Aetherfest 2012 Review

As you read this review please keep in mind that it is written from only the opinions and observations from our crew. We were not on convention staff and we were not vendors. We sat in on one panel (Dark Steampunk) with Steam Engine Intrepid, and otherwise were just VIP-bought attendees there to enjoy the convention like most others. Also, it’s important to know that we were not at the first Aetherfest, so this was a first impression for us as well. With that said, we’ll cover what we didn’t like first, and then cover what we did like, so we can end on a good note.

What We Didn’t Like

We were part of the Dark Steampunk panel with Steam Engine Intrepid at twelve thirty in the afternoon as the first panel of the convention. This was too early, and everyone had to make additional plans and struggle to be there for that panel. The Dark Professor was still scheduled to be at work at that time, so he had to pull some strings in order to be at the panel. Three people (including myself) were there on time and the rest showed up as soon as they could. We only had 30 minutes for the panel.

In addition to this, the hotel check-in wasn’t until 4pm which meant people didn’t have rooms to get changed into costumes and had nowhere to put their luggage. This made it very inconvenient and stressful. We feel like the convention panels started too early prior to hotel check-in. The hotel liked saying that this is a standard check-in for ALL hotels, but we disagree. We’ve been attending a lot conventions for over 10 years (mostly larp and gaming cons) all over the US and this is the first hotel we’ve ever been to that had such a late check-in. Most hotels we’ve been too were noon to 2pm check-in. So, maybe check-in is just late in the day out in Texas, but in all honesty it felt like a poor excuse.

Fortunately, there were people who were kind enough to share their room space (as a few people arrived a day early). Both Cameron (one of the Convention planners) and Jeremiah & Kelly Loder offered us a place to get ready. We stored our luggage in The Loder’s room and got into costume. We’ll talk more about these kinds of positive things further on.

While it was nice to have the same room for all the panels, which made it super easy to find any panel, it had some draw backs for us. There were few panels that we were interested in at this convention. Not to say that the panels weren’t good. When we didn’t want to attend a specific panel, there really wasn’t anything else for us to do. At most conventions, there are panels scheduled on top of each other, so there are more choices. At this convention, the panel didn’t overlap so that you could attend all the panels. With only one panel running at a time, there were times where we felt like there was nothing to do if you weren’t interested in gaming or buying something in the vendors room. We also felt like some popular panels or interesting panels were too short, and some panels were too long.

While it was nice having a description of each panel on the schedule, it wasn’t as easy to check the times of the events. Having the time grid makes it easy to see when and where a panel or event is scheduled and how everything lines up. If there was a schedule sheet like this floating around, we missed it. The schedule we had was missing an open and closing time for the vendors room, registration, and the SCARS Larp… or we didn’t see it, which still poses an issue. We couldn’t properly plan a visit to the vendors room, or coordinate with people to play in the LARP together. We completely missed it, which was disappointing.

First, we had to deal with hotel issues the majority of the day on Friday – which we’ll get to later – so we didn’t have a chance to play. Then on Saturday, we had some prior obligations during the morning and noon, which wasn’t a big deal because we figured we’d play after noon into the evening. We were then being stopped by random people wanting to role play with us and needing to discuss breaking a spell… obviously there was something fun going on and people wanted to role play with us. So, we stopped to talk to Jim (who was running the LARP) only to find out the LARP was going to be over in about an hour. There was going to be soft larp all night, but the main event was pretty much over by the time we got food and other obligations out of the way. This was very disappointing! If we had known the actual LARP schedule, we could have planned our activities better. If this was posted somewhere, I can’t imagine how we missed it.

As for vendors, there were a couple of observations. First, there seemed to be a lot of empty space that could have been used for more vendors. Butterfly Creations was up in the terrace in the miserable heat outside, and judging from the space in the vendors room all weekend, they could have been in placed in the comfort of the air conditioned vendors room. However, we don’t really know if they were in the terrace for a specific reason or by request, this was just an observation of space vs location.

In fact, we feel like more guest vending could have been accommodated in the vendors room as well. Having the guests vending in the gaming room felt out of the way and less trafficked. I was told there was a sign that directed people to the guest vending, and I did hear some announcements here and there directing people to them, but it didn’t seem like this was enough. I never saw the sign, so I’m not sure what else to say about the advertising. One of our crew members spent a majority of his time in the gaming room and he observed traffic to and from the Con-Ops room and some flow for the auction, but not much traffic overall. Even our Captain took a stroll up there and spent a couple of hours of observation and concurred that it seemed like a lack of traffic. It’s shame, because they were very friendly and welcoming, and there was some really nice stuff up there!

Our crew had the VIP badges, because we enjoy the extra perks… but we didn’t feel it this time. We got shirts, but they didn’t accommodate our heavier sized crew member. He informed them weeks prior to the event that he would need a 4X size. At the registration table, the shirt vendor said he did not get this information from whomever handled our transaction, so our crew member didn’t get a shirt. Then there was the preferred seating that we thought VIP passes would include. There was no clearly mark VIP seating. We didn’t attend many panels this time around, so we can’t say whether or not it posed a problem. It still felt like the perks were a bit lacking. Then there was the dinner.

We love the idea of having a VIP dinner, but it was very poorly communicated. We didn’t know what we would be getting for diner and didn’t get a choice. We were sitting at the table with salads and drinks being brought out and none of the wait staff could tell us what the meal was going to be. Airship Aurora joined us for dinner and their Captain notified them they needed a vegetarian meal. It looked like an impromptu toss together of vegetables and didn’t look all that appetizing or fulfilling… but I can’t know for sure since I wasn’t the one eating it. The salad and chicken dinner wasn’t too bad for the majority of our crew, but one of our crew mates didn’t like it at all. Not having a choice was less of a bother then not knowing what we were getting until it arrived at the table. Also, having the dinner outside in Texas on a hot humid day made the experience far less enjoyable for us. We would have loved to enjoy more of the performances and table mingling, but it was just too miserable outside. Our Captain was dealing with a health issue (non-contagious) all weekend, so being in the heat for long periods was just not an option.

