Rules For Surviving DragonCon 2011

It won’t be long until we will hit the road and head up to Atlanta for DragonCon. This event, for those not familiar, is the east coast’s largest sci-fi and comic book convention. It takes place ever year at the five largest hotels in downtown Atlanta and it is always Labor Day Weekend. Every flavor of geekery and science you can imagine can be found here.

This year will be my eighth DragonCon. I consider myself a Con veteran. I survive every year relatively unscathed aside from minor exhaustion. So here are a few things I’ve learned from my years in the trenches: not only at DragonCon but other cons as well.

Live by the 3-2-1 Rule:

Three hours of sleep a night

Two meals a day

One shower a day – trust me, a deodorant fail in a cramped elevator or enclosed room is NOT something you want to be a part of.

Bring a light backpack. Not only is it useful for picking up free shwag buttons but you can carry your pocket program with you. I also highly suggest packing a few PB&J sandwiches, some cookies and a bottle of water to nibble on between panels. It may not seem like it but you ARE expending lots of energy.

Three hours of sleep is the absolute minimum. Try to get more if you can BUT as the old saying goes, “It’s DragonCon. You can sleep when you’re dead.”.

Wash your hands a couple times a day too and carry hand sanitizer. Con Crud spreads like wildfire and trust me, you do NOT want Con Crud. This year at BaltiCon I caught it the first night and I didn’t leave the room until the last day of the Con. I’m still not completely convinced that I wasn’t dead for a few days.

Get in on Thursday if you can and leave Tuesday morning. It is SO much less stressful than trying to check in on Friday with the 30,000 other people at the same exact time. Not a rule, I know, but if you can manage the time off, it really does reduce stress levels..

Take pictures. Take LOTS of pictures. You really only see stuff like this once a year.

If something is a major event, get there at LEAST an hour early. For some panels you may actually have to line up as soon as the previous panel starts. Two years ago when William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy did their talk we were up at 6 am and in line by 6:30 and we were STILL four rows back in the big hall. If you want to see Masquerade, line up as early as you possibly can. Duck Dodgers is the annual tradition while the judges are deliberating so be prepared to bellow at the top of your lungs “DUCK DODGERS IN THE 24TH AND A HALF CEN-TU-RY!!!” every time Dodgers yells it.

Plan ahead. When you get your pocket guide, which will soon be available online at the DragonCon website, decide ahead of time what panels and workshops you want to go see. It makes it easier than trying to decide on the fly. Remember, there is A LOT of navigating to do to get where you need to go and only 15 minutes between panels. That’s JUST enough time to get from the Hilton to the Sheraton.

Do bring costumes. Lots of people dress up and the big day for costumes is Saturday. I’m personally not much for the costume scene but I promised my sister we’d do a Steampunk day so I’m bringing that one and my Con t-shirts. You know, stuff like “Cowthuhlu” and “You don’t need to look at my chest. These are not the breasts you’re looking for, Move along”. In short, Nerdwear.

Most importantly, have fun! This is a fantastic event with something for everyone. Even if you’re not so much for the sci-fi, there’s also the Science Track, the Skeptic Track and the Podcast Track. Two years ago I learned how and why the Large Hadron Collider isn’t going to kill us all at the science track. So there really IS something for everyone.



  1. Bob said,

    August 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Woohoo! DragonCon! IIG-Atlanta has a table this year.

  2. biodork said,

    September 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Yay! This is my first Dragon*Con (but not my first SF/F con), and I appreciate your tips! I spent Thursday afternoon traveling around the hotels and going through the pocket program guide (from front to back, literally). I’m super excited and can’t wait for things to get going bright and early tomorrow morning!

  3. Ravi Basawa said,

    September 2, 2012 at 3:44 am

    My first Dragon*Con also, come Monday morning! Excited? Yes, Cheers.

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