[Cosplay 101] Packing For Conventions
Your tickets have been purchased, your cosplays are finished, and the big convention is just a few days away. What now? If the convention is a fair distance away from where you live, you’ve likely made a hotel reservation for the weekend. In order to be ready for your hotel stay, you’ll need to pack your bags. You might think it’s as simple as throwing everything in a suitcase and leaving, but it really isn’t. I’ve written this packing guide to help you maximize your chances for a successful convention weekend.
The first thing you’ll need to account for is how you plan on getting to your destination. Will you be driving, taking public transportation, or flying? Each of these have their own set of challenges that may influence how you pack your bags.
Airlines have restrictions on what you can and cannot bring on a plane, as well as size and weight restrictions for both carry-on and checked bags. Exceeding these limits could result in extra baggage fees, or your item not being allowed on, causing issues for you as you try to make your flight(s). For a full list of restricted items, you can check the TSA website, or the equivalent in your country. For weight and size restrictions, you can check with the individual airline carrier with whom you will be traveling.
If you plan to travel to your hotel by public transportation, you will likely be restricted to what you can carry in one trip. Traveling by car will give you the most in terms of freedom for what you can bring with you. You are only limited by the size of your vehicle, and even so there is the option of renting a trailer for the weekend if you are traveling together with a large group. If you are carpooling with a few other people in a normal-sized vehicle, you will want to consider them and leave enough storage space for everyone’s bags. If you are driving, be sure to check with your hotel regarding parking. In many cities, the cost of vehicle parking is not included with your hotel rate. This will be something you need to budget for, and the cost can obviously be reduced by carpooling.
Once you’ve determined how you’re getting to your destination and what packing limitations that might give you, you can start getting ready to pack! The best way to make sure you don’t forget anything at home is to create a packing list. This should include everything for your cosplays, as well as anything else you might need for the weekend.
A few of the essentials you should bring with you include (but are not limited to):
- Street clothes (for activities outside of convention hours)
- Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hair products, etc.)
- Comfortable shoes and socks
- A towel if you have dyed hair
- Clean undergarments
- Charging cables for electronics
- Travel sewing kit
- First-aid kit
- Snacks (as well as any special dietary items)
- Re-fillable water bottle
- Bag for carrying items at the convention
- Wallet (plus spending money)
- Travel documents
- Printout of your hotel information
- Emergency contact information
If you would like a more detailed packing list, many can be found through a quick internet search.
You should also create a separate packing list for each cosplay you plan to bring with you. This is also a good storage technique in general for your cosplays, as it makes it less likely you will lose things in-between conventions. You can laminate these individual lists, so they can be used over and over.
Once you have your checklists ready, you can start packing. For all your soft items and essentials I recommend using a suitcase, as the wheels make it very handy. To keep things as organized as possible, I pack my cosplays in reverse order. For example, my Sunday cosplay at the bottom, followed by Saturday’s on top of that, and Friday’s on top of that, etc. If you are doing more that one cosplay a day, you should have the one you wear first on top of the one(s) you’ll be wearing later in the day.
If you have multiple parts to a cosplay, the best way to keep everything together is to put them all in a zip-top bag, with your checklist attached if possible. For styled wigs, there are many ways to transport them – everything from re-using cardboard boxes to actual wig travel cases. One of the best ways I have heard of is a clear plastic tub. You can attach a wooden dowel to the bottom of the tub and slip the wig head onto the dowel. You can also purchase a tub that is large enough to fit your bag of accessories, keeping everything together yet again. Since the dowel is attached to the tub itself, your wig won’t be ruined if the tub is jostled about during transport. You can also store things such a wig caps and bobby pins in there. I put all of mine in a small bag that I can take with me to the convention, along with makeup for small touchups during the day.
Garment bags are also a good option. They are obviously designed to protect clothing from getting wrinkled or stained during travel. If your bag of accessories will not fit in with your wig, you can try attaching it to the hanger for that specific outfit in your garment bag.
Armor and Props
Packing armor and props for travel is a thing unto its own. The more delicate these items are, the more protection they will need. The most recommended way I have seen for transporting armor is in large plastic tubs or rolling storage cases/foot lockers, which can be found at most hardware stores. Many of these fit the dimensions of standard luggage but double-check before you buy them so that you are not charged extra for oversize luggage. It also helps to know these dimensions when building your armor or props so that you don’t make something so large that it won’t fit inside.
As you begin to pack, you can lay some packing foam, bubble wrap, or towels around the edges to keep things from jostling about too much. You can also use extra clothing you are already bringing to fill any gaps between items. If you are going to pack sprays or adhesives in the storage case, I highly recommend placing them inside a sealed plastic bag to prevent the contents from getting all over your items should they decide to burst.
You can seal the storage cases with zip ties, Velcro ties, bungee cords, or duct tape if your container does not have its own closing mechanism. If you do use duct tape, make sure to put the roll in your checked baggage so that you have some for after it has been inspected by airport security and for the return home! Many rolling storage cases come with locking mechanisms of their own, or tabs that you can put locks through. If you are traveling by plane, make sure that airport security can still access the inside of the container.
It should be noted that you cannot take anything that looks like a weapon in your carry-on luggage, even if it is non-functioning. However, you can pack it in your checked baggage. If you’re not sure you can bring something on a plane, you can always check the website for your country’s travel authority, such as the TSA. If you’re still not sure, it might be best to just leave it at home and save it for when you attend a convention closer to home. The last thing you want is to have something confiscated or thrown out because it is not allowed.
Now that you’re all packed and ready, that last thing to do is get settled at your weekend lodgings and enjoy the convention!