Stephen Bajza Stephen Bajza

Convention Survival Guide: What to Bring

convention bringBeing unprepared in general is an unpleasant experience, but when your enjoyment of a convention is at stake, having key items means the difference between a satisfying experience and utter misery. What will you do if a swarm of bees attacks the convention and you’re left without something as basic as Benadryl? That may sound funny and implausible, but it has happened. If your convention is farther than you can reach within an hour or two and you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll definitely need to pay close attention to this list.


Unless you’re attending a type of convention that isn’t covered by our website, you’re going to need clothes. Do some quick common sense research on weather predictions before packing. Even if you can withstand eighty degrees in a hoodie or you’re just fine weathering a cold snap in a miniskirt, you never know when you might need an umbrella. A good rule of thumb is to pack one outfit per day you’re attending with one extra, but if space is an issue cut down on pants before shirts; armpits tend to inflict the most damage on clothes. Definitely pack one pair of underwear and socks per day with extras and do not cut down on that number unless you absolutely have to. It’s one thing to walk around with a ketchup stain on your pants, it’s quite another to have smelly boxers. Just as a precaution, pack a pair of sandals or slippers – it could get hot, and you might run out of socks faster than you plan.

Make sure you have outfits appropriate for whatever events you may be attending. If you’ve packed nothing but jeans and t-shirts and all your friends want to hit up a party requiring a tuxedo, you’ll be twiddling your thumbs at the hotel room till they get home. Also, it’s nice to have one or two outfits that are a touch on the dressier side. You may want to go out to a nice place for dinner with your friends or someone you meet at the convention, anything can happen.


One of the most important tools available to everyone is a cell phone. Whether you’re planning on meeting with friends or you need to dial 911, having a phone in your pocket and ready to dial is something you can’t forget. Of course, most people do have cell phones and usually remember to bring them, but remember to bring the charger too! Unless you have set rally points and times, you can easily lose touch with your friends no matter how small the convention is and miss out on an entire day of activities with them.

Cameras aren’t exactly crucial, but conventions are inherently places where odd, rare, and fun things happen. If you see an awesome cosplayer or an entire hall has broken out into dance, not being able to capture the moment will be severely lame. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, and slipping a small slab of metal and plastic into your pocket is an easy task. Don’t forget to bring a charger for its batteries and, if you’re a particularly aggressive shutterbug, extra film rolls or memory cards. Also keep in mind that most phones include cameras, so if all you want to do is capture a few memories, then the built in camera might suit your purposes just fine.

If you have a laptop, make sure you have a sturdy, comfortable bag and a charger. Unless you’re blogging or doing business, a laptop is more of a convenience, so don’t stress out if you don’t have room for one on your trip. If you plan properly and don’t have imminent tasks to finish online, you won’t need one. The main issues you’re going to encounter with a laptop are avoiding unsecure networks and keeping it with you at all times. Conventions are prime opportunities to have your passwords and/or hardware stolen.

First Aid

This is probably the one type of item that most people forget to bring, but it’s important to have security measures no matter where you are. You’re going to be, potentially, miles away from your home where all of your usual medication, band-aids, and disinfectants are usually located. Don’t ever underestimate how important it is to make sure that your personal repertoire of medical equipment comes with you – only you really know exactly what you need, and leaving it at home might not only damage your fun, but it could potentially harm you as well.

Obviously, if you have any allergies then bring an epipen or other appropriate medication. You probably won’t suffer any major cuts, but a box of band-aids can take care of minor injuries very quickly. Don’t hesitate to buy a bottle of over the counter medications like Benadryl and aspirin. They’re widely used for a good reason, and in this case simply alleviating a headache or other minor pains can be a godsend; remember, you’re going to stand in line a lot and you’ll probably be sitting in all manner of uncomfortable places and positions. Lastly, a little hydrogen peroxide will clean all your cuts, big and small.

I’ll be writing an entire section on food, but staying hydrated and keeping your blood sugar up is the most common necessity at a convention. If you feel dizzy or light headed at any point, you might just need a quick bite to eat and some water. Bringing a bottle of water and a few snack bars will not only increase your longevity on the convention floor, it might keep you alert enough to avoid harm or injury.


Between freebies, awesome art, and tons of action figures, you’re going to be carrying a lot of stuff. Don’t ever rely on the convention to provide a decent bag, if any. More often than not they will be small and plastic which is great for a few comics, but not for anything larger. Vendors will sometimes provide you with bags as well, but again, nothing beats the durability and room of a backpack or rolling suitcase. If you plan on carrying any posters, invest in a good sized hard plastic case. Some vendors might sell them, but you can find them at many art or drafting stores.

