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I read an article by Amy Ratcliffe about her first visit to Dragon Con. She’s got a lot of praise for the convention, but does touch on some of the downsides and shortcomings of the annual event in my fair city. I was in the middle of writing a reply to her to thank her for her writing as well as provide some useful tips I’ve accumulated during my many years of attending and volunteering and realized a) it was turning into a very big e-mail and b) it was something that might be useful to more than just her. Thus, this blog post was born!

So, here’s my “unordered list of things that help me survive Dragon Con and not go out of my mind”

  • Crowds in common areas start to get crazy around ~10:30am until ~2:00am. If you want to move quickly, try to time your travel to occur while panels are in session and absolutely avoid the time between panels.
  • Sky walks are very convenient, air conditioned and keep you out of the weather. They also tend to be slower than using the streets during the day. The streets are hot, humid and not somewhere I’d suggest folks go late at night without friends. But they are much faster when you’re trying to go from the Marriott to the Food Court and back inside of 25 minutes.
  • Speaking of the Food Court, the lines are crazy. I had good luck with Checkers, Great Wraps and My Friend’s Place this year. I avoided DQ and Sushi Yami like the plague due to the lines. I ventured into Momo for the promise of a breakfast buffet, but they’d swapped it out by ~11:00am when I made it in there, so didn’t try it (though I’ve been there in the past and they tend to have good food for reasonable prices.
  • If you have the option and can use stairs, get a room on a lower floor. I was in the Hilton on the 8th floor and, when the elevators were crowded and slow (which was between 8am and 2am) I used the stairs instead. This saved me a tremendous amount of time and had the added benefit of giving me more steps for my Fitbit which added to my daily calorie budget (which, given I was eating at Checkers and Great Wraps, was badly needed).
  • Always have a bottle of water in your backpack whether you needed it or not, because you will need it.
  • Stop by your hotel room for an hour sometime during the day to take a break. If you can’t get to your hotel room, find a quiet hallway or track room to take a break in. The Sheraton’s “non-registration” hallways tend to be not nearly as packed. The Westin’s been reasonable as long as you’re not on the same floor where the Peachtree ballroom load in is happening. In the motor lobby level of the Hyatt, there’s a long hallway that’s not heavily trafficked. In the Hilton, there are areas every 5-10 floors or so with tables and chairs where you can rest. In the Marriott . . . well, the Marriott is just crazy pants, but fortunately it’s connected to both the Hilton and Hyatt :-)
  • Don’t be afraid to push through a crowd saying “Excuse me” and “Pardon me” especially when folks are stopped in the middle of a walkway chatting, taking pictures or looking at a vendor booth instead of moving. Walkways are for moving. If you’re not moving, at the very least get to the edge of the walkway. If you can’t get to the edge of the walkway, keep moving. . . and act with the expectation that others should do the same.
  • If you want to take pictures of a costume, do so in a way that doesn’t block a walkway or hallway. Ask the cosplayer if they can step over to an area that doesn’t obstruct traffic. I’ve never had someone who wasn’t willing to do that and it helps everyone. If you’re of a mind, feel free to suggest an open area for folks to move over to for pictures. “You guys know there’s an empty area over there that’s not in the flow of traffic. If you guys could do pictures over there, that’d help a lot. Thanks a lot, guys” are words I said several times this past weekend.
  • Visit the dealer hall one or two hours before they close and, preferably, on Sunday or Monday. This isn’t for deals, it’s to avoid the crush of other folks. If there’s something you need, this may not be doable, but if you have the ability, it will mean less folks you have to fight with to move around.

If anyone else has suggestions, feel free to send them to @dylannorthrup on Twitter, but for now this is my quick list of tips and generally applicable tricks for getting around the con without losing your sanity. There are few that aren’t generally applicable, but I’ll save those suggestions for next year and folks can buy me drinks at one of the hotel drinking establishments and/or room parties (again, tweet me @dylannorthrup to let me know what room party you’ll be at :-)

Update: The following suggestion comes courtesy of James Hsiao via his twitter account: 24/7 Games (some free) in the bottom of the Hilton, w/ the added benefit of excessive air conditioning if you’re running hot.