Why yes, that header image is me as Gogo Tomago from Disney’s Big Hero 6. And yes, that is me posing like a doofus with Durarara!! cutouts. Deal with it.
Going to an anime convention is a pretty big step for fans. They’re big, they’re scary, they’re full of people—but they’re also really, REALLY fun. So for anyone who’s about to prepare for their first con, or for anyone that’s interested in going to one, here are my top five tips for con newbies.
But before I go into the specifics, you’re probably wondering, “Why should I even be taking advice from this chick?” And, true, I’ve only been to about 5 or 6 cons thus far, so maybe that’s not enough to be counted as a con “veteran.”
I didn’t even know about cons until I was sixteen. I was riding in a cramped car down to the Baltimore Harbor with my grandparents who were visiting from California. We were parked at a red light and there I saw it…an Inuyasha cosplayer walking down the crosswalk.
It was a bizarre moment for me. Not because this is a reminder of how old of an otaku I am (because YES, there was actually a time when Inuyasha was considered COOL and not some dumb old school junkie material). But because I realized that there were other people out there that enjoyed this hobby that was deemed “creepy” and “weird” at school.
We went to a food court later that day and I saw a fully-clad Gandalf munching at Mickey D’s. It was probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
And sometimes, I think my parents regret taking me down to Baltimore that day—because honestly, if we had gone down any other day, I’m sure I would have a lot more in my savings account than I do today.
But anyway! On to my tips!
1- Bring Your Own Snacks. And Some Ice Cold Water.
First off, it’s super important to stay hydrated while “conventioning,” whether you’re going to a summer con or a winter con. The last thing you want to do is faint while in costume. If you can, bring a small tote bag that can carry your essentials along with a water bottle, some snack bars, or even a packed sandwich.
Con food is super expensive—and, sadly, it’s not even that good. Most conventions are usually held at one of two places: a convention center or a hotel. Both venues are more than likely to offer food within the building itself. Most convention center food is your usual American food groups: hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries. Just a hot dog and fries is probably going to cost you $8.00—sans drink. Some food vendors even sell Pocky at a whopping $5.00 per box! And worst of all, I’ve actually seen con-goers buy them.
Don’t do that, guys. That’s what the international food aisle at your grocery store is for!
If you’re hungry and snacks just don’t cut it, I would suggest going outside of your convention center and grabbing some food at a nearby fast food restaurant, like Subway, etc. The food there will definitely be cheaper (and probably tastier).
But if you do forget to bring water or snacks, no worries: that’s what awesome dudes like this guy are here for.
2 – Don’t Rely on ATMs.
Cash is the usually the safest option of payment. Some of your favorite artists and merchants who are attending your convention may or may not offer credit or debit as payment, but in the majority, cash reigns supreme at cons. Which is why a lot of people take out cash at nearby ATMs and thus leave the machine empty.
It’s a bit of an odd tip, but it’s one that might save you some heartache when you realize you can’t buy that statuette of your favorite character.
3 – Have A Budget. And Stick To It.
I’ll admit it: I am the absolute worst at this (one of our other editors Dana Wood can attest to this). I do believe that it’s always good to carry a little extra than what you’ve planned on in case you run into an unexpected splurge situation—but then again, I also believe in “treating yo’self,” as Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec put it.
There are only so many cons in the year, and depending on how many you plan to go to, this is kind of like your once-in-a-lifetime chance to land some serious, one-of-a-kind merch.
The day before the con, I suggest coming up with a list on your phone or a piece of paper of the things you are looking to buy. It can be as specific or a general as you want it to be: “one thing related to Love Live,” “Lightning Farron’s pendant,” “an official video game artbook.” This will help remind you of what you wanted to buy and keep you from buying things you might not really want.
If you’re struggling, you can always ask yourself HOW this item will be used, HOW OFTEN this item will be used in your life, and if you will really, truly enjoy the item.
It’s also a good idea to go visit your con’s Artist Alley before diving into the Dealer’s Room. Things made by artists are one of a kind; they’re quite unique, more so than the things you might find at the Dealer’s Room. You’ll start to notice after a couple sweeps of the Dealer’s Room that merchants are selling the same things as others. I would always suggest buying something unique over something you might be able to buy on Amazon. Maybe.
4 – Keep Calm and Always Ask Permission.
There they are. Your favorite character/ship/couple/posse/cast, right there, in the middle of the crowded hallway. But no matter how much you want to talk, hug, kiss (NO), or take a picture of them…don’t do it in the middle of a busy hallway. (But no, really, you’ll have con staff yelling at you to take a picture elsewhere with the cosplayer if you do). Okay so, no, that’s not REALLY the point. The point is: you always have to ask permission.
Seem silly? Well, put it this way: what if YOU worked 72+ hours spilling your blood, sweat, and tears on a cosplay, only to have someone excitedly jump on you from behind and wreck a piece of your costume that you can’t really fix back at the hotel? How would you feel? Frustrated, right?
It’s the same reason that con-goers are always expected to never “glomp,” or tackle-hug, a cosplayer. This is more apparent in younger fans still in middle school or freshman high-schoolers, but it’s still something that everyone should know and respect.
You just always have to ask permission. Period. Whether it’s asking to take a picture, to talk, or to ask for a hug, permission is always needed. And sometimes, the cosplayer or person might say no—and they have the right to. Just like you do, too! If you don’t want to accept a picture or a hug from someone, just respectfully decline.
People might be surprised, but the majority of con-goers are actually pretty nice.
5 – The Golden Rule: Have Fun! And Fight the Con Depression!
It’s a pretty simple (and predictable) fifth tip. But no, really: have fun! If you can tag along with some friends or acquaintances to a con, do it! I’ve been to a con or two alone, but I can honestly say that it’s not as fun going to a con alone than it is going with some friends. But cons are also a place to meet new people and make new friends, too! Plus, having someone you know at a convention can also help whenever you’re traveling back to your hotel or home. Letting people know where you are and where you’re headed is also a win-win.
After the con is ended and you return home with your spoils…you might potentially suffer from what con-goers call “con depression.” It’s that glum feeling you get when something you’re super psyched about has ended and you kind of feel like you’re going back into the humdrum of normality. Trust me, it happens to the best of us! For me, the best way to fight it is to actually share it. Write a blog post about your first convention experience. Or hang out with some friends and tell them about all the amazing stuff that happened to you over the weekend. Heck, vlog about it! The options are endless.
I hoped these tips helped some of you out! From one weeb to another, I wish you well at your first anime con.
Feel free to share your experiences and any questions that you might have here! Or, if you’re a veteran con-goer…what are YOUR five tips?