|My Nana cosplay circa 2011|
1. Print Out Everything - Preferably Two Copies
While this might seem obvious, this particular lesson was hard-learned after many botched instances of important documents missing whether it was contest paperwork, registration confirmations, hotel reservations, or even bus tickets. Be sure to have hard copies in addition to your digital ones because you never know when your 4G will die, your battery will drop to 0%, or the wifi will be shoddy. Printing two hard copies of all travel or convention-related documents (including important e-mails and schedules) allows you to have a copy for your purse or immediate person, and one to keep in your travel bag. At least if you lose or forget one, you'll have a backup set to rely on.
2. Do a Suitcase Test Run
Whether you're trying to fit three entire petticoats, or a set of interestingly shaped shoes, there is nothing more aggravating than feeling stressed the night before departure because the bag you expected to bring can't seem to hold all the things you think you need. Take into consideration what kind of storage you'll have available to you at your accommodations and make additions as you see fit. Will you need to bring garment bags to carry different outfits to a backstage location? How many hangers are there actually going to be in your hotel room? It's always better to be prepared for everything than be left scrambling to find space for everything while at the convention.
3. Learn the Art of the Bento
Regardless of how large the host city is, convention goers will always overcrowd restaurants and food joints within the immediate vicinity of the convention itself. To avoid the hassle of needing to make reservations far in advance, or be forced to wait in ridiculously long lines for a subpar sandwich, consider buying or making food in advance which you can easily store while you're at the con. If you have a hotel room with a fridge, you have all the opportunities in the culinary world (short of actually cooking in your hotel room). A friend of mine always used to buy a large rotisserie chicken the night we checked into our room for dinner. She would bring bread with her so that we could use any leftovers to make easy sandwiches for lunch on the first day of the con. Packed lunches and dinners not only save you money, but also let you eat on the move. You can find a quiet spot in the convention center or hotel to people watch, or you could take advantage of the downtime of waiting in a long line for a particularly popular presentation or panel. Beating the mealtime rush and relaxing while you eat is always worth the extra preparation!
4. Pack Snacks for a Midday Boost
Along the same vein as #3, sometimes it's not possible to pull out a full meal and eat it i.e. when you're in the middle of a panel or backstage before a show. Be sure to pack some packaged snacks that are lightweight and easy to carry in your bag around the convention. Granola bars and fruit gummies are some of my favorite snacks and have come in handy when I've been in the doldrums of the late afternoon - too late for lunch but too early for dinner. Something small you can eat on the go can make the difference between a great day and a spoiled evening.
5. Never Underestimate Your Footwear
We're fashionable so it's expected that we'll go to some lengths to look amazing even if that means a little pain. While this might be a great idea for the afternoon tea meetup or the outfit shot for Instagram, it is entirely the wrong way to go about a convention. 99% of the long convention days are spent on one's feet and while it might be tempting to wear those amazing oxford heels that cut into the back of your heel, after a few hours you're bound to regret it. At the very least be sure to pack a cute pair of flats that you can swap in after you start to lose feeling in your toes!
6. Follow the Convention on Any Social Media Possible
Many conventions have a dedicated or affiliated Twitter account or similar form of social media which updates during the convention itself with any scheduling changes or line time updates. Sometimes you can manage to fit more into your schedule than you thought simply because a last minute change happens in your favor. The faster you know about these changes, the more likely that you'll be able to get to your top priority events.
7. Don't Overschedule
This is perhaps one of the hardest lessons to learn on the convention circuit, but it is by far one of the most valuable. While it might be tempting to attend every industry panel, workshop, and stage performance, putting too much on your hypothetical plate will wear you down mentally faster than any aggravatingly long line. Feeling obligated to attend things you thought you wanted to see and therefore pushing yourself to the edge is the easiest way to spoil a weekend. Ahead of time be sure to pick out 3-5 top events that you'd like to attend and plan your initial schedule around them. Be sure to schedule breaks for food, hydration, and relaxation to keep yourself happy and healthy throughout the weekend!
8. Keep Calm and Frill On
There will be unforeseen complications in your convention experience. Things will get lost, wardrobe malfunctions will happen, eagerly awaited guests will cancel, illness will strike, and exhaustion and stress will haunt your steps. Be flexible. This is a lesson I'm still learning and it comes with practice. You're more than welcome to be disappointed, but don't let it ruin your entire weekend. Take a second to breathe and collect yourself before throwing yourself into the next endeavor with vigor. Remember that conventions are meant to be fun and even the most incident-wrought weekend can end up being one of your best.
For all of you going to RuffleCon, I look forward to seeing everyone's amazing outfits! I'll be walking in the fashion show on Saturday for Enchantlic Enchantilly and Triple Fortune so if you see me backstage be sure to say hello!