November 3, 2011

Convention Advice: What Should I Pack When Attending a Convention?

What Should I Pack When Attending a Convention?

Having been to way too many conventions in my lifetime (and many more to follow, I'm sure!) packing is almost a robotic exercise for Dave and me. Make the list, pack the bag, pack the car, go.

Packing (and surviving a convention) is partially an art form and partially an exercise in camping training. Not that I'd ever go camping. Conventioning is hard enough! (Not to mention being too busy to use things like hot tubs or pools while I'm there).

I digress.

For those who are slightly new to the scene, or perhaps complete beginners, it's wise to learn what you should be aware of when packing along with some suggestions on what to pack. So let's get this party started, shall we?

Unspoken "Law of Convention Packing": 
You will forget at least ONE thing.

Yes. Let's just be up front now. You WILL think you have everything, and you WILL leave one item of moderate importance (or higher) at home. Try not to sweat it. It happens to all of us, and if you spend your entire convention weekend moaning about how you forgot your toothbrush, you're missing the point of having fun.

It's also wise to note that most often you will leave toiletries or small clothing items at home. These things are easily remedied. I've forgotten hair brushes, shampoo, shaving blades, pajamas, normal pants.... You're not alone. We all do this. And luckily if you've forgotten something like shampoo, your hotel concierge should have little trial sized bottles for you to use instead. They have a lot of things like that.


Cosplayers, pay attention. This counts for you too. Everybody needs to bring changes of clothing. I bring enough for one extra set of clothing more than the number of days I will be away. Gone for 3 days? Bring 4 shirts. Gone for 4 days? Bring 5 shirts.

Why? Well, it's a convention. It's full of people and their messes, it's hot, confined sometimes, you're clumsy perhaps, the list could go on. You may need to change out of a super sweaty shirt after doing DDR for 3 hours. No, I take that back. You WILL need to change out of a super sweaty shirt after doing DDR for 3 hours. Please. None of us want to smell you.

Having extra pairs of everything will keep you fresh, rejuvenated, and prepared for any mishap that might occur. Here's my recommendations on quantities:

Socks:  # of days away + 2
Shirts: # of days away + 1
Pants: less than or equal to # of days away
Undergarments: # of days away + 2
(Ladies: Bras - Bring about 2 or 3 at most. Depends on how you feel)Pajamas: 2 Sets
Swimsuit: bring one anyway. Even if the website doesn't say there's a pool, I've had them lie to me before.
Towel: For swimming.
Large Bag / Cloth Bag: To keep your dirty laundry in and separate from the clean in your suitcase.

Yeah. It looks like a lot - but you'll be doing plenty of walking, perusing, and the like. Cosplayers - yes, you should bring these too unless you plan on wearing that Sephiroth getup until you need to sleep.


These are those everyday things you use that you hardly think about, but when you're without them, you FREAK. OUT.

This is really just a reminder of things you'll want to have on hand to keep you clean and fresh!
NOTE: List does NOT include cosplay makeup-emergency kits
ToothbrushToothpasteDEODORANT (I cannot stress this enough)
Shaving Razor (males and females both need these thank you )
Shampoo/Conditioner - Trial sizes are big enough. bring a couple.
DeodorantLiquid Bath Soap / Your Own Soap Bar  (not everybody can share one soap bar. eew.)
Hair brushFirst Aid Kit (Trust me.)
...did I mention deodorant?
Along with any other extra items you need for things like: contact lenses, hair dryers and the like. Everybody's got different needs.

You ask why I'm so adamant about deodorant? Two words: Convention Funk. That awful body-odor smell that gets caught in hallways and panel rooms. The more caution you take (and more showers you take) the fresher, and better smelling you'll be.

What ELSE should you bring?

Now's where it gets kinda "up to you". I can tell you all the things I bring with me, and why, but they may not be the same things you'll need.

Are you driving there? Best to make sure you've got your route and a map of the nearby area. Google maps can help with this immensely. If you have AAA membership - you can pick up maps of any state you want! And travel books! USE THEM. There's no excuse for getting lost if you have the capabilities of preventing it ahead of time.

