Con Ticket Acquired

I have the Pensacon ticket!

…Now I just need to plan. (And make backup plans, because Murphy.) Parking, snacks, bookmark design in progress….

I do have some copies of A Net of Dawn and Bones and Count Taka and the Vampire Brides! I could also bring.

Anyone else have suggestions?

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38 thoughts on “Con Ticket Acquired

  1. Well, if this is your first con, pick out one thing every day that you actually want to do, and let the rest go to the side of “I’ll see if I want to do it when it comes up.”. I’d divide up shopping too, I usually spend the first day of the con looking, then go back the second day, there’s a lot of exciting stuff. Plus a lot of the booth owners love to talk about their product, you can find out a lot from just browsing(I didn’t even know sustainable giraffe leather was a thing).

    Note that panels are loud, noisy and usually crowded, you might only plan to hit one early in the morning so as to not overstress yourself at the end of the day. Or none at all, I’ve honestly enjoyed walking the floor more then most panels. Remember good cosplay manners(and check and see what their harassment policy is! You have the right to not be harassed as much as anyone, author or not.) And I hope that you can go with someone, or you can meet up with some online friends going to the same event, it means you’re more likely to eat lunch and stress less.

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  2. I haven’t gone to a con in years, but I remember most people being friendly. Other than the official programming, there are usually informal meet-ups for groups with special interests (check the fliers and bulletin boards). Usually these are open to the public and everyone is welcome. There are also games *everywhere* Joining a game is a good way to meet like minded people (but it will soak up your time). Cons are notoriously short handed so there are a lot of volunteer opportunities. Again a time soak but also a good way to meet folks including authors. And then there are the all night parties. If you are staying at the con and you want to sleep, try to get on a quiet floor.

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  3. Be aware of your travel/quartering arrangements! Parking will probably fill up quickly nearby. I have definitely been the person lamenting my bags while walking half a mile to get to my car after a con.

    On that note, your money. You _will_ want to buy merch, and a lot of stalls are cash only. This also doubles as a good way to limit yourself, because you can set aside the amount you’re willing to spend at the con. If you are intending to buy pictures/posters/prints, perhaps invest in a folder to protect them while you’re transporting them. A lovely autographed fanart piece that I got in my youth was unfortunately creased while I was carrying it.

    Food. According to Google, the con is downtown, so you can do restaurants if you want. Check that your ticket lets you enter and exit as you please. It’s not my experience that cons are single entry only, but be sure. Factor the weight of food/drink you might carry with you into your bag weights, and remember that you’ll have to carry the bags _the whole time_ unless you have a friend to look after it. The con building probably has water fountains, so consider a refillable bottle instead of regular water bottles.

    Camera! You will want pictures. A lot of cosplayers are very happy to pose for pics for you, but asking is both traditional and polite. Depending on how big a fandom is *coughPokemoncough* they may arrange photoshoots at the con that you can go see and take pictures of. And also meet people who like a thing.

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    1. Money limits definitely a thing, yes. 🙂 Good idea. As for food – I’ll be bringing that myself. Too many allergies!

      (Seriously. Whose bright idea was it to add soy lecithin to most modern chocolate recipes? I want to hurt them….)

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  4. Check area crime statistics in regard to leaving your vehicle unattended.

    Check parking locations and walking routes. Keep track of your energy levels, and pace yourself so that you have enough left to be safe on the road.

    Check con weapon policy.

    Don’t let the George Smiley/Kancolle bunnies bite.

    Night all.

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  5. I went to ComicCon San Diego. Once. It was nice. The panels that I got to see were interesting, and the dealer’s room… It defied description. I also got introduced to one of my favorite anime there!

    I also swore I would never go to a ‘con that big again because poor introvert “never really goes out with crowds bigger than 10 people usually ever” me got massive //overload//.

    If you can, I recommend public transportation to get too and from the ‘con. Parking can and will be a nightmare. I also recommend if you find you really enjoy this ‘con and want to go again, and your budget allows it, book a hotel room on site. Some ‘cons have major events that start at 10 PM at the earliest — I think one of the yearly ‘con’s in my area has a costume rave on the last night? Or it did; have to go look that up… I, for one, can’t really function after 11 PM especially if it’s been a packed day. And ‘cons are rarely anything but packed.

