Hey guys! I hope you all enjoyed the con-season post from yesterday (if you’ve read it already, we’re moving pretty quickly here) where I talked about useful items to pack. But as I was typing it up, I realized that post was useful only if you already knew what convention you were going to attend. And then this post started to form in my head
This time I’ll be talking about things you might consider before deciding to attend a convention. Most of it relates back to budget, Enjoy! And if anyone has any more ideas for topics I should talk about, let me know in the comments section
Budgeting Your Convention Trips: Things to Consider Before Traveling Out to Your Friendly Out-of-State Con
There are a lot of reasons why someone will decide to attend a convention. For some people, they just attend whatever convention is convenient in terms of time and location. Others look more closely at things like reviews/what people say, guests, events, the type of convention, and friends. Depending on why you decide to attend a convention, your financials can play a small or large role.
For example, when I heard that Reika was going to be at Anime Matsuri 2014, I instantly decided I had to attend. I had been following them online, wished I could meet them, and when I heard it was their US debut, I did everything I could to fly out to Texas. Financials played a small role in my decision. Yes it was something I considered, but it wasn’t something I weighed too much when deciding
Other times I’ve decided to attend conventions because of friends, like meeting Lyn at Fanime and both Takuto and OGZ at Naka-kon. In both of these cases, financials played a bigger role. Did I have enough money for 9-11 hour road trip? Would paying for a plane to CA after I’d been at another convention be feasible?
Whatever your reason for attending, financials play a big role in attending out-of-state conventions and here are some things to consider when deciding what conventions to attend
Give Yourself Time
When going to a convention, especially out of state, the best thing to do is plan and plan early. If possible, give yourself at least a year’s time so that you can research and save up money, especially if it’s a convention like Anime Expo. Of course, if you’re okay financially, chances are you might not need the whole year. Maybe you might only need a couple months, or if you’re crazy like me, one weekend (yes, I did this last year when I last minute decided to attend Fanime)
Now let’s say you gave yourself enough time. The next step is to start saving up money and making a budget sheet. If you have plenty of time, chances are you can save a few dollars from every paycheck you get (or if you don’t have a job you can find one)
The amount you save up will depend on your expenses
note: Some conventions you can attend by showing up on-site. Others, like the Comic Cons don’t work that way. Make sure to do your research when it comes to registration, prices, and attendee caps (like Otakon usually has a cap, not sure what it might be now since I heard they moved to DC)
Make a budget sheet
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but start jotting down some of your expenses so you know how much money you need to save up
Take into consideration things like food, hotel, convention ticket, transportation (both while at the convention and how you plan to get there), and con-money for the dealer’s hall and artists alley. Add a bit more just in case you need to buy something you forgot to pack. Maybe you might even need to add a $12-$15 daily fee for internet use, car parking, emergency use, etc.
Recently I’ve also heard guests offering signatures at a cost. If you know that meeting one of the guests will costs you, make sure to add that to your budget! For example, I know that one year, in order to get Reika to sign your stuff at Anime Matsuri, you needed to purchase one of their photobooks and/or posters. They also charged to get pictures with them and Kaname another year. At other conventions I’ve also seen Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn offer some extra merchandise when you get stuff signed. They don’t charge you for their signatures or pictures, but when you’re in line you might end up wanting to buy some of their stuff so be sure to carry some money during signings
Lately, a lot of people have conveniently been accepting cards as payment, but some places only take cash. Plan accordingly (plus, those CC readers rely on internet and sometimes some conventions don’t have great service)
Basically, add in whatever you think is necessary. Then figure out how much money you’re willing to spend, where you can cut expenses, and if you’ll have enough money before you travel out.
note: If you are roadtripping definitely take into account tolls. Tolls are super expensive! I live out in IL and decided to go to Ohio last year for Colossalcon. My tolls expense was (I believe) about $40-$50 round trip because IN really wanted my money. Going to Naka-kon in Kansas, however, wasn’t as expensive but I did have to account for an extra day of gas (since it took me two days to get there)
If you’re looking to cut expenses, rooming with someone can be a good way to do so. Hotel prices are expensive, especially if you’re staying at the convention hotels. Depending on the convention you’re looking at $100 per night (and up to $300+!) plus taxes. However, if you book a room and get some people to stay with you…that’s a whole other story. I’ve stayed at hotels where I share and only pay $30-$60 for the whole weekend. There is a risk and lot of responsibility in being the one who books the room so if you’d rather not shoulder that, don’t do it. Just find someone who is looking for people. I’ve never had an issue over getting stuff stolen or people touching my stuff, possibly because I tend to pick people that keep to themselves. If you’re not a party person, I recommend mentioning that when you look for a roommate
Another way is to buy tickets early! If you know you’ll be attending Convention A, keep track of when their pre-registration opens. Sometimes you can shave off more than half the at-door ticket price. Going along with this, conventions also allow their attendees to volunteer, and depending on how many hours you help out, you can get your badge price fully reimbursed! Some conventions will reimburse your badge for the year you volunteer, others like Yaoi-con will give you a free badge for the following year. Make sure to check out the rules on their site and if you can’t find it, ask the con via their social media sites
If you’re going out to a convention that is hosted on a holiday, extending your stay can help cut plane costs. For example, if you want to go to AX, which is hosted during Independence Day weekend, you might get a better deal if you head out on a Wednesday or Thursday and come back on a Tuesday. It will bring your hotel costs up, but it can be worth it if you find some roommates who are staying longer at a decent price. Plus, then you get to do some sightseeing!
