Prepping for a FurCon
In a little under a week I will be attending Texas Furry Fiesta 2018-
This is my 3rd convention that I have been to, and while I wrote about going to the conventions, fursuiting, and things to do at a convention (etc), I never got around to talking about the ‘prepping’.
Going to a convention takes a lot of planning and preparation. It’s crazy the amount of time that gets dedicated to planning what panels you wanna go to, figuring out the stuff you need to bring, and how much money you will need to survive for 4-days. And because I have found myself in several situations that were not exactly ‘ideal’, I figured now would be the best time to reflect on the things I have learned so that others might better prepare for their Furry Conventions.
- A Furry Convention is NOT a necessity!
—I hate that this is something that needs to be said, but it’s best to get it out of the way first. A Furry Convention is a fun break from our day-to-day lives where we can feel free to express ourselves. It’s full of hugs, fun, friends, and fur (literally everywhere), but it’s not a necessity. Things like food, a water bill, a car payment…all of those things come before a Furry Convention. So please be responsible! Do not let the ‘want’ of going to a Furry Convention hurt other areas of your life. We all need to be adults sometimes and that can mean missing out on something fun. But remember…there is another Furry Convention the next year (and maybe another local one later the same year). Save your money, budget, and go to one that you can comfortably afford later. You will have a lot more fun if you don’t have to worry about the consequences of bad spending the minute you get home!
- Figure out where you are staying & reserve your rooms.
—Hotel rooms where the convention is being held go FAST! They are usually sold out within the first week or sooner. So, once you find out about a convention, you need to start researching where you are going to stay. Start planning who you are going with, how many beds you would need…and if the con-hotel is too expensive, then browse hotels within the area. Remember to take into account the distance from the con hotel, the way in which you will get in-between the two, and possible parking costs. Reserve your rooms ASAP!
Remember that some hotels make you pay a small ‘holding’ cost upfront, and also that some hotels do not take out payment until AFTER your stay! So make sure you are budgeting your money accordingly so that you do not get over-drafted. If a friend has reserved the room, make sure that your name gets put somewhere on that room. This way you can not be kicked from the room and/or you avoid any issues if your friend failed to mention more people staying in the room than what is allowed. Telling the person behind the counter that you only have 2 people in your room and then having 2 other people sleeping on an air mattress is ILLEGAL! So please do not do it. It’s a legal issue and an overall safety risk/hazard.
—Even if you do not plan to attend the convention on all of the days, pre-registering is the way to go. Unless you are attending for only one day. Pre-registering has a bunch of perks including faster lines (thus faster access to the con), pre-con activities, and other things. It usually gets you some extra goodies from the con-bags as well! But pre-registration does have specific dates for when it closes! To remind yourself to pre-register, set an alarm or notification on your phone. Research the cost beforehand and budget to spend that money. Write a memo…do whatever it takes to remind yourself to get it done!
Not pre-registering when traveling with a group can be a hindrance to other people. Non-registered lines operate at different times, and sometimes it means you can not attend early events which your friends might have planned to go to. Sometimes this means the group might have to go to the con a day later rather than a day early depending on how their schedules lined up because now you have to go through a different and longer line. So while it seems like a small thing, depending on the con, it can make a big difference!
One of the cons I attended- a couple of our people did not pre-register like they were supposed to. We had the opportunity to experience the con a day early and had decided to do so (as a group), but then we found out that the longer lines closed early and that if we were to go to the convention, we would have to leave the other 2 people alone in the hotel. We made the decision to stay, but waiting for them to register did strike a nerve…especially when we realized the things we had missed because a couple people did not remember. Small things can make waves when it comes to plans…so try and do everything in your power to be proactive, to plan, and be responsible. Even nudge your friends if you have to…just try and be nice about it rather than bossy or pushy.
- Just because it may be cheaper does NOT mean you should surround yourself with toxic people!
—I learned this lesson my very first con. It is way cheaper to go to a convention with a bigger group. Most furries have at least 2-3 people they room with because splitting costs is usually a win-win for everyone. But just because you want to spend less money does not mean that you should put yourself in a bad/toxic situation. My first convention was still a good time. But, for all the good moments, there were just as many bad moments because of the people we were staying with.
This all lead to a lot of unnecessary drama and my friend and I almost getting stranded at a hotel that was a ways from the con because people were not getting along. There were panels that were missed, a lot of time just spent sitting around, people arguing over simple things like food and when they wanted to go back to the hotel, fights about sleeping arrangements, and overall it was just BAD PLANNING because in the end, it was thought that “cheaper” would be better. No…just no.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t room with friends. If you know a person and trust a person, and if you feel comfortable staying with a person, then by all means do so.
