch your bag as you’re browsing the stalls, and don’t be tempted to fling your possessions into a corner so you can chase after someone cosplaying your favourite character everywhere. Conventions are generally safe places, but be sensible and look after your things. Keep your wits about you if you’re in costume too. Not everyone has good intentions, and cosplay can attract unwanted attention.
Try and stay aware of who might be taking your picture and walk away from anybody who is making you uncomfortable. Look out for other cosplayers too, and warn them if you see somebody acting strangely towards them. Report any inappropriate behaviour to venue security as soon you see it so you can enjoy a fun, safe convention.
Don’t go anywhere alone with a photographer you don’t know, no matter how nice they are about your costume. Take a friend with you. Anyone who objects is clearly not a good person, so avoid them and say no to any more pictures.
Pop some essentials into your bag. Take plasters in case your shoes rub with all the walking you’ll be doing, and make sure you have a bottle of water with you. Make sure you have a way of charging your phone, whether that’s a power bar or your charger, so you can stay contactable. Make sure you have any hotel keys or travel tickets packed somewhere safely so you don’t lose them. Snacks are a good thing to have too, to save spending on pricey convention food.
Conventions are fun places, and you can have an incredible time with a little advance planning and some common sense. Most importantly, have fun!