The summer is upon us here in the United States, and with that people begin gearing up for what is destined to be an eventful season of vacations, warm nights, and conventions. That's right, the era of cosplay, con flu, and endless swag purchases is upon us - it's convention season. As a kid, I always hoped to go to conventions, but never had the time, money, or anyone interested enough to bring me. So I, like many, waited until I was a senior in high school to go to my first con Since that fateful day in 2013 when I went to PAX East clad in a dress fashioned out of Magic The Gathering cards that took me months to sew together, I've always had a special place in my heart for conventions and hope to continue going to more as I grow older. Whether it be a large scale gaming con, a smaller gathering of Nerdfighters, YouTube conglomerates, or Book Expos, there is something for every aspect of my interests and always a cause for excitement. But among the stress and activity, it is pretty easy to lose sight of the bigger picture for convenience, and a bit of your mental state amid the chaos. So just how do you keep your cool at conventions? And how can we keep our activities fun, and sustainable? (This is a theme in my posts now, you should have seen this one coming).
1. Bring A Refillable Water Bottle
It is easy to forget to stay hydrated in our day to day lives. It is even easier to forget to stay hydrated when you're lining up outside of a panel an hour early to guarantee you get a seat, lose yourself on the crowded sales floor, or get interrupted every 10 feet to take a picture. It happens, and we've all been there. Though if you're out and about in the heat be sure to get yourself something to drink. And, rather than pay high sums of money for a bottle of water in the form of plastic that is harmful to the environment, bring a refillable water bottle with you to the convention and find a fountain in the convention hall. If all else fails, you can always ask someone working at a food station or a local restaurant to fill it for you, or a glass of water. Water's free when its not bottled for you - take advantage of that.
2. Bring Snacks
It seems like every time I've gone to a convention I've forgotten to eat for much of the day. By the time I remember I'm already far too hungry and the lines are far too long. Then, after waiting in line for what seems like an eternity, missing a discussion I wanted to see, and getting something I don't really like, that wasn't made well because they ran out of everything else, I had to pay way too much money. It's a terrible situation to be in. Lucky for me, the most recent convention space I've been frequenting has a Trader Joe's across the street. So rather than wait inside the convention hall for food that isn't good for me, I ducked across the street, grabbed a few snacks and kept them with me for the rest of the day. This will save you money, time, and packaging if you bring things from home that you already have on hand.
3. Skip The Merch Bags
While we all love getting new - and free! - things, we don't need it. It seems like every time I've gone to a convention, whether it be for work or fun, I've come back with something I don't need. 3 Laynards all covered with buttons? Check. A plastic mason jar that will crack after 3 uses? Check. A plastic bag filled with business cards and a couple of stickers? Check. The Gamer Jesus Bible? Check. (Yes, that actually does exist, and I have no idea where I put it, but there's a sticker on my laptop because it's funny to me). You get the point. I'm not saying don't buy a teeshirt, take a button or a sticker, but limit yourself. If you want to purchase something, bring a bag with you so you don't take the plastic one. Take a photo of someone's business card rather than taking the physical copy that you'll never use (and more than likely lose). Skip the buttons that are free but maybe not your style. It's nice to get free things, but you don't need everything.
4. Plan Out Your Day Ahead of Time
It's always the worst finding out that someone you really wanted to see was doing a panel that just ended. Conventions often have their event listings online far in advance so you can schedule out your day sooner. Take advantage of this. Friends don't want to see the same things as you? That's okay! That's great even! Enjoy your time apart to see the things you want to. Make some friends in line while you're there. You can all come back together and have stories to tell for the drive home, or the hotel room that night. Just don't be afraid to not follow the schedule either. It's okay to change plans. You likely spent money on this convention, take advantage of it in the way that makes that most worth while to you. If you need to just sit on the floor and watch people walk by for an hour then do it! But don't miss the chance to check out a panel you weren't so sure about if you have the time - you just might find your new interest.