So, now that we’ve covered the Convention specific topics, let’s get to the root of the problem… the Hotel. As beautiful as that hotel was, it was not worth the terrible service. The St Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, TX is supposed to be a Luxury Hotel, but it lacked the Luxury service. This may sound harsh, but we had a terrible experience that caused an outburst of anger. We currently have no plans to attend the next Aetherfest if it’s at the same hotel. Luckily, I saw a comment on a recent thread that says the next Aetherfest won’t be there – good! We felt like they didn’t care about the Steampunk convention, as much as they say they did, as well as didn’t provide our crew and friends with the proper service that we payed for.

First of all, it took the hotel 9 hours to get our room situation resolved, and even then it was sub-par and making due with what we could get. The 4pm check-in and poor excuses was annoying at best, but not unmanageable. However, the nine hours of stress and anger was completely unacceptable. We arrived early because we needed to be ready for the Dark Steampunk panel… we wanted enough time to arrive, get breakfast, get into costume, and hopefully checked in. We spoke to the front desk about early check-in and advised them of exactly what we needed. They said they would call us as soon as what we needed was available. They never called us. As people with the same type of rooms and arrangements were saying they had checked in, we got the impression that they had our type of rooms available but hadn’t bothered to contact us. So, we check the front desk and sure enough there are rooms available. We were not thrilled that they hadn’t bothered to contact us. Fine, it was another annoying but manageable situation. We actually loved the room we were in… it was spacious and lovely. Then The Intrepid arrived.

We find out there are no adjoining rooms, which was what was on the reservations. It was specifically asked that Intrepid and Horizons have adjoining rooms on the reservations and we were told that would happen. When we were later told there is no such type of room at the hotel, we felt lied to. As a compromise, we agreed to have us move into another room and have our crews side by side… but the rooms weren’t cleaned yet. So, we have Intrepid and the Captain of Airship Aurora in our room until everyone can get their rooms worked out. During this compromise, our Captain very specifically asked, does our room have TWO bathrooms AND TWO beds. They said yes. She asked a second time TWO BATHROOMS, and was told yes again.

We waited several hours and talked to the front desk three times to finally get the rooms. The rooms were not correct. They did not have two bathrooms. Even the Intrepid crew didn’t get the rooms they needed. One bathroom will not work for three adults and three children. Due to some health issues between Horizon crew members, it’s extremely inconvenient to share the bathroom, so this is just not acceptable. So, then we have to move rooms yet again, and wait yet again. When we get to our next room, there are people in it.

At this point, we’ve changed rooms, never got what our (both crews) reservations where set for, and it’s been nine hours. After being in a car for 8 hours, and then dealing with the hotel for 9 hours, we are tired, hungry, and cranky. Our Captain had been on the side lines, fuming, letting the First Officer and Intrepid deal with the issue. Now, the Captain goes off like a bomb. Attempts from our First Officer and She IS are fruitless as our Captain storms through the hotel and goes off at the front desk. You have to know that we don’t make scenes, throw tantrums, and foster drama, but at this point our Captain is so angry she is seeing red. People at the front desk are overwhelmed and not dealing with the situation appropriately. At that point, the staff should have immediately fetched a manager… instead the Captain demands a manager. In frustration of the lack of ability of the staff to react appropriately, she turns and goes upstairs to the management office and gets one herself.

We won’t go into details on the explicits, but our demands are met. The manager finds us an appropriate room then escorts us up to it to inspect it before moving anything. There were apologies, hugs (yes, management hugged the Captain), and in the end they comped the first night and parking charges for both crews, provided dinner for Intrepid, and also supplied some beverages for the Order Birthday Party (we’ll tell you about that later on).

Now, don’t get me wrong, all was not well. This room was smaller than the original room and not nearly as nice. The bed posts were obnoxious because they constricted the view of the TV and the beds were extremely creeky. No one could turn over in the bed or get up for a potty without waking up everyone else. This room was not even on the same floor as the Intrepid. Our two crews very much wanted to be close, but alas we didn’t get what we wanted. At least at this point, the bomb was defused and Captain was able to tend to her health needs.

There were other great disappointments with this hotel. One of our crew members spotted a roach… only one… but one is enough to cause a problem if it happens to travel home in the luggage or end up in someone’s food in the kitchen. We talked to house keeping and told them very specifically that we needed more towels and toilet paper for BOTH bathrooms. They were asked three times, and in the end only supplied one bathroom. We had to ask them again for more towels and toilet paper. They also rang the room door bell every morning at 9am while we’re still sleeping, which is very annoying. Why don’t they do their rounds at noon like other hotels we’ve been to? There were also occasions when I had placed the latch so that the door wouldn’t close all the way because I was tired of having to go let people in the room every ten minutes while I’m trying to relax. Every ten or so minutes house keeping was knocking on the door yelling into the room “Do you want your door open, Miss?” Why yes! Yes I do. That’s why it’s open. Now please stop asking.

For lunch on Saturday, we arrive at the pub an hour and 15 minutes prior to the Birthday party. There are several empty but not yet cleaned tables. We sit at the one clean table. There is no one to take orders, so you have to go up to the bar to make your order or to get a menu. Our order consisted of two cheeseburgers, one nachos, and three drinks. As we waited for nearly the entire hour and 15 minutes, we see the bus boy come around and slowly clean one table and then disappear. So there are several people standing around who eventually leave when no one bothers to clear tables. Finally, a bar/kitchen manager comes by and asks how we are doing. We complain and she very quickly gets our order taken care of. By this time, we have to very quickly scarf down food… no room for tasting it! Then get off to our other obligations. All in all, the staff of the hotel seemed pretty incompetent or perhaps they were just lazy.

