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 / Water Bottle – 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.
18 comments on "What You Should Bring with You to a Convention"
Excellent list. The only thing I’d add would be granola bars/snack food of some sort in case you have long day and your blood sugar starts to crash.
There have been a number of conventions in which we’ve known we’ve had a mini-fridge in the room where we’ve actually packed lunch meat, peanut butter, bread, fruit, vegetables, etc. in a small cooler. Some con suites are better than others, but it saves a load of cash if you don’t mind missing out on restaurant stuff.
True, but I think that would apply to just about any kind of convention or trip. Here, I am trying to hone in on the specifics of an SF con. But I certainly bring some food of my own if I know there will be a fridge.
After getting sick or ill after conventions I’ve been thinking about some health precautions to take when going to meet people who may be bringing germs from far and wide in a place with lots of handshaking and other contact.
At the last Ad-Astra, I brought a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and used it with OCD like frequency. I think that helped, although it’s hard to determine the efficacy of such measures.
Good call on the big plastic cup, Matt. I’m usually in need of extraordinary volumes of water for late-nights and the mornings-after…I’ll have to find something to bring next time. Perhaps there’s an idea for some CZP merchandise there? (80% dark fiction, 20% rehydration)
I like it. Added it above.
I miss the pool at the old Ad Astra hotel, it had a beautiful glass-and-wrought-iron roof.
You know, I had everything on my list but the hand sanitizer. Weird since I use it almost constantly at work. Nice call.
Hope the list helped!
I always bring an extra lanyard in case theirs won’t hold my business cards. Oh and business cards.
Another good one! This post is going to be long, but full of good stuff.
One important addition in this day and age…Charger for your phone and/or tablet!
You’d think that would be self-evident, but considering the number of times you here about it, good point!
I’d suggest that your paper include large Post-It notes, to leave messages for friends in the ConSuite/Hospitality Suite, on the Messages Board, with the wait staff in the bar, etc. – Elizabeth Buchan-Kimmerly
You need a checklist to keep track of things when planning for a trip…especially going to a convention!
Thanks for the link. Great article!