October 25, 2011

Convention Advice: How Much Money Should I Bring?


I cannot count how many times I see this on forums. I know there are a lot of people new to the convention scene and possibly traveling on their own, and are intimidated by wild numbers they hear through the internet. Well, it really doesn't have to be that scary or unaffordable. There are a lot of ways to cut down on cost, as well as getting a better grip on what you plan to take with you.

What I will show you today is how to determine the MINIMUM amount of money you should have to allot for a convention. Here is the equation I use - I am a math nerd, and I apologize for that RIGHT NOW.

$Hotel Room + $Parking + $Ticket + ($6 x # Meals/Day x #Days) + $Gas

For veterans, this is pretty easy to figure out. But what if you're new? What does all this mean?

$Hotel Room
Cost of Hotel Room

What is your room rate? Are you sharing a room with other people? Are you only there one evening? There are a lot of factors in how much it will cost you to stay at the convention hotel of your choice. I will tell you right now - sharing a room is a lot more accommodating to your pockets than staying alone.

Things you'll need to know:

  • Check the CONVENTION website to find their special rates. Each convention is different. A lot of them will arrange "discounted" rates for their attendees. The website for the convention should have a link to lodging, and will give you instructions on getting said discount. Follow directions accordingly.
  • Hotels charge a much higher tax rate than you may expect. Sure the convention site says $89.00 a night, but once you tack on a 13% hotel tax, that goes up to $100.57 a night. I always estimate at least 15% before I budget if I can go to that particular hotel. When you reserve the hotel tax rate will appear on the confirmation.
  • Factor in the tax rate when splitting hotel charges. It is NOT up to the person making the reservations to pay all the taxes. That's not fair to them. And above all, be HONEST to your fellow roommates about the cost.

Cost of Parking

Believe it or not, parking is not typically free at conventions. The hotel you are staying at as well the convention center's website (and if it's a really diligent con, they'll have this info on their own site too), should have information on where you can park your vehicle. Rates will vary from hotel, city or center, so check ahead of time.

If all else fails, budget $20 per day for parking if you are driving by yourself. $10 a day if you are carpooling.

If it ends up being less, then woohoo! More for you to spend on other things.

Why did I put this in here? Well it shouldn't be up to the driver of the carpool to have to foot the bill for parking. You're all using the vehicle's space, it's only polite to help pay for it's storage. Don't take advantage of your friends.

Cost of Convention Badge

More often than not, you'll have this taken care of ahead of time. Pre-registering for conventions is the BEST thing you can do, regardless of the event. It will be cheaper, lines faster, and often times you can pick up your ticket the DAY BEFORE the event starts to make the most of your money.

This is part of the equation if you have to buy your ticket AT-CON, and if you ever have to estimate how much you spend on conventions later.

A convention's website will have the ticket prices listed. 

Picking your ticket up AT-CON? No matter if you are getting a full weekend badge, or a single day - Get there EARLY. Please.

$6 x #Meals/Day x #Days
What you should expect to spend on food

Food? I have to worry about FOOD?

Yes. Man cannot survive on pop and pocky alone. While annoying to have to shell out cash (and usually more than you like) for meals, it's a necessary evil of conventions.

Many centers and conventions will be near local fast-food type places (or if you're lucky, have food courts), and smaller restaurants nearby. You may only eat 2 meals a day, but plan for at least 3. This way you'll never be that sad poor convention goer who looks like death warmed over begging for a sip of ramune.

To cut down on this cost bring your own non-perishables. Things like granola bars, small 100-calorie bags of cookies, bottled water (which can be refilled at drinking fountains for FREE), bread, peanut butter, and so on. Anything you can easily store in your room for quick meals to give you energy. Prevents you from living on Burger King all weekend. Good for your heart, too.

REMEMBER - multiply the daily food amount by the NUMBER OF DAYS you will be traveling. This includes the day arriving and the day leaving. You have to eat those days too!

(Sorry I forgot that part of the equation - it has been edited to reflect the PROPER amount)

Cost of Gas (A.K.A. be nice to your carpool)

I'm gonna say it again. Don't take advantage of your roommates. If you're all sharing a car (bless you for not bringing giant props!), it's polite to contribute to the cost of gas for the entire trip. There and back. (Unless you're driving with a different person back, then pay them some of the money too).

You can make this an arbitrary number like $20, if you're not sure. What I'd do is contact the person who is driving to give you an estimate on how much gas might cost. Find out how many people are going, divide the total by that many people.

This is much easier when the driver has been to said convention before and would have a solid estimate on the cost.

But what if I want to shop in the vendor hall? Artist's alley?

Everything Else
What you are willing to spend?

This is a very hazy area. Spending money will vary from person to person. Do you visit many conventions or is this the only one you visit?

If you visit a lot of conventions in the same area, you'll find a lot of the same vendors at each show. So shopping is a little easier (and often times you'll find on their websites/facebook pages where they'll be next).

What if you've never been, or never get to go and this is your ONE CHANCE?! 

Well, here's some basic costs of items I've found:

Dealer Hall
  • Manga $8-$10
  • DVDs $20
  • DVD sets $35-$65+ (depends on size/age/out of print)
  • Artbooks $20-$75+
  • Candy $4 per bag/box
  • Smaller items - $5-$15
  • Small Figures (Including blind box) - $5-$15

Artist's Alley
This will vary from each convention, but here are the averages I've noticed in working there:
  • Buttons $3
  • Charms $3-$5
  • Bookmarks $2-$3
  • Prints - Small $3-$5
  • Prints - Medium $5-$10
  • Prints - Large $10-$15
  • Earrings $10 pair
  • Handmade (Crochet, Sewing, etc) $10-$25+
  • Commissions - Varies per artist. Check for their particular rates (pencil, ink, color)
Prices will of course vary per con, demographics of attendees, and the area it's in. The best thing you can do is plan ahead of time - you will have more time to save money for your trip, and you won't be caught empty handed when you find that figure of Sailor Moon you've been aching for forever.

And remember, a convention is not about how much cash you can spend in 3 hours. Go see panels, visit the entertainment, view the artwork, and admire the costumes. There are game rooms, contests, shows, you name it. EXPERIENCE IT.

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