The majority of the hotel was hot. When we first arrived at the hotel, the lobby was miserable. Then several hours later, the lobby was suddenly very cool and nice. Obviously, they had just turned on, or turned up the A/C. The hallways and bathrooms were all hot. The vendors room, gaming room, and ballroom were ice cold. They obviously had good A/C, but it really felt like they were cutting corners. For a Luxury hotel, you would think the whole building would be air conditioned. Before the Church Convention, the lobby was nice and cold. Yes, the church convention.

One minute, there is Aetherfest and then suddenly, I come down and find a Church event with a casino setup in the lobby with scantily clad woman and their young children present (how inappropriate). I start hearing that people are being kicked out of the lobby, that these church people are harassing our members about being in the lobby because they are having a private party. There were people saying that the Hotel breeched the Aetherfest contract, because our registration and vending room had to be closed and the lobby was pretty much off limits. Personally, we walked through that lobby whenever we pleased, because it was ridiculous, but we didn’t get hassled by anyone.

The next day, the lobby was hot again and despite complaints it remained hot. The excuse that it’s just spotty was just that, a lame excuse. When the lobby was crowded with scantily clad church goers, the lobby was obviously air conditioned and well capable of handling the occupancy. The hotel clearly had no regard for the comfort of the Aetherfest guests but cared plenty for the other convention party.

On Saturday, Airship Isabella begins getting their vending stuff prepared. It’s my understanding that they have a private guest room setup for their vending. This is where the Order Birthday Party is supposed to happen because ASI is great like that! The manager asks me where the birthday party will be (since they are providing some drinks) and when I mention the location she says there is a mistake because ASI doesn’t have a private room in the contract. So, ASI ends up setting up their vending in the main lobby. It’s not a huge set back as far as I can tell, because the front lobby gets the most traffic and the party was held in the lobby without a hitch. However, this situation greatly annoyed our Horizons crew. We may not be part of Airship Isabella, but we have a great fondness for them and it only added to the negative hotel experience.

This whole ordeal made us feel like the hotel didn’t really care about this convention. They said several times that Aetherfest was important but their actions proved otherwise.

What We Enjoyed

The aesthetics of the hotel were amazing! There is no doubt that this hotel is gorgeous. It was an 1800’s style Victorian hotel with lots of brass, a grandfather clock, and huge chandeliers. We were very excited to come to this hotel because we wanted to take pictures. Sadly, due to the constant disappointments and heat, we didn’t do the photos we had intended.

The hotel was two blocks away from The Alamo. The Steampunk group gathered and walked together in a parade to the Alamo to take a giant group photo. It was hot outside, but it was great! People out in the town were fascinated and taking photos of us. It was really cool.

As we mentioned earlier on, when we didn’t have a hotel room yet, both Cameron and The Loder’s offered to let us use their rooms to get into costume and store our luggage. They didn’t have much room in their single-bed room but they were very generous, letting three people hang out in their room and even allow one of us to nap on their bed while they went out for a walk in town. We talk to other people who said others had done the same for them. We also had people in our room temporarily. It was very nice that people were helping each other out and trying to make the best out of situations. This is part of what makes such a great community!

There was a point in which Pablo (who ran the convention), and Cpt. Whittaker and Amelia Whittaker of Airship Isabella (ASI) were having a private talk with hotel management. After the meeting, this manager approached the Captain and First Officer to talk about the issues our crew experienced. This gave us the impression that Pablo and ASI addressed the fact that we had issues, which was fantastic! It’s nice knowing that people in our community put some real care and backing into each other. Management was checking in with our Captain throughout the weekend.

From our observations, both Pablo and Cameron handled the hotel issues and complaints as calmly and with as much poise as anyone possibly could. They remained positive in attitude and friendly all weekend. Also, seeing a recent comment that the next Aetherfest wouldn’t be at that hotel means we can make plans to attend without dreading the hotel. Pablo was also very receptive to the feedback that our First Officer gave him. We appreciate the hard work and positive nature of both hosts.

Despite what we didn’t like some things about how the panels were arranged, it was nice knowing exactly where every panel was and not having to choose between two great panels. You could go to any panel you wanted to go to. This was extremely convenient. It also a lot of fun being part of the Dark Steampunk panel again. There were interested people and some laughter.

Saturday was when most of the fun happened for us, since the majority of Friday was wasted. The Order Birthday Party was great. The Order and Faust came out to give love to The Child. There was chocolate trains and gears, cupcakes, some drinks, and presents. The Child had a good time, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the short but pleasant festivity. Even Darwin Prophet was playing music on the piano for everyone!

It was also really cool having Airship Isabella in the main lobby (Peacock Alley). It seemed like no matter where you were headed, you could stop and say “Hi!” to any number of the ASI crew. Being right in the lobby meant they were often the first steampunks any hotel guests would see and talk to. It drew in some curiosity and possibly attracted new people to the community. In fact, one of our favorite things to do is buy stuff from ASI! Our First Officer had some new commissions to pick up and as always, we loved it! I highly recommend going to ASI for commissions for things like armor, masks, gun holsters, goggles, and top hats (and just about anything). They put a lot of effort, love, and pride into their work and we’ve never been disappointed!

Speaking of ASI, we had a great private talk with Cpt Whittaker and She IS. This meeting was one thing we looked forward to, in order to share ideas and get input on plans for the future. It’s not something we can really talk about at this time, but it’s worth saying that there is a lot of creativity that goes into the community and more to come. We were both flattered and inspired, and we hope to help contribute a lot more to the community in the coming year. It was hard to get him pinned down, but we got our schedules worked out!

We love the idea of VIP passes with perks. At the Emerald City Expo we really enjoyed the dinner (with entertainment) and preferred seating (seats reserved up front at panels and concerts). Despite the disappointments we mentioned earlier in this article, we did still like that there were VIP passes at this convention. It’s nice having one meal that you don’t have to spend on at the convention, since it’s included with your VIP purchase. It was a nice dinner where we could mingle with other Airship Crews. We had a great time!