Placing yourself in a bad situation also means allowing strangers to room with you in order to cut costs. I see so many people on con group pages asking for people to room with, and while some of them work out, scams are highly likely as well. If you are willing to take in a stranger, make sure you do your homework. Interview this person, get to know them. Talk with them in-person to make sure they are who they say they are (even if this means a skype call). Take your payment up-front and send verification that they are on the room’s list. Make good business decisions like you would if you were commissioning a fursuit or some other work! Make sure you set room rules, and even write up a contract if you have to. Protect yourself, your things, and your money! If this means spending more money to be safe…then save up more money and/or wait until the next convention!
- Set aside emergency funds!
—I don’t find this being pessimistic but more realistic when I say: “Not everything goes according to plan!” This just means life in general. In the time between registering for a convention and making it there, anything can happen! Even after the convention, life can happen and take you by surprise, so try and be prepared!
By being prepared…I mean setting up a financial ‘cushion’ in case things go south. Maybe you miss your bus or plane, or maybe your car breaks down. Maybe an unexpected bill takes out or you miscalculated on your budget for food.
Make sure you have extra money so that you can take care of whatever needs to get done so that you make it to the con safely and make it home safely as well.
- Make a packing list!
—I am the type of person that seems to always forget something when I am packing for a trip. Usually it’s just small things, but I know others that tend to forget major essentials and it can cause high tensions when trying to enjoy a con. What I do is I make a packing list. I make a list marking my essentials, things like props, and even emergency things. I leave a checkbox by the items and then check them off as I pack. This is just one of the ways you can avoid forgetting things…but I understand such a method does not work for everyone.
So come up with a way that you can make some sort of list of what you need and then make sure those things make it into your luggage! Remember to take into account how you are getting to the convention when packing. When flying, you will have to follow those specific travel rules for what you can bring and what you can not bring. If riding a bus, the same thing applies.
My first convention I took a bus, and I was not told that the bus only allowed one thing of luggage to be put under the bus (and it was my fault for not researching it). This lead to me having to have my other (heavy) luggage bag on my lap as well as my fursuit head while I sat uncomfortably for the next 4 hours.
If you are driving with friends, try and account for how much room will be available for your things. And if traveling alone, still pack as little as you can since you never know if someone might need your help and have to make use of your vehicle. Though this has nothing to do with packing: CLEAN YOUR CAR! Especially if you are driving other people. It makes more room, it is way more comfortable, and it ensures that no one’s stuff gets dirty or damaged.
—Commit to the things you said you were going to do. This applies especially if you are traveling in a group. Owe someone a badge? Put a notification on your phone and make the badge! Have a fursuit to finish? Manage your time and set notifications to make the fursuit!!! Don’t put yourself in a position where you are doing things last-minute and you have to break promises because you were not responsible and organized…this is a bad way to start a convention!
In saying that, don’t overload yourself when you know you have a bad habit of getting burnt out, overwhelmed, etc. Life happens, yes…but when you cause your own problems, it can make for serious issues when planning cons with people in the future…especially when you can not come through with things you promised to do. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, fulfill your obligations to friends and to customers alike. Make time to do things, even when you’re feeling lazy. Send money when you promised to send money, pay for the things you promised to pay for rather than backing out last minute.
Don’t volunteer for something you might not be able to do because no one likes this type of person! Be responsible, be reliable, be honest…and commit!
- Remember you are not OBLIGATED to take care of anyone for their mistakes!
—While I say to “commit”, in the same likeness…you should not be held accountable to fix someone else’s mistake. If you have to take care of a cost because someone did not budget properly, make sure that person pays you back. If someone didn’t bring something, you are not obligated to get them the things they need. Even if this means they can’t spend money to buy that t-shirt or that plushie, that is not your fault. That falls on them, not on you. Do not sacrifice your fun and comfort because someone else did not plan as they were supposed to. You are not obligated to take care of anyone else other than yourself. Especially if you can not afford to take care of other people.
- Remember that this convention is about YOU having a good time.
—Don’t let anyone else ruin your fun. Don’t want drama? Don’t get involved in it. Someone trying to bring you down because they are down? Don’t let them drag you into their problems. Don’t let people guilt you into helping them with anything…and don’t let them tell you what you are going to do at a convention. This is YOUR time that you paid for. Do not let someone else run the show and ruin your fun. You’re free to break off from your friends if you wanna go to a panel they are not interested in. You are free to not go to that dance they want to go to because you don’t like dancing. You are free to drink (but if they say no alcohol in the room then respect that) or to not drink despite what others are doing. This time and this con is for all furries, but for all furries to have fun in their own way!
- Read over con and hotel rules!