You will get hungry. And let me tell you after about 4 Subway subs, they start to look REALLY bland. Even if you pick different ones. 2-day conventions you'll just want to bring light snacks, but for those cons where you're traveling 4-5 days (including arrival and departure) you should think about bringing a cooler/box of some kind.

You don't have to have perishables, but it's a good idea to pack the following kinds of foods:
Bottled WaterJuice (individually bottled)
Pop (individually bottled)
Granola BarsFruit Snacks100-calorie bags of cookies/crackersFruit like apples or oranges (things which don't necessarily need refrigeration)
Ramen cupsBread + Sandwich making materials (like peanut butter - if you have a cooler you can bring meat like salami, just remember it requires a bit of upkeep to make sure it stays cold).
It sounds like a lot, but don't worry - they actually don't take up a lot of space. You are mainly looking for quick "lunch items" or small individually wrapped items you can carry easily with yourself.

If you are traveling with other people - try to coordinate food with everybody! Then it's like a party!

You will want to have a bag you can carry with you around the conventions. Something like a backpack or messenger bag. Not too big, but not so small you can't put anything into it. Everybody at a con will have their own "purse". Often conventions will give you a swag bag to start with - but if you set it down accidentally and forget it, you now have lost a bag that looks like everybody else's. Also having your own personal satchel/bag means you're more inclined to keep an eye on it.

WORD OF CAUTION: Do not overfill your bag. It will hurt after carrying for more than a couple hours.

But I'm at a convention! Why do I need to entertain myself?!

Well I'LL tell you why: QUEUE LINES.

I don't care how big or small your con is. It is inevitable you will have to wait in line for something. So instead of reading through the program for the millionth time, have something to pass the time: a novel, comic, sketchbook, handheld entertainment system of your choice, etc.

You might be waiting 5 minutes, you might be waiting hours. (ACEN linecon - I'm looking at you).

Besides, if somebody sees you doing something they like too, you could get a new friend! Or a videogame buddy.

You have to have at least a little bit of extra room - makes it easier to take home your treasures you find. Or at least some space in your car to fit stuff. You'll be surprised at how your belongings expand after 3 days of hotel living...

There are lots of other things you can bring - especially if you're a cosplayer, but I won't go into that right here. That's a post all on it's own.

If I forgot any of the basics, let me know, I'll add em in!



  1. A few other suggestions:

    Comfortable shoes, emphasis on the comfortable. You'll probably be doing a lot of walking, especially if you chose a hotel that's a little further from the con (looking at ACEN again). You'll also be doing tons of walking (and standing) at the con, where there are hundreds of other people just waiting to step on your foot. Plan accordingly.

    A coat/sweatshirt/something warm if it's that time of year, or if you're conning in a place where it gets chilly at night. If you're coming in from (way) out of town, check what the weather in the area is supposed to be like.

    I'm also a big fan of the first aid kit. Band-aids, ibuprofen, triple antibiotic ointment, sudafed, cough drops, hand sanitizer, etc.

    Also, deodorant. :D

  2. Oh!That is a good thing to note. *writes down *

    Things like insoles are AMAZING for all that walking.

  3. You forgot to mention, darling, that when packing a razor blade, CONTAIN IT IN SOMETHING. :P Never ever every just leave it in a bag! Put it inside of a bag, put that bag inside of another bag, and when it arrives, SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!

    ...or, to save on postage, just keep it in the original wrapping, and THEN open it up while you're there. Either which way, make sure you somehow cover the blade, right? ;)

  4. *shifty eyes* Not that... you know. I'd have problems with *coughs* shaving razors stored in bags. And then randomly shoving my hand in said bag...

    Part of me wants to retell the tale of my harrowing finger bleeding as a cautionary story, but at the same time... I'd be afraid I'd gross out readers.

    Favorite quote: "Put a penny on it, it'll stop the bleeding"
    "I'm not doing that!!!"

    Ahhh reminds me of the time when Travis Willingham thought I was a dude on the phone.

  5. ....I need to hear both of these stories, stat!