I’m taking a break from the short stories for a few weeks as I wait for the inspiration fairy to deliver some ideas. I thought I’d throw up a few articles over the coming weeks on various things.
The first thing I though I’d talk about is attending a comic or science fiction convention. I have some experience in this kind of thing having attended multiple cons in the past including San Diego Comic Con and some in the
This year I’m planning to hit up four or five cons including the
Barcelona comic con next month, Roll Out Roll Call in the UK and DICE, Dublin Comic Con and Arcade Con in . I’ll more than
likely do write ups on those after the fact as well. Dublin
This article will be in three parts, the first will cover tickets, getting there & finances, Accommodation, general preparation and what you should bring with you will be part two. The final part will cover convention etiquette, attending panels, signings, buying stuff and getting your luggage / purchases home.
What convention should I attend?
Depends on what you’re after. The main event in the geek calendar is San Diego Comic Con (SDCC).
is an amazing experience and is worth attending at least once just because of
the sheer scale of the thing. 130,000 people pass through the doors of the
convention centre in a weekend. San Diego
Most of the movie studios attend as they try to shill what they think will sell to the geek audience. Anyone starring as a superhero / vampire / girl fighting against an evil capitol next summer will most likely be there. However, you WILL NOT be able to meet any of the actors or celebrities who attend it; they’re on a studio financed junket and are usually being interviewed by the media all day except for a brief panel appearance. So if you’re hoping to meet Robert Downey Jr at SDCC then you are out of luck my friend. The best you’ll get is a view of him on a video screen as he presents a clip of Iron Man 4 from a stage about 100 metres away.
Which isn’t to say it’s a waste of time. Those massive panels are often a lot of fun to attend. The actors are usually charming and trying their best to be funny: They’re trying to get you to spend money on what they’re selling so they put on a show. Also it’s one of the few times in their career they get to bask in the glory of having thousands of fans so they’re generally up for a good time.
Smaller cons are the way to go if you want to have a chance to actually talk to writers, artists and actors about their work. I’m hearing good things about the
Phoenix comic con which is held in in the early
summer, it seems to offer a high calibre of guest line up but it’s smaller and
you might actually get to talk to Leonard Nimoy or whoever. Arizona
Local comic cons are an enjoyable cheaper alternative. If you’re trying to break in to the industry they also offer opportunities for networking that are hard to beat.
Tickets generally go on pre sale some months in advance of the con, even for the smaller, more fan focused ones. It allows the organiser to plan their budget out and have cash to pay for deposits etc. It’s a good idea to purchase early as then you can spread out the cost over a few months rather than buying everything at the last minute. Occasionally there’ll be discounted early bird tickets or goodie bags for early purchasers too.
for a con will cost you. Flights to the West Coast can easily run to €1,400
from Europe and there are few options, particularly from America . Aer Lingus used to run
direct flights to Los Angles and Ireland but stopped a few years back. A stopover,
either in San
Francisco London, New York
probably be necessary. Prices and timetables will be better to Atlanta as well. Maybe
plan a couple of days sightseeing there on the way over or back? New York
Booking early doesn’t seem to shave much off the price either in my experience.
Remember to get a tourist visa in advance. Apply directly to the
government immigration service for it online if that option is available to
you. It’s quick, painless and you get an answer within a day or two. You’ll see
lots of companies offering to middleman it for you for an additional fee. It’s
a waste of money. US
European cons are much less hassle to attend from a travel perspective, Thanks Ryanair! But the usual warnings about flying apply as you will get creamed for overweight luggage, which isn’t as much of a problem for the
with the generous transatlantic luggage allowances. U.S.
Full disclosure: I am a Qualified Financial Advisor. I know. You’re jealous. Women positively melt when I tell them that.
I’m kidding. I’m so desperate for human contact that I hug the postman every morning. Anyway, the good thing is I actually know that of which I now speak.
Get travel insurance with health cover included if you’re going to the
This is a MUST. If you get sick after bad Mexican food (a probability) or beaten
up by ravenous trekkies (also likely) then you’ll be glad you did. Plenty of
places do it for €20 - €30 for a single trip and can cover you for a whole year
for a reasonable sum. It’s also not a bad idea for Europe either, though at
least in good old socialist plagued USA Europe
there’s functioning public health care. They don’t leave you to die by the side
of the road of a burrito fuelled spastic colon in Madrid like they would in some
parts of the States that will go unnamed…(Alabama).
How much spending money will you need? Budget $100 (€70, £55) a day to cover food, drink and transport etc. Eating out anywhere is expensive unless you’re consuming horse burgers but it’s doubly so in the Peoples Republic of California also you should at least attempt to eat a decent (i.e. not McDonalds) meal every day to avoid the aforementioned spastic colon issues.
for sushi by the way. California
Save money by buying basics (bottled water, Oreos, yoghurt) in the local store and leaving it in the fridge in your hotel. Some supermarkets don’t charge you the sales tax in the
on food items if you’re obviously foreign, so practice your funny accents! I
saved twenty cent on yoghurt that way. USA
Always have your credit card with you. If you can (and you should!) load a few hundred euro onto it in advance of the trip so you aren’t in danger of breaching your limit should something happen.
Warn your bank in advance of a foreign trip, particularly if you’re planning any big purchases. They’ll put a flag on your account to expect increased activity from the foreign location for the time you’re away and therefore won’t cancel your card or stop you buying a new Ipod.
Use the card to buy the expensive items (like electronics, for example) as your purchases will be insured by the card company and you can claim a refund via the card if you need to. Keep your receipts but don’t let the customs guy find them on the way home!
Taking money out via an ATM is doable overseas (check if your ATM card has a maestro symbol on it). Maestro cards should be accepted at ATMs connected to bank branches but may not work in those standalone machines you sometimes see in shops. A sign on the machine will tell you either way. I once spent 30 minutes wandering around
looking for a compatible machine a few years back. Things have improved since
though. Las Vegas
You will be charged ATM transaction fees, which can be steep, so use it sparingly and take enough in a single transaction to last you for a few days at a time. The exchange rate on any card isn’t as good as that at the foreign exchange desk in your local bank but it’s far safer than buying a weeks worth of foreign cash at the bank branch and walking around with it on your person.
Keep your credit and ATM cards in separate places in case you get pick- pocketed. I know that seems like pretty basic advice but I see it ALL the time. It’s like people leave their common sense behind them when they go on holiday. Remember, at a con you will be brushing up against people all day. Not all of those people have your financial interests at heart.
You’ll know yourself what you intend buying at the con and can therefore budget appropriately but do bring a little bit extra in case a Holy Grail item that you always wanted is somehow available at a decent price.
Use cash at the con itself as very few vendors have portable credit card machines and the queues for those few that have them are normally huge anyway.
Do not expect the convention centre or hotel where the con is being held to have a working ATM. These will be tapped out within a few hours of opening time, if you’re staying off-site then pick up your cash on the way or make a run to the nearest bank and get your money out during down time.
Try hold onto small notes as many dealers or artists selling their work will run out of change in no time and exact change is always welcomed.
That’s it for part one. Next week: Accommodation, General preparation and what you may like to bring to the con with you.