2016 was my first time attending Dragon Con. It was Dragon Con’s 30th anniversary, and being there among 77,000 of my fellow con goers was a pretty bewildering experience. Despite being overwhelmed, I learned some valuable lessons about what you can do to make your Dragon Con experience the best it can be. You’re going to have a great time. Take these points to heart, and you can take if from great to amazing.
Have a Plan
Dragon Con is massive. There are fifteen to thirty different things going on at the same time at any given moment. Panels, parties, shows, and events are happening all around you. You cannot attend them all. So divide the schedule into categories of what you wouldn't mind seeing, would like to see, and absolutely have to see. The Dragon Con app is invaluable for this. Install it on your phone, and browse to see what all is going on. Schedules get loaded about one week before the con starts. You can browse by time, speaker, or track. Map out the events you want to see, and account for time to move between events and get in line for bigger panels (more on this later). If there is something you really really want to see or do, plan around that. You aren’t going to miss anything you want to see unless they are both on at the same time. Don’t forget to factor in food time. You aren’t going to enjoy the panel if you’re hungry.
Don’t Have a Plan
I know. I’m contradicting my first point. Hear me out. When you are planning out your Dragon Con experience, set aside some time where you don’t have a plan. Do a bit of wandering. There is so much to see. Cosplay is a huge deal at Dragon Con. Take some time to check out the Cosplayers in the hotel lobbies, on the street, and walking around. You are going to see some amazing stuff. There are some very dedicated Cosplayers at Dragon Con. Appreciate them. There is also a nifty button in the Dragon Con app called “What’s Happening Now”. During your unplanned time, click on it. Wander into a panel you know little to nothing about. Experience something you hadn’t planned on. There are tons of very passionate people doing some very interesting things in fandoms of all kinds. You may find a whole new thing to geek out about.
You are going to need a lot of patience at Dragon Con. As I mentioned above, you’ll be there along with 77,000+ of your fellow geeks. It’s going to take you a long time to get from place to place. You are going to spend a lot of time waiting in line. You’ll have to make your way around people stopping mid stride to take pictures of someone in cosplay (just don’t stop in the habitrails whatever you do). Just roll with it, and you’ll be fine. When making your plan, make sure you factor in travel time from event to event. Just because the next panel you are going to is in the same hotel doesn’t mean you will get there quickly. If you are moving from one hotel to another, travel is going to take even longer. As for lines, they do not start forming until one hour before the panel starts. Don’t show up too early. It doesn’t guarantee you a good spot in line. Just get there, get in line, and make a few friends while you stop for a moment and wait for the next big thing. One more point of patience: Your phone connection is going to be awful. You’re competing with 77,000 phones for the local towers. It’s slow. Be patient. It’s doing the best it can.
Wear comfortable shoes. Remember all that walking and standing in line? Yeah, you want something with lots of cushion to ease all the stress you’ll be putting on your poor feet.
Stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you. There are free fountains and water stations everywhere. You have no excuse to get dehydrated. Drink water when you’re thirsty and please don’t pass out or die.
Bring battery backup. Your phone is going to drain its battery very quickly as it struggles to complete for a connection. Bring a portable battery pack to recharge, and keep your phone in airplane mode when not in use to conserve power.
Try new things. There is plenty of local cuisine, libations, and sights to take in. Make an effort to try something you haven’t before. It’ll make your adventure more memorable.