As usual, I had a blast! I want to first address 2 big changes that were definitely for the better.
1. Barcode Registration - Major win for the attendees. I heard reports from friends that it took a total of 10 minutes to get their badge. Most of that time was spent just walking through the snaking line that was basically empty. Granted, the system isn't perfect yet. There were a few times when the computer crashed. I was a victim to one crash and still waited 2.5 hours, but I could tell the line was always moving once they got things booted up again.
2. Increased Security - Starting at 7pm, hotel staff and private security started checking for badges and hotel keys at all entrance points. I thought this really helped with the atmosphere and keeping the crowds from getting out of control. There were far fewer reports of negative incidents from the D*C community. Going forward, anyone thinking of attending should expect to buy a badge if they want to be around at night.
Moving on, there are always new things I learn and here are some tidbits that could help others:
- Aleve: why didn't I use it sooner?! Take one in the morning, one in the middle of your day. It'll really cut down on aches and pains.
- Muscle Rub/Icy Hot/Bengay: rub some on your sore parts before bed and you'll feel better the next morning. As a bonus, you can soak in a hot bath tub too.
- Gold Bond powder: as someone who endures Georgia summers, this stuff always helps you be less sticky and damp in certain regions. But it is especially helpful with costumes involving layers or spandex.
- Showers: my new rule is going to be 2 a day. Everyone should get 1, but if you're in costumes and sweating for a few hours, it's a nice refresher to get clean again.
- Sleep: I swear by sufficient rest as the best means to keep away the con crud. That's 4 years in a row that I haven't come back with any sickness. Granted, I was still physically exhausted from the weekend.
- Badge Security: I did hear a slight increase in the number of stolen badges. An inexpensive way to keep it attached to you is to use a safety pin in addition to the clip.
- Hotel Booking: Hilton, Sheraton, and Westin already opened blocks for next year with Hyatt and Marriott coming in October. Keep in mind these are blocks, and more will be released as the year goes on, but it never hurts to secure something early.
- Next Year's Badge: I once again skipped the long lines Monday morning to buy 2012's badge, but I was surprised to find it offered online a few days later for $60. That's half price of the at the door full badge! It'll go up in $10 increments starting tonight, but know you can always transfer it to someone else and still get your money back.
- Packing Lighter: it's not easy to drag 2 rolling suitcases, a duffle bag, armor, a sword, and a staff for a 30 minute commute on MARTA. Likewise, trying to unload luggage from your car in front of the hotel can mean very long wait times with already congested city traffic. Getting back is a chore too. I just shelled out money for a taxi on the return trip (it's roughly $40 for 2 people to go from host hotels to Dunwoody MARTA station). Next year, I'm hoping to keep the packing logistics in mind when I'm planning my costumes.