We also enjoyed the gaming room. The gaming room was nice and cool, so when the lobby and other locations were miserably hot, it was nice to take a break in the gaming room. The Guest Vendors were so welcoming and nice… and in some occasions they were entertainingly silly. On Saturday night a group of us (including Little Beard) enjoyed a card game and let off some steam until about 2am in the morning. It was great that the game room stayed open all night, so people had a place to gather and have a good time without resorting to a cramped hotel room. This also meant that others could just drop in and join the game. This was just an impromptu thing and a fun time!

The auction was another great thing to come out of this convention. Our First Officer Thomas Reinier brought up the idea of having a charity auction and our group COGS (Central Oklahoma Grassland Steamers) decided on Autism Speaks as the charity. He brought the idea to A Steampowered Cause to get it in motion, since we were not prepared to plan it ourselves. There was a lot of work put into it and the auction went very well ($1300 raised)! We’d like to say thank you to Jennifer Anne Rodriguez, Robb Bates, and everyone who donated or bid at the auction!

It was also a surprise and pleasure to find Shane DeFreest at the convention with a press pass. We consider Shane to be a Titan in the rpg industry. We met Shane back in a LARPing club we’d been in for about 10+ years. It was great being able to chat with him about our community and our new hobby of Steampunk. He seemed to really enjoy himself and he fit in well. Our First Officer introduced him to Airship Isabella and we hope they get a chance to talk more! We think he’d be a great asset to the community.

As always, the people are the best part of the convention. We loved mingling and talking with people, making jokes and being utterly silly, getting to know people, and just having fun together. We enjoyed the company of Steam Engine Intrepid (because we love you guys!), Airship Isabella, Airship Aurora, Little Beard, The Loder’s, and many other crews and steamers. Thank you all for making this convention worth it!

In conclusion, we were disappointed but we accomplished the goals we had and greatly enjoyed the people and events. Next year, we are hopeful for something great.


