Friday, July 30, 2010

Guide to DragonCon - Part 2

UPDATED: Feb 2013

The first part of this guide was for prepping way off in the future. Now you're about one week out. Be sure to sort out the basics before you go:

1. Ticket
 - I should point out Dragon*Con is free all day Thursday since it is not an official day. In fact, I would encourage curious minds to go to downtown Atlanta Thursday night to get a feel for it all before the mayhem starts. It is also somewhat free the rest of the time during the day if you just want to roam around the common areas of the host hotels and on the streets. You just can't enter any panels or programming events. However at night or other busy times during the day, the hotel security start checking for badges at entrances and you WILL NOT be allowed to enter. This policy began a few years ago in order to cut down on crowds and tighten security. If you STILL haven't bought a badge, then you're going to have to shell out over $100 at the door for a full membership. However, there are single and multi-day badges for less than that.

2. Room
- You know where you're staying, right? Call your hotel to confirm your reservation. Next, clear everything with your roommates on things like payment. You don't want to be left without a roof once you arrive in Atlanta or get suckered out of money someone owed you.

3. Travel
- Ditto here, check your flight info if you're flying. If you're carpooling, sort out details before departing and know how to get there. Driving downtown Atlanta can be confusing and intimidating to anyone not familiar with the area. Oh, and parking is going to be around $20 per day in the hotels and nearby lots. If you want to save on parking, try finding a nearby MARTA station that has long term parking, park your car there, and take the train to the convention (get off at Peachtree Center). Rates are around $5 to $8 per day. As a general rule, try to stay on the Northern stations, as they are typically said to be safer. I've used this approach for a few years now and have never had any problems. Dunwoody has been my station of choice.

The escalator of DOOM at the Peachtree Center MARTA station

4. Packing List
- I'm not going to touch on basics that you would pack for any trip, things like clothes or whatever medical needs you may have. Instead, I'm gonna highlight some key things that could ruin your experience if you forget them:

  • Identification: no ID = no badge = no entry into any room with official con activity.
  • Confirmation Post Card: Starting in 2011, D*C has gone to a barcode system and your code is imprinted on that colorful post card you got a few months back. Bringing it will speed up the registration process.
  • Safety Pin: if you don't like wearing a lanyard, use a safety pin in addition to the clip on your badge to keep it secure.
  • Cash: many vendors are cash only and the ATMs will get used up within a day.
  • Camera: you'll definitely want to take photos of the costumes or celebs you run into.
  • OTC Pain Med: I take one Aleve in the morning, and another one in the middle of the day. It has drastically cut down on back and feet soreness! Muscle rub/Bengay or a warm bath at night also help.
  • Gold Bond Powder: for staying dry, preventing chafing, and fighting some body odor. Pretty much a necessity if you're in a skin-tight or multi-layered costume.
  • Costume Repair Kit: thread, fabric, hot glue gun, tape, etc. Whatever you think can go wrong probably will, so be prepared to fix it on the go.
  • Snacks: unless you want to be at the mercy of overpriced hotel food or go to the same food court everyday, it would be wise to bring some of your own goodies. I'd suggest beef jerky, nuts, diced up fruit, protein bars, and your own bottle to fill with water.

That said... don't overpack! If you know you're walking from a parking lot or MARTA station to your hotel, lugging 2 suitcases, a duffle bag, a cardboard box, and various props is not going to be fun (believe my, I've made this mistake). If you're flying into Atlanta or bringing many costumes, it may be a good idea to ship a package to your hotel room. I've read that all the host hotels will hold until you arrive, or deliver to your room, but there will be fees. Be sure to call your hotel first and ask though. And make sure to set up some arrangement to mail it back to you on Tuesday since most delivery services are closed on Labor Day Monday.

Part 3 will address what to do and what not to do while you're at the con.