There are a million survival guides to Dragon Con, and Tara’s written one of them. My first Dragon Con has come and gone and I’ve learned a ton, so I’ve written up a guide post-Dragon Con from the point of a no-longer-Dragon-Con-Virgin. Read this in Jesse Eisenberg’s voice to the tune of the Zombieland rules.
1. Once you’ve gotten your badge, never go back to the Sheraton.
The Sheraton is the furthest (and, in my opinion, the most useless) con hotel. If you’re planning on attending a ton of panels and parties, the Sheraton isn’t the place to go. It’s hot as hell in Atlanta in late August/early September, so the walk to get your badge will be a nightmare. The only positive thing will probably be the liquor store on the way back.
2. Don’t read any Dragon*Con Survival Guides. Just wing it. You’ll be fine.**
A lot of guides psych you out and make you feel under-prepared. I read absolutely no guides before attending and I learned my lessons the hard way. Fortunately I was attending the con with seasoned con veterans and I was able to have them there to help me. I know a lot of people won’t have that opportunity.
3. Most of your con panel plans won’t happen. Don’t freak out.
I filled my schedule with panels and workshops from the Dragon Con app and went to a total of two (count ’em, TWO) panels the entire five days I was there. Pick a couple of things you absolutely can’t miss and plan around them. If you have extra time, that’s great, but if you don’t, don’t sweat it. There will always be more cons and if you miss a first panel, chances are that there will be a second, third, or even fourth panel with the same cast.
4. Ask for extra towels.
You’ll suddenly find that your bathtub is covered in cocoa powder and black hair paint and you’ll want to take a shower, but oh no! There’s no more towels. Even if you don’t need extra towels, you should probably ask for some. Before you need them.
5. Ask about your hotel’s policy for a mini-fridge.
The mini-fridge in our hotel room (hidden inconveniently in the dresser cabinet under the television) became a staple. As somebody with Celiac, I had to eat a good amount of food in the hotel room. It also kept the beer cold and supplied us with mimosas for the parade. Obviously very important things.
6. Don’t go back to the Sheraton.
This bears repeating.
7. Hydration, hydration, hydration.
It’s hot in Atlanta, even in the evening. Keep well-hydrated with water and low-sugar powerade or Gatorade. I guarantee you’ll lose a lot of fluids just STANDING AROUND at the Pulse bar at the Marriott. I was in a constant state of sweating myself to death. I also may or may not have been in a raptor mask…
8. If you don’t make it to the dealer’s room, don’t worry.
There’s a list of the vendors in the Dragon Con program guide. If you can’t make it out there, do some internetting and order whatever it was you were looking for.
9. Bring cash or search out local ATMs.
Most selfies with the actors and actresses are twenty dollars, and most autographs run upwards of $40 USD. I paid for everything in cash because it was quick and convenient. There were ATMs in each hotel but they run out of cash.
10. If you want to go up, go down.
If you want to go up to your room (especially if you’re in the Marriott or the Hyatt), hop on a down elevator. It might suck at first, when you’re crammed in there like sardines, but the elevators are pretty fast, and you’ll only be on them for a minute. If you’re desperate, take the stairs down and only use your elevator card for going-up trips.
Keep in mind that it’s about a thousand degrees in Atlanta during Dragon Con, even inside. The skybridges are crowded and you move along like a herd of cattle and accidents do happen. Keep emergency tape, glue, safety pins, or whatever on hand. There’s a chance you could lose or misplace some costume pieces. Be prepared.
Wear comfortable and sensible footwear if you’re going to be out for awhile. Even if you’re cosplaying, find a way to protect your feet. As somebody with plantar fasciitis, I wore special heel bands. They saved my feet.
14. Disabilities Services.
On a more serious note… I had a press pass and I picked up my badge at the Hyatt. Had I had a regular pass, I would have had to pick it up at the Sheraton, which is also the home of the Dragon Con Disabilities Services. Having to walk down to the Sheraton to get my regular badge would have been agony enough. Imagine if you have a disability, walking up and down the hill, and then having to walk right back up the hill to go back to the hotels. If you don’t realize you need disability services the day you pick up your pass, you’re screwed. It’ll probably be an hour wait the next day. Check and double check with Disabilities Services to get the help you think you’re going to need.
15. The Sheraton.
DON’T GO BACK THERE.
16. Also, a little Emergen-C never hurt anyone.
** I was just kidding about not reading con guides. I personally didn’t read any but some of them are really informative and can save you a lot of trouble.
Bekah has a B.F.A. in Theatre Performance from Anderson University and is the Executive Assistant at Saga Event Planning. She is a frequent convention attendee and cosplayer and co-hosts The Geekiary webcast “The Bitching Dead”.
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