Convention Life

Before we began attending Steampunk Conventions, our crew was in an international LARPing club that held many conventions each year. We’ve been attending conventions for over 10 years, and we’ve been a lot of them. Over the years, we’ve learned how to manage our convention and traveling experiences quite a bit. Now we want to share these tips with you. This may seem like a lot of work, but conventions in general are hard work even if you are only attending to have fun. There are many things that can do wrong that could potentially ruin your experience at an otherwise amazing convention. Putting in the extra effort is well worth it.  We have also attending several conventions with little to no money, so we touch on budgeting concerns here and there as well. This article is geared more towards the convention goers, rather than those organizing or working at conventions. 
Pre-Convention Preparation
There are six topics in this category: check listsfree passespre-registrationtime offpacking, and hotel reservations
Check Lists
Our Captain is in charge of the check lists, and we recommend doing the same. Before we started using check lists, we would forget things all the time, and we were very disorderly. I keep the check list on my phone so I can modify it where ever I am. I start the check list a week prior to the convention. At the top of the list, I notate things that must be done before we leave; such as clean the litter box, put down food and water for the cat, drop off the rent check, etc. Then I notate anything we need to buy for the convention; such as a costume piece I need, snacks for the car ride, a new tube of toothpaste, etc. 
Next in the list is clothing and costuming. I notate which costumes I am bringing, what articles of clothing and accessories go with each costume, and non-costume clothing. This helps me organize what I plan to bring and ensure I don’t forget important parts of my costume. 
For example: 
Car ride – purple pants, white tank top, blanket for ride
Order Costume, Sunday – strapless bra, black tank, white off-shoulder top, black skirt, black undies, black sox, red/black shaw, spike goggles, bracer, neck corset, cross choker, red and black makeup
Captain, Saturday – white gear shirt, black bolt pants, belt, captain’s hat, copper goggles, white sox
Captain, Sunday – white ruffle tank, brown shirt, brown pants, tan and cream scarf, gloves, conductor’s hat, tan sox
Extra bra, extra undies, and 3 pairs of extra sox
Extra clothing – riding pants, black order top
Note that we bring extra clothing. This is important for wardrobe issues and hygiene. 
I also include gun mods (we have names for each one) and anything else we intend to bring with us; such as ID’s, phones, tablets, charger cables, digital camera, Smithsonian magazine (to read on the trip), Toki with googles (our mascot), Patchwork Bag with notepad and pencil, handmade toy (gift for Shy), satellite drive, octopus puppet, sewing bag, etc. 
We actually read over the list before we leave or check off items as they are put into the car. We go over the same check list as we are leaving the convention too. This makes it very hard to forget anything!
In additional to the packing check list, we also like to print out a copy of the convention schedule. We go over it with three highlighters. We mark off panels and events that we absolutely want to attend in one color (pink), mark off things we’d like to check out but are willing to miss (yellow), and then mark off times for meals (blue). This helps us coordinate for getting meals, not missing the stuff we really want to go to, and knowing how late you can sleep in and how late you can go to bed. This isn’t a strict list, it’s just a guide that helps you plan your day and night. 
Free Passes
When you volunteer to work at a Steampunk conventions, or do panels, you can often get free passes. This isn’t the case for every convention and it’s hard work volunteering. So, make sure you discuss the details of what you can do, or the extent of what you are are willing to do, what you will be required to do, and confirm that you’ll get free passes for doing it. This is a great option if you’re on a low budget.
Always pre-register as soon as it’s available, as soon as you have the cash to do it. Pre-registration is when you purchase your entry to the convention ahead of time. This helps the convention with costs in getting the convention started, but more importantly, it saves you some time and trouble later. Pre-registration typically costs less money than the entrance fee at the convention. In additional to that, once we do the pre-registration, we usually have a few (or several) pay days before the actual con to save up money. This is less money you have to spend in one check at one time. Then you save time in the registration line at the convention, which is quicker (you give them your name or ID and they give you your badge and packet and you are done)!
Time Off
Now, if you can afford the time off, we highly recommend taking the day after the convention off. You are going to be very tired, have lots of unpacking and laundry to do. For most cons, the last day is Sunday and we travel back home that day. Sometimes, we get home just in time to go to bed and wake up for work the next morning… but we take that Monday off instead! It gives you time to get some restful sleep, get your laundry done, and get stuff put away. Most importantly, if you catch con crud (get sick) you have an extra day to recover or see the doctor. You’ll appreciate that extra day! 
If you have even more time to spare, it’s a good idea to schedule an extra day off before you leave to travel to the convention, so you have plenty of time to pack. You are less likely to forget things if you have a whole day to pack. If you can’t take that extra day off to pack, then get the packing done the weekend before the convention. You don’t want to pack  right before you leave or the night before. You’ll forget things and packing may take up part of the night in which you could be getting some needed sleep.
Something else we’ve learned about packing, we learned from some military friends. They are great at packing! We were taught to fold our clothes as normal, then roll them up. We have found that this compacts the clothing and gives you more room. You will need to pack your top hats separately in a sturdy box. It’s hard to pack them in suit cases without damaging them or taking up nearly all of the space in the suitcase. Same thing for mods and armor for the same reasons. 
For gun mods, wrap them in cloth (or shirt or towel) in order to protect the paint and accessories on them. In fact, the larger mods that can’t fit into suitcases really need to be covered up for two reasons – protect the paint against trunk damage, and avoid a misunderstanding with cops or pedestrians who see you handling a realistic looking weapon.
Avoid putting luggage in the car as much as possible. If you are cramped on the ride, you’ll hurt. Conventions usually involve a lot of walking, and if you are hurting, this is going to be an unpleasant experience. We traveled from Ohio to Kansas City cramped and ended up with an injured knee and neck (pulled muscle and pinched nerve). Thankfully, this trip was not for a convention, we were moving out of state… but it was very painful and a highly uncomfortable trip. Also, if you have too much packed inside the car, you could obstruct your rear view, which can cause accidents and may even get you a ticket if you get pulled over.
