***Prepare yourself for some amazing cosplay pics.
DragonCon, for those of you who don't know, is America's second largest pop culture/comics convention - second only to the San Diego Comic Con. Basically, imagine you and 100,000 fellow geeks spread across five hotels and a convention center. That seems like a goodly amount of space for all of you, right? 😅 Well, that's what my brain thought. This was my first year attending DragonCon, and I am so grateful for the lovely group of friends (and D*Con veterans) who went with me because I probably wouldn't have lasted without them. So that's my first tip for survival.
Don't go it alone ~ Seriously. I am quite an extroverted person, and I was overwhelmed only two hours after arriving. I was staying in a different hotel from my friends I'd come with, so I had to go find my room and the other friends with whom I was sharing. Then there's registration, and lunch needed to be had, and I didn't know where to go and I am the most directionally challenged person ever. Thank goodness for my friend Gary who walked with me to registration! But yeah, like I said, that was just the first two hours. Then there was reconnecting with people and planning my schedule and all the new people I was meeting in a very short span of time. By lunch, I had sincere concerns I was going to hate this experience and was asking myself, "Why did I decide to do this?" My amazing friends were invaluable in restoring my confidence and helping me adjust, so get yourself a gold star squad! I admit to following them around like a baby duckling for a while. #NotAshamed Okay, so this one isn't a mistake I made, but I need you to hear this advice.
Wheels are your friends ~ I'm more embarrassed by this one than any other. The rookiest of rookie mistakes, I brought a bag without wheels! 😣 Dana, what were you thinking?! As I mentioned previously, I wasn't staying in the same room as my carpool friend-group, so I had to haul my bag across three hotels, and I do not pack light. Whew! So sweaty by the time I got to my room. Seriously, use a bag with wheels.
On that same note, I highly recommend a backpack or something similar to carry stuff with you. A lot of people at con had those bags of holding from ThinkGeek. I don't just mean your wallet either. I mean food and water (more on that next). That might sound a little over the top but trust me. I happen to have a great side pouch to go with my steampunk outfits, which was a lifesaver. Oh! And bring backup chargers for your phone and other devices. You'll be amazed at how quickly you use up the batteries in your phone at con.
It's dangerous to go alone. Take this ~ Food and water. Real food, not candy (another dumb move on my part) and not soda. DragonCon will make you sweat like you wouldn't believe because not all the paths are air conditioned, there are tons of people around, and it's Georgia in bloody August. There are water stations around the con (bless those sweet organizers), but I still recommend having water on you. As for food, bring something substantial, something with protein. I'm glad I had a little forethought and brought those little chicken salad snack packs, but I only brought four for the entire weekend. I also brought trail mix (with dried fruits, nuts, and seeds - again, no candy). Those are great choices. Starbucks also sells some pretty good food, but you will spend at least thirty minutes waiting in line to get it, and it's more expensive than bringing your own stuff.
Take some time to get away ~ Sensory overload is real (even if you’re extroverted like me). There are amazing costumes every five feet, of which you might get carried away taking pictures. Events around the clock - the con runs twenty-four hours a day. Plus all the mental energy you're spending if you go to educational panels like I did. If you're friends are like mine, they're gonna be super sweet and invite you to a bunch of things too. You might even end up playing PA/handler for someone like I did because con is intense for everyone, but especially those working it. Take some time to recharge. On Sunday night, I ended up huddled in my favorite hoodie in my hotel room watching Voltron because I just could not people anymore, and that's okay. Plus, con attendees really like to party. I do too, just privately with my friends, not in large public settings. And alcohol at con is expensive! So yeah, me and my hoodie had a good ol' night by ourselves, and I felt so refreshed the next day. Do take time for yourself to recharge. I know DragonCon only happens once a year and you want to see all the people and do all the things, but self-care is important too. And speaking of doing all the things...
You can’t do all the things ~ And that’s okay. It has to be okay because, let me repeat, you can’t do all the things. DragonCon has no lack of available workshops, panels, movies, contests, and other activities. This was my schedule at one point:
There are panels on everything. Don't believe me? Check out this little gem on the Science track:
I made the mistake of spreading myself too thin. The different tracks are in different areas of different hotels, and even though there's a half-hour between each one, that's not a lot of time to get around. I mean, you can do it - my scrappy friend Bethany does - but you've got to really work for it, and DragonCon requires you to make energy choices. I tried to do the Writing track, the Alternate History track, the Costuming track, and a few others. 😂 Dana, you're hilarious. Yeah, that lasted all of about a day. What I found worked best for me was to pick something to focus on - Writing, as you might have guessed - and then if you have a bunch of extra space, fill in something else. And if you don't end up making a thing, try not to sweat it too much. I missed out on a Runner 5/Zombies, Run! meetup because I didn't really keep up with my emails during the weekend, and that really bums me out, but I've learned for next year.
So that's my advice. Do you have other tips? Let me know in the comments below 👇.
Thanks for reading!