Otakon, one of the bigger conventions on the east coast, is coming up quickly! I know there’s some advice that I really wish that I had known my first Otakon five years ago, so I’ve compiled a list of advice and reminders that I’ve learned throughout the years. So, without further ado, here are some tips for first-time con-goers!
1. Preregister! Even though the deadline for the cheaper price for pre-reg has passed, it will still let you skip long registration lines. The deadline for pre-registration is July 21st.
2. Hotel rooms/Transportation. There are megabuses that go from Philadelphia to Baltimore and plenty of other public transportation options. However, most of these don’t take you straight to the BCC, so you’ll have to figure out a way to get there. For those driving, make sure you have a place to park and money to pay for it. It’s a bit late, but if you can, try to get a hotel through Otakon’s room block.
3. Make a schedule! There should be a list of events posted online before the actual convention. It might not be the final version of the schedule, but take a quick look beforehand and note down which panels and events you’re interested in. Once at the con, flip through the schedule again and highlight what you want to go to. It’s terrible to find out about your favorite voice-actor’s Q&A after the fact. Also, make sure to leave time for eating. Passing out isn’t very fun.
4. Stay in a group. Baltimore can be dangerous at night, so use your common sense. Also, it’s really easy to lose other people inside the BCC, since it’s an enormous place. Designate a meeting spot and make sure everyone knows where to go if they get lost. If you plan on meeting in the dealer’s room, be specific. That place is enormous. Sometimes, cellphones might not work on the lower floors (dealer’s room, artist alley), so make sure you have a backup plan ready. The layout of the BCC is also a little confusing for first-timers, so try to familiarize yourself with it before your group splits up.
5. Money. Make a budget, and plan to bring at least 300 dollars, maybe more if you want to go crazy in the artist alley and dealer’s room. Keeping yourself hydrated and healthy is more important than getting cool merch. Also, make sure you have enough left over to pay for parking, and don’t forget you’ll need money for gas if you’re driving.
6. Food and water. Try to bring your own water, as water can be extremely expensive in the city. I’d suggest not eating at the con itself, since the food there tends to be pretty pricey. There are other, cheaper options in the city. Eat healthy, and remember, pocky and soda are not substitutes for a real meal! Make sure you don’t get dehydrated at the rave – there’ll be water on the sidelines, so make sure you drink every so often.
7. Sleep! I know, I know, it’s a convention. But at least try to get 5 or more hours. The rave only lasts until 2, and most programming doesn’t start until around 9 the next day. It’s no fun being drained and exhausted during the rest of the con. Similarly, sit down and rest whenever you can – it’s a large convention, so you’re bound to get tired.
8. Keep all of your things safe. This one’s kind of obvious. Don’t leave your stuff unattended, even if it’s “just for a minute”. Keep track of your badge, or else you might not be able to get into the con.
9. Line up! At Otakon, be prepared to see lots of lines. If any of the events you want to go to look really popular, be prepared to queue up at least an hour or two in advance. Never line up for the dealer’s room or the artists alley in the morning – the line usually goes away by late morning or early afternoon, and you can just walk in without waiting.
10. Be smart about buying things. Since the dealer’s room is enormous, there might be two to three different dealers selling the same thing at different prices. It’s terrible to buy a 30 dollar bag and find out you could have bought it for half the price at a booth just around the corner. If there’s something that you’d like but really wouldn’t mind that much if you didn’t get it, wait until Sunday. Dealers are usually trying to get rid of stuff so they don’t have to bring it back, and awesome deals can be had.
11. Cosplaying? Bring a repair kit. A pair of scissors, pins, glue, thread, needles, and safety pins will make a huge difference. In the past, there’s also been a cosplay repair station, but better safe than sorry.
12. Charge your cameras, cellphones, etc. before you head over to the con. Make sure your camera’s memory card is empty. Bring chargers just in case!
13. Be prepared for the weather. Bring an umbrella, and have sunscreen on hand.
14. Be polite and respectful. Don’t glomp/attack people. Ask before you take someone’s picture. Take showers, because con funk is truly awful. Don’t hog game machines. Try not to take pictures where you’ll obstruct the flow of traffic – the skybridge is a terrible place to stop someone for a picture. Other people are here to have fun as well, don’t be that rude person who ruins other people’s cons.
15. Most importantly, kick back, relax, and have fun! Cons are great places to meet friendly, awesome, people who share the same interests. Don’t be too shy to ask for a picture or strike up a random conversation with that cool stranger.
Phew! I might’ve missed a few things, but that’s all I can think of for now. Follow these tips, and here’s hoping that everyone has an amazing Otakon ’12!