Also, pack the car the day or night before. Don’t wait to pack the car an hour or two before you leave, because you never truly know how long it’s going to take. There are been cases in which we’ve encountered packing issues and it took longer to get everything packed (stupid easel). There have been cases in which packing was done on time, but then we needed to go to an ATM, to the gas station, to the store, and needed to do something else we forgot… this takes extra time. It’s easier to get everything packed the day before.
Also, if you have room always bring an extra pair of pants, an extra shirt, and extra socks and underwear. You never know when you might need an extra pair of clothing and changing your socks and undies will improve hygiene quite a bit.
Hotel Reservations
Now let’s talk about hotel reservations. I’m sure most of you already know that you should reserve your hotel room as soon as you have the dates for the convention, but that’s not all you should do. You should also call the hotel and re-confirm the reservations a few days before heading to the conventions to make sure there are no mistakes. We’ve arrived at hotels to find out they booked us a one bed room for three people, one being a fairly large man. We’ve arrived at hotels that gave us the wrong room pricing and we had to argue which pricing and room we reserved. 
Another thing we recommend, is if you are sharing a hotel room with someone, bring enough money to cover the whole room, get hotel money upfront from all parties and set it aside (include setting aside your own portion), and get your name on the reservation. We have had people who spent all their money and then suddenly couldn’t pay for the room at the end of the con. We’ve had people say they have the money, but in reality they were expecting a friend to give them money but they didn’t, so in turn we didn’t get their portion of the room cost. Now, the main reason why I say they you get your name on the reservation is because if the person who reserved the room doesn’t show up, the hotels will not give you the room if you’re not on the reservation – and if the hotel is booked, you’ll have to find another place. We actually had a convention in which a friend reserved the room and when we got to the hotel, the hotel staff informed us that our friend and her mother died in a car crash. Luckily we had the extra money to cover her part of the room, and thankfully Jess put our names on the reservation (yes, the hotel was completely booked). We broke the news to other friends attending. It was quite an experience that we’ll never forget. In our time going to conventions and the many friends we’ve made, we’ve lost friends to tragedy. There was even a second that happened mid-weekend in New Orleans – but we were not the ones rooming with him. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s better to be safe and prepare for anything. If you just cannot afford it, at least have a backup plan to stay with someone else if your plans fall through at the last minute.
Car Traveling
This brings us to traveling. First and foremost, be safe! Plan for enough time to get to the convention without sacrificing your safety. Don’t speed. If you are tired, pull over and take a nap or get a cheap motel for the night. Getting to the convention on time is NOT worth your life. As people who have been at conventions where friends have died in car accidents, I guarantee you that you will be missed and there will be tears. Even people who don’t know you will be effected. 
So, now that we’ve stressed how important safety is, there are other things to consider for traveling. Make sure to wear something comfortable. Sweats or PJ’s are the best thing to wear on a long trip, whether in a car or plain. You want to be able to sit for long hours without clothing riding, itching, or suffocating you. You want to be able to nap/sleep in your clothing. Don’t worry about how you look, as much as how you feel!
We, also, suggest setting aside gas money and over-estimate the needed gas. Put that money in the glove compartment or somewhere separate from the rest of the con spending cash. This way, you don’t accidentally speed money that you’ll need in order to get back home from the con. 
Also, bring a roll of toilet paper! We have been to cities that no matter where you go, the bathroom is mysteriously out of order. We have been to many establishments that had nasty bathrooms with no toilet paper. In fact, I bring disinfecting wipes because of the many nasty bathroom with no TP or soap I’ve been forced to use during a potty emergency. If you are on a budget, bring some snacks and drinks on the trip to eat between meals. You may find that you spend less on meals because you aren’t as hungry as you would have been if you hadn’t been snacking.
Speaking of emergency potty breaks… it doesn’t matter if you have a small bladder like our Captain or not, everyone should use the bathroom after a meal and during gas station stops. This will help you save time on traveling if you don’t have to stop randomly to let someone go potty. 
If you are traveling in a caravan (a group of people traveling together in more than one car) and don’t heed our warning about safety, and one of you gets pulled over, don’t pull over with them. One cop car can only pull over one car. If you all pull over, you’ll all get tickets. Instead, the car that the cop is signaling should pull over, and the others will take the first exit and wait at the first gas station. When the cop is done, your friend should know to go to the first exit and first gas station to meet up with you. Just remember to tell your friends – don’t assume they know this trick.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a ride on the local Steampunk groups. Other people with a limited budget may have room in their car in exchange for gas money. Some people are just generous and would love the company. Just ask around! If you are going to be ridding with someone, or will be letting someone ride with you, we have some tips! First all, before agreeing to a carpool, you need to ask five questions: 
1) How much gas money do I need to pitch in? Knowing how much money you are expected to pitch in for gas will save you some drama later. You don’t want to assume. You want to be very clear on how much money you can pitch in. 
2) How much room will I have for my luggage? You need to allow for some room for passengers to bring their luggage and be very clear about how much room they will have. Likewise, if you are going to be riding in someone else’s car, only bring what you need that will fit in the room that is available. Be ready to leave behind bigger things that aren’t going to fit. Don’t expect to pack more of your stuff in the car where people will be crowded and inconvenienced with your presence. We’ve been in situations where we allow someone to ride with us and they take up more space than we have. There was one girl who brought a giant painting easel with her and fully expected us to rearrange everyone else’s luggage, including putting some of our luggage into the car to make room for her easel. This made the car ride uncomfortable, caused frustration for everyone else and a feeling of ingratitude, and ensured she was never invited to ride with us again.  On the other hand, if you work out the details with your ride well enough, you might find out you have plenty of room and they may offer ahead of time to rearrange luggage. We’ve ridden with people who had a truck bed and a hitched trailer, so they said they have plenty of room for extra luggage. It’s all about communication and then lightening your load if there isn’t enough space. 
