I went to my first geek convention of the year on Saturday, and going to a con always makes me feel hyped and ready to attend more cons!

Going to a con can be a fun but also sometimes overwhelming experience, depending on the number of attendees, guests, vendors, etc. If you decide to cosplay at the con, that adds another layer of complexity.

As con season really starts to get underway for 2019, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from attending cons in the past, and I’d love to hear your best tips, as well!

1. You won’t get to everything on your schedule…and that’s okay.

I feel like this is a lesson I have to relearn every year. When the schedule for the con you’re attending first comes out, it’s easy to get excited and fill your day with as many panels, celebrity autograph sessions, and vendor stops as you can.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to get to all of them. A day at a con almost always goes by faster than you think it will. Especially at larger cons, you’re not going to have time to do everything you want.

But that’s okay. I try to select one major “must see” for each day I’m at a con, but otherwise I try to be a little more relaxed. I’ll attempt to get to everything I can, but I want to leave enough time for some spontaneous fun, like stopping to take a photo of a really great cosplayer.

I also don’t like spending all day in line, either, so sometimes I miss out on big panels. I actually missed out on one panel I wanted to see at my local Midwest con this weekend, Planet Comicon in Kansas City. The actors who played Fred, George, and Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter series all did a panel together. I didn’t get in line soon enough, and by the time I got there the panel room had filled up.

But, that gave me a chance to wander around the convention floor a little more before heading home, and the panel I got to listen to before that — from Star Wars concept artist Iain McCraig — was really awesome, and I wouldn’t have wanted to leave that panel early.

Just embrace what happens and don’t stress out too much about checking everything off your “to do” list!

2. Wear comfortable shoes.

This is another lesson I had to re-learn this year. I love the look of the boots that go with my Rey cosplay, but comfortable, they are not. By mid-afternoon, my legs and back were killing me.

You’re going to do A LOT of walking at cons, and even if you’re cosplaying, comfy shoes are a must. Especially if you’re at a con for several days, you don’t want to be sore for the rest of your time there after wearing bad shoes on day one.

3. Bring your own snacks and water.

While there are always food and beverage vendors at cons, sometimes the lines for these are long. I like to bring my own food and water bottle in a backpack, especially since I have some dietary restrictions and may not be able to eat what’s offered by vendors.

It’s nice to be able to eat a quick lunch in between panels or have a snack handy if you get hungry. And you definitely don’t want to get dehydrated!

4. Ask cosplayers before snapping a photo.

Photographing cosplayers is one of my favorite parts of the con experience. However, I recommend always asking a cosplayer if it’s cool to take a photo first. I’ve never had anyone say no, and they’re usually super excited that you liked their costume enough to take a pic.

But for whatever reason, a few cosplayers may not be okay with a photo, so I always like to ask. This past weekend, I noticed a few people just snapping a pic of my BB-8 prop without asking. I didn’t mind, but it did feel a little weird to turn around and see someone pointing a camera in my direction unexpectedly.

5. Support the local vendors.

When I go to a con, I normally try to buy a piece of artwork and get it signed by an artist. Cons can provide an important source of income for artists, authors, crafters, and other vendors, and I enjoy being able to support them. You can also help boost awareness of their work by posting about it later on social media.