    Having a hotel room on site also gives you the option of a loot stash! Since Bags Of Holding have yet to be a thing, it can be nice to have someplace to stash your haul from the dealer’s room and/or extra items. Like the aforementioned food; some hotels do come with complimentary fridges, or you can dump ice into an ice chest to sort of act as a fridge.

    There are groups of people who will band together to rent out hotel rooms to reduce the price. Some groups are buddies (Guildmates, forum buddies, RL friends, etc.) but others are — well, Pick Up Groups. Hostels within walking/public transportation of the ‘con is also a thing.

    I hope you enjoy the event! At the very least, it’ll be an experience~.

    (….no, that was //not// an invocation to Murphy! At least not an intentional one! Though give on you’re also doing research for a Sinbad fic… pack good luck charms??)

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  6. A water bottle is a life saver. Also there are sometimes areas that are much less heavily trafficked (less popular or only one panel down that way) which can be good places to claim a spot of wall and somewhat recharge your introvert batteries (As much as you can with people) or just take a break from the noise. (May be harder to find the larger the con.)

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  7. Also, check your pubic transportation. Most cons are in areas with good public transit, but if you want to use it, you want to make sure that a; you know what times it runs and that those times are appropriate to the times you want to be arriving and leaving, B; that it is affordable, C; that there is an option that will ACTUALLY take you close enough to the con for you, personally, to be able to walk with your stuff, and D, if it’s not a straight-shot on at one end, off at the other, that you really know the route before the con starts, as you might be trying to go home in an exhausted haze.

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  8. Definitely bring a water bottle. Some kind of snack- even just a power bar or something- might be good to bring if you have issues with blood sugar or remembering to eat (people in my regular group have both, so it’s something I keep track of. They don’t always.) Safety pins are a lifesaver if you’re planning a costume or meeting up with someone who is. Also, cons can have fluctuating temperatures, so wearing a t-shirt and bringing a sweatshirt might not be a bad idea either. I’ve had it go from boiling to frigid in what felt like .5 seconds. Comfortable shoes are a must-have; you’ll be walking a lot if you want to actually go anywhere. Don’t throw away or lose the map they give you, and expect to get lost, because you probably will at least once.

    Good luck and have fun!

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  9. Also, when checking out the dealer’s room, if you see something that you love, or just aren’t sure if you want it or not, don’t wander off, think about it, and expect it’ll still b there later. It might still be there. More likely, it’ll be sold out because five hundred people all agreed with you that it was the most awesome thing ever, and there were only fifty of it. Make up your mind on the spot, and if you really want it, buy it immediately. Because that’s another thing people do; decide they want something but wander off to see if there’s a better deal (chances are, no there isn’t) or because they left their money in their hotel room (hint: don’t go into the dealer’s room without all the cash you’re willing to spend) or just because they wanted to think about it, and figured it’d still be there later. Even fifteen minutes is too long to wait. It might be gone just that fast.

    Outside of conventions, you have the time and the item is available enough that making a purchase on impulse is a bad idea. In the dealer’s room, if you don’t buy it on impulse, you might not be able to buy it, period. Also, this is why you make sure that the ONLY cash in your pocket is what you’re willing to spend – it’s very easy to fall into the mindset of the impulse-purchase and spend all of your food money for the whole week if you don’t keep it separate.

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      1. Given that you’ve said that you’re in part doing this for research, I’m making an attempt to explain why things should be done or not done, and/or things that I have seen or heard of people doing. Just because it happens doesn’t mean that you personally will see or hear about it happening – conventions are big, busy events!

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  10. (If this comes through twice, keep this version.) You’ve got some excellent advice elsewhere in the comments, but if it helps, my basic rules for cons, through (sometimes harsh) personal experience (apologies if I repeat too much):
    1) Dress in layers. Can’t emphasise enough. Depending on the size of the room, the crowd, the lighting array/equipment (and the air con) you can go from cold to warm to boiling. Sometimes in the same building.