3) Do you smoke? Our Captain is allergic to cigarettes, so smoking is not an option. Rolling down the window helps, but not enough to avoid getting sick and having troubles breathing. We won’t ride with smokers because we don’t expect them to be inconvenienced by us. We warn smokers that there will be ZERO smoking on the ride and we will not be making stops for cigarette breaks, nor will we wait to get back on the ride because you aren’t done with your cigarette. Cigarette breaks and delays are not acceptable to us. So, it’s very important to talk to your ride (or passengers) about smoking. 
4) What are the plans for stopping for breaks, food, and/or sleeping? If the driver plans to get a motel during the night to rest, then the passengers need to know so they can bring money for a motel, or decline going if they just don’t have money for one. If the driver plans to bring their own food and isn’t going to be stopping for food breaks, then passengers need to know. You shouldn’t expect passengers to bring their own food or to starve during the trip, so make sure to talk them about the plan. If you have special dietary needs, make sure to bring it up to the driver, so they understand that you may not be able to eat just anywhere or might need to make special stops. Also, if you choose not to bring food or snacks on the ride, don’t ask others to share. If they can afford to share, they’ll offer it. Otherwise, you should plan to bring your own snacks. If the driver intends to not stop for bathroom breaks, this is a deal breaker for our Captain! Captain Coppertop has a small bladder and a blood sugar condition. While she avoids drinking as much as she can, she usually can’t go more than 3 hours (more if we’re lucky) without a bathroom break. These are all very important things to consider. A smoker with a small bladder who is eating all your snacks is going to be a miserable riding companion and long trip!
5) Does your car have air conditioning (or heating in the winter)? You should bring a jacket, a shaw, or a light blanket with you on the trip. We’ve been on group trips in which passengers fought over the A/C because one person in the car is too cold, and everyone else is hot and sweaty. It’s not pleasant riding in the car with three sweaty stinky men. It’s not fun being the one who is freezing either. It’s been our experience that the best way to deal with this situation is to have the A/C running and then bundle up if you get cold. It’s not a secret that our crew is spoiled… if there is no A/C we ain’t going! So be sure to ask if there is A/C and if the driver plans to have is running. 
Speaking of stinky passengers… if you have issues with gas, please bring some gassex! In fact, even if you don’t have gas problem, we suggest bringing some gassex just in case a flatulent passenger forget it. No one wants to be crop dusted on a long trip!
Bus Traveling
We never bus unless it’s less than an eight hour trip. We’ve had terrible experiences with greyhound. Bus bathrooms are DISGUSTING. Pee-pee splattered all over and sticky… ewww. Also, the stops they make along the way are not long enough to use the bathroom unless you are first in line (because everyone on the bus needs to go) and you have very little time to get food. The bus is cramped. There are screaming children who never stop crying. There are crazy people who mumble incoherently. There are bums and drunks who smell bad. There are often no seats available together, so you can’t sit with your spouse and get crammed next to some large man or woman. It seems like a majority of buses have broken A/C or heaters. We find that an uncomfortable trip is worth not going at all. We don’t recommend the bus unless it’s a very short trip.
Airline Traveling
If you are like us, we love to fly when we can afford it. Sure the seating can be like buses in that they aren’t that big… but flying is way more comfortable and a quicker way to travel. If you order tickets together, you’ll get assigned seating together. You don’t get as many of the creepy smelly people on planes because it’s to expensive for bums and airlines are far too suspicious of “crazy” people. The bathrooms are far cleaner. There are stewardesses who are usually very nice (you get the occasional cranky one). And you get to look out at the beautiful scenery outside the window! 
So, if you choose to fly, here are some tips. Plan your flight early. The earlier on you get your tickets, the less they cost. Also, plan for a flight that leaves earlier than you need. You never know when a flight will be delayed due to weather or other issues. We were on a flight that got caught in a lightening storm and it was a VERY bumpy ride. It was frightening and we had to take a detour out of the storm and around the whole thing. Our friends who were traveling in the same direction were delayed because of this storm and their flight was much later than ours. We’ve also been on a flight where ice crystal had formed on the wings of the plane and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a heat pad and then wait 15 minutes while the heat pad defrosted the plane. They can’t take off with ice on the wings!
Airlines tell you to be there an hour early. Leave an hour earlier than that. If your flight is at 9am, you need to be there by 8am, so you leave at 7am. If you can leave even an hour earlier, you should! Also, make sure everything is packed and in the car the day before. There are a million things that can make you late for your flight. In our experience, being late means you miss your flight. Once you get to the airport, you have to compete with traffic. You have to get in line to check your luggage. You have to figure out where your gate is and it’s going to be a lengthy walk. We’ve had gates that took 15 minutes to walk to! We’ve gone to the wrong gate and had to walk again to the correct gate, taking 25 minutes for the whole walk about. Not to mention security!
Check the expiration date on your ID! We had once flight in which we traveled to Louisiana. The Captain’s ID was not expired when we flew out… but on the flight back home it was expired. They do not accept expired ID’s on a flight. Luckily, a security manager approved me for the flight since it was a return flight and my ID had just expired the day before. Not all security management is that nice. Some of them are super strict and won’t make any exceptions. So, make sure your expiration date isn’t up before or during your trip. And don’t forget to bring your ID!
If you feel tempted to make terrorist and bombing jokes… don’t. Security does NOT have a sense of humor. You will not only be detained and will not be on your flight, but you will be black listed and can never fly on any airplane ever again…. EVER. If you think it’s a myth… why test it? Is it worth never having the comfort of flying again, just for a joke?
You have to wait in a long line for the security check point. You have take off your shoes, jewelry, empty pockets. You go through a metal detector and sometimes you get patted down. If any alarms goes off, don’t get freaked out. It’s usually some forgotten pocket change, and they just pat you down. It’s fairly quick and easy – not much different than being pat down by security at a music concert. 
You often have to pull laptops and bottles and other things out of bags. Sometimes they open your bags and search the entire thing. Sometimes they ask you questions about the contents you are carrying. Don’t get nervous, it’s usually just weird stuff that you can’t carry-on but you have it checked with your luggage. They might have to check some items for you or might have to throw away some shampoo bottles. 

