Princess Alethea’s 7 Dragon Con Survival Tips

My Family Reunion has a logo. Does yours?There are many Rules of DragonCon that those of us who are perennials have adopted over the years. Most of them revolve around elevators (You have to go down to go up. Always make room for the handicapped. Always follow a Ghostbuster) or walkways (Don’t take photos in the walkways. Avoid the habitrails on Saturday night). But more of these have been silently adopted simply for our personal survival.

Here are my top seven (with bonus Pro Tips) – please feel free to add more in the comments!

1.) Plan out your wardrobe, including day-to-day costume/outfit changes. This is a hard-core necessity for the heavy cosplayer, but I highly recommend it even if your choices include what geeky t-shirt to wear on what day. Parade outfits become gross and are typically one-use only. If you’re planning to wear a corset most of the time, also plan a down-time outfit so that you can at least eat or drink one meal comfortably at the end of the day. (The same goes for your shoes!) This plan helps when you’re packing, sure, but in the chaos of the con, something as simple as knowing what you’re going be wearing on each day is a HUGE help.

2.) STAY HYDRATED. You will hear this a lot during the con, because it never stops being true. If you can, buy a flat of water for your room. Carry a bottle with you at all times, and when you finish it, REFILL IT. There are giant water dispensers outside most of the panel rooms, and there are always water fountains outside the bathrooms.

Parade (Dark-Hunters) 2014Pro Tip: Play the Dragon Con Drinking Game. When someone you’re with asks you if you need anything, have them get you some water. If you already have water, TAKE A DRINK (of water, guys, come on). Your friends will notice that you are fading before you do.

3.) Eat something. It’s up to you to know your personal food tolerances. It’s fine if you want to let go and eat overpriced heatlamp stuff from hotel food carts all weekend – at the very least, take a multivitamin every day, willya? My three big trouble areas are 1.) I’m always on the go 2.) I’m usually wearing a corset and 3.) I’m prone to migraines.

My saving graces are protein bars (no less than 10g protein per bar). I pack a variety—especially the Kind bars w/protein. I’m usually so busy I don’t take more than a few bites. But every time someone I’m with asks me if I need anything (See: “Dragon Con Drinking Game”, above), I take a couple of bites (and a swig of water). This way my blood sugar stays up without crashing, and I stay comfortable in my corset. (For about 12 hours anyway.)

Pro Tip: Keep some sort of food on your person at all times – if not for you, then maybe for the person beside you about to go into diabetic shock. I literally had this happen in front of me a couple years ago, and it scared me to death. NEVER AGAIN.

4.) Shower at night. I always take my shower before I go to bed, even if it’s 4am. It can be a struggle, but the mental decompression is SO worth it (as is waking up clean and ready for that next costume and makeup). I also make sure to have a variety of herbal teas on hand in my room (with honey, for when the voice starts to go) to help me calm down and get to sleep.

If you’re like me, you burn like a firework for four days straight – taking a sleeping pill in the middle of all that would absolutely throw me off. Late showers, herbal teas, and aromatherapy are some nice natural ways to come down off that high long enough to catch a few healthy zzzzzs.

No one remembers the Anarchy Cheerleader...5.) Diaper rash cream is your friend. There it is, my dark and dirty secret! Look, folks, Atlanta is HOT in September. You will sweat in places you have never sweat before (especially if you walk in the parade). You will chafe. You may experience heat rash. Happily, there’s help for that! Put some diaper rash cream over your problem areas after you take that shower. Reapply before putting on your costume for the day. YOU WILL THANK ME.

Pro Tip: If you have sensitive skin, check the ingredients on a variety of diaper rash creams. I am allergic to aloe, so I can not use Desitin…but I can use the high powered generic Wal-Mart brand, which is mostly just zinc.

6.) Icy Hot/Tiger Balm is your friend. Feels great on sore muscles and sore feet. (Just don’t put this on directly after that shower unless you really want to feel the burn.) An ace bandage or two is also handy to have, to secure cold towels or ice packs to sore feet. Which reminds me:

7.) Bring a First Aid kit. Include the basics: Headache medicine, multivitamins, Benadryl, band-aids. An ace bandage or two can be a great help. A safety pin can be a life saver. In fact, throw the whole mini-sewing kit in there. And a few temporary tattoos. Because when that giant mysterious bruise of unknown origin appears before your panel with Stan Lee, a temporary tattoo makes a GREAT coverup. If you have roommates, earplugs and an eyemask can also be lifesavers. As will a travel bottle of Febreeze.