    2) Take at least one drink bottle, and a sandwich. Plus snacks, if you think you’ll need them. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll have enough time to go through any of the on-site food vendors, even in the non-traditional meal times. Sandwiches/wraps are easy to eat in line, & if you’re really hungry, you can sneak a sandwich in most of the screening rooms (if they’re dark), few volunteers will call you on it as long as you’re careful about crumbs/mess.
    a) scout out the vending machines! Depending on the venue, these will be scattered around & can be a lifesaver. Given you’re in Florida, same with water fountains.

    3) unless it really clashes with your cosplay, take a backpack! Trust me, when you’re loaded down with loot, your back will thank you. Also, the pockets are good for keeping track of small stuff like those awesome handmade TARDIS earrings.
    a) check your con guide to see if there’s a cloakroom/bag check; some will have these, some won’t – usually depends on the venue. Can save you some sore hands
    b) Stash a smaller, fold-up shopping bag in your backpack; excellent if you’re doing lots of shopping or for big but light items (like that awesome Firefly tshirt you had no idea existed until you saw it at the con). If you’ve got a carabiner/key-ring thingy, you can attach it to your backpack strap; can make the difference between keeping & losing your stuff.

    4) comfortable shoes . Yes, I know this has been mentioned elsewhere but it’s always worth mentioning.

    5) Pack a book, you’ll be spending the equivalent of several hours over the weekend in line for something or other. Alternatively, you can use your phone, but sometimes wifi can be spotty at venues – or incredibly slow, because everyone else is also using the connection to tweet, send selfies, & insta.

    6) check your phone, before you leave. For charge, credit (if you’re prepaid), & if you need a portable charger. Murphy rules at cons for scheduling & phones.

    7) Cash is king. Most venues won’t have ATMs, & the ones that do will have long lines. A lot of the really interesting stuff in Artist’s alley & the Dealer’s hall will only deal in cash, but some of the larger vendors (like the bookstore booths, & the high-ticket art booths) will have paywave or equivalent; so don’t forget to take a bank card, too (if you’ve got a travel card, where you load it beforehand, it helps with budgeting & possible theft).

    8) I don’t know about the US, but all the big cons in Australia have an opening night; among other things you can pick up your pass early and get autograph/photo tokens with about a third of the waiting lines. Can literally save you an hour or more on the first day. Maybe you can get yours in the mail?
    a) I don’t know if your con is wristband or pass:
    If it’s a wrist band, learn ‘the position’; loosely clenched fist, wrist level roughly with your face, so the volunteers at the doors can see it easily. When you first put it on, try to get someone else to do it (politely asking another con-goer for this is always acceptable) & place your finger flat on the back of your wrist & wrap the band over it. This is the surefire rule to avoid too tight or too loose wristbands (remember, your wrist will swell & shrink with the heat).
    If it’s a pass, take a spare lanyard if you’ve got one- they’re usually provided, but if they run out before you get your pass, you don’t want to trust it to some flimsy string. (keep an eye out for cool fandom-themed lanyards in the DH/AA).

    7) study the con guide ASAP. Most cons nowadays will have the guide available online a day or so before, but can be subject to change, especially screening rooms. Take a felt-tip pen or fine sharpie, because most con guides are glossy; work out a code for ‘must see’ ‘wanna see’, ‘maybe’ and ‘looks interesting if I can make it’, & mark it on the daily schedule.
    a) take a few post-its or plastic flags; use it to mark that day’s schedule (often spread out over 3 or 4 pages if you include screening rooms & autograph times), & the venue maps, because most major con guides are at least 15-25 pages. When you’re trying to remember where the hell the ladies’ room is, or where your fave author is holding a panel, (complete with a reading from their yet-unpublished book) saving a few minutes flipping through the guide can avoid tragedy.

    8) speaking of the ladies’ rooms, work out where they are quickly (not all venues will have big helpful signs). Leave time in advance, as there’s usually a line. On your wanders through the venue, see if you can find one that’s out of the way/far from the dealer’s hall; most venues will have at least one (sometimes halfway up the stairs), and if they’re small, you’re less likely to find the sinks area stuffed full of cosplayers checking their makeup or wigs.

