DC photoIn the past four years, I’ve attended a number of local and regional conventions, but there have been three biggies on my bucket list for a while: San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con and Dragon*Con. I had the pleasure of knocking that list down to only two last September. For longtime Dragon*Con attendees, the convention is always exciting but probably old hat by now. But for newbies like me, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. So much so that I’m going again. With only 98 days left until this year’s convention, it’s time to kick that costume making and event planning into high gear. 

Until I discovered steampunk a few years ago, I never fully appreciated the art of convention-going. I didn’t attend cons growing up; being nerdy/geeky in full view of others wasn’t something I could allow myself to be. Now that I’m an adult, that’s changed, of course, so I started wanting to be in the company of other people with whom I could flail uncontrollably about steampunk, anime and sci-fi, among other things. D*C was the perfect convergence of all of my favorite things. Here are some things I learned from my first time Dragon*Con experience:

  1.  Arrive early if you can. Last year, my crew decided to drive overnight so that we’d get to Atlanta during the early Friday morning hours of the convention. This probably wasn’t early enough. The pros get to town on Thursday, which gives them enough time to relax and get a full night’s sleep before hitting the con hard on Friday. We were able to check into our hotel room early but then spent the first day tiredly running around before crashing out early.
  2. Take pictures of your favorite cosplays the moment you see them. Whenever I saw a cosplay I liked, I thought, “I’ll see that person/those people again later.” Not once did I see those cosplays again later. (As a result of my ignorance, I don’t have a pic of the black family who cosplayed Homer, Marge and Lisa from The Simpsons. Boo.) Take the picture when the opportunity presents itself. It may be your only shot.
  3. Make arrangements for hangs. A large contingent of Cincinnati steampunks always hit Dragon*Con every year; I didn’t see any of them while I was there last year. That didn’t make the convention any less fun but seeing some familiar faces in that sea of 65,000 congoers would’ve been nice.
  4. Know who you’re rooming with. D*C is a major money suck and cutting down on costs is essentially to a successful trip. But when choosing whom to travel/room with, be careful. Are you a “party all night” type? That might be difficult if your roommates want to be asleep by 11. I know my roomies and we hang out on a regular basis outside of the con circuit; our personalities mesh well so we don’t have any drama. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an expensive *ss room with someone who’s making you miserable just to cut down on hotel costs.
  5. Bring lots of cash. The vendor hall isn’t really a hall, per se. It’s more like a convention of its own. And it’s filled with the most awesome, blow-your-mind products that will have you squeeing up and down Peachtree Street. Don’t be caught off guard by the awesome by being broke. Save, save, save so you can spend, spend, spend!
  6. Get in line early for panels. If there’s a panel you really, really want to see, you need to be in line for at least an hour before it starts. An hour and a half would be better to ensure that you get a seat toward the front. Once the seats are gone, they’re gone. At every panel I attended, every butt was in a seat or they weren’t let in. There was no standing up in the aisles or sitting on the floor, which was great because honestly, that’s just an inconvenience for everyone. (You don’t want to be that guy/girl.)
  7. Stay hydrated. Atlanta in the summer is a hot city. Like, seventh-circle-of-hell hot. And walking around in bulky costumes and/or covered in body paint in that heat doesn’t bode well for you if you don’t have something thirst-quenching with  you at all times. If possible, bring your water/juice/soda with you because the prices will be outrageous when  you’re in the vicinity of the con.
  8. Do everything in your power to keep from getting sick. Conventions are petri dish of sickness just waiting to happen. Wear gloves the whole time, douse yourself in Lysol, mainline Zicam, wear a surgical mask….just do whatever it takes to not get other people’s germs on/near/around you.
  9. REST. In relation to number 8, the reason why a lot of people end up getting sick after a con is because they run themselves ragged during the con and then go home exhausted, giving their bodies time to realize just how rundown they are and BOOM! They’re down for the count. You can cut down on that by not overpacking your schedule and making sure you get a decent amount of sleep each night. Trust me, your body will thank you.
  10. Enjoy! Cons are a time to kick it with other nerds and geeks who like the things you like and you couldn’t ask for a better place to do that than Dragon*Con.You worked hard on your cosplays, you look amazing and your whole squad is lit. If someone tries to screw that up for you, walk away as soon as you can (if possible).

And there you have it. Even if you aren’t going to Dragon*Con, you can still take some of these tips to heart for other conventions. After all, con season is in full swing right now. Buy a badge. Book a room. Go forth and con!

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