Dragon*Con Weekend 2009! – Cheapskate Con Tips

Posted by idawrites on September 3, 2009 in Frugal Tips, Money, Spending, Vacation |

Last year, I shared that Mark and I LOVE to attend Science Fiction conventions.  However, any of you that attend fan type conventions know that it gets REALLY expensive REALLY fast.  While we aren’t Old Hat at this yet, this is our 5th convention (But FIRST Dragon*Con!!!) and we’ve learned about Convention Going on the Cheap along the way.

What you can do to cut costs at conventions:

  1. Never pay full price at the door. Buy your passes early, or get them for a major bargain from people whose plans change and aren’t able to attend.
  2. Stay in a hotel room at the convention, or another hotel within walking distance. There is almost always a negotiated group rate, and it’s less hassle than driving back and forth (for y0u local folks). *If you stay at a hotel within walking distance, you’ll likely get better sleep… fewer room parties to contend with!
  3. Split the hotel room costs. If you don’t mind having friends share your hotel room, splitting the costs of the room is a HUGE way to cut your expenses on a convention.  4 people in a double room means you each only have to pay 25% of the room.  Bring a cot for a 5th person and you’ve cut your costs even further.
  4. Bring your own food. – This one has several parts:
    1. Bring your own sodas and bottled water. These things add up quickly when you’re purchasing them one at a time from the food court.
    2. Coffee drinker?  Bring your coffee pot and ground coffee. Same premise as above… and really, do you want to be stumbling around looking for Starbucks when you’ve only had one of the little styrofoam cups of coffee that come in the room?  Not Me.
    3. Pack quick snacks like fruit, nuts, single serve bags of pretzels or chips (I’m taking the cheap route and bagging my own in snack bags.)  There’s a lot to see and do, but it’s not very fun if you forget to eat and pass out in the middle of Leonard Nemoy’s panel!
      • If you’re flying in, hit a local grocery store to stock up when you get to the con.
  5. Have a snack in the Hospitality Suite. I know people who have never even heard of the Hospitality Suite, but they are there, at every convention, being all hospitable and stuff.  Even better than the hard core con necessities like PB&J sandwiches, water, and juice, you can meet awesome folks and make new friends in the hospitality suite.
    • You get bonus points if you volunteer your hands with cleanup, set up, or anything else you see that needs done in the hospitality suite.
  6. Never pay Per-Drink prices for cocktails. Bring your own booze.  It will always be cheaper, and you know you’re getting your drink the way you want it.  It also cuts down on the long wait at the bar.  And, if you’ve been standing in the lines for panels all day, the last thing you want is to wait 45 minutes for your Jack n Coke.
  7. Don’t buy anything on your first trip through the dealers rooms. By waiting until you’ve seen everything, you know you’ll buy only what you want most and you don’t buy something on impulse and spend the rest of your con kicking yourself because the PERFECT thing you’ve been looking for was 3 booths past where you dropped your budgeted amount on something else.
      • A word of caution – If the vendor only has a limited amount of the thing you like, get it while you can… or you’ll be miserable that you missed out.
Image by Scragz

Image by Scragz

I know I’m missing about a bazillion tips.  What do you do to save money when you’re running around gawking at Storm Troopers and Princess Leia in a bikini?


  • ladykatza says:

    A couple other things:

    If you are in a hotel, don’t forget the breakfast they serve. A couple of the hotels at Dragon*Con have free water stations set up. Bring a canteen. I promise no one will think it strange.

    Also, a lot of vendors will wave tax if you pay cash. This is because it means they don’t have to pay processing fees for the credit cards.

    For those of you that like to collect signatures, remember that the Walk of Fame is sanctioned and signatures are free (In most cases, some exceptions are applied for big name stars).

  • Anna says:

    That is great advice!

    One thing I would add to it is bring your own water bottle and fill up at all the water stations…it will save you from paying $2.50-$3.00/bottle for water or soda at the con. If you are not a water drinker, but like kool-aid or tea, in the kool-aid section of the grocery store there are the individual flavor packages that you can get in a box to flavor your water. Again, much cheaper than spending it on drinks at the con. Have a good Con and perhaps we will run into each other!

  • Grant Me Wings says:

    I have a few more food tips:
    -Volunteer lots, volunteers tend to get fed
    -Bring eats with you. I bring english muffins, cheese, apples, peanut butter, granola bars, etc. I have lived off this fare for 2-3 meals a day, and then anything else I could scrounge was great!
    -Volunteer lots, it pays for your con fee for next year. If you spend all of your waking hours volunteering, you might get a free room too.

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