The Geek Convention Survival Guide

Con season has started! It’s time for the geek havens that grace us every year with guest stars, amazing cosplays, and people who get that when you talk about your Doctor, you’re not talking about a physician. With all this in mind, we should go through the dos and don’ts for conventions. This is meant to serve both as an introduction for first-timers and a refresher for the veterans.

The main floor at New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con (photo by Tancread)


  • Read the con rules. Conventions have rules for what you can and can’t do. Especially if this is your first con, take a look at the rules so you know your rights and what is and is not allowed. Take special care to look at the harassment policy.
  • Buy your badge in advance. Not only is this good for the wallet, it takes a great weight off of your shoulders. When it gets closer to the date of the con, see if you can pick your badge early as well. The line will be shorter, and if there’s a problem, you can solve it early before the con starts.
  • Book your hotel in advance. Con room blocks can go fast, so make sure you reserve your room well in advance. Even if you’re local, getting a room can be advantageous—no need to worry about driving or how late you stay up. If you want to room but can’t afford one on your own, see if any of your friends are going and can share. Also check the con’s social media sites, where people may be looking for roommates. (Obligatory warning to be smart when it comes to rooming with people you don’t know!)
  • Bring water. Make sure you bring a water bottle; H2O is super important. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated, especially if you’re drinking alcohol.
  • Bring snacks. Many cons in Minnesota have con suites with food and beverages, but bringing your own is still a good idea. This way you can avoid lines, you don’t have to worry about what they’re serving, and you can snack when you need. Protein bars and trail mix are good for out at the con, and keeping some sandwich supplies in your room is great way to eat and save money. You should visit the con suite at least once, though—the staff work hard to provide and will often have things you can’t keep in the hotel room. (Don’t forget to tip.)
  • Get rest. Rest can be hard to get at a convention, but it’s needed. One year, I thought I could go without sleep and ended up having to leave at the beginning of the second day to sleep for about 13 hours. I missed the rest of that con and regret it. Make sure you plan out your ride or your room for rest. This also goes for con roommates—make sure room rules are clear and there are quiet hours.
  • Take a shower. There are a lot of people at a con, and this can mean a lot of heat and a lot of sweat. Showering at least once a day is a good idea at a really big con, and don’t forget deodorant. There are also the germs; “con crud” can be a horrible souvenir from your weekend at a convention, and bringing a travel bottle of hand sanitizer is a good idea to help keep it at bay.
  • Plan your days. Try to get a copy of the panel and event schedule early. Some cons even have apps to help you be on time; use your resources wisely. Print a schedule or use an app and keep it with you. Plan ahead, and see when and where panels are so you don’t get lost. Don’t forget to take time to look at art and science rooms and to hit the dealers’ room to check out merch.
  • Bring a backpack. You’ll want to have everything handy, and bringing a backpack will help keep everything with you and give you space to store things you pick up. Things you might want to think about keeping inside: chargers, electronics (laptop/tablet/phone), book, cash, ChapStick, ibuprofen or your pain pill of choice, antacids, pen, pencil, Sharpie, paper, mints, hand sanitizer, business cards, snacks, and a water bottle. If you are going to a con like Comic-Con that will put you out in the sun, you’ll also want to bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Do what con organizers tell you. Organizers and volunteers are working hard to make sure you have a good time. If they need you to do something, do it. Also consider volunteering—it’s a great way to give back to the con and help the coordinators do what they do best: coordinate.
  • Tip. Whether it’s at the con suite or in the party rooms, remember to tip what you can. These tips help pay for the snacks and drinks provided at these rooms.
Cosplayers at San Diego Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con (photo by Jason Grey)


  • Take pictures of cosplayers or other individuals without permission. This is both common courtesy and, at many cons, a rule. There are amazing cosplayers with gorgeous costumes. You’ll want pictures. But you need to ask for a picture before taking one.
  • Argue with the vendors. Some vendors will haggle; ask before you try, and don’t argue with the answer. For many vendors, this is their job and livelihood.
  • Complain about the lack of volunteers. Instead, consider volunteering.
  • Be an asshole. Be respectful of honored guests, cosplayers, and fellow con-goers. There are lots of fandoms that gather at every convention; please be respectful of fandoms that are not your own. If you’re a con veteran, be nice and helpful to the first-time attendees. Remember: you were once a newbie, too.
A crowd of people at CONvergence

CONvergence (photo by jerryk4501)

References and more tips:

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