Tips on Packing For a Con

If you have never been to a convention before, it can be hard to decide what to bring with you.  On one hand, you want to travel as light as possible, but on the other, bringing a few extra items can make your life a lot easier.  Here’s the method I find works best for me, and I hope it helps you.

Suitcases Don’t Have Endless Pocket Syndrome
Bring only what you need.  Pack your clothes, your toiletries, your phone – the basics.  Do NOT pack your bag so that it’s totally stuffed full and you have to wrestle it to close it.  For one thing, that’s too annoying to deal with.  For another, you want to leave plenty of extra room because you will probably be buying stuff at the con, and you need a way to bring it home.  Here’s a list of stuff you might think you need, but you can actually leave it at home.

  • Bathrobe – Bathrobes are fluffy and take up a lot of precious space.  Instead of bringing one, take your fresh clothes into the bathroom when you shower, and get dressed in there.
  • Pillow – There are pillows at the hotel, and you can request extra ones if you need them.  If you’re worried about germs, you can Lysol spray everything in the room as soon as you get there.  Unless you have a medical reason why you need your own pillow, leave it at home.
  • Chargers – Do you really need a charger for your cell phone/camera/computer?  Maybe, maybe not.  It depends if you have the thing on 24/7.  If you charge your tech gadgets at home before you leave, they might last the weekend.  Test it out on a weekend before the con.
  • Slippers AND shower shoes – I bring a pair of beach flip-flops because they act as slippers (keeping my precious little feet off the icky germy hotel room floor) AND I can wear them in the shower.  If you can bring an item that serves two purposes, do that instead.
  • Entertainment items – Don’t bring any plushies, handheld gaming devices, or board games.  You’re at a con with a bunch of friends.  You’ll be entertained without bringing things to kill time.

Stay Lemony Fresh
Bring a bar of soap, even if you’re the kind of person who normally uses body wash and a puff.  One item is easier to keep track of than two.  Also, a wet bar of soap can be safely stored in a soap dish, whereas a puff needs to be hung up to dry (and therefore can get in the way).

Bring a towel.  I’m, uh, not quoting anything.  Seriously.  Do not rely on hotel towels.

I also recommend bringing a travel-sized body spray for the middle of the day in case you are getting “un-fresh” and you don’t have a chance to go back to your room yet.

Finally, bring a little spray bottle of Febreeze.  At the end of the day, air out your cosplay and spritz it down.  This is especially important if you’re wearing it again the next day, but regardless, you don’t want to pack it away if it hasn’t had a chance to air out.  Regular clothes can get stuffed into a laundry bag, but your delicate cosplay needs to be aired out and then folded.

Bags, Bags, Bags
Bring a bunch of plastic bags.  Use one to keep your dirty laundry separate from all your nice clean stuff.  Put your toiletries in a bag, which is convenient for you (since it keeps all your bathroom stuff in one place) and also acts as damage control in case of a shampoo leak.  Put your food in a bag, which keeps it from taking on a “suitcase” smell, and, again, acts as a barrier to protect your other stuff in case of spillage.  If you’re wearing several cosplays, keep the accessories, makeup, and wigs for each one in a separate bag to keep them organized.  Hurray for bags!

You Can Haz Noms
Con food is expensive and generally not that good, so I recommend planning your meals ahead of time.  Bring granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, trail mix – you know, foods that travel well – and keep them with you as snacks.  You can also save money by going to the local grocery store before the con and buying some bread, PB, and J.  Other food ideas: look online or ask an experienced con-goer where to find a nearby inexpensive restaurant.  Check ahead of time to see what your hotel room has in terms of amenities.  If it has a fridge, your grocery store run can include dairy, sandwich meat, and pre-cut veggies.  If it has a kettle (and most do), you can bring tea, oatmeal, ramen, and other just-add-hot-water foods.  Hint: The coffee maker acts as a kettle if you put only water in it.

Important Things (not necessarily involving Demetri Martin)
Have a secure bag that you can keep with you at all times.  A fanny pack is good, or if you can find something less lame, then use that.  Use it to store your money, ID, passport, hotel key, and all the other Important Things.  It’s a little added peace of mind that at any time you can just look and go “yep, I haven’t lost my Important Things.”

Cash Only
Most places in the Dealers’ Room only accept cash, so make sure you have plenty of it.  Don’t rely on ATMs because those can be hard to find (and they can run out).

Love It and List It
When you’re planning what to pack, make a list and check things off as you put them in your bag.  Bring the list with you to the con, and update it.  That is, if you buy a manga, add that to your list.  If you use something up and throw it a way, cross it off your list.  Use that list to pack up your room when you’re going home so that you don’t accidentally leave anything behind.

Other Stuff
If you’re cosplaying, bring a cosplay repair kit (stuff like safety pins, duct tape, replacement feathers/sequins/etc, and a needle and thread).

Bring a little notepad and a pen or two.  Maybe you want to exchange emails or phone numbers with someone and technology has failed you.  Maybe you see the name of a new anime you want to remember, or you hear a cool quote, or… just bring pen and paper.

Business cards!  If you work in a geeky industry (or you’d like to), bring a few business cards.  Cons feature special guests who make cartoons and comics, so you can bet they are connected.  Cons also attract all kinds of “progeeks” and amateur fan “makers,” so you’re bound to meet someone who’d know Someone or who would be interested in doing a colab.  It never hurts to be prepared.

Finally, hydration.  Very important.  If you are going to a “driving distance” convention, then bring a case of water bottles.  If you’re going by plane, make sure to buy a case at the local grocery store when you get there.

I hope this helps.  If you have any other tips you’d like to share, please add them in the comments.


4 comments on “Tips on Packing For a Con

  1. Very useful post!

    I’m about the attend a few conferences in the next few months, and this post reminded me of some things. Here’s what I can add:

    -Chargers and devices
    If you rely on your devices to find your way around, test them out before the trip to make sure they’ll work. I flew out to an unfamiliar city for a convention last year, and had problems with my phone crashing or my GPS not working (due to software problems). A lot of time was spent “fixing” my devices when I could have used that time enjoying the convention and surrounding areas. If you can, pack an extended battery for your phone so you don’t have to hunt around for an open power outlet when your battery gets low.

    Also, if the convention has a program or schedule in PDF form, download it to your phone or tablet so you can have less things to carry. Pack as much digital info “offline” because often times 3G or 4G wireless internet can be unreliable inside of the convention centers.

    -Con food
    Starbucks, pizza, and pretzels aren’t really healthy and can add to the general burnout that conventions usually cause. Packing relatively healthy-ish food instead of buying it at the con means you can spend less time waiting in line for food, and more time in line for your favorite panels.

    -Remembering what you packed
    I have a smartphone and find it very easy to just lay out all my items on a table or bed and just take photos of them. It’s like a visual checklist.

    I try to pack as light as possible, everything in a single backpack. I don’t like being over encumbered like in Skyrim.

  2. This is a pretty comprehensive list. It basically has all the steps I follow for cons and travelling in general. Good tips to help you focus on having fun while away instead of stressing about your Things.

  3. Pingback: Things to Expect at a Con | The Geeky Manifestos Blog

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