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Conventions are often filled with long lines. These include lines to get into the convention, lines to get tickets, lines to get lunch, lines to see celebrities, lines to get into a panel, lines to get into the line for the bathroom, and even lines to get back outside. Have a checklist for items you are bringing and for items you are buying. Leave small children at home, and charge all of your electronic devices.
One of the things that must be said about lines is the one to get a ticket, which can sometimes be very long. Shipping charges will depend on each convention.
TIP: Buy your ticket in advance. Not only is this faster for the day of the convention, but cheaper as well. Tickets bought beforehand are usually mailed, so there is no line to get one, and they are 5-10 percent cheaper on top of the convenience factor. Nothing hurts more than getting in one line to buy a ticket, only to go into another line after that to get into the convention itself.
When packing, strongly consider wearing comfortable shoes as well as layers if you happen to be going to a convention that is colder in the early spring or late fall.
TIP: Wear lightweight, storable layers because with so many people inside, it will get hot, so a sticky, cotton T-shirt combined with air conditioning is not suggested. Bring a backpack or a canvas tote bag that folds and unfolds at your convenience. Likewise, in a hot environment, a heat-reflecting umbrella might be an appropriate choice.
Another thing about lines is that they are endless. Sometimes when you are standing there doing nothing, but waiting, time will seem to crawl at a snail’s pace.
TIP: Regardless of how many friends attend with you, bring some entertainment of your own; eventually, it will get quiet in your group. Music and a small crossword or Sudoku are suggested. A small, folding, portable, three-leg camping chair is also a good thing to bring.
Saving money will be a primary concern, even as you spend money on items that you seemingly cannot live without.
TIP: Save yourself three or four dollars, and bring your own water if you can. If you are not allowed into the convention with a large quantity of water for security, then that is a different story, so check first.
Food at convention centers can be hit or miss. There are usually several food vendors at every location, and most will have fresh, edible food right alongside the coffee. It is just not cheap.
TIP: Do not be afraid to pack your own food. Just make sure it is not something that will melt or go bad in the afternoon heat. A meal replacement bar might be too much for the casual attendee, but hardcore fans have camped out the night before, bringing homemade peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and other snacks.
While making purchases, do not be afraid to walk away from a seemingly good deal. Have some patience, because on the last day of a convention, prices may drop if the item you want is not selling as fast as anticipated. On the other hand, if an item is selling like hot cakes at breakfast, you might to go ahead and buy it.
TIP: Do your research. Before and during the purchase, if you have an internet-capable device, do some price comparison online for the list of things you want. Do not let the lure of the convention and the ‘must buy everything now’ vibe get control of your wallet because you will regret it later. Just step aside, so someone behind you can make a purchase.
At certain conventions, there are basement levels where there is no cell phone reception, so have a spot to meet friends just in case.
TIP: Look for a Wi-Fi connection that most convention centers have. Check for associated fees and costs from your service provider, but sometimes a Wi-Fi call that costs five dollars saves thirty minutes of headache and other problems.
Lastly, nothing is more annoying than having a cellphone die in the middle of a convention, so bring a fully charged phone, conserve the battery, and at the least, bring a charger that will not weigh more than a few ounces. Bring spare batteries for everything.
TIP: The age of the Nextel may have passed, but the usefulness of a walkie-talkie has not. Since conventions are not usually more than a mile or two apart from one end to the other at the maximum, a cheap set of walkies might be a good idea if they are allowed into the convention center.
Security is one of the most important, but sometimes least covered, areas.
TIP: Keep your money close to you in a hard-to-reach pocket and not in a purse or backpack that can be easily opened as you push through a crowd. Pickpockets will have any number of ploys to get at your money and your electronics, so carrying a backpack or fanny pack in front of you will be better than carrying it behind you.
Be on the lookout for freebies, giveaways, and other cheap gifts at the conventions from developers, artists, and publishers. Whether it is a hat or a sticker, these small items will add to the greater overall enjoyment of the convention. If an email address is required for that cool poster or that limited edition artwork, choose one of the many that you actively check, and it will be worth giving out that email to see the item hanging on your wall.
TIP: Certain items at each convention become show-exclusives or rare items that will never be found again. Find out immediately from the onset of the convention what they are, rather than waiting for the end of the convention since these items are often the first to go. Some items are only sold on a limited run basis at certain hours and days of the convention, so make sure to note this on your program guide in an easily remembered place.
Plan well. That cannot be stressed enough. Whether with family or friends, it is suggested to get multiple copies of the show floor plan and program guides. This will help navigation and timing for travel between the massive levels and hallways of some of the larger events.
Read the rules. There are signs posted for bag check, signs posted for conduct, and signs in the program guide for prohibited activities and items. It is not fun when you think you can bring that cool sword or large item into the convention, then are denied entrance into the convention itself.
Lastly, have patience. Everyone is there to have fun and enjoy themselves. In a cramped area, tensions can run high, but if everybody keeps cool, everybody has fun.