The summer comic convention circuit is in full swing, with SDCC in progress, NYCC coming soon, and multiple regional conventions hitting in the next three months. If you’ve read what I write in the past year, you know I’m a Salt Lake City resident, which means my con of choice is Salt Lake Comic Con, which has quickly become one of the top five conventions in the US. In the events that I’ve attended, my son (pictured below with another parent-child pair) has attended with me, and now his little brother is getting big enough to attend and enjoy as well. Thanks to that, I’ve picked up some tricks that other parents could use for attending similar shows.
1. Come prepared.
This one might seem like a no-brainer. And it is, but not enough people think of it.
Bring hearty snacks. Bring water/juice. Bring plenty of personal hygiene items (especially wipes). BRING HAND SANITIZER. There are a ton of people present, and you will not want to be missing them when you’re in the middle of the floor, and the kiddo needs you. A personal favorite of mine is shelf stable milk. Most grocery stores carry it, and it’s a godsend. It’s enough to keep a kiddo hydrated and fill their little belly.
Also, if your kids are in diapers still, I cannot stress enough OVERPACK diapers and wipes. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but it needs to be said.
2. Use a stroller.
My little guy barely left his stroller the whole time he was most events we attended at the convention. Thankfully he was cool with that. These conventions are so full of people that you do not want to lose your kid. SLCC was smart enough to write your phone number on the inside of your child’s armband, however, you do not want to experience that level of pants-peeing terror.
Another plus, those little feet get tired. A stroller will keep them off their feet, which means less complaining. It also gives them a great little place to nap if they need it. A plus for a parent? Storage space under the stroller for your supplies and swag.
If you have a jogging stroller, I’d actually recommend that over a standard four-wheeled type. The front is more narrow, which makes navigating tight crowds easier, and it’s much more maneuverable.
Do not take a double-wide stroller though. The aisles are too narrow and the crowds are too dense. If you need a two-seater, use the single width types.
3. Keep your camera ready.
You definitely want your camera app or digital camera at the ready at any moment. Why?
4. Bring a blank sketchbook.
It’ll cost you only a few dollars at Michaels, but the memories will be amazing. The majority of the artists present LOVE sketching for kids. Some aren’t doing sketches, and that’s okay. However, many will do it for a minimal amount or even free.
An important disclaimer though- these artists are there to sell their wares just as much as they are to interact with their fans. It’s great if they’re willing to do it for free, but always be willing to buy something, even if you buy a print or comic from them, if they refuse payment for the sketch.
5. Attend panels.
You may think that kiddos will get bored, and you’re probably right. However, panels give you time off your feet, get your crew away from the crowded floor, and somewhere relatively quiet in comparison. Guess what else is true about panel rooms? The lights are usually dimmed. Know what that means?
Yes, if you need a rest, attending a panel is the perfect thing to do.
6. Plan time for the kids areas.
A lot of cons will feature a kids area. This usually includes arts and crafts, physical activities, and assorted other things that children will love. My little guys got to interact with some Star Wars astromechs and had a ball. Spend time there and let your kids get wiggles out and have fun. The other stuff out of the floor, that’s fun, but it’s not geared towards them. This is, and they deserve to spend that time.
7. Plan a budget for your child.
More than likely, you and your kids will run into something they want to purchase. If you plan a budget ($10-25) that means both you and them will not break the bank. They will see toys, art, apparel, movies, etc. and by setting that budget beforehand, they know that they need to be selective and only purchase the things they really want.
8. Sometimes you have to go by their schedule, not yours.
I know you want to attend that panel with the Firefly alumni. I know you want to see the Lego Star Wars diorama. But unless you’ve paid money for something on your schedule, it’s expendable. I learned that the hard way the first time I attended.
9. Most importantly, have fun!
I don’t even have to expound on that. Just have fun, and they will too.
So there’s a few things I’ve learned. Do you have any of your own to add?
All photos are the author’s and should not be used without his permission
feature image of Sean @MCM Ireland Comic Con 2017, picture courtesy of Paula Wiseman.