There are a bunch of smaller ones that, again, come down to personal preference – bringing bath towels and bath soaps from home, buying all your liquor before you get there, what types of insoles to put in your shoes and even how (and how long) to wear wigs and “travel hair.”

Your turn. What else can I add to this list?


Alethea Kontis is the author of the AlphaOops picture books, Sherirlyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and the award-winning Books of Arilland fairytale series. She is the host of the all-star Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at DragonCon. 

8 Responses to “Princess Alethea’s 7 Dragon Con Survival Tips”

  1. Misty Massey Says:

    When I was dancing at the Renaissance faire, thigh chafing relief cream was one of our secret weapons. Trying to shimmy with horribly chafed inner thighs is an ugly thing!

  2. Kevin Denelsbeck Says:

    1) If you forget any toiletry-like item, the 24-hour CVS in the Peachtree Center Food Court can rescue the situation (and be much cheaper than the host hotel shops). But hit it as soon as you can, because you won’t be the only forgetful person.

    2) I always bring baseball caps, at least 3. Atlanta is very humid and a cap’s an easy way to avoid sweaty, stringy hair for those who are prone to it.

    3) I also bring a small desk fan. Helps cool off AND sleep.

    4) I bought a portable charger last year and it changed my con life. No longer needed to fight over outlets to recharge my phone.

    5) It’s usually impossible to find a seat in the Food Court, but you can get food there and take it to your next panel. Time it right and you’ll have the panel room mostly to yourself.

    6) Totally second the “shower at night” stratagem that Her Highness advised above. It makes sleeping sooooo much easier and also simplifies life the next morning.

    7) Saturday is the crazy day, and the craziest part is right after the parade when people are crushing into the host hotels and seeking lunch. Unless you have camped on the parade route right outside your lunch venue of choice, expect to have all kinds of trouble getting a meal then. Plan accordingly.

  3. SimiXiamaraDHO Says:

    For me I keep a container of Dark Chocolate Espresso beans & REAL Coke for migraines. Along with those I keep Cinnamon B12 Gum on hand ALWAYS. Along with THAT I keep a Lidocaine/Saline nasal spray which I can take ANYWHERE it doesn’t cause any drowseyness but will numb headache!

    Great tips on the water & hydration. ALWAYS bring good comfy fabu shoes too!

    Have Fruit, cheese & good French bread on hand in your room, a bunch of us will go in together for a store run for snacks & bottled coffees keeps the budget

  4. Mark Says:

    A couple of very wise lists and, may I recommend avoiding the cafeteria-style eating places in the mall areas, in particular at the end of the business-day?
    It really is a safety thing and I do mean, really. 😉

  5. Robin Says:

    Coconut oil might work in place of diaper rash cream. We use it on the kids and it’s perfect for their sensitive skin. It’s cheap and it smells good, too. (Note: we use different bottles for cooking and diaper rash purposes.)

  6. Lori Ann Bailey Says:

    Bandaids are a must too! I almost did not take them to RWA, but I’m so glad I did. Have a great time. 🙂

  7. Susan Jeffery Says:

    A huge second on the Ace bandage. I sprained my ankle the first day of RWA15. A good friend travels with one in her kit, and she was able to fix me up so I survived.

    Yes to planning wardrobe, hydration, protein bars, and a first aid kit.

    We did not do the buffet lunch at RWA15, but chose to eat with the tourists in Times Square. Whatever crud was creeping around that hotel managed to skip us – AVOID ALL CAFETERIA-STYLE VENUES.

    Have fun, Princess!

  8. Torsten Adair Says:

    A general life hack, but especially for conventions:
    When I feel my throat becoming sore, I pop a 500/1000mg tablet of Vitamin C to boost my immune system.

    It helps prevent con crud, and you can toss a few in an Altoids box along with aspirin, sudafed, breath mints, and other tablets.

    Another suggestion: carb up at breakfast. It’s a nice slow way to start the day, and if I get one of those skillet platters of 1500+ Calories, I can last until dinner. Of course, I have breakfast bars in my tote for backup. Weight gain? It’s all burnt off walking and talking and thinking.

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