Unless you live next door to the convention center, planning ahead for a convention is very important. Going to a convention is like going on vacation. If you just wing it, things may not turn out for the best. The more you plan, the better things will go and the more fun you will have.
There are four stages in preparing for a convention: Months in advance, upcoming weeks, the day before, and the day of.
Months in Advance
So you want to attend a convention that's nine months away? Now is the time to start planning. It may seem like light years away, but planning the foundation of your trip now will make things less stressful as the convention approaches.
Start by making a budget. Figure out how much money you're going to need for the convention. You'll need to pay for badge, food, and transportation, at a minimum. You may need to pay for a hotel, and everyone wants money to spend in the dealers room. Make sure you can afford to go to the convention before you commit to it. Our How-To Guide for Making a Budget for a Convention can help.
Next, make time to go. If you work, make sure you ask for those days off. If you're a student, see if the convention can work around your classwork. You may need to get to the convention later on Friday if you have a class or test you can't miss.
As soon as you can, pre-register for the con. Most times pre-registration costs less and you usually wait in a shorter line to get your badge. For some conventions the price to pre-register goes up as the convention date approaches, so get your badge as soon as you are able. Check the convention's website for details on pre-registering. Before you pre-register, make sure you are absolutely, 100% going to the convention. Badges are often non-refundable and non-transferable.
If you need a place to stay, get a hotel room. Whether you book one yourself or plan to room with some friends, do this as soon as you can. You can't sleep in the convention space and sleeping in your car is not a good idea, and showers are a must. Check out the How-To Guide for Booking a Hotel Room for an Anime Convention for advice and tips.
Next, prepare your travel arrangements, as you need a way to get to the convention, be it plane, train, or automobile. We also have a guide to this, the How-To Guide for Making Travel Arrangements for an Anime Convention.
If you plan to cosplay, now is the time to think about what you want to wear. Create a list of what you need to buy and a timeline of how long it will take you to make your costume. It's never fun to stay up late finishing a costume the night before a convention.
The convention details have been planned long ago. You've discussed meeting up with friends, new and old. Maybe you've been working on a new costume or an AMV entry. But the next thing you know, the number of days till the convention are getting smaller and smaller. Time for the next phase of preparations.
Figure out what time you need to leave. If you are flying, make sure you get there when the airline recommends. If you're driving, find out how much time it takes to get there and factor in any traffic you may hit. Once you decide on time, figure out how much time in the morning you will need to get ready, then add at least an extra 30 minutes, to determine when you need to get up.
Check out the schedule if it's available online before the con. This will probably change before the convention begins, but it's a good way to get a rough idea of what events you want to attend.
Go online and look into food options near the convention. Go to the convention's web site and see if there is a listing of nearby food options. If there isn't one, check out the hotel's website or search on Google Maps. It's important to know if food is in walking distance or if you will need to drive so you can plan your days accordingly. Find out if the hotel room will have a refrigerator and/or microwave, which can provide more options to food you can bring with you.
Make a list of things you want to buy at the con. When you walk into a dealers room the urge to buy everything hits you. Unless you have a money tree at home, you need to make sure you don't overspend there. Remember, buying food is more important than buying stuff in the dealers room. And we mean real food, not Pocky and Ramune. Also, make a list of what you already have. That way you're not stuck trying to remember which volumes of manga or DVDs you already own, and you don't end up with duplicates.
Make a packing list of what you'll need for the convention. Check the upcoming weather forecast to see what type of clothes you will need. If you plan to attend a dance, be it "rave-like" or a semi-formal or formal, be sure to pack appropriate clothing. If you're a cosplayer make a list of each part of your costume to check when you're packing, including all your accessories. Also bring a cosplay repair kit.
The Night Before
Tomorrow is the big day. Time to get ready for it.
Charge your electronics, be it your cell phone, DS/PSP, iPod, camera, whatever. Do it now while you have time. Don't forget to pack your chargers when you're done.
Pack the night before so you don't have to rush in the morning if you are leaving early. Use the list you prepared last week to help. Put everything you can in your suitcase tonight, and throw the last minute stuff into it in the morning.
Get a good night sleep because you probably won't get much at the convention. Don't forget to set your alarm.
The Day of
The countdown is over and it's convention time. With all your prior preparations, today should be stress free.
SHOWER! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TAKE A SHOWER! You can do that the night before instead, if you want. Don't forget take one everyday at the convention.
Eat a good breakfast, it will help keep you fueled throughout the day.
Make sure you have the following:
- A photo ID, money, debit and/or credit card(s)
- Directions to and from the location. Even if you're not driving, it's good to have extra just in case.
- Printed confirmations for hotel, travel arrangements, and preregistration.
- Snacks and water to keep you full and hydrated between meals.
- A cell phone fully charged, which a charger packed
Do a last check of what you've packed. If you don't think you'll need it, don't bring it.
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