Essentials for an anime otaku convention
Whether you’re a casual fan or a die-hard otaku, going to a convention (anime, sci-fi, comic, furry, etc,…) for the first time can be a bit daunting. There’s usually lots of activities to do in just a few days. Over the years, I discovered that it’s more fun if you plan ahead for any major activities and leave gaps in your itinerary for random stuff. However, there are a few essentials that are a must.
Ten Essentials for an anime otaku convention
1. Buy your convention and travel tickets early. Also, book your hotel as well.
How early? As early as possible. The advantages are:
- Cheaper than buying tickets at the door.
- You’ll have a ticket if there’s ever an attendance cap.
- Speeds up the process of picking up your convention badge.
- Sometimes concerts and autograph signings cost extra and have limited seating. Buying early avoids missing out.
- Booking your hotel and travel tickets in advance avoids the problem of no rooms or seats available.
- If you have to cancel, you’ll have time to get your money back.
Sometimes it’s easier to do all this if your local anime/Sci-fi club organizes trips to the conventions. Don’t know any in your area? Try asking where you buy your anime or manga/comics. There’s also a good chance that your local college or university will have a club. You can also try asking the convention organizers if they have group plans. If they don’t, they may point out to an organization that does.
2. Scout out the local restaurants.
If you are from out of town, I find that you can save a lot of money on food expenses if you know where to get a cheap and decent meal. Hotel food can be expensive, so either google the area around the convention or ask around for advice and directions. Don’t be shy, most con-goers would be happy to help out.
As an alternative, you can also bring your own food. You’ll save lots of money. Sure you’ll have to lug around more luggage going there, but on the plus side you’ll have eaten everything by the time the convention ends.
Another thing to consider is to carry light snacks and a water bottle with you. Not all venues have water fountains/stations. Even if the convention is taking place in the winter, thousands of bodies can warm up a place quickly.
3. Spending money, you’ll need it.
One thing you’ll need is cash. Whether it’s to buy food or for spending at the dealers room, you’ll need it. Restaurants are usually alright to accept credit or debit cards. Some vendors in the dealer room are set up for this as well. However, some of the smaller vendors and artists can only accept cash.
How much to bring? That depends on person to person. I usually start by estimating how much I’m willing to spend at the convention overall. I then divide it up between how many meals I’ll eat per day and how much I’m willing to spend on each of them. The rest of my budget goes towards any special events that cost extra (Concerts, autographs, special swag) and the dealers and artist rooms. I also set aside some, “emergency” money in case I need it for food, water, transportation, etc, …
Also, try not to spend everything on the first day. Sometimes dealers will have last day specials because they don’t want to carry their inventory home. Heck, you can even try your luck haggling with them as well. I usually do this if I’m buying stuff in volume from the same dealer or a bunch of my friends are buying the same item(s) at the same time.
4. Backup power source.
Today’s smartphone batteries don’t last as long as the old flip phones. There’s nothing worse than running out of power when you’re trying to take a picture of that awesome cosplayer (ask for permission first) or trying to contact friends after getting separated. One solution is to carry a portable recharging pack. When your battery is getting low, just plug it into the battery pack and you should be ok until the end of the day. There are lots of models to choose from in all shapes and sizes at Amazon.com.
5. Line up early.
Lineups are something you can’t really avoid at conventions. So if you want to check in to your hotel or get that great seat at the concert, panel, autograph or screening event, consider lining up early (also consider the travel time to get there). Sure, waiting in line for over an hour is a major drag, so to keep occupied I usually have something to read or play on my electronic devices (hence the backup power source). This may also give you an opportunity to meet new people that may have the same interest as you. You, never know, you could meet a future boy/girlfriend. However, that’s an article for another time.
Another thing I use if I expect long lineups is a portable stool. After walking around all day, sitting is a much welcome relief. Not many conventions provide sitting space in their lineups. I bring one because sometimes the ground is just too nasty to sit on. You can probably get one cheap at Walmart, Target or even a hardware store if they have an outdoors department. Here’s a few on Amazon.com.
6. Plan which events you want to attend.
Most conventions publish their schedules early. If they do, I take the time to plan out what I’ll be doing at the convention. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I usually schedule the major events I’ll be attending (including lineup time). I also schedule which events I’ll be going to with friends and eating times. Be sure to schedule some, “exploration” time as well. You’ll never know what you’ll discover.
7. Stay Clean!!!
I bet you’ll always find some joke about the lack of personal hygiene at a convention. With thousands of people in a small area, you’re bound to “discover” new smells. For the love of your fellow con attendee, stay clean! Don’t contribute to the otaku funk! Take a shower at the beginning or end of the day (or both). Scrub using a washing cloth. Brush those teeth. Bring a different set of clothes for each day of the con even if you do cosplay. There’s nothing more distracting than the sudden odor of Otaku Funk. (This is not what I meant when I mentioned “exploration time”.) Sorry that this part is a bit nagging.
If you’re concerned about germs, try carrying a pack of sanitary wipes. The types you can use on your hands, face and toilet seats. I prefer those over hand sanitizers, but that’s just my personal preference.
8. Extra bags or luggage.
When I shop at the dealers room, I never know how many items I’ll buy or how bulky they may be. When not cosplaying, I wear a small backpack. That’s perfect for small items or when I don’t buy many items. If I do buy more, I also pack a tote bag.
Keep in mind when buying things, that you’ll have to pack everything up in a way so that nothing breaks or gets ruined. Also, remember that you’ll have to carry everything. To this day, I am very thankful for wheels on luggage.
9. Writing Material.
If you are planning to go to a convention, you might want to at least bring some pen a paper with you. Sometimes the convention organizers have a surprise guest and you might want to get their autograph. This is also useful to note things you see and want to remember later. There’s a lot going on at a convention and it’s easy to forget that you wanted to go back to a certain dealer for that item you want. Of course some people enter it in their smartphones, but hey, I prefer the guest actor to sign a paper, not my phone. (I got Johnny Yong Bosch to sign my Trigun limited edition cases.)
10. Go with friends.
To this day, I’ve always gone to a convention with friends. I find that I was more willing to check out different things and there’s less anxiety for doing that, “geeky, nerdy” thing. It’s a lot more fun when you have people that you can talk and share your convention experiences with. Just don’t be afraid to schedule some, “me” time at the convention as well. After all, your friend(s) might do the same.
That about wraps it up for essentials, there’s always more that I could mention, but hopefully you get the gist of it. Remember, the most important thing when at a convention is to Have FUN!
Be sure to check out the next post, Essentials for Cosplaying at a Convention. This will cover some tips if you are cosplaying for the first time.
I’d be glad to hear from you if you think there are essentials that I might have missed. Feel free to leave comments below.