How I Comic Con on a Budget

As many of you know, I have been cosplaying since New York Comic Con 2012. Since then, I’ve gone to more than 20 conventions all over the US. While there are countless articles that acknowledge how expensive cosplay is, and ways you can save money when making your own costumes, there aren’t many that discuss how expensive it is to go to conventions and show said cosplay. It is possible to save money while still going to conventions, so I want to share the ways in which I have been able to afford to go to so many conventions.

When saving up for a convention, it’s important to think about all the costs that go into it. Most money is spent on these three things:

  • Convention tickets (around $100 or more for Wizard World and larger conventions)
  • Rooming (usually a couple hundred dollars for a weekend)
  • Travel (usually at least $200 if you have to fly)

Aside from these, it’s also worth keeping in mind that you’ll likely have to pay for public transportation to/from where you’re staying or parking (unless it is a hotel-based convention, and you are staying in the hotel). If you’re going with friends, it’s worth figuring out if parking ends up being cheaper than all of you taking the train or bus. For example, even with $13 parking at Wizard World Chicago, for my best friend, sister, and I to take the train in and out costs $16.50. This doesn’t account for gas prices, but driving also means we can leave stuff in the car/go get it later, and means we save time on the commute and don’t have to worry about catching the last train.

Birthday dinnerEating is another important (and necessary thing) during conventions. It’s important to be aware that, depending on the location of the convention, there may not be a lot of options for food. NYCC is located near a ton of food carts, but most cons only have the food within the convention center, which is usually fried and/or incredibly expensive. I save money and eat better by bringing granola bars, small sandwiches, or trail mix with me and munch on it throughout the day. While a lot of places do check bags at the door, most will let you get away with small snacks, and you’ll feel a lot better eating healthier and saving money.

Not to mention, you’ll probably want to create (and stick to) a budget for things like cosplay or buying things in the exhibit hall.

With that said, I’ve found four ways that really help save money when going to conventions:

  1. Go Local

Not only will you you save on room and travel, you’ll also save on food since you probably have groceries and a way to prepare them at home. That, or you probably know of cheap places to eat! While not every city has a big convention, there are loads of smaller (read: cheaper) conventions to go to all over the place. This website lists cons all over the country, by state, regions, guest, theme and more! Starting with smaller/local conventions also can be a good way to build your way up to bigger cons.

  1. Plan Ahead

Buying convention & travel tickets in advance often makes everything a lot cheaper. Many conventions offer cheaper rates for tickets the earlier you buy. The same applies to travel tickets and hotels. The earlier you can plan for a convention, the more you can save up for it as well.

  1. Make FriendsNYCC 2015

I have only once paid for a hotel room at a convention, and even that was split among friends. More often, I make friends in various online fan groups & at various conventions I have gone to, and trade housing for their & my local cons. Hotels can be super convenient (especially when the conventions are held in them, like Arisia, Super MegaFest, or Dragon*Con), they feel more like a vacation, and they often save time in terms of getting ready & traveling back and forth to the actual convention. But they can cost a lot, and often mean you’ll have to pay extra for food because you won’t be able to cook your own.

Making friends can help with more than just rooming prices. Making friends with artists & vendors is something I try to do at every convention. Maybe your exhibitor friend will have extra tickets that his booth isn’t using, maybe your artist friend will let you store snacks or your jacket under their table so you don’t have to coat check. If nothing else, it gives you another perspective on the convention & someone to talk to throughout the con. Also people in booths love it when you bring them food because they are often trapped inside FOREVER.

  1. 10309098_286752051492721_8489566264219115016_nHelp Out

Finally, volunteering in some form or another can get you free admission into conventions. Many conventions offer tickets if you help load in or out, and even the bigger cons like Wizard World and NYCC regularly use volunteers for tons of jobs (including sitting with celebs at their booths!) and reward them with admission and even sometimes photo-ops or autographs. If you’d prefer a bit more freedom with your weekend (or you’d really like to cosplay rather than wear a volunteer shirt), submitting panels or programming is an excellent way to get in. A huge percentage of the cons I’ve gone to, I have either performed or presented panels.

Going to a convention will almost always cost some money. But it’s possible to enjoy huge conventions without breaking the bank. Have you used any of these tactics? Do you have other ways you save money? Share them in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Rhode Island Comic Con 2015 + Photos of shows!

My journey to Rhode Island Comic Con this year started on Thursday. I woke up at 7:30 in the morning, which was really too early since my class didn’t start til 10 am, but I was way excited to be heading back to the east coast! I had class from 10-2 and boy, that dragged on. After class, I took a quick nap before heading to a training at work, which was supposed to be at 5:30. I worked til 12:30 and then headed home, red bull in hand. My flight was at 7am on Friday, and so I had to get there around 6am, and to do that, I had to take the 5:15 bus to the airport. So I figured I should just stay up all night, and sleep on the 5 hr flight.