    9) again, mentioned elsewhere but due a repeat. Plan your day in advance, much as you can. You’re likely to get to only one ‘must see’ per day; if you’re at a several-buildings con, try to spend as much of your day in the one venue as possible.
    a) but cons being cons, at least one panel will be rescheduled/cancelled/shifted at the last minute, one actor guest will have to pull out two days before (though in that case, they’ll nearly always come back next year) & for at least one screening either the streaming channel falls out, or they couldn’t get the disc from the vendor, so you’ll go to watch Black Lagoon & end up with Studio Ghibli. Check the list at the hall/panel room door for the most up to date info; the big cons will also have a constantly updated facebook page or app. You’ll just need to roll with it, I’m afraid.

    10) in the dealer’s hall/artist’s alley;
    a) know your budget. Also, add on some extra, because you are highly likely to go over it.
    b) know your local stores & what they carry – you just might be able to get that box set somewhere in town, & if your local has membership prices it can be cheaper. On the other hand, some major vendors will ‘sneak debut’ a hot item (dvd or book) at a con, & sometimes you can get it a good month or so before the stores. Sometimes an author will bring ARC’s along, so check their website.
    c) if you see something you like, first consider if you really want it. If you really want it, buy it At a riot-level con like the one you’re going to, things will sell out quickly – especially if you’re looking at T-shirts or other clothing, & you’re not a typical size (trust me on this).
    c) if you see a stall with lots of pieces you like get the business card. A con like this will have some interstate people in AA/DH, & you’re almost guaranteed to find something interesting you never would have stumbled across otherwise. Pretty much everyone in the Dealer’s hall will have an online service, and while shipping might be a bitch, it’s better than not getting what you want (remember, Christmas and your birthday come every year!); they’re also good for gift scouting.

    11) since you’re driving in? Check the parking. Some parking lots will offer special prices if you pre-book, or are in by a certain time (I once got hit with a $40 parking bill for a single day). Check if there’s a park-and-ride with local public transport.

    12) pack for emergencies. Make sure you have tissues (especially if the venue isn’t prompt about refilling the toilet paper), aspirin/painkillers, bandaids, & supplies for that time of the month if you’re due anywhere within a week. If you’re cosplaying, bring safety pins (various sizes), makeup kit and tape. If you end up needing it, you’ll really need it.
    a) check your con guide for the first aid station – in Australia, at least, they’re legally required to have one at every venue. Big cons will also have a cosplay repair station.

    13) as a fellow introvert, check to see if there’s a chillout area (some cons have them); if not, find the smallest screening room. They’re nearly always dark & very quiet – as long as you sit as far away from the speakers as you can – & sometimes there’s a small area at the back or along the walls that’s empty too. Don’t be embarrassed to crawl under an empty table if you need to. (as a bonus, if you’re the eavesdropping type, you can pick up some fabulous gossip)

    14) if you’re in line waiting for something & your book’s already finished, or you just feel like being chatty, check out the person in line next to you for t-shirts, badges (don’t forget on their bags), & jewellery that indicate a mutual fandom. If they’re a cosplayer, a) ask about an especially good detail on their outfit or b) ask politely ‘I really like your cosplay, but I don’t recognise your character/fandom’ (this is especially effective at anime conventions). You would not believe some of the wonderful conversations I’ve had waiting in line at a con, not to mention the interesting information you can pick up, about fandoms, guests, the con itself or even the city you’re in.

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  11. In the spirit of helping with your research, a phenomenon that is definitely present in many reoccurring conventions of any size but might not be noticeable to a first-time convention-goer is the Con Brat. I’m well aware of this because I was one! In short, a Con Brat is a baby, child, or young teenager whose parents always or nearly always attend the convention in question, an might also regular attend others, with their child in tow. This children grow up, often starting at infancy, attending conventions, and both they and their attending parent or parents are likely well-known. They might be frequent volunteers, they might be annual paid staff, they might simply be Big-Name Fans (of the type that are simply well-known for, well, just always being there – because if a Fan is raising their kid as a Con Brat, trust me, locals in the community Know them.)

