How To Do Your First Furry Con

How To Do Your First Furry Con

Many of the items on this list come courtesy of Matt J. McCullar’s excellent “What to Take to a Con” list that was posted to alt.fan.furry in February of 2000. His list, in turn, was based on an older list that originally turned up at A-kon 8 and likely has been circulating in the Science Fiction fandom for years. This is simply my next revision of the list of things that I have observed come in useful, particularly at furry con. I originally wrote this revised list in 2006, and I’ve most recently updated it in January of 2014.

This is a short list of things to consider bringing with you to a furry convention, and some suggestions on how to make the most of your first convention. I tried to focus more on some of the lesser-thought of items that people might forget (obviously, I’m not going to include clothing or the like in the list).

So, without further adeiu, here are some tips from a veteran on what to bring and how to do your first furry con.

Before You Go

Pre-register

Pre-registering for the convention will save you both money and time, as you won’t have to wait in the registration line. Remember to bring proof of registration with you - an e-mail, registration verification printout, etc. It may make your registration easier to find if it gets lost.

If you don’t have a credit card, remember that you can buy prepaid debit cards at many grocery stores and convenience stores.

Find a place to stay

Don’t just show up at the convention without a place to stay - you may not find one, and hotel security will usually take a dim view of people sleeping in their cars. If you are staying in the hotel, book ahead of time - in fact, book as early as you possibly can.

If you don’t have a credit card, ask the hotel to put your room as “deposit pending.” However, the danger here is that, if and when the hotel sells out, they will begin bumping unpaid rooms in favor of paying customers, so have a backup plan.

Use your smartphone

If you have a smartphone, use an app such as TripIt to manage all your travel confirmations. Keeps everything for your trip in one place.

If possible, download the schedule to your phone so you will always have it handy. Cellphone coverage may be spotty at the convention.

Look at the schedule

Don’t wait until the convention to get your schedule - look it up on the website before the convention and plan accordingly. If you have your schedule before get there, you won’t accidentally plan a game of D&D during the comedy show you really wanted to attend!

Most conventions will hand out a “pocket schedule,” - a small version of the schedule. Keep this on you at all times. A great place to put it is behind your badge if the convention uses plastic badge holders. Mark on the schedule the things you don’t want to miss.

Take some time to jot down someplace convenient - like the back of the pocket schedule - the times and locations of all the things you absolutely don’t want to miss. Even better, enter these into your phone with reminders. This way, it’s easy to find where you need to be and when at a single glance.

Packing

Money

There are lots of things to buy at furry conventions. You can visit the dealers den, the artists’ alley, the art show, the auctions, and much more. But you won’t be buying anything from anyone at the con if you don’t have any cold, hard cash.

I generally recommend carrying a limited amount of cash on you when traveling, as this will make you less of a target for crime. Be sure to bring a debit card with you and stop at a bank before reaching the convention - as cash machines at the convention will often run out of money.

Increasingly, dealers at furry conventions are accepting credit cards through services such as Square. However, not every dealer does; you should not rely on this when doing your shopping. If you are carrying cash, carry small bills and use these in the dealers’ den - dealers will love you.

As a last resort (if you don’t have a credit or debit card) you can use traveler’s checks. However, these are getting hard to come by now and fewer and fewer places accept them (or have even seen them before). If you do manage to get Traveler’s checks, be sure to write down the serial number on travelers’ checks, as you won’t be able to get a refund if they’re stolen without these. Keep the serial numbers somewhere other than your wallet.

Always carry your wallet and/or checkbook in your front pocket, as this will make live miserable for pickpockets.

Put simply: carry a small amount of cash to the event and have a debit or credit card so you can get more cash. As a last resort, you can use travelers checks and get them converted to cash at the hotel.

A list

Write down some of the things you are looking for. Einstein said that if it’s written down, you don’t have to remember it. Write down things that you are looking for in the dealers den and which artists you wish to visit in the alley - movies, CDs, prints, comics, books, anything you really want.

Toiletries

Specifically, remember soap, shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Those little shampoo bottles and soaps the hotel provides will not last all weekend, especially when you have a bunch of people in your room trying to use them. Be sure to wrap anything liquid - toothpaste, shampoo, soap - in plastic bags as these have a habit of exploding during travel, showering your clothing with liquid. Be sure to bring plenty of deoderant, but go light on cologne as it can often irritate people with sensitive noses. And always remember that there is no substitute for a daily shower!

