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Horror Convention Survival Guide

Top ten tips for making the most of your first (and every) horror convention experience

As con season starts to wind down and take a brief slumber, it will be back before you know it. I thought it would be a good time to cover topics that will help make your convention experience an enjoyable affair instead of a living nightmare, regardless if you’re a newbie or seasoned vet. Consider this your Convention Bible… something you can always go back and check when in doubt.


1. ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN

This is probably the best one to start with, as most people go into a con blindly and end up having an awful time at the event. Do you meet celebrity guests first or do you go to the vendors and try to find the coolest stuff before it sells out? Luckily, you have months (sometimes a year) to figure out what your plan of attack will be.

My number one recommendation: If the con offers a pre-show or VIP passes as an option, take one of them. You’ll be granted early access into the vendor area. 9 out of 10 times you can get most of the celebrity autographs you need, thus freeing you up to continue shopping or perhaps taking in a movie screening or Q&A. Pre-show is a little more expensive than the regular weekend pass, but it might be worth it. VIP is even pricier, though it does offer some perks the other passes don’t have.

If you opt for a regular weekend or one day pass, be sure to plan your route accordingly — and prepare to stand in longer lines. One of the best pieces of advice I can give anyone is to get your autographs on that first night (usually Friday) so you can partake in the various activities that most cons offer, including shopping in the vendor area.

2. CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME

Wu-Tang Clan said it best in their classic and iconic track C.R.E.A.M., and the same holds true at conventions. About 99.9% of the celebrity guests will only take cash for the price of the autograph(s). There are a select few (the .1%) that will take plastic as a means of payment. The vendors however are a different story. Most will take credit or debit cards to close a sale. However, if you have cash, there may be a chance to negotiate a better deal if purchasing multiple items from their table. This is especially true on the last day, as they are looking take back as little inventory as possible.

Cash is king at any con, and the best thing to to is make sure you have enough on you for the weekend. Be forewarned! The ATM at the hotel or venue is a universal machine and is not associated with your bank, so you will pay fees. However, that’s the least of your problems as the ATM also has lines longer than the show’s headliner. Worse…it always runs out of money at the worst possible time.

This goes back to step 1…plan ahead, and you’ll be fine. If you think you have enough money, take out an additional $150 just to be sure. But make sure to leave some emergency funds just in case.

3. HYGIENE IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

It gets hot at the shows, even in the winter. You wait in line forever, and sometimes you’re cramped in close quarters. The last thing you want is to have Billy Stankbreath raining down his ungodly foulness from his mouth on you. Or worse, you find yourself next to the dude or lady who thought it was a great idea to skip a shower that day (which is probably Saturday, because that’s the busiest day).

Shower, wear clean clothes, brush your teeth. This should be second nature by now, but unfortunately people need to be told time and time again. No one wants to smell ass, foot and cornchips in an already uncomfortable situation. Bottom line…Wash Your Ass! It may sound crude, but its a necessary evil. I waited for over an hour and a half to meet Jason Patric in the middle of August (during a heatwave), and the air conditioning went on the fritz. The room was the most wretched smelling thing I’ve experienced (and I’m from New Jersey) in my life. So please, make sure to KO the BO.

4. RESPECT THE VENDORS

Its no big secret that the vendors are the true lifeline of any convention. Yes, we the convention going public make or break these shows. However, if it wasn’t for the vendors spending hundreds of dollars on a table or multiple tables, then half of the celebrity guest list that you’re driving 2-3 hours to see wouldn’t be there at all.

If you think ticket sales fund the whole convention, you’re sadly mistaken. It’s the vendors that make the show possible, and you should show them love by purchasing as many goods as possible from their tables. Whether they have t-shirts, toys, bath bombs, homemade crafts, art prints, pumpkins, etc, they bust their asses to bring goods that they know you will love.

As stated before, a good portion of the vendors will take credit/debit cards, so you have no excuse not purchasing items from them. Remember, the more you buy, the more likely the vendors come back — and in turn help the show get more high profile celebrity guests. It’s the circle of life, and we can help out by helping out the vendors.

5. DON’T FLIP AND DON’T BE TOO EAGER

If its one thing that’s annoying to other fans and celebrity guests, it’s when someone has a huge Tupperware container full of toys and other items. To answer the question now, yes the guest is being paid per item. However, they’re not fools. They know those items are going on eBay as soon as they are done signing them. In the same vein, it’s also time consuming and makes for longer lines, thus causing a bad experience for everyone involved.

On the flip side, if you’re an eager fan that legitimately wants Robert Englund to sign all your Freddy memorabilia, I would do so with caution — and highly recommend getting some stuff personalized as a sign of good faith. A good portion of these guests do a lot of consecutive cons, so if you miss an item, or perhaps grab something at the show you would love to get signed, don’t sweat it. You will have another chance to meet that person.

6. PROPER CELEBRITY ETIQUETTE