Having been to a lot of conventions recently, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and what you should bring with you when travelling to a con.
Extra Change of Clothes – Everything: shirts, pants, underwear, socks. You never know if something might get spilled on you. Or, you spend the day running all over the hotel—to panels and the dealer’s room—and don’t want to wear funky clothes to a room party that night.
Phone/Tablet Charger – You grab your phone/tablet automatically, sure. But you’re going to be gone for a few days and if you’re tweeting, updating Facebook, looking for someplace to grab a bite, etc. you’re going to be out of juice quick. Do yourself a favour: Make a put a sticky note on your phone/tablet the night before to grab the charger, too. (Thanks to Farrell McGovern.)
Big Plastic Cup – Think one of those extra-large cups from McDonald’s. The air in convention hotels is usually pretty dry and it’s easy to get dehydrated. And if you stay up late to party, you’ll want to have plenty of water before going to bed to guard against a hangover in the morning. Most hotels will give you tiny tumblers, so bring your own large cup to put by your bed. When packing, stuff some socks or a rolled up t-shirt in it to help prevent it from getting smooshed.
Aspirin and Antacid – Pretty much explains itself. Whether it’s a headache or sore feet, you’ll want pain relief. And after a few days of hotel food, you’ll need something to quiet that upset stomach.
Small Bottle of Hand Sanitizer – It’s not just your stomach that might come into contact with some stuff it doesn’t agree with. A convention is a weekend of shaking hands, touching doorknobs and elevator buttons that have been touched by thousands of others, and just about every other way of catching a germ. Considering conventions are full of young kids and a few people with “questionable” hygiene habits, frequent hand washing might not be in the cards as you run between panels. So pack a small bottle of hand santizer, keep it with you and use as needed. (Thanks to James Bambury)
Pen, Notepad and Highlighter – Yes, you can jot just about everything down in your phone, but nothing beats good old pen & paper. You’ll also want to mark what panels you want to see in the convention’s program booklet. And if you pass your favourite author and want her to sign your book, better have a pen ready.
Tote / Shoulder Bag / Backpack – At a convention, you’ll acquire a lot of stuff. Books in the dealers room, bookmarks, flyers, promotional items. Rather than carrying it around by hand, just tuck it away and empty it out back in your hotel room or when you get home.
Spare Lanyard – Sometimes the convention lanyards are like Indiana Jones’ satchel they’re so sturdy. Sometimes they’re cheap-o. If you don’t want to carry a tote, then have your own lanyard that can carry pens, business cards and anything else you want to have on hand. (Thanks to Suzanne Church.)
Granola Bars or Other Easy to Transport Snacks – Conventions can mean long days. You might have panels you want to go to (or are a panelist on) from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Since hotel restaurants are not known for fast service (and might even be closed between lunch and dinner!), grabbing a quick bite might not be possible. So if you’re carrying around that tote or backpack from above, stick in some granola bars. They’re small, won’t melt and easy to transport. (Thanks to K.W. Ramsey)
Cash – Whether it’s for tips at the bar, something in the dealers room or an unexpected cab ride, always have some extra cash. (And usually dealers rooms are cash-only.) Carry a mix of small and large bills. Hotels usually have safes in the rooms or behind the front desk, so leave whatever you don’t need locked up and carry a smaller amount.
Bathing Suit – The convention-going crowd are not usually big swimmers. If you’re looking to have some quiet time to yourself, head for the hotel’s pool. You might find a family or a group of fooling around, but if you find the pool empty it’s a great time to relax on your own.
Camera – If your phone doesn’t double as your camera, bring one. You never know what you might see and want to capture—your favorite author, a kiss-ass costume (or a Kick-Ass costume), a spontaneous moment with friends.
Your Own Alcohol – Whether you love a beer or a martini, scotch or Bloody Mary, you will pay through the nose at the hotel bar. So bring your own bottle. If you’re flying internationally, stop off at the Duty Free. Even if you don’t finish the bottle and can’t take it on the plane ride home, you’ll probably still be ahead. And, give what’s left to a new friend you’ve made!
Am I missing something? If there’s something you always bring to a convention with you, let me know in the comments section.