I've written at length about starting your own convention, but I've never written a basic convention survival guide. As I'm going to be driving off to Geek.kon later today, I figured it would be appropriate to cover the topic. My advice is based on, well, having gone to a lot of conventions. Some of these I include because of mistakes I see others make, but many items are based on mistakes I have made myself. It's just nine points, so this shouldn't be too hard to follow anyway.
So, without further ado, here is Trae's Guide to Convention Survival!
1. Preregister if you can. It saves line time, it will save you money, and it most of all is just an awesome thing to do. Make sure you bring any confirmation letters or email print outs you were provided by the con along with ID. This will make the experience easier for the people working at the con, and get you in as soon as possible. This will also help you avoid the one line that occurs even at smaller conventions: the registration line.
2. Cash is King Oh sure, there's likely an ATM in the hotel. But guess what, hotel ATMs don't get restocked on weekends, and aren't usually prepared for heavy usage. On many occasions I've seen hotel ATMs run out of cash entirely. As you have no guarantee that the con will accept checks or credit cards, making sure you have emergency cash on you is important.
3. Water is your friend. Okay, so sustaining yourself on Mountain Dew and Red Bull for three days may seem like a good idea... well, it isn't. Caffeine is a diuretic, which for those of you who don't read books means it makes you pee more. This means that a lot of the soda you're drinking may make you MORE dehydrated than you were to start with. Make sure you are drinking water throughout the weekend. Seriously.
4. SLEEP! I shouldn't have to tell you this, but make sure you get sleep every night. I give this advice especially for the geeks out there who, like myself, are approaching 30. Back when I was 18 I used to be able to pull all-nighters with very little effect. Somewhere around 25 though... it all changed. Suddenly, I started needing sleep. To make it through a whole con, you need to make sure you're getting sleep every night.
5. Ask before you take a picture. There are a lot of people walking around in costumes during cons, and I'm sure you'd love to take their picture. Before you do so though, make sure you ask their permission. You know what creeps people out? Other people taking photos of them without saying anything. Remember that your fellow congoers are people too, and that simply saying "Hey, can I get a photo of you?" is really not that difficult.
6. Think before you stop, and beware those who don't. Okay, so when you do ask people for their picture, please do not take it in the massively busy walk way. Walk ways and aisles that are heavily trafficked are a bad place as you can cause congestion and be a pain to the other attendees or staff trying to make it through. There are often side areas you can get to quickly, and asking to step ten feet to get a photo (or to talk to you friends, or any other reason you might stop) isn't too much to ask.
Stairs are especially bad.
7. Maintain basic hygene. For the love of Edwin (patron god of the Geek), make sure you shower. Also, change your clothes and wear deodorant. Every other congoer will seriously thank you. The stench of sweaty people in a confined space is not a pleasant one, and we must all do our part. And please, please, please do not just try to disguise it with perfume or cologne -- there are many of us who have a strong sensitivity to some of the chemicals used in those products, and we get migranes from them. Okay, so I get migranes from them, and you do not want to upset me...
Unless you're a jerk.
8. Eat. It's easier to forget to eat than a lot of people think. Make sure you make time for meals during the course of the weekend, or else you will likely end up cranky, tired, and generally unhappy. Food is good folks. I reccomend packing a few snacks as well, as granola bars are wonderful things in a pinch.
9. Talk to other people. Cons are about community, and if you spend the weekend on your own without talking to anyone new, you'll likely not have as good a time as you could. Don't be afraid to strike up random conversations with other people -- it's how I made a lot of my friends in the con scene, and it's part of why I still do these things.
Those are pretty much the basics, and I think with that any one of you should be able to make it through a weekend of geekery. Happy hunting kids, happy hunting.