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Tips For Convention Goers

Updated on February 24, 2018

Buy Tickets In Advance

With any convention planning in advance is the key to success because you never know if or when it might sell out. Some conventions like San Diego Comic-Con can sell out in a matter of hours, while others will have tickets available the day of. Your best bet to ensure you can get in is to plan your trip in advance and buy tickets as soon as they go one sale. Checking the conventions website ahead of time will let you know if you need to become a member before you can buy tickets. Comic-Con International, the company that runs San Diego Comic-Con, Wonder-Con and the Alternative Press Expo, requires a member ID before you can buy tickets but the close membership for a few days surrounding the start of ticket sales. Following the convention’s social media pages or subscribing to their newsletters will help you stay on top of the latest updates as well as inform you of any deals they might be having.

The Entrance To Comikaze

The start of the day at Stan Lee's Comikaze
The start of the day at Stan Lee's Comikaze | Source
A late lunch at Stan Lee's Comikaze
A late lunch at Stan Lee's Comikaze | Source

Volunteering

If you aren’t able to buy tickets for some reason, volunteering is a great option. For most conventions, if you volunteer a few hours of your time you receive a pass for the rest of the day. Volunteers fill a variety of roles including helping guests find panels, making sure people don’t cut in lines for shows or panels, assisting special guests to their appearances, checking guests in and handing out badges. Volunteer sign-up can fill up fast so making sure you know when and how is very important. However, if you know someone who has a booth, they can sometimes get people in as long as you assist at their booth for a while.

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Where to Stay

Besides how you get into the convention, the most important thing on your to do list should be figuring out where to stay. If you know in advance that you’re planning on going to a convention you might want to book your hotel before you get your tickets. Hotel prices can increase dramatically after the convention tickets go on sale so booking early is essential for making sure you get the most affordable price. Also look at how close the hotel is to the location. If you’re lucky and are able to get a hotel close to the convention, you can save money by not having to pay for parking. For hotels that are farther away from the convention, you can check to see if they will have a shuttle to the location. There might be a small fee for the service but in the long run it could save you some money.

Costumes and Panels

A villain at Disney's D23 Expo
A villain at Disney's D23 Expo | Source
Cosplayers at Disney's D23 Expo
Cosplayers at Disney's D23 Expo | Source
A full panel at Wonder-Con
A full panel at Wonder-Con | Source

What to wear

It might seem silly but what you wear to a convention is very important. If the convention is more of a professional convention, like for the doctors or media professionals, you want to make sure you follow the dress code. If you are attending an entertainment related convention, like San Diego Comic-Con or Disney’s D23 Expo, casual attire is recommended. Wearing layers is recommended since some areas, like in panels or seminars tend to get chilly. The main hall usually houses the booths and shops and therefore most of the attendees. The temperature differences between the main hall and the panel rooms can be as much as 20 degrees. If the convention you are planning on going to allows for costumed attire and you would like to join in, make sure to check the rules on the event’s website. Some conventions have guidelines and restricted items that you’ll want to follow.

Various Conventions

A Bunch of R2D2's at Stan Lee's Comikaze
A Bunch of R2D2's at Stan Lee's Comikaze | Source
Marvel Movie Props at Stan Lee's Comikaze
Marvel Movie Props at Stan Lee's Comikaze | Source
A Scavenger Hunt at Disney's D23 Expo
A Scavenger Hunt at Disney's D23 Expo | Source

Panels and Booths

Thrilling Adventure Hour Panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze
Thrilling Adventure Hour Panel at Stan Lee's Comikaze | Source
Inspector Spacetime booth at Wonder-COn
Inspector Spacetime booth at Wonder-COn | Source
Author Dean Koontz at Wonder-Con
Author Dean Koontz at Wonder-Con | Source
Guillermo Del Toro at a Pacific Rim Panel at Wonder-Con
Guillermo Del Toro at a Pacific Rim Panel at Wonder-Con | Source

Stuff to Bring

When preparing for a convention knowing what to bring is important. Having a backpack or a purse is will allow you to bring essentials with you as well as help you carry anything you might get while there. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in lines for panels, signings or just to get into the convention itself, bringing snacks can be very helpful. Convention food is expensive and the concession stands can have some of the longest lines in the entire convention, so bringing snacks can save time and money. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything bringing cash and/or credit cards is recommended. You never know what you might find or unexpected event might come up. Conventions like Wonder-Con and Stan Lee’s Comikaze tend to have extra events like a zombie run or a scavenger hunt that isn’t announced ahead of time. The unexpected happens a lot at conventions so making sure that your cell phone is fully charged or that you have a camera is vital.

Planning Your Day

Conventions can be jam packed with panels, signings, giveaways, and special events, which makes planning your time critical. Check to see if the convention has a smartphone app, these are the best way to keep you up to date with what’s going on. Sometimes panels have to be canceled or moved at the last minute and the updates are sent out through the app. Many of these apps also allow you to set reminders for events so you know when to get in line or head to a certain area. For those without a smartphone or if your battery dies, most conventions also have a printed booklet with all the information included. If you’re going to a convention for several days, it might be best to try to plan on going to panels on one day and trying to do most of your shopping on another. Depending on how much you want to see and do, planning a time for meals is a good idea. Having a backup plan for in case you don’t get into a panel or event you wanted to, can help you to get more done in a day instead of trying to figure it out on the fly.

Cosplay At Disney's D23 Expo

What to Expect

When going to a convention the main thing is to expect the unexpected. Unless it’s the first year of a convention, there tends to be a crowd. Lots of people can mean very interesting smells, and interactions with strangers. There will be new products at many of the booths, some of which will be giving out free samples or information about the items. Other booths will have vintage products that haven’t been seen in years for those who are looking for them. If you’re at an entertainment related convention, you will see many people dressed up as characters from different genres and forms of media (books, films and television shows). Some of these people may be scantily clad which can be a shock if you’re not expecting it. San Diego Comic-Con, Anime-Expo and conventions like these tend to have celebrities featured in panels as well as walking around the convention itself. Many of the celebrities are willing and happy to have photos taken with them but it’s always best to ask them for permission first.

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