Friday, April 17, 2015

Convention Survival Strategies

& is used with permission.
Now that spring has sprung, conventions across the country are starting up and folks are making plans to visit their favorite cons in the summer and fall. Since I am someone who goes to conventions when time and money permit, I thought I'd share some of my tricks for having a safe (and prepared!) time at a convention.

First Things First: Emergency Survival 
These ought to go without saying but I will list them here:
  • Always know where the fire exits are in the convention hall, and be mindful of alternate ways out in case you need to evacuate quickly. 
  • Similarly, keep your eyes out for the locations of fire extinguishers and first aid kits. 
  • It's also good to know where the bathrooms and water fountains are... and if you don't think that qualifies as emergency survival, you haven't been to enough cons. 

  • Speaking of water, carry a water bottle with you and drink from it. It gets hot on the con floor and concession prices are usually between "ridiculous" and "highway robbery." Drink cold water to prevent thirst and dehydration, and top off every time you pass a water fountain. 
  • Snack foods that keep well in the heat, like granola bars, are also excellent things to have around. 
  • Breath mints (like Altoids) not only keep your breath pleasant but also remove nasty tastes from your mouth. 
  • In fact, you should have an entire comfort kit with you at cons. A small bag with moleskin, cough drops (both the menthol kind and Ricola), and traveling packs of painkillers (Advil, Tylenol, Aleve) and allergy medication (such as Benadryl). 
  • Unless you're a cosplayer dedicated to suffering for your art, have good walking shoes because you can  end up on your feet for 6-12 hours. 
  • Any outfit you can't easily remove to use the toilet is just an exercise in suffering. 

  • It can be hard to keep in touch with friends at a con; cell reception may be poor inside the hall, and wifi can range from "awesome" to "nonexistent" (usually "spotty") and from "free" to "pay by the hour". A much better alternative is to get a set of rechargeable walkie-talkies tuned to an unused frequency, as they're easier to hear on a busy con floor than a cell phone ringtone or IM chime and usually give faster response time. Even a short-range walkie-talkie ought to be sufficient for covering the entire main hall.
  • Cell phones are better outside the convention (such as when going to eat), so make sure you have everyone's phone number. I didn't when I went to NRAAM in Nashville, and that bit me in the rear end. 
  • Have prearranged rendezvous points ("Okay, we'll all meet by the main entrance at 5 pm for dinner") in case someone loses their walkie or experiences technical problems.

  • Cons cost money; there's just no getting around that. Between travel expenses, hotel rooms, meals and snacks, and tickets to the con itself, you're already looking at a significant outlay of money. Add to that the acres of really cool things you're likely to find there and it's easy to spend far more than you ever intended. Only attend a convention if you know you can afford to go!
  • Many folks, myself included, are fond of bringing along emergency cash in case of unexpected expenses, like needing to fix the car on the way home or finding that once-in-a-lifetime find that you've just gotta have. 
  • However, if you're not paying attention it can be easy for your emergency fund to turn into petty cash and be spent faster than you'd like. I like to put my true emergency funds (usually large bills like 100s or 50s) into a place that is secure yet hard to reach, so that I have to consciously be aware that I'm raiding it. My current favorite place is in my shoes, between the sole and the liner. 

Health & Hygiene
  • Cram lots of people into an enclosed area and both sweat and odor will happen. It's just a fact of life and there's no getting around it. That said, be considerate: bring deodorant and soap, and use both. Your courtesy will be appreciated. 
  • If the smell gets to be too much, take a cue from EMTs and coroners and put a little dab of something pungent, like Vicks VapoRub, on your upper lip. You'll smell it instead of body funk. 
  • Taking a hot shower after the convention not only washes sweat, odors, allergens and germs off your body, but also relaxes your muscles and helps you sleep. 
  • Resist the urge to stay up late. You need plenty of rest in order to stay healthy and maintain the energy needed to enjoy the rest of the con. 
  • Conventions are like kindergarten for adults:  lots of people walking around, coughing and sneezing in an enclosed space and then touching items and each other. There's an excellent chance that you'll come home with what's known as "Con Crud" if you aren't careful, so use plenty of hand sanitizer and immune boosters like Emergen-C

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