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Life Skills for Fanboys: Traveling to Cons on the Cheap

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2014

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

When Money is Tight…

You gotta make some cutbacks, especially to luxury trips like visiting cons.  Now, for yours truly, a con is usually a business trip.  I can write stuff off and make money at the same time.  But for the average fanboy, cons can be a deep, dark money pit that leaves precious little to buy stuff.  I’m a little short on time this week, so here are a few quick tips to cut corners at the con.

1.  Get a free badge:  The easiest way is to become a volunteer.  Unfortunately, this may take up the better part of your weekend.  And if you really don’t want to be a volunteer, you should be one and then do it half-ass.  But getting a free badge is easy if you know a creator.  Typically, a comic creator gets two badges with his or her table.  If the creator is alone, you can volunteer your time.  A one-person creator team basically needs to get from their car to the table, a few breaks for bathroom and finally help packing up at the end of the weekend.  Creators usually get two badges and it’s a pretty fair trade if you can do that and enjoy the con the rest of the time.

2.  A place to stay:  Couch surfing is A number one.  A friend near the con is the most convenient.  Unless you want to sleep in the car, the next best bet is to look for a hotel outside the radius of the con.  The longer and bigger the con, the further you might have to drive.  For instance, Dragon Con hotels are booked in Atlanta, but if you’re willing to drive from Marietta (about ten minutes away), you’ll get a much better deal.

Also, cheap hotels are best.  They usually have free wifi, while the more expensive hotels tend to charge because they figure their patrons can afford it.  Plus, since you’ll be spending most of the time at the con, you just need a basic room.  Any of the after con activities probably won’t require a hotel room in the host hotel.

Crashing with other fans is a possibility if you know how to network and you know a lot of other fans.  It is customary to split the room if you do, but it’s usually pretty cheap if you split it, say, six ways.

Most hardcore fans:  Once, when I was at the San Diego Comic Con, I met some punk fans who slept in the park.  I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re with a good group that understands the importance of standing guard!

3.  The food:  For God’s sake, convention hall food and hotel restaurant are almost always overpriced.  You know this, so plan ahead.  If you pack your lunch and smuggle it in, you’ll save a ton.  If you’re bringing a bag or a comic box, make sure you have a place for food and drink.  The guards might flag you if you carry it in the open, but not if it’s in a closed container.  I was at a show once where it happened, so just throw a bunch of junk comics over top and you’ll probably be fine.

Big Tip:  Find the Green Room:  The green room is sometimes for fans and sometimes for just volunteers and guests, it depends on the con.  If there is a green room, you can save yourself some money by getting food for free.

4.  Hold your purchases until the last day:  Bargains are on the last day.  Most dealers are willing to barter a little, but if they’re having a bad weekend they’ll practically give stuff away to break even on Sunday.  I’ve done it.  You might miss out on something new, but if you’re looking for a bargain, Sunday is your day.  And never be afraid to politely ask for a deal.  You never know what a creator might say to make the next ten bucks.

5. Travel by mass transit or car pool:  Just like you can crash in a fellow fan’s hotel room, you can often find a ride to and from the show.  Us the Internet to connect to fellow fans.  Depending on the size of the show, conventions are often located near mass transit to help increase attendance.

6.  Freebies:  Cons often have freebies.  I got tons of free game samples at Gen Con one year.  For comic book shows, you can get a ton of free comics if you’re not too choosey about what you read.  Don’t get too cocky about the freebies, though.  If you’re in artists’ alley, there are NOT a lot of freebies.  (Although you can collect a lot of links to new webcomics.)

Anyhow, that’s all for this week!

Previous Columns
Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
Grooming The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory

Con Locations