Research At-Con Transportation
This is super important if you’re going to be out of state. If you’re primarily going to be at the convention then you probably don’t need to move around much but there are still some things to think about
Getting to your Hotel
How far is the airport from the hotel you’re staying at? Do they offer a shuttle service? Shuttle services are free and vary by hotel. If they don’t I recommend Uber as it’s a cheap way to get around in general. Shuttle service information should be on the hotel website. If they do have a free shuttle service, make sure you get on the right one! There are tons of shuttles at work at an airport and many hotels have the same name. Before getting on, ask your driver if they’re going to your location. Give them the full hotel name and even where it’s located at
Hotel to Convention Transportation
How far is your hotel from the convention? If the convention is being hosted at your hotel or the convention center is next door, you don’t have to worry about this. But if you’re farther away…is it so far away where you need to drive? Again, Uber is my go to, especially at night.
Is there some kind of bus or train system you could use? A weekend pass that you can buy for unlimited access? Does the convention offer a shuttle service to the convention? Is your hotel part of that block? Make sure to check the times they start and end as getting stranded at 2am in a different state might not be fun (this happened to me like my first year at Yaoi-con). If you’re going to Fanime this weekend then you’re in luck! They have shuttle services until (really) late and the trains are basically right outside their entrance
Transportation Beyond the Convention
Will you be active outside the convention? If so (and you plan to travel far from the convention), is it cheaper to use public transportation, some kind of service like Uber or Lyft, or just renting a car?
Can you catch a ride with your roommates? Maybe one of them has access to a car and doesn’t mind if you tag along when you leave for the con or come back. Out of all the options, this is the one I like the least as it puts you at the mercy of the car owner’s con-schedule. But obviously, every person is different and it’s something to discuss before the con
Renting a car can be pretty cost efficient if you find the right place and are staying for quite some time, but it also has age restrictions. I know that when I tried to rent a car for AX I wasn’t “old enough”. Many companies didn’t want to rent me a car and the one that finally did had me pay an extra fee because I was a young driver. If you decide to rent a car, also remember that you need to let your hotel know. They might have rules for their parking (could be free, could only allow 1 car per room, may have a fee involved)
note: And this is so important! I heard there’s been some sketchy stuff with fake Uber drivers. Be safe and cautious, especially at night, especially if you’re alone. Only get into a vehicle if you know it’s your Uber. How do you know? The app gives you all the information you need: make, model, color, license plate. And I’ve noticed all Uber drivers now have a sticker on their back window. If something doesn’t match up don’t get in. Also let someone know where you’re at
Extending Your Stay
This is actually something I like to do because it allows me the flexibility of leaving at a later time (sometimes the plane departures are really inconvenient) and I just save money because I’m leaving on a day that’s not in demand. Because extending your stay also affects your hotel prices, I try only to extend my stay to 1-2 days. And what I like to do is explore. I tend to take walks around town and eat at places I normally wouldn’t if I was back at home (throws money everywhere)
I should really start to plan all my stays though. Because this is an optional thing, I’m going to assume that people who extend their stay also don’t mind spending a little more on some adventure
Ask Your Internet Friends
One convenient thing about traveling to California for me is that everyone lives there. Or at least it feels that way. A lot of the people I am friends with are from CA and I can usually just ask them where I should go eat, what I should definitely check out while I’m there, and if they’re free, ask them to hang out (this was actually with my cousin)
If you’re traveling somewhere and you know a friend lives out there or has visited before, ask them for some advice. They may not know everything but they can start guiding you
Use Travel Sites/Google
Another good way to find deals is to check out travel sites (something I should start doing). I normally just google something like “tourist locations” and try to check out some of those places but after a while it gets a bit stale because all the “tourist locations” are the same and I already saw the Golden Gate bridge the last time I came by I want to try something new. Sometimes I just walk around and figure that the Hop-off-Hop-on buses are a good idea but I never actually finish the tours
There are also sites that are specific to that location where you can find more in-depth information, like this travel site for Las Vegas (for anyone going to the The Amazing Comic Con in mid-June) . Also, with my wanting to go to London sometime this year (or next), I did discover Airbnb, which has both places you can stay at (not hotels, rentals I believe) and things you can do around town.
And these are the main things to think about when heading to out of state conventions/events (aside from having the time of course). If you decide to attend a convention because you LOVE the guest lineup, chances are paying $1,000 for everything might sound alright to you. On the other hand, paying $1,000 just to meet some friends might not sound too appealing. Whatever the reason, weigh the pros and cons, decide if you’re willing to spend that amount, and have fun once you’re there! Sometimes things don’t go as planned, sometimes things turn out even better
For the most part, these tips are also useful for local conventions and even US-Canada-MX conventions. For going into another country, however, there are more things to consider, such as having some kind of phone service, getting money converted, bank service charges, contacting your bank about your travels lest they put a hold on your money, and passport fees (among other things), but what you need depends on where you travel and since most of my experiences have been on a national level, I figured I’d hold off on that post until I travel internationally more (hehehe)
Also, if you’re not too busy throwing money everywhere (like I usually am), it’s a good idea to save your receipts and just keep track of how much money you spend. It helps to compare your budget to your actual costs. Not just to see if you overspent but incase you want to go back another year (usually costs don’t change too much)
What about you guys? What do you all do before deciding to attend an out-of-state convention? Was there something you thought was important that I didn’t mention? Oh and if anyone is curious, you can find those adorable calendars on AliExpress