One thing I've personally noted online with regards to this con, and I'm going to assume it holds some truth for other conventions, is that there are a lot of people who are looking forward to attending their first convention.
First off, this is great. I think one positive aspect from COVID-19 is that more people have picked up or returned to playing RPGs and want to "delve deeper", as it was. I'm not going to spend our time together here today chatting up why you should attend a convention or what to prepare for one in general. If you've ever been on vacation AND you've played an RPG you should have a general clue. I have posted on con attendance before, so if you need some 411, I suggest doing a quick search of the site.
What I would like to post about though is a little bit of convention prep, but not the normal convention prep. In a previous life I was quite active with the Boy Scouts and their motto is "Be Prepared", and this is something I've really taken to heart in my life, but I'll only skim the surface on that here.
One easy way to simply make your overall convention experience better is to have a small "Backup Convention Kit". I really don't want to call it an emergency kit even though my personal bit of kit definitely has some emergency items in it. The way I figure it, if you can minimize the potential bad times or even just annoyances, of a convention, then the overall convention experience undoubtedly will be better.
This Backup Convention Kit really doesn't need to be very big. You could easily get away with a small pouch or zipper bag. I travel a lot for work and have a rather small "Go Bag" that is just for everyday stuff and all I have to do is toss in one or two things and I'm good......but I have to remember to toss in those extra items. If I didn't have/use this bag, then I'd get something like a small banker's bag or even a quart-sized ziplock bag (actually the ziplock bag isn't a bad idea for a first-timer. Try it out and then tweak the contents before making a better bag).
What should you keep in your bag? Well here is my starting list. You'd want to tweak things to your own personal desires and experiences, but a few things I consider 110% mandatory and will mark in bold:
- Extra Dice (Yes, you can usually buy dice at the con if needed, but save that dice purchase for a casual want, not a current need)
- First Aid Kit (One of those tiny ones with little more than some band-aids and one larger dressing and tape is fine. Mine is a bit more in depth and is a kit unto itself.)
- Drugs, Legal (I recommend getting one of those weekly pill reminder boxes and using the compartments to carry doses of your prescriptions and some general OTC medications. For example I carry Motrin, Aspirin, Acetaminophen, "Benadryl", "Pepto-Bismol", and some others I cannot recall off the top of my head. Having to leave a con to find and overpay for a couple pills when you need them is the height of a "bad time" at a con.)
- Extra pencils (Especially if you have a favorite type.)
- Extra paper (I like to use notecards with graph paper markings. Smaller for table-side use and more multifunctional.)
- A drinking vessel (If you have room......even a collapsible water bottle helps keep you hydrated.)
- Flavored drink powder (Ones that will flavor a water bottle-sized amount of water. I prefer the powder to a liquid squeeze because it is less likely to make an accidental mess. I consider this essential because most cons will have free water, but if it tastes "different" you'll be more likely to run a quart low.....)
- Money (Toss in an extra $20 and do your best to forget it is there until after the con. This is for when you can't get to an ATM or you need cash for food or drink. I would also consider keeping a couple dollars in quarters taped up together. Never know when you have access to a coins-only vending machine.)
- Game Rules/PCs in Digital Format on a USB stick (This is just for those time you need to print out something quick. Ideally you should have your printed copy and a backup digitally on a tablet or even your phone, but if you need something for a pickup game or some such you might get to use the hotel's business printer or there is a local copy shop. Highly doubtful anything but a USB thumb drive will suffice.)
- Your convention schedule & convention map (Don't assume you'll be able to look it up online)
- Phone charger & battery backup (Again don't assume, this time that you'll have access to power at the convention)
- Snack (This is just something to tide you over if you really need to have something to eat and know it'll be a couple hours until you are free, NOT as a regular table-side nosh.)
Now I'm sure that you might be able to add to this list, but these are my minimums and since I have an Everyday Carry bag, my setup isn't a small self-contained bag. You aren't going to find a $20 bill in my bag......that's tucked away in my minimalist wallet, away from the normal $ I carry. All my first aid stuff is in an external pouch and labeled. I usually don't have my stuff on a thumb drive, but I have a blank thumb drive I can transfer over files from my tablet and the get on with things.....
....again, this is my starter list that you'll want to tweak and make your own, but the thing is you have to do it in the first place, which is my recommendation. Having to run off to find something for your headache, only to find the hotel has two pills of not-what's-best-for-you medication in a travel blister for $5, but if you're willing to take a half hour to find the nearest drug store......screw that noise. Spend $1 on a pill container and even $30 of various pills (which you probably don't need to do since you have them already at home!) will be well worth the effort. I know I kind of mentioned this twice, but I've seen first-hand how much of a suck it can be. I've had friends lose most of a convention morning having to walk a mile or more to find just what they needed because the city was a ghost town on Sunday mornings.....
Trust me.....be prepared!