Bring only... what you need... to survive. At this time some people may be getting an image of Lloyd Christmas wearing a foam cowboy hat with his arms full of fun stuff that weighs a ton. You're not far off from what some people end up doing. They end up bringing 40 things to get autographed, a portable gaming system with 20 games, their entire collection of Pokemon cards to trade, and it's all stuffed into their pockets. Sounds like a good time, right? FOOL! Bring what you need and only what you need. Let's break it down.
Getting a few things autographed make great keepsakes, but how would you feel if someone came up to you with 50 of the same item asking for the autograph to be made out to "My BFF or Ebay?" Kinda pissy? Yeah, me too. Also, if you see someone famous walking around, it's fine to say, “Hi,” but don't ask for an autograph right then and there. Most Cons have a set time and place for celebrity autographs. If you do it, then the girl dressed as Catwoman wants one, then the guy dressed as Haruhi wants one, and soon the poor celeb’s hand falls off and a riot ensues. Play it cool, hot shot.
Keep it simple and avoid weighing yourself down. Which reminds me, BRING A BAG! A pouch, a backpack, a purse, a satchel, anything to carry all of your swag around. Cons often have many promos and giveaways, as well as all of the stuff you might end up buying. Be ready for it. FUN FACT! I'm awesome! But seriously, I am. Know why? I carry a bag... in a bag! It's called a back up. You never know if you're going to be the 1000th person to enter and get the door prize of Boundless Glory! OK, it's probably a free manga or DVD, but still, you don't want to hold it all day. Be ready for what the universe throws your way.
Also, in your Bag of Holding, I would recommend bringing at least 2 bottles of water (you're gonna be doing a lot of hoofing), some energy bars or snacks (you don't want to end up paying $7.50 for a hot dog at the convention center), your camera (for the memories of GLOMPING), and some hand sanitizer, because you don't know who touched what. But I do... naughty... naughty.
Plan Your Attack
Before you leave the house or hotel room, do a quick check list run-down to make sure you have everything you need. Money, keys, bag(s), more money, and, most importantly, comfy shoes. I can NOT stress this enough. With the amount of walking, dancing, GLOMPING, and leg wrestling you'll end up doing in one day, let alone an entire weekend, you can guarantee you'll be in Blister Hell if you don't bring some comfortable walking shoes. They may not be the prettiest pair you own, but unless you're cosplaying, you don't really need to be so fashion forward. You're here to have fun, not get laid. Unless you are. Then I would suggest sexy comfy shoes or bring a second pair for late night excursions.
Know Your Enemy
A few of the main reasons one goes to a Con are the guests, events, and dealer room. Before you got your ticket, you probably looked at the Con website to see who was going to be there, what events or concerts were going to take place, etc. You may even have printed out a schedule so you know who, where, when, and WTF is going on. You've highlighted your itinerary, worked in breaks for food, shopping, and the occasional DDR session. You are now the Master of Your Domain, right? FOOL! Don't be so easily misled! Guests can change at the last minute, viewing rooms can get switched, concerts can be pushed back. The most important thing you can do is refer to your Con program (if you're so lucky to be given one), or a staffer to keep up to the minute on scheduling. Con staff are people that care about your enjoyment and safety. They volunteer to work the conventions to aid people in the right direction and get very little out of it for the work they do. Make sure to be polite and say thanks!
Now that you have an up-to-date schedule, you can map out your attack, decide where to start, and when to break for meals. If you're staying in an unfamiliar town without a guide, I would even suggest using Yelp to check restaurant and bar reviews or asking a local once inside the Con, (outside of the Con may be a bit awkward for some, especially if you're dressed as a Shinigami). Plan some down time, too. As much as an entertainment overload some of the things at the Con may be, it just makes sense to take a break once in a while. Pop open some Pocky, find a shady spot, and read a few chapters of the new manga you just bought. Which brings me to the Dealer Room or...
You Will Never Find a More Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy
I kid, but only just. The dealer room at you favorite Con turns any grown-up into the proverbial kid (Bart and Milhouse) in a candy store. You may want to go crazy Broadway style, but heed my advise and you'll at least come out with the shirt on your back you walked in with.
Have an idea of what you want BEFORE you go in. Let's be honest here, you know you're going to be dazzled by a technicolor acid trip of Willy Wonka awesomeness as soon you walk in. Only words like "Sooo Shiny" and "Kawaii!!!" will be uttered from your lips upon the initial entrance to Fanboy Sak's Fifth Ave.
Don't buy as soon as you see it! OMG OMG OMG! It's the exact, 1/16 size, out of production model I've been looking for! How much? My first born? Swell! FOOL! Someone an aisle over may have it for half that price. Not sure what half your first born translates into cash wise, but half.
Take a walk around the dealer room and look at everything before you buy anything. Everyone is looking for that hard to find item, but there may be something that catches your eye even more. Too bad you spent all your money already on that other item and didn't bring a credit card. Or did you? Mwahahahaha! Sorry about that.
For some reason people these days seem afraid to inquire if they don't see something they want. Just because it isn't on the rack doesn't always mean they don't have it. These people have hauled more stuff than The Bandit and Snowman, so it's very possible what you want is only a Tupperware container away.
Don't be afraid to haggle. Most of the dealers have brick and mortar stores or storage units that they had to pack up, haul, unpack, and display to catch you're Otaku eye. The less they have to pack up at the end of the weekend, the better. Be sure to compare prices. With multiple dealers in the same room, it's inevitable that more that one of them has the same item. Tell them the guy a few booths over has it for a dollar or two less. See if he bites.
Most importantly, since this is an age of technology, use it. You may find a box set, rare comic, or killer T-shirt that you've never seen before. Take 5 minutes and look it up on your phone to see if you can order it online at a cheaper cost. You can always show the dealer you can get it cheaper and see if he drops it a few bucks, too.
A Few Last Words of Advice
The sun is your friend. Don't be afraid to walk out into its warm rays now and then. Leave a coat in your car or hotel room, if possible. You may wanna dress ultra-fine for the post-Con rave (I know, right?! Who knew?!), but it can get damn chilly at night with only a layer of sweat and little more than a pair of suspenders keeping your swimsuit area private.
A note to the big kids. Keep an eye on the little ones. Sure, they seem like they know what they're doing, but they are all so hopped up on sugar and adrenaline, that they will pass out quickly. That's good because they have money in them thar pockets! Pilfer away, me harty’s! Not really. Really.
A note to the lil’ kids. Old people get tired just from being old. Use that to your advantage.
Now, go out and have fun! Be safe, use the buddy system, check in periodically if you're under 18. If you're over 18, I will let you know my hotel room number as soon as I check in. $5 at the door, be sure to get your hand stamped, 2 drink minimum, ladies drink free. Not really. Really.
BANKAI AND BUB BYE!