The Cosplayer and the Quest to the Convention

So you’ve just heard of a convention that you’d like to go to. They’ve got your favourite actor, your favourite voice artist, that one YouTuber you’re dying to meet. And of course you’ll want to cosplay to show your excitement and enthusiasm.

Unfortunately this convention happens to be on the other side of the country, several thousand kilometres away. But did that stop Frodo from getting the Ring to Mordor? No, it did not, and that distance is not going to stop you either!

I’ve been travelling to conventions around the country for the past 10 years, so the following is a compilation of tips and tricks I’ve discovered along the way. Hopefully they may be of use to you too, young hobbit, in surviving your Quest to the Convention.

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As soon as you decide that you want – no, need – to go to this convention, you have to start planning. If you do all the hard work now, you’ll have nothing to stress about on the day.
Informed decisions are the best decisions. So ask yourself these questions, or hit up Google, and find some answers to the following:

Choosing your cosplay

– What’s the weather likely to be doing when and where the convention is scheduled to take place? If you’re travelling to a warm city during a summer month, you may want to choose a light cosplay to minimise risk of heatstroke. If it’s a winter convention in a rainy city, you may want to avoid anything that requires bodypaint.
– Will you be able to walk/drive/utilise public transport in your costume? It may be worth paying a bit extra for accommodation closer to the convention if your mobility is going to be restricted by chunky armour.
– Will your cosplay fit in your suitcase? Will you need to pay oversize luggage? Some airlines charge by weight and others charge by number of bags, so research and choose whichever works out best for you.
– Anything that looks vaguely like a weapon will have to be in your checked in luggage. It doesn’t matter if it’s made of foam and cardboard and couldn’t possibly hurt anyone, it has to go in your bag. Take it as a compliment to your prop making skills. I’ve had a plastic Harry Potter wand confiscated from my carry-on bag before, not even kidding, I guess they were worried I was going to Avada Kedavra the pilot? Or poke someone’s eye? Either way, don’t risk it, put that prop in your checked in luggage.
– Check out what the local weapons carry laws/conventions prop safety rules. There’s no point bringing your super awesome fantasy sword if it’s going to prevent you from reaching your destination, no matter how cool it looks.

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Now that you’ve chosen your cosplay and bought/made it, it’s time to take it for a test!

– Can you see well? Can you eat/drink? Can you sit? Can you walk? Can you use the stairs? Can you use the bathroom? If you can’t do these tasks then your costume may need some modification before it’s suitable for convention wear.
– How long can you tolerate the heat and weight of your cosplay?
– Break in those shoes! If you’re going to be wearing new shoes, especially high heels, you want to start breaking those in NOW to minimise the risk of blisters ruining your convention experience.
– Consider how you’re going to carry your phone, wallet etc. Does your costume have pockets? Can you wear a backpack with it?
– Can you get dressed by yourself? From shoe horns to ribbons on zips, there are cosplay life-hacks aplenty on the internet so if you identify these problem areas early it gives you time to sort out a solution.
When it comes to packing your suitcase, you’ve got to be like Santa: make a list and check it twice! But don’t leave this until the night before, that’s just asking for trouble. The most critical items to pack first are the ones that can’t be replaced. If you forget your toothbrush and toothpaste, new ones can easily be purchased from a convenience store, but if you forget your specially styled cosplay wig that’s going to be a lot harder to remedy. Everyone’s list will be differently tailored to suit their needs, but a couple of general items may be:

– your cosplay
– normal clothes and shoes
– wig and hair accessories
– bobby pins
– wig tape
– wig net
– hair gel (don’t bring hairspray if you’re flying)
– make-up  and accessories
– contact lenses/case/solution/
– eye drops
– brushes/sponges/tools for application
– setting spray
– make up remover
– repair kit
– needle and thread
– safety pins
– multi-purpose super glue
– duct/gaffer/electrical tape
– specific paints for areas likely to chip.
– phone/camera chargers, spare batteries, spare memory cards
– personal items: medications, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving tools, first aid kit.

suitcaseNowadays I travel with a hardshell suitcase, but prior to this I did many trips with a normal soft top suitcase and only ever had one breakage.
Trying to fit your cosplay in your suitcase is like a giant game of Tetris. My favourite strategy to lie large flat items right at the bottom, fragile items right in the middle, and pack any soft items around and on top of these to pad them out.
It can also be helpful to have a little itemised print-out of photos of your costume items, with one copy in your suitcase and one on your person. This can be used to describe/explain the contents of your bag to airport security staff if required, and also as a record in case anything goes missing. In all my years of travelling, I’ve only been asked twice by airport security what was in my checked in luggage and they were satisfied with the simple answer of “costume pieces and props”. It’s really nothing to stress about.

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Packing longer/oversized items requires a little bit of creativity.
Guitar cases and sports bags can be useful if you have them. I use a giant cardboard tube for my swords which has kept them safe for years’ worth of travel.

So you’ve finally made it to your destination, settled into your hotel room, and are getting ready for the big day tomorrow. You’re almost there, you’ve almost done it! Just one last little piece of planning to go and that’s packing your day bag:

– pre-purchased tickets/convention pass.
– spending money (cash is preferable, as not all stalls are equipped with EFTPOS)
– water bottle
– food for lunch (convention food is often expensive and gross)
– sugary snack just in case you need an energy boost
– cosplay repair kit
– eye drops and contact lens case
– essential meds, plasters/band aids in case of blisters.

Now go get some sleep, you’ve conquered your Con Quest and tomorrow the fun begins!

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