The following article came out for San Diego Comic Con, and offered some pretty good advice. As someone who’s been going to conventions (though not anything as big as SDCC) for nearly 20 years, here’s my advice.
First the professionals – Must Have at San Diego Comic Con.
For conventions – including professional conferences, what to pack in your “day bag” (a canvas bag you bring with you every day to the convention center or hotel.)
- Lanyard / badge holder. – Sure, most conventions give you one of these, or use wrist bands, but some of the smaller cons still have the dreaded pin-on badge holders that tend to pop open or fall off entirely. Not to mention the trouble of trying to find a place to pin the badge when you’re in costume. Also, not a bad idea for business conventions – no one likes pinning a badge to your suit or dress.
- Flash drives/jump drives – In case you meet people at the convention and want to trade computer data like music vids, etc.
- Fannish business cards – A “call me” card is essential. Giving out and collecting these is a great way to remember the new friends you make by looking up their tumblr, blog, and/or Twitter account – and a great way to get new followers of your own. You can make your own business cards with card stock bought from OfficeMax or Staples and a business card program (Avery makes an easy to use one and it’s a free download) or by using Word, Publisher, or another program. For business conventions, bring your own professional business cards.
- Empty canvas bag. This is a Must! Pack an extra flattened empty bag in your suitcase, use it to haul your stuff around the convention center or hotel. Also, useful for packing your purchases in the dealer’s room until you can get to your hotel room. Even when traveling for fun or business, I always bring an extra bag or suitcase (in that case, make sure it’s one that seals completely, because you want to be able to check it as luggage.)
- Highlighter and pens – Highlighter to mark the panels you must see, pens for taking notes.
- Paper and post-it notes. I like small flag-style notes to flag the current page in the program book, and 3×3 pads for brief notes (as a bonus – post-it’s will stick on hotel doors). I also bring a 5×8 pad or legal pad for notes during presentations and panels – especially at business conferences.
- Battery style extra charger for your phone.
- Fast flats / extra shoes. All that walking? It will make your feet hurt, bring at least one, preferably two pairs of extra comfy extra shoes. For big conventions, a pair of foldable flats tossed in your day bag – great idea! When travelling for business or pleasure, also bring extra shoes – nothing says misery like not only have your shoes get soaked from walking in the rain – but having to put them on the next day! It is worth it to bring extra shoes. (Also, those comfy shoes? Might not be so comfy after walking miles.)
- Chapstick, Purell, Halls vitamin C drops (or your cough drop of choice), hand wipes
- Extra hair tiebacks, barrettes, etc. Bring a few in your day bag.
- Water/juice/iced tea – Unless the convention has a hard and fast rule against bringing your own.
The following you should bring on the trip, but you can leave in your hotel room, and not haul with you every day during the convention.
- Personal medications (if flying keep these on you and in the original containers. Also, keep an emergency 1-2 day supply in your purse or pocket).
- Swimsuit, flip flops, cover-up – you never know the hotel might have a pool.
- Robe / pajamas (this is an incredibly easy item to forget.)
- Kit bag, make-up bag, hair care bag.
- Books, e-book, tablet – for reading at night.
- Chargers, USB cables for all personal electronics, including your cell phone and if you carry one, iPod.
- One or two dressy outfits with appropriate shoes and make-up (in your make-up bag).
- Slippers, sweats, sweaters, long sleeve Oxford style shirts (basically convention centers are usually too hot or too cold, dress in layers. Your day bag should be big enough to carry what you’re not wearing). The slippers and sweats are to keep you cozy in your hotel room.
- Emergency easy to pack lightweight outfit – at least a t-shirt and pants or shorts – if you spill your lunch or coffee on you it’s something to change into in the ladies room). Consider packing this in your day bag.
- The easiest way to figure out clothes and not over-pack is to lay out one outfit per day. Make sure your packing includes one or two sweaters and extra T-shirts, especially fannish ones. Be prepared in case the hotel is freezing. On the other hand, if it’s unseasonably hot, a few lightweight shirts aren’t a bad idea. The best strategy is think layers. Also, if travelling in Winter, or even someplace where it rains – bring a coat. Since coats are bulky, wear it on the plane, or throw it on the back seat of your car.
And that’s it, my essential list of what to bring to conventions or even while travelling for business or for fun.