3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

If in doubt, put your liquids in checked luggage.

Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.
Make sure sharp objects and tools are packed in checked luggage. Sharp objects (swords, axes, and knives included) must be sheathed or wrapped to prevent damage/injury. Sporting goods also must be in checked luggage, and armor can easily fall into this category. Yes, you can bring your gun mods and fake pistols on your flight, but put them into checked luggage. 
You cannot check nor carry-on flammable liquid, gel, aerosol paint, spray paint, dangerous chemicals, and explosive material (this includes realistic replicas, blasting caps, gun powder, and percussion caps).
Canned or jarred foods, oils, drinks, lotions, and perfumes (and snow globes) that are more than 3.4 oz must be checked into luggage, or they’ll may you throw it away. 

For more information, see the TSA website:
Most hotels have shuttle services for picking up and dropping off guests at the airport. These are scheduled, so make sure you call the hotel ahead of time to schedule a pick up. 
Hotel Rooms

Now that we’ve covered a lot of pre-con topics, including a lot on traveling, we want to cover sharing hotel rooms. Like with sharing gas costs, you want to get room money upfront and set the total amount away from the rest of the spending cash. Like we mentioned before, you should always try to bring enough money to cover the cost of the room on your own, because there are many ways you could get stiffed. Since the reservation is in your name, you’ll be ultimately responsible for any left over balance. We’ve had roommates mismanage their funds, give us excuses, choose to room with someone else at the last second because they hooked up with a guy, and in the worse case we have experienced, died in a car crash. 
Remember when we said that having the reservation in your name means you are responsible for any left over balance? If you are rooming with someone, stay out of the mini bar, don’t order room service, don’t order movies on the tv, and don’t steal anything from the hotel room. All of these things will be charged to the credit card that is on the reservation. Yes, hotels will charge your for missing pillows, towels, blankets, tv remotes, and other missing items. Don’t think you can’t be found and sued for charges you leave your roommate with. 
As a courtesy, you should always get dressed in the bathroom with the door closed.  You should dress in the bathroom even if no one else is in the room, because you never know when someone will walk in. Now if you are close or very familiar with your roommates and you have an understanding that no one in the room is modest, then it’s not an issue.
Also, if you are rooming with people you don’t know very well, you should avoid having sleep over guests, socks on doors, and arranging room parties. Most con goers know that putting a sock on the door is a signal that you are partaking in sexual activities. It can be very disrespectful and inconvenient if you are preventing your roommates from going to bed at night, getting a mid-day nap, or getting into the room to change into costume or to retrieve money for food.
Our crew is very close, so we have no reservations about discussing these sorts of things. If you are fairly familiar with your roommates, discuss the “sock” rules and party rules – such as time restrictions, bed times, etc. For us, we generally arrange room parties with each other first, so everyone is in agreement. We also have a rule that if an hour passes and the sock is still on the door, we will enter the room anyway. We’ve been in situations where roommates have forgotten to take the sock off the door and then gone to bed!
Room Parties
While we are on the topic of room parties, we’ll give some tips. If you go to a room party, it’s customary to either donate money to the booze fund, bring a bottle of something to contribute to the booze table, or bring your own drinks. Don’t show up empty handed and drink all the booze! If you don’t have anything to contribute and are still offered to drink, be respectfully modest and not down a whole bottle of rum or drink a whole case of beer. 
Also, if you can’t hold your liquor, don’t drink too much. No one wants to clean up after your puke, or console your drunken self-pitty sobs, or deal with an aggressive, mean, or violent drunk. You can easily get yourself kicked out of the party, not invited to another one, and even earn yourself a bad reputation in general. Happy drinkers are welcome!  Also, don’t expect other people to babysit you. No one should have to monitor your drinking or behavior. 
Now, keep in mind that if the party gets too loud, the hotel can have it shut down. Don’t blast the music up. Don’t raise your voice to a yell. Try to remember to keep it down. We, also, highly recommend carding the younger party goers. We’ve been to a party where a 17 year old drank so much that he got alcohol poisoning and had to be taken to the hospital. No one knew he was a teenager. 
The biggest thing to remember, is that room parties are for fun! Don’t bring drama to the party and don’t cause any drama. Don’t air your dirty laundry out in front of everyone. It’s disrespectful to everyone at the party if you are screaming at someone and then sobbing in a corner. If you are upset, leave the party, take the confrontation somewhere else. If you are in a bad mood, don’t bring down the mood of the party by hanging around sulking. It may seem cold hearted, but no one goes to a party to deal with your personal drama and no one wants to be your babysitter or emotional handler. When you go to a room party, you go to have fun. It’s as simple as that. 
Cleaning & Packing
The last day of the convention is the most tired you’ll feel. You won’t want to pack or clean but you have to… unless you do what we’ve learned to do. When you’re not in a hurry, put items back into suitcases where they belong and refold your clothing back into the suitcase when you are done with them. At night, before going to bed or before heading to a room party, pick up trash and put things away into bags and suitcases. The more orderly you keep your luggage and room, then less cleaning and packing you’ll need to do on sunday. On Saturday night, we get the majority of all the packing and cleaning done so that when we wake up in the morning feeling worn and tired (possibly sick if anyone caught con crud), it’s not so bad!
Remember our first tip about check lists in Pre-Convention Preparations? Take a look at your packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything. Also, check under the bed, shake out the bed covers, look under pillows, look on the table/bed stands, look around the tv stand, double check the closet, and double check the bathroom around the shower/tub, around the toilet, under and on the counter. Check behind the chair for good measure. It doesn’t hurt to be thorough! 
We once got a call from a fellow COGS group member who left their tablet at the hotel and had already left for their flight. They asked the hotel to give it to us to transport back to them and in exchange we got a free dinner in gratitude! If you forget something, contact someone at the convention and make arrangements. Otherwise, hotels are usually willing to make pickup or mailing arrangements (within reason).
This section will cover health tips: Food, Walking, Con Crud & Hygiene.
We recommend having snacks and some drinks stored in your hotel room. You may find that near by food places close at strange hours, or the vending machine and soda machines are sold out. It’s been our experience that vending and soda machine run out of stock very quickly during conventions. It may be late, maybe you had to missed dinner, and your just too tired to go out for food. Order pizza! The hotel usually has a list of pizza and delivery places near by. If you can’t afford it or there isn’t a pizza place (which has happened), you might not have any options. Having snacks and drinks in the room will be very much appreciated at the end of the night. 
Another delima we’ve experienced is awful dining. You go out to some diner or place nearby and the food is terrible. If you are on a budget, you can’t just waste your money going to more than one place. Or maybe this is the only place open for dinner that you can afford. having that snack at the hotel will be extra tasty!
Also, being able to grab a quick snack between meals when you up in the hotel room getting changed, fetching something, or taking a nap will help you keep your strength up. You’ll be burning a lot of energy running around the convention. So, even if you don’t have snacks in your room, stop by the vending machines from time to time.
If you are on a budget, avoid dining at the hotel restaurant. They are usually pricey, but feel free to look at the menu. They do usually have good breakfast buffets at a reasonable cost. When we aren’t on a tight budget, we enjoy eating at the restaurant. It’s nice not to have to drive anywhere.
If your budget is super tight, bring a cooler with food and drinks so you don’t have to spend on many meals. Other options depend on what’s available, but the dollar menu at Mc Donalds and Wend’sy, and Tacobell are some of the cheapest places.
A lot of hotels have shuttle services that you can schedule to give you a ride downtown and pick you up.  shuttle services for picking up and dropping off guests at the airport. These are scheduled, so make sure you call the hotel ahead of time to schedule a pick up. 

There is an awful lot of walking at conventions. The amount of walking around can be enough to even get slender fit people tired and sore. Us less fit individuals have found a great way to help relieve pain and increase endurance. Obviously, you should try getting a bit of extra exercise the few weeks before the con to get your endurance up, but there are easier ways. For one, go to panels regularly! You get to sit for 30 minutes to an hour while you enjoy the panels that the convention has to offer. Also, make time for a nap or a few naps here and there. 
Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated, so you can keep your energy up. All that walking could dehydrate you and make you more susceptible to con crud (getting sick). And don’t forget to eat regularly! You can’t keep yourself well and energetic without food and water.
Our biggest secret is Tylenol Arthritis pain medication. You can get it over the counter at Walmart. We take two a day and helps a whole lot!
Con Crud & Hygiene
There are a lot of people from all over that go to conventions. If even one person shows up sick, it gets around. This a con crud. People shake hands, hug, and talk all day. People could be sick and not now it, because some illnesses have a gestation period in which you are contagious but have no symptoms. So you could be making people sick without knowing it. Now, you could just not shake hands, hugs, or talk… but that’s not very fun! So, here are some better tips for avoiding con crud. 
Like we mentioned in the above section, drink lots of water and eat regularly. If you get dehydrated and weak, it will make you more susceptible to con crud. 
Our crew takes vitamin C and Zinc every morning of the convention. These are vitamins that boost your health!
Another tip to avoiding con crud is just being clean in generally. No one wants to be around a sweaty stinky con goer! Take regular showers and reply deodorant often. We have found that you can purchase clinical strength deodorant over the counter from brands like Secret , Degree, Dove, Gillette, etc. We (both male and female crew members) have used this stuff and it’s fan-frickin-tastic! It keeps you protected for HOURS. We like to bring it with us around the con floor in a bag so we can re-apply later in the day… if we even need it. 
Speaking of showers, if you can sneak in a shower before meals and change your delicates out, you’ll be avoiding infection, odor, and con crud too. Another tip is to shower BEFORE bed, not just in the morning. You want to be clean and dry and wash off all the germs you may have picked up while out on the con floor. 
Bring several pairs of CLEAN undies, bras, and socks, and then make time to change them out a few times during the day.

You can also use Fabreeze on clothing to help minimize body odor and embarrassment – and it saves life long friendships from suffering the wrath of Steamfunk (a term used by Cpt. Whittaker).