The size of your bags will determine how much you can bring and how much you’ll be taking back. If you’re taking an airplane or any other form of public transportation, make sure you know exactly how many pieces of luggage and carry-ons you can take. If you have an extra slot open for the return trip, feel free to fill up an extra empty suitcase or duffel bag with all the toys and comics you want. Keep in mind, though, that most airlines charge an extra twenty-five to fifty dollars per extra bag of luggage.

The easiest way to figure out how many and what kind of bags you need is to ask yourself what you want to bring, what you want to take back, and what you’ll need with you during the convention. Make sure your bags aren’t completely stuffed or you’ll frustrate yourself by losing items, smashing them all together, and potentially suffering from broken zippers.

You will need something to tote around the convention itself, so make sure the bag suits the need. Backpacks are the simplest, cheapest, and most effective type, but if you plan on carrying heavy equipment or just have a lot of stuff to bring with you, consider a small rolling suitcase or backpack for the hallways. Just remember: it’s hard enough to maneuver through the dealer’s hall with a backpack, so lugging a rolling suitcase of any size will double the space you occupy and potentially cause problems for other attendees.


These are some of the most important items you can possibly bring with you. It doesn’t matter how many panels you’ve attended or how much stuff you’ve purchased, if your breath stinks and you feel grimy, you’re not going to have any fun. Since most hotels provide you with shampoo and soap, all you’ll really need to worry about is deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. Fortunately, these items are extremely common, so if you forget them at home, you can replace them for a few dollars at almost any convenience or department store. Do note that most upper-tier hotels provide a toothbrush and toothpaste upon request; they might not be the best quality, but anything is better than nothing in this situation.

The second most important items are things like sunscreen, razors, and whatever other personalized essentials you might need. Sunscreen works just like an umbrella: it’s better to have it and not need it than the opposite. No matter the weather predictions, preventing sunburns is a matter of comfort and safety. Razors are useful for both ladies and gentleman during longer conventions for obvious reasons, and again, if there’s a particular personal item such as contact lens solution or sanitary napkins that you may need, make completely sure that you’ve packed them.

Con Specific

Is your favorite artist attending the convention? Don’t forget the art print of his hanging up on your wall! Every convention is different; they all have different panels guests and activities, so prioritize convention specific items. This might be something to have autographed, a particular cosplay, or just a topical shirt. These aren’t easy to replace, and they can make or break your experience; the only reason you might be going to a convention is to get a special something signed, so missing that one thing might defeat the entire purpose of your trip. There will most likely be decent proxies such as, in this case, getting your badge or programming guide signed, but any item that packs an emotional punch for you should be near the top of your packing list.

Logistical Items

These are perhaps the most important items you’ll need to bring to the convention. From the convention tickets to airplane stubs to printed directions, they are integral to simply moving around and figuring out what to do and when. It’s a good idea to put all of these items in a single binder or folder, and make sure you have it with you at all times.

Firstly, check that you have all necessary tickets. Without them, you can’t get anywhere. Secondly, make sure you have good maps and instructions for getting from one place to another. With smartphones it’s a lot easier to do this on the fly, but preparing ahead of time will majorly cut down on stress and with thousands of other users on the same wireless network, you'll never know when you'll lose your connection. A transit system or road might be confusing, and figuring it out in the comfort of your own home is better than wondering if you should have taken that exit five minutes ago.

Lastly, try to draft a loose schedule and collaborate with your friends. This doesn’t have to be ironclad, as you should be enjoying yourself at a convention, but if you miss out on a huge event because you were fiddling with something in the artists alley, you’re going to be disappointed. Structure your time by figuring out your absolute must see events and when and where you’ll need to be for them. Everything else is secondary.

Be sure to check out the other parts of our guide including:

Convention Survival Guide: What to Bring

Convention Survival Guide: How You're Getting There

Convention Survival Guide: Where to Stay

Convention Survival Guide: What to Eat

Convention Survival Guide: Showroom Floor and Artists Alley

Convention Survival Guide: Cosplayers

Convention Survivial Guide: Panels and Autographs

Convention Survival Guide: Parties

Images © AIC Build/Aniplex USA


Last modified on Monday, 06 August 2012 11:40
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