Aug 262015

UPDATE: As Dragon Con 2015 is almost upon us, I thought it would be a great time to re-publish my article on convention planning. My hope is that the procedure that my brother and I use will help others in their convention planning. The truth is that while proper planning can be irritating at times, it does save headaches down the road and makes for a smoother con experience.

It used to be that conventions were normally held in the summer and autumn, but now you can find geek-themed conventions throughout the year. One important aspect of going to conventions that many geeks do not think about is proper convention planning. What I mean by this is your preparation for attending the con of your choice. My brother and I go to Dragon Con in Atlanta every year, and we take our preparation seriously. Allow me to go over our convention planning 101 basics.

The reason why my brother and I are so focused on planning is that was how we were raised. My father took us on vacations that lasted anywhere from six to eight weeks. We drove cross-country in a pickup truck with no A/C and no radio while pulling a twelve foot camper. Our father had a system for everything, and we were normally on the road by eight in the morning, all the while our dad proclaiming, “I wanted to be fifty miles down the road by now!” While irritating at the time, it has made us appreciate proper planning, and we put this into practice when we go on any trip, but especially for Dragon Con.

Dragon Con snacks

We always eat healthy at conventions!

First, the basics. There are essential items that are needed for any trip. Some of these items might change if you’re flying to a convention or driving. I’ll leave the exact determination up to you. For our purposes, my brother and I tend to eat most of our meals in our hotel room. We normally grab one hot meal per day at the food court across from the Marriott. The reason why we eat in our room is that it’s far cheaper and quicker than going out for every meal. Here is the basic list of items we bring:

  • Cooler chest (2)
  • Food/Drinks/Snacks
  • Clothes
  • Map
  • Extra pair of glasses (if you wear them)
  • Charger for cell phone
  • Digital camera w/charger, batteries, and memory cards
  • Bandages
  • Pain medicine (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Basic toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razor, shaving cream, comb, nail clippers)
  • Notebook
  • Pens
  • Backpack
  • Oversized hardback book (2)
  • Poncho
  • Umbrella
  • Books to read
  • Proof of purchasing convention attendance

Most of the above items are self-explanatory. The reason why I suggest pain medication is that you never know if you’re going to get a headache or hurt yourself. One year at Dragon Con, my brother cracked a rib by falling down on a sidewalk. I don’t need to tell you that he was in agony the entire convention. The map is for while driving to your hotel and for not getting lost in a strange city. There’s plenty of one-way streets in Atlanta. The poncho and umbrella are handy if you might find yourself walking through the rain, as I have on several occasions. The oversized books are used for holding autographs. I keep one in the hotel room and the other in my backpack. I use Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks for this purpose as they’re large enough to provide protection for the pictures but not heavy enough to be cumbersome.

Now our routine for proper convention planning goes like this. We buy all the food and other miscellaneous items the day before we leave for the con. We always drive up to the convention the day before it starts. As Dragon Con always starts on a Friday, we drive up on Thursday. First thing Thursday morning, we grab some ice and pack the cooler chests with the sodas and cold cuts for sandwiches. We then head out by 8:30am. (I would prefer to be on the road by 8am but my brother is always slow.) The reason for us leaving so early is that we avoid late afternoon traffic and we get to check in early and then relax before grabbing our badges.


Proper convention planning will ensure that you won’t turn into this!

We actually eat on the road (a practice long learned while travelling with our dad) when we start out, and then stop for a quick lunch at a fast food place an hour or so outside of Atlanta. Once we arrive in Atlanta, we drive to our hotel, unpack the car, and turn it over to the valet. A quick note – please tip the porters that are helping you. Also, give them a hand. There are few things I hate less than lazy bastards watching one guy unload an entire van of cosplay outfits and other junk while a group of convention goers just stand by and watch him. Show some etiquette by getting your car unloaded and out of the way as soon as possible.

After the car is unloaded, I wait with the bags while my brother checks in. Normally, it takes ten to fifteen minutes to have a porter come help you take your stuff  inside as they’re getting slammed by people coming to check in. Once we get checked in and get our stuff to our room, we unpack and relax a bit. Then my brother normally heads off and grabs our badges. I wait until he’s almost got them, at which point he gives me a call, and I’ll go grab us some hot food and bring it back to our room. After eating, he sleeps for a bit (he normally works the night shift) while I go over the convention schedule and pick out things that are of interest to us. After he wakes up, we comb through our options and create our own lists. While we see a few things together, we do have some different interests as well. One handy tip is to have backup plans for a panel in case it gets full before you get in.

The point for all this convention planning is that it takes the stress out of prepping and arriving at the con. We have a checklist of everything, and we don’t leave anything until the last minute. By leaving early, we avoid traffic hassles and ensure that the hotel parking lot isn’t full by the time we get there. All our proper planning means that we get checked in, grab our badges, plan our convention strategy, and then get to relax so we’re not tired or freaked out before the con even begins.

Be sure to check out:

Convention Etiquette: Part One
Convention Etiquette: Part Two
Dragon Con Survival Guide

  3 Responses to “Convention Planning 101”

  1. You forgot to mention two important items: a tankard of good dwarven ale and an your trusty axe!

    Grum is not dum!

  2. Egads! What demented vision of hell is that creature?! It looks like my ex-wife after her sex change! Burn it! Burn it with fire! Hee hee! Ho ho! Ha ha!

    ‘The jester is an annoying fellow…’

  3. Him look like me distant cousin, M-113 Salt Creature! Him so pretty like me! Me big star now!

    No kill I!

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