Observer’s Log 2014.2

So it is February which can only mean it’s time for the latest Observer’s Log.  This month we are going to talk about prepping for a convention.  What do you want to ensure you have packed, and what you can leave home.  It is my hope that with just a few of these tips you will be off to having a memorable time.

First however I want to go back over something I talked about a few months ago.  Safety.  A situation arose at a recent convention which compromised the safety of a con goer.  Remember:


If you see anyone who looks to be in a compromising situation, speak up.  Check to make sure everything is good.  Worst case, you have the chance to give them a way out of danger.  Best case, you have let them know you cared enough to check.

So now onto the topic of the month:  Preparing for the convention.

Which convention?  Any convention.  No matter the convention (ok, maybe not business conventions), there are a few pitfalls you can stumble into while preparing.  So stick with me and I will take you through some do’s and don’ts that can help make your experience a fun one.

I have been attending gaming conventions for the last, dare I say, 15 years.  I have had some unforgettable times, and some times that I would just as soon never repeat.  For a few years I succumbed to the convention plague each time I dared venture from the depths of my room.  Those were a few of the not so happy years.

First remember to book your room.  I can’t stress this enough, this year I forgot. Now the one convention I have attended every year for the past 15 years… well it’s not happening.  I assumed I could still get a room but the hotel is sold out.  Learn from my mistake, if it is a convention you desperately must attend BOOK YOUR ROOM WELL IN ADVANCE.  There is nothing worse than having everything set and ready for you to go.  Only to find out you waited too long and now you’ll have to wait another year.

With your room booked, and now you need to focus on the next two most important preparation points.  Registering for the convention and planning your travel to and from the venue.  Whether you are driving, or flying, make sure you have everything set, gas in your car, plane tickets lined up.  You do not want to be dealing with this last minute.  Make sure you have printed out your registration information and a copy of your receipt.  Most conventions have registration which can be done ahead of time online. This also allows you to prepay ahead of time.  Taking advantage of these tools can ease confusion and help make your arrival at the convention easy.  Just make sure you have copies of your information so if any mix-up occurred you can get them addressed in a timely manner.  If you aren’t registering in advance, make sure you have looked at the events you want to participate in.  Have backups just in case your first choice is sold out.  Planning your events ahead of time will make onsite registration smoother not only for you and other con goers, but the convention staff as well.

Time to pack… this is where what you need will vary by convention type somewhat.  Here is an important tip, and I speak from experience, don’t bring all your favorite books and games.  Now before you say I’m insane let me explain.  Human nature is to like being safely in our comfort zone.  I have said it before and I will say it again, GO OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.  You have the time when you are at home to enjoy your favorite games, movies and books.  At the convention go out and participate, be part of the activity.  If you have all your favorites with you it is very easy to find yourself safely ensconced in your hotel room for the better part of the convention.

You’re probably thinking, I can save some money and pack some of my own food.  Good luck with that.  If you are on special dietary restrictions or are scrapping money together to go to the convention, you can try bringing some of your own food.  I have found limited success with this.  Bring some emergency rations, pop-tarts or instant oatmeal for the morning you accidentally oversleep, a handful of snack bars, for the midafternoon munchies.  If you bring too much more, you will likely find yourself transporting home a bunch of uneaten food.  Check with the hotel desk, they usually have a list of local food places for any budget and food preferences.  This will save you not only space in your bags, but gets you out mingling with other con goers, who like you, all need to eat.  Oh and cut yourself some slack, a convention isn’t the place to worry about diets…unless it is for medical or ethical reasons.

The hotel has a pool and an exercise room. A fancy dress dining hall and, and, and…  Calm down.  I used to have big dreams about partaking in all of the amenities at the hotel too.  I was going to go swimming and get up early and hit the gym before the morning events, shoot pool in the bar.  None of it happens.  You might, if you plan your schedule carefully find time to hit the pool.  Realistically, unless you are a superb time manager you will find yourself running to and from events.  Fair warning most events will always run later than scheduled.  You’ll be rushing around trying to squeeze in meals during the short breaks between shows, contests and games.  If you want to make one of these items a priority, by all means bring the items needed to do so.  If you don’t than save the space in your bag and focus on the events you know you want to do.

A note of safety, don’t blast all the social media sites with details about when you will be away.  Share the news with friends, but DO NOT paint a target on your home for the world.  Don’t put details about when you are leaving and for how long you plan to be away from home.  Ask a trusted friend or family member to check in on your place while you are away.  Having your mail picked up and walks cleared will give your home an air of use.  All of these little actions can make sure you get to come home to your comfort zone.

You will notice I didn’t cover the basics, packing clothes, pajamas, toiletries.  These are common sense items.  You know you need clothes, and shoes.  If you are planning to cos-play, you know to pack your costume and all of its parts and pieces.  Don’t forget your emergency repair kit…  You do have one of those by now, right?  Please, have your costume ready ahead of time so you can actually enjoy the convention.  You are spending time and money to go to the convention. Make sure you can actually participate.

                        Handy Dandy Final Prep Check Checklist or the HDFPCC for short

                        Hotel Room Booked (Printed proof of reservation)                                          _____

                        Transportation Arranged (Car gassed, plane tickets)                                        _____

                        Convention Registration (Printed copies of all info. Incl. payment)          _____

                        Costumes Carefully Packed                                                                                          _____

                        Emergency Repair Kit                                                                                                     _____

                        Medications (Location of nearby pharmacy just in case)                                _____

                        Emergency Trail Rations (Granola bars, oatmeal…)                                          _____

                        A Book or Favorite Game (just one or two, for down time)                            _____

                        House/Apt. Sitter Arranged                                                                                         _____

                        Clothes, Toiletries (You know the normal stuff)                                                 _____

                        Seasonally Needed Items (Gloves, coats, fans, coolers…)                              _____

                        Emergency Money (Have a little more than you’ll need)                                 _____

                        ________________________________________                            _____

                        ________________________________________                            _____

So that’s it for this month’s Observer’s Log.  I hope that you can put these tips to use to make your convention experience the best that it can be.  If you want more of my tips and tricks please follow me on:

Twitter: @czahnzinger





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