—Convention rules are usually additional to hotel rules, so make sure you read over both. This can concern anything from alcoholic beverages to smoking and prop use. Make sure you read and understand what you can do and what you can not do. I know a common rule is that you are not allowed to sleep in the public hotel spaces or in the con space…this is for safety reasons and it can get you banned from the con for a day after multiple offenses. Also, some hotels allow alcohol, but only in designated areas (same goes for smoking), so make sure you read those rules.
Since conventions tend to have themes to them, people like to dress up and bring props matching the theme…but there are rules as to what props are allowed and what are not allowed. If the rules do not specify something, proceed with caution but never assume it is allowed. I like to call hotel staff if I have a question and if the convention managers have not gotten back to my e-mails about such questions after a certain amount of time.
Failure to follow rules can lead to being banned from a convention and even the hotel itself. Pleading ignorance does not get you off the hook either. So read up on the rules ahead of time.
- If you’re in a group, go over the con schedule and plan out panels together!
—One thing my buddy likes to do is to have everyone read over the con schedule and say what panels they are interested in. When you are traveling with a group, it’s okay to split up during the convention…but I will say that spending the convention with friends is a lot more fun. So, by planning out who wants to go to what panel, it usually ensures that you’re never alone and you have someone to go and see things with. Sometimes people might get interested in a panel they never thought about before because so many friends want to go to it. So it can never hurt. I find that planning these things before a con leads to a lot smoother of a con experience! This also can be good so that you can map out times when people are not busy and you can all meet up to go eat or check out the Dealer’s Den.
- Create room rules and set other boundaries BEFORE the con!
—It’s not very nice to get into a room, start settling in, and then suddenly get slapped in the face with rules. This is especially annoying when you might have already had plans for things you wanted to do. Now, if you’re rooming by yourself, this is not an issue…but, if you are rooming with other people, make sure you set rules and boundaries BEFORE you make it to the convention. This means laying out the rules on who gets room keys, where people are sleeping, what the rules about bringing over friends is, and anything else you feel needs to be covered.
Often at Furry Conventions this can usually mean bringing over friends, dates, having alcohol in the room, and/or having a room party. Again, remember to follow hotel rules at all time!
- Have a backup plan for EVERYTHING!
—Like emergency funds, life happens…and it does not always concern money. I’m talking more in terms of transportation and things of that nature. People and machinery alike can prove to be unreliable at times, and life happens, so please have a backup plan for everything!
If your friend can’t take you to the convention, then make sure you have a plan for that. Maybe there is a bus you can hop on or someone else you can call. You won’t have to panic if you have a plan A-B-C for if things go awry. Also if your car breaks down, the same thing applies. You and your group should have a bunch of emergency backup plans in case anything gets crazy.
- Make sure you are making healthy changes BEFORE going to the con!
—At a convention you will hear the 6-2-1 rule: At least 6 hours of sleep, at least 2 meals a day, and you have to bathe once per day at the minimum! But you should be making healthy changes before the convention, especially if you are a fursuiter. At a convention you are most likely going to eat like garbage. You will be having so much fun that you will go hours upon hours without food; then you will grab the first thing you see because you are starving!
Dehydration is a real concern at conventions…but you don’t just wanna start being hydrated when you come to the convention. Start drinking more water the week prior. Try and eat as healthy as possible the week before a con so that when you are eating nothing but junk at the convention you might not feel terrible afterwards. Give your body a head-start into what is going to be the craziest, most fun weekend of your life!
- Don’t be afraid to do something differently next year…
—If your arrangements that you made this year do not work out, or if you learn some things that you can do better to ensure you have a better time at the next convention…then don’t be afraid to do it. Do not be afraid to not room with that friend you have because maybe you guys don’t agree on room rules…and don’t be afraid to say you’re not driving everyone next year. This all comes back to the convention being about you having fun.
Conventions have their stressful points, but they shouldn’t be remembered as stressful. They shouldn’t be remembered for all the things that went wrong but for the amazing memories that you made while there. So learn from your experiences and use that knowledge to improve on how to tackle future conventions…even if other people might not agree with you.
Sometimes my advice may seem a little harsh…but I promised myself to only ever be realistic and honest, even if the truth might hurt. You may or may not like this advice, think it sounds a bit too depressing, or whatever…but the tools are there if you choose to use them.
Conventions are never perfect…but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Sometimes the funniest and best things stem from a mistake or mishap. So even if things are not 100%, it does not mean you are bound for a bad time. But, the smoother something can sail, the better.
So, I wish you all the best with your convention preparations! Captain, Escap’e, Rune, Pitch, and other awesome peeps will be wandering around Texas Furry Fiesta just waiting to say hello! I personally like hugs and photos so don’t be shy to come up and have a word (or chirp) with me!!!
Thank you all for reading, and I will see you all in the next blog 😉