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Packing hacks for conventions

I believe that everyone has a real-life superpower.  Mine is packing for con.  Just like Mary Poppins and her carpet bag, I’ve done 5 days of Dragon Con – including 3 costumes and several pairs of shoes – with just a carry-on.  I know what’s up.

You need packing advice. Can help.

So, here’s the thing: This isn’t going to be a packing list.  There are plenty of those (this one is particularly comprehensive) all over the internet.  And chances are that you know the basics of what you need to bring.  This “how to pack” post, however, will be full of tips and tricks to make sure you don’t forget anything at home or in your hotel room or spend too much time explaining your cosplay props to the TSA.

convention prep

When packing for con always make a list and take it with you

An actual physical list.  Not just a list in your head.  Put everything on this list.  You can even group items by day or function or however you like.  Put every piece of jewelry, every bit of makeup… Literally everything that goes in your suitcase goes on this list.  It’s your inventory list.  And then, when you’re totally done, the list goes in your suitcase.  You have it at the convention, so you know exactly what you packed, so you won’t leave anything behind when you pack up to go home, and you have somewhere to jot down notes about anything you didn’t bring and would like to have with you.

Check the weather, but plan for A/C at the convention

Yeah, I’m heading to Las Vegas in August, but I also know that those rooms are going to be heavily air-conditioned.  I’m going to bring layers.  When I head to Atlanta, I’m going to make sure I have a small umbrella (not necessary in the Nevada desert).  Know what you’re getting into and plan your clothes accordingly.

Shoe Maneuvering for convention fans

Shoes are a pain in the suitcase.  Take as few as possible.  That’s not necessarily and easy tip to follow, especially for cosplayers, but maybe you can use the same pair of shoes for multiple costumes.  If you’re flying to the con, wear your biggest/bulkiest shoes on the plane to save room in your luggage.  Again, I understand this could get you some strange looks at the airport, but does that really matter?  For the shoes that do get shoved in your luggage, don’t waste the space inside of them.  Stuff them with your socks, underwear, tank tops, or other smaller articles of clothing.  Don’t waste a centimeter. That’s how to save space packing, people.

packing for conventions

We can learn a lot from cats. They know all the packing hacks.

Folding hacks for packing: roll your clothes when you pack for con

This is a pretty standard tip, but I’ve found it incredibly effective over the years.  Again, not always possible, especially with delicate cosplay, but something to keep in mind.

Before packing for Con, put on your costume and make sure it fits!

This is so valuable!  Put on your costume, do your hair and makeup, pick up your props, and look in the mirror and pretend you’re posing for photos at the convention.  Not only will this help you find your best angles, but it’s also the best way to make sure that you have every single piece.  Now, when you take each piece off (or after you use a hair/makeup product), put it on your list and into your suitcase immediately.  This way, you know that you’ve packed every single thing that you need.  I’ve had cosplay – and only cosplay – in a suitcase for weeks before a convention, but I’ve never once forgotten a thing when packing for con.  (And if your costume pieces are roll-able, consider rolling them all together or even putting them in big storage back, so everything’s in one place.)

cosplay advice

Packing breakables/questionables for convetions

I’ve traveled with a few delicate or odd props to a convention.  I always keep them in my carry on or personal item, which is sometimes just a shopping tote (check out this Star Trek bag).  I’ve wrapped hats in bubble wrap and carried on an oddly shaped umbrella.  The one prop that got some TSA side-eye which I was not expecting was my sonic screwdriver.  But, I’ve found that if you’re dealing with anything that might even possibly resemble a weapon of any kind, be 100% upfront about it.  Put it in its own scanny bin, mention that it’s just a prop to the TSA staff who’s manning the scanner before it even goes in, and be happy and smiling.  If you have anything that looks even remotely like a firearm (even if it’s made by Nerf) make sure that the end of the “barrel” is neon orange.  Even if you take off a cap or paint over it later.

Consider shipping ahead, when packing for con

If there’s anything you’re really nervous about taking through airport security, I recommend shipping it ahead to your hotel.  Just call the front desk a week or so before and let them know that you need to receive a package while you’re there.  They’ll give you the correct information on how to address it, and you can ship things to yourself.  There is always the possibility of damage during transport, but there isn’t the possibility of confiscation at the airport.

Bags in bags in bags in bags 

I always pack empty garbage bags, white and black.  I use the black garbage bags for trash because the little trash cans in the hotels are never big enough, and the white ones for laundry.  I also always pack an extra, empty, soft-sided, foldable bag or tote, just in case I overdo it in the dealers’ room and need some extra space on the way home.

Bonus: portable steamers are your friend

If you have the room and your costumes/clothes tend to wrinkle, I highly recommend investing in a portable steamer (I have this one).  These things are amazing.  Especially because I hate ironing.  And the shape (of mine, at least) means that it fits nicely into a corner.  Of course, if you don’t have the extra space or cash, you can hang your clothes in the bathroom at the hotel, close the door, and run the shower on HOT for a while.  But that’s wasteful.

What are your tips for better con packing?

About the Author

SueCo-Host/ Anomaly Supplemental
Sue is a trekkie, a tap dancer, a juggler, a sports fan, an amateur photographer, a Henson fan, a blogger, a theatre nerd, a reader, a board-gamer…and therefore an “Anomaly”.
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