Also in your toiletries bag:

Medications

If you have any life-necessary medications, keep them on you at all times. Write your name, contact information, information for a relative, and medical conditions you have on a stiff card and keep it in your wallet - it is the next place a paramedic will look if you don’t have a medical bracelet.

Clothing

Remember to pack one set of clothes for each day you will be gone, plus an extra in case you get stranded or miss your flight.

Sleeping bag

If you’re sharing a room with other people, you might be the unlucky sap who ends up on the floor. Don’t count on everyone else to give up their covers for you!

Air matress and pump

If you do end up on the floor, you might as well be comfortable. If you do bring an air mattress, be sure to bring a pump - inflating it the old-fashioned way means your roommates will have to either step over you all the time or drag you out into the hallway after you’ve passed out from lack of oxygen. Of course, you could sleep in the tub if you don’t mind a rude awakening when one of your roommates stumbles groggily into the bathroom and turns on the shower…

Flashlight

Another one of those things you don’t think about needing until you do. The power might go out - or you might need to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night through a minefield of people sleeping on the floor.

Jambox or iPod and Headphones

Never hurts to be able to listen to the music you paid way too much for in the dealer’s room. They make great for room parties. However, be sure you have private headphones in case your roommates don’t share your taste in music. I like country music - chances are most other people won’t.

Computer

Laptop preferrably. Some conventions have “Internet rooms” which will have a bank of computer terminals that you can use, but it will always be packed by all the suckers who didn’t bring a computer. Almost all hotels have wireless Internet available for free or a nominal charge, and many conventions provide it for free as well. Airport security also may ask you to boot up your laptop computer, so be sure to keep the batteries charged.

Cooler and Food

If you are driving to the convention and doing a it on a budget, one of the best ways to save money is to “brown bag it.” By making your own food, you take out one of the highest cost items at a con (after travel and hotel). If you’re a finnicky eater - you know who you are - this may for the best. Other things to consider…

Lockbox

If you’re a dealer or are otherwise carrying large amounts of money with you, it is probably best to lock it up. Often hotel rooms will have a safe in them - if so, it’s usually listed as an amenity on the website, but call the hotel to be sure. And, as a last resort, the front desk can usually put things in the hotel safe.

Identification

Necessary these days if you’re traveling by air, but useful in other situations as well. Many cons will not allow you to claim a badge without photo ID. If you’re a foreign guest, carry your passport with you at all times.

Camera

You’re going to have an amazing time. So amazing, in fact, that you’re probably not going to remember half of the awesome things that happened. So be sure to bring a camera to capure all those great moments.

I recommend bringing two cameras - one nice camera and one single-use camera for situations where having a nice camera might not be a good idea (like around a pool). Bring extra batteries and either extra memory cards or what you’ll need to get them off your camera - those things fill up fast and you don’t want to be sitting around going through your pictures trying to decide what means the most. Unload your memory cards every night so that, in case something happens, you won’t lose all your photos.

Watch

This is an essential item, even these days when we have clocks on our phones. A watch is just easier to glance at without having to fish your phone out of your pocket to check the time. Be sure to set it to whatever time the host city is in, so you’ll be on “con time.”

Getting There

Driving

Flying, Bus, Train, etc.

At The Convention

Hotel

Convention Tips

Fursuiter Etiquette

Final Notes

From the moment you step foot into the convention hotel, you will be serving as an ambassador for the furry fandom whether you like it or not. You may be the first interaction someone has with a furry. Try to make everyone feel welcome, not terrified. Let’s try not to make every single piece of negative publicity about the furry fandom look right.

If you are new to the fandom and this is your first convention, go out of your way to say hello to people and talk with them. That’s why we have cons - to peel ourselves away from our computers and actually see other furs in real life! You will see all sorts of people, but they all share the same common interest in anthropomorphics that you do.

Thank the hotel and convention staff for making all the magic happen - remember that they’re working very hard while you are having fun. If you have any problems, bring them to the convention staff - they are willing to assist all attendees and would much rather solve a problem at the time rather than hear about it afterwards, but they can’t help if they don’t hear from you.

Above all, bring a sense of humor, patience, and a willingness to have fun!

See you at the cons!