Written by Wendy P12 and edited by Jen P
I am an eight-year DragonCon attendee and an avid Trekkie with many fun and exciting experiences under my belt, but a few mistakes along the way that taught me how to have a better Con. Some of the following are common sense, but others I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
Wendy P12’s DragonCon Survival Tips:
1. First and foremost – wear comfy, comfy shoes, and I mean COMFY!! If you are wearing costume shoes make sure they are COMFY or bring another pair to change into throughout the day. You will be doing lots of walking and standing, and Atlanta is hilly. Did I mention you should wear comfy shoes? Okay. I think you got it.
2. Wear as light-weight clothing as possible! Atlanta is still summertime hot that weekend, and all the pavement just makes it hotter. Some choose to wear their more extravagant cosplays at night when it is cooler.
3. Bring sunscreen, a large hat, or even a small umbrella to cover you. Sometimes, the lines wrap around the outside of a building, and you may be stuck in direct sunlight for hours.
4. If there is a panel you just have to see, get in line as early as Con security allows it, especially if it’s a very famous person or group. Those panels will be 2-3 ballrooms big and filled to the brim once they start.
5. That being said, I have really enjoyed the smaller panels more. It’s much easier to interact with the stars that way. (I have even had my picture for free made with the star at a smaller panel!)
6. Be prepared to stand in lines! It is part of the experience. Talk to people around you. I have only found friendly people at DragonCon.
7. DragonCon is not for those with severe anxiety or a fear of crowds. The five main event hotels can get very crazy. The Marriot is the craziest with the biggest events and most of the major cosplayers hanging out, so be prepared for that upon entry. The escalators are the most insane in that hotel. Stay with your group because you can be easily separated. Follow the directions of the hotel security when it comes to the escalators or you will both be confused, and possibly be yelled at. There are escalators everywhere in that hotel. Use the stairs in the middle whenever possible.
8. Try not to use elevators in the main five hotels unless going back to your room. They are always jammed and tend to stop on every floor.
9. Prepare to be squished at some point. Remember, there are 100,000 people there! It’s going to happen. Just be courteous, patient, and DON’T PANIC.
10. If going to the Saturday costume parade, get your spot very, very early. Once it starts, people will clog up the sidewalks. Try not to go that way if you are going to another hotel or you will be stuck there, indefinitely.
11. Get plenty of sleep and eat well when you can. You’ll need to keep up your energy just to make it through the day, and even more if you plan to stay out late for the many themed parties.
12. Food is expensive, and the lines are long all day, but especially at lunch and dinner. Bring a cooler of food to leave in your room for breakfast and lunch, maybe even dinner, and pack snacks like jerky, fruit, and power bars to munch throughout the day. Better yet, pack your lunch in whatever bag you’re carrying, and don’t forget the bottled water. You may become dehydrated and need more than a quick sip at the water fountain (and drinking bathroom tap water just doesn’t sound like a fun idea). This will save you both time and money on a very expensive weekend.
13. Carry a small backpack for your items during the day – lunch (see above), comfy shoes, wallet, etc.
14. Bring lots of water (see #11). At least have a water bottle that you can refill at the water fountains. You WILL be thirsty and hot.
15. If you feel yourself getting weak and tired, please sit and rest. Con-goers sit everywhere, including against walls on the carpeted hotel floors. Just do it. Your tired feet and legs will thank you.
16. Pay attention to the bathrooms and make note of those that are least crowded, but still plan to wait in line. Also, bring extra tissue in your backpack. The hotels are usually good about making sure there is toilet tissue, but every once in awhile a stall will not have any. Better safe than sorry.
17. If you are in costume, and someone wants their picture with you or of you, do it! People love it, and it’s all part of the fun! But that being said, always ask others before taking a photo of or with them. Cosplay is not consent.
18. Patience. Patience. Patience. Those lines will try you, so embrace the wait and make a friend or two while you’re there. You will meet people from all over the US, and sometimes even the world. Also, at every DragonCon, we have met someone from our town that we did not know. Now, every time we see each other at the Con we speak. Another thing to do in line is enjoy the people watching. Heck, some guests pay the ticket price just FOR the people watching. It’s half the appeal of any good Con.
19. Vendor rooms are huge and packed. You will stand in line to get in. Security only lets so many people in at once because it will clog up, as bad or worse than the popular panels. But once you’re in, there are so many things to see and buy! Walk around at least once before deciding to buy so you can get the best deal. The vendor up front may have that lightbringer keyblade you’ve been salivating over for 45$, but a dude in the back could have a similar one for 15$. Enjoy the hunt!
20. Autograph rooms also get very busy. You will see many famous stars up close and personal, and what’s awesome is that you can simply walk up and talk to them! I have met all but one Star Trek Captain and they have been great. I was able to talk to the Captain of Deep Space Nine, Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), and Voyager, Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). They both autographed a picture to my 5th grade class I was teaching at the time. Kate Mulgrew wrote “To Mrs. P’s 5th grade class: Boldly go where no students have gone before.” But follow the directions of the star’s handlers when interacting with them. On rare occasions, the stars themselves will decide how they want to meet you. George Takei shook my hand even though his handler said no!
21. Though my previous comments may have made you anxious about panels, go to at least one to hear what the stars have to say. The panels are usually funny, and I like to see if the actor has the same personality as his/her character. I have always enjoyed the panels, large or small, and one I particularly enjoyed was William Shatner’s. I am a big Trekkie (clearly), so I was excited to see Captain Kirk. I did not know what to expect because I had heard he was egotistical. Well, my husband and I had a blast. Shatner was very funny! He knows his audience made him who he is and is grateful to them. I found most of the stars feel this way. They all love the adoration, and most know that they would be nothing without the fans.
22. Always be on the lookout for stars while you are walking around. Every once in awhile one will walk by you. A few years ago, my husband and I were walking through a quiet area outside the hotel. Mid-conversation, I looked up and almost ran into Summer Glau and her friend. Of course, I was so surprised I could not think to speak to her!
23. Please remember to wear your badge at all times. You cannot get into events, vendor rooms, autograph rooms, etc. without it. And they do check!!!!
24. Text over talk. Cellphones don’t always get reception in the hotels because of all the people and buildings, and texts can often get through over calls. That being said, I wouldn’t suggest sending massive piles of data like photos or video that way. You may run up your data charges and never get that photo of you and Mermaid Sailor Moon through to your pals back home.
25. Most of all, have a good time. Enjoy the rare, geeky atmosphere. It’s a wonderful experience, being surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals all in the same place to have a good time. You will encounter people from age zero to ninety; from wannabe superheroes, to those who play them for millions of dollars on the big screen; and all of them are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. In my eight years of attendance, I’ve never seen a fight at DragonCon. Most Con-goers would help you out in any way they could, rather than treat you poorly.
Well, that about covers it for me, though certainly there are ways to personalize your experience to your needs and wants. One thing we always like to do is grab an ice cream at Dairy Queen at least once during our stay. It has become a sweet tradition for our growing group of family and friends. Now, go out and make your own traditions! I hope to see you there!
What do you think, geeks? Are you ready for DragonCon? Have any pointers to add? Let us know in the comments.