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MISTAKE. Do they keep making the seats less comfortable and smaller, or am I imagining it? Usually I go for window seats, because they are the best to sleep in, but the window seats on this plane were way in the back, so I opted for a middle seat as close to the front as possible. The guy in the window seat next to me didn’t get the memo that if you have the window you need to not get up (TWICE!) and make the rest of the people in your row get up. Suffice to say, I had next to no sleep on that flight, and my neck and shoulders hate me.

Once in Boston, I headed straight for the commuter rail out to Rhode Island. An hour and change later, I was in Providence! I met up with friends and went straight to the convention center, where they had yet to set up the main exhibitors room. What the heck. We were there from around 7 to at least 8:30, when our set up only took a half hour at most. We finally headed home and I fell asleep so hard.

Saturday, RKO performed The Devil’s Carnival, REPO: The Genetic Opera, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in room 554b, a room about half the size of the room we had last year-this was frustrating point number 2. Frustrating point number 1 was that RICC would only give RIMG_20151107_120254KO Army a total of 20 badges, and wanted us to perform 7 shows over the course of the weekend. While smaller shows, like Rocky and Firefly Out Of Gas can be performed with that limited a number of badges, bigger shows like Repo and Jaynestown are next to impossible. Several people in RKO ended up buying badges for the weekend (even though they wouldn’t get to enjoy the convention at all, since they were performing almost the entire time), and other people had to stress out and switch badges. Especially since RICC this year had done a tap-in-tap-out badge system, you couldn’t get in if your badge wasn’t scanned that you got out. It makes sense for not letting people sneak in, but really screwed us over. We were also supposed to get wristbands, as performers, so we could enter through any entrance. Never happened.

I photographed TDC, which went pretty well, and then headed over to the food court in the adjacent mall, in hopes I could grab food for people. Performers in TDC technically had an hour between that and REPO, but many of them had significant make-up and costume changes, and thus would not have a lot of time to eat, if they went and got food. The food court was busy, which was to be expected, but I didn’t even get back until after REPO started. A friend was in both TDC and REPO, and was one of the people I grabbed food for, and he ended up crouched backstage eating the burger I brought him between scenes.

Between REPO and Rocky, we had a bit more time, and I got to actually walk the show floor. This year, RICC inhabited not only the Rhode Island Convention Center, but the Dunkin Donuts center as well. The main exhibitor’s floor, in the convention center, was about the size of Wizard World Philadelphia (at least the year I went) or the upstairs (horror fest? Bruce Campbell fest? I have no idea) portion of Chicago Comic Con this year. It included many artists and exhibitors, some of the smaller celebrity autograph lines, and Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston. I believe the photo-ops were also on that floor. Upstairs, as usual, a band played for a portion of time, and the panels went on.

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Apparently the main entrance was in the Dunkin Donuts center. The first floor was a circle of artists/fan tables/exhibitors? I’m not sure, because I never got a map, and apparently there wasn’t one. Looking at the website, I couldn’t find one at all,the floorplan link doesn’t link anywhere.  There were two places on that main floor to go down a floor lower. On the lower floor, the stadium housed a bunch more exhibitors, and in a semi circle outside THAT, there were more exhibitors, as well as rooms with other celebrities, like all the Sons of Anarchy people. The Batmobile was down there, as well, if I remember correctly.

Speaking with other exhibitors, we all didn’t get why it was laid out the way it was. I spent less than a half hour in the Dunkin Donuts center, because it was a pain to get to. It would have worked better if they used that space for autographs and photo-ops, and maybe the vehicles (as Wizard World conventions often do), and kept all the exhibitors/artists/fan tables in the RI Convention Center. People would travel between the two, because most people want to buy things AS WELL AS see celebrities.

Sunday, we had Out of Gas at noon. About 6 people were in the audience, which was unsurprising because there was NO mention of RKO Army ANYWHERE in the program, and only a tiny mention at the bottom of a webpage on the site about it. We still kicked butt, and then headed into Jaynestown about 10 minutes after it ended. It was actually really fun doing both shows, especially because I haven’t done them in such a while. And I totally killed the quick change in Out of Gas that is the bane of my existence.

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There was an hour break before Buffy started up, and I wasn’t in Buffy or Dr. Horrible, which was our final show of the con. My friend and I went into the mall and sat down to a slower lunch. We also grabbed food for folks, and dropped it off with them before leaving the con early.

If you know me, you know I have almost never left a con early (unless it’s a Monday con, like Arisia, where there is almost no programming on the last day of the convention). I bought nothing at the convention, and generally spent the whole time exhausted. I ended up sleeping until 2:30pm on Monday. Maybe it was because I had done 2 conventions in 2 weekends, but I think it was more likely that Rhode Island Comic Con was ridiculously busy and spread apart, and it just wasn’t enjoyable to travel between the two sections. From the point of view of a convention-goer, RICC was way better than last year. From the point of view of a guest of the convention, it was way worse. I hope they figure out a happy medium for next year.

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