    These kids, often from not long after they start walking, are accorded increasing amounts of freedom, to the point that possibly as young as seven they might be allowed to run anywhere within the convention they care to go – there might be some simple rules, such as “you know my cell number, call me regularly” or “here’s my schedule, check in with me every so many hours” all the way through to “we’re leaving from this door at this time, be there, have fun and be safe!” These kids will know all the people worth knowing, all the places worth going, the events worth attending, and the food providers worth the time and the money. If there is a public lounge or free food of any sort, these kids know where it is. If there is free food technically only available to volunteers and/or staff, these kids probably have access – whether their parents do or not, because they’ll have long since made the right friends or connections, or simply have figured out how to sign on as a gopher. They’ll know the hidden corners, the back halls, and all the empty rooms.

    Depending on interest, they might know which screening room is always broken, which one they never got the disc for, and which one shows porn; they might be able to tell you which game in a gaming room is worth trying, what computer has a sticky keyboard, which one always runs slow, or which game-master is just a douche you don’t want to play with. A social Con Brat will know where the costume help rooms are, when you can hit up the green room, and where to find any special guest you might be interesting in meeting. The right kid can tell you which vendor or artist is here every year, who’s selling low-quality crap, what you can find for better prices or at a better quality online or in a local store.

    All this, and any Con Brat who’s been around for at least a few years can do it all without you ever quite taking notice that a pack of a dozen kids ranging in age from 9 to 15 just went tumbling past you at speed. They always manage to avoid notice and stay out from underfoot – unless they WANT to be.

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      1. Yeah, I grew up attending a convention that stubbornly kept itself small – usually no more than a few thousand tickets sold, as they want to keep it a manageable size – and I was one of maybe a dozen brats. There were two significantly older than me, a half-dozen or so within a few years to either side of my age, and a scattering of younger kids all the way down to toddlers. There are unlikely to be very many of them, hence why you’re not likely to notice them unless you’re specifically looking and happen to be looking in the right place, but I will be truly surprised if there aren’t at least a few!

        As a side-effect of growing up as a Con Brat (my parents often joked that my very first convention was while my mom was pregnant with me!), despite very severe social anxiety of the sort that makes even a gathering of half-a-dozen strangers a guaranteed panic attack for me, I am always perfectly comfortable in the thickest of convention crowds – because of growing up attending conventions, it feels more like friends I haven’t met yet in a very cozy home environment, even if it’s a convention I’ve never gone to before in a venue I’ve never seen. Such is the power of growing up a Con Brat!

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      2. That said, not every kid you see there will be a Con Brat. There might be a number of kids and even toddlers at the convention, but just being a kid at a convention does not make one a Con Brat – it’s being brought every year, for years. It shows most clearly in a kid, usually no more than a young to mid-teen (after that age they really start to blend in with the convention crowd itself, and have grown out of being Con Brats by sheer force of age) who is supremely comfortable at the convention.

        The convention will very likely have a children’s programming track that is basically free babysitting for kids of all ages. Some of the kids enrolled in the children’s programming might even leave the CP events to check out other things, but they usually do so slowly, cautiously, of are often accompanied by an adult or parent. A Con Brat, on the other hand, might occasionally check out a Children’s Programming event that catches their interest, but is more likely to be the kid that you think is WAY TO YOUNG to be wandering the con all on his own with no attached adult in sight.

        The Con Brat often won’t even think to look for a parent to go WITH them to what they want to do – he knows his rules, where he can and can’t go, and where and when to meet his parent. That meeting is later – this thing he wants to do is happening now, and by default he assumes he has permission because it’s not on his list of things he can’t do or places he can’t go, and it does not overlap with times he is required to check in with a parent. He’s not worried at all – even though he’s only seven or eight years old, he knows this whole convention and all it’s rules way better than you do, and he knows it.

        The kids that aren’t Con Brats just don’t have the Brat’s knowledge of the convention, his sense of comfort in the location and people, and the simple, ingrained knowledge that, so long as he follows the rules he’s been given, nothing at all at the Con is forbidden to him. To the Con Brat, the convention is a second home, the convention attendees (even the ones he’s never met) are a second family, and he has no doubts or insecurities about them at all.

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