I see this question a lot on forums and boards in regard to anime and comic conventions, and so, I decided to give a personal ( hopefully ) helpful list of things to carry along for your first con experience. I find that for these items, as well the rest, a list that you check off is the easiest way to ensure you have what needs to be packed.
The Basics: Naturally you will want to carry the basics, clothing, PJ’s, undies, and toiletries (PLEASE PLEASE don’t forget or skimp on the deodorant or the shampoo/soap! ). In this I will just move along, since basic packing is like any other trip you intend to take.
Extras: Some of these aren’t necessity and some are very much so, but these are usually things people overlook or forget, or that might come in handy in a pinch.
Snacks and Water: This is VERY important to remember and fairly easy to pack. Keep in mind that time flies at a convention because you are in constant motion from one panel to the next, or browsing artist allies, dealers rooms, or scouting out cosplayers. During that vanishing time, it is so easy to forget the basics, because your mind is everywhere else. I see so many reports of people who collapse from lack of food or dehydration because they get lost in the experience and weren’t prepared, or outright skipped meals. (I’m guilty of the meal skipping myself) Good items that are filling, compact, and pack a nice energy boost are dried fruits, fruit snacks, power bars (like Luna), granola bars, and breakfast bars. Stash a couple in your carry bag you intend to have with you when walking, so that when you start to feel tired, or light headed, or even just on the move, you can nibble on one and conserve that energy. Bottled water is also a must! I personally prefer to get the mini water bottles, and stash one in my bag. When it empties, I can just refill it at the next water fountain. The smaller bottle fits nicely in bag or purse, and is light to carry, making it all the easier to stay hydrated throughout your convention high.
Germ X/Wipes/Antibacterial: Conventions are breeding grounds for everything under the sun. Many people come sick, or don’t realize they have a cold or flu prior, and with hundreds (or more) people opening doors, touching elevator buttons and guard rails, something small to sanitize your hands is a good way to keep sickness at bay and ensure you don’t fall ill and miss out on the wonderful events and people conventions have to offer.
A Pillow: This is a personal thing really…I always sleep better taking my own pillow, and it really helps my back on a long drive to faraway conventions.
Coffee Maker/Own Coffee: Another personal one for me is taking my own coffee maker because they NEVER have enough coffee in hotel rooms despite booking with four people in a room. Seriously…two cups for four mornings? Not happening! It’s also cheaper than buying coffee shop coffee every time you need a caffeine boost or a hot cup of joe at colder seasoned conventions. A little more hassle, but a true money saver. This is something to consider for conventions you are driving to, not for those you intend to fly for.
Media: It’s always good to take not only your phone, but your camera as well. It’s also helpful to have a extra set of batteries, a extra memory card, and all of your power cords so that when you are chilling in your room after the days events, everything can recharge as well.
Cash: Keep in mind not all vendors, dealers, or workshop panels accept cards. So it is always a good idea to hit the bank before leaving for the convention, mostly because the ATM’s at the conventions run out of cash FAST. Smaller bills like 20’s, 10’s, and 5’s are ideal and much easier to break than a 50 or 100.
First AID Kit: I always take a mini first aid kit in case of minor cuts, scrapes, or the odd event. It’s better to be prepared than not, and while it makes your purse a little heavier in travel, it makes sure germs stay out in case accidents happen. It’s also a good idea to take a bottle of Tylenol or aspirin if you are prone to headaches as one of my friends tends to be. There is a lot of noise and light changes going on around you, complete with camera flashes, and a pain reliever will help if a headache does come along.
Planner: If you don’t have one on your phone, these are wonderful to have to map out what events, movies, panels, etc. you would like to attend so that you don’t forget something that you would be upset at missing.
Cosplay: For those who are cosplaying, naturally you will want to double check that you have your costume, wig, shoes, and extras/props ready for the convention, but there are some helpful small things that can make a disaster into only a inconvenience of time.
Mini Sewing/Travel Sewing Kit: These things are a blessing! Small, compact, and generally holding everything needed in case something comes off, tears, and comes unstitched on your cosplay costume. The safety pins also comes in handy if you realize you’ve lost some weight to keep everything fitting nicely until you can alter it properly.
Makeup: Granted, not all cosplay is a female character, however, some basics for even cross-players come in handy for photo ops and sudden unexpected issues. A good concealer is always wonderful to even out skin tone, or hide away a sudden break out or spot that might make you self conscious and have you always having pictures taken of one side. You only need a little and then dust very lightly a bit of powder to set the concealer and take away the shine your skin might give in a camera flash. I usually take Ben Nye, but Covergirl has some small easy concealers that work well too. A faint brush of a bronze or toned color along your facial line helps as well in highlighting cheeks to lessen a blank appearance. Another good thing to carry along, is white eyeliner. Why? Well if you are like me and weren’t born with larger anglican eyes, but instead have cat/slanted/slightly slanted eyes, white eyeliner allows you to get the subtle illusion of larger doe eyes seen in most anime characters. Just run a line of the white along your water line, and follow with a blond or chestnut liner just along your lash line to darken that surface naturally. Combined with doll eye contacts, you can easily make your eyes pop and give the appearance of large, natural anime eyes.
Eye Drops: This is for those who are using contacts. Try to stash a small bottle of blink away eye drops to keep your eyes moist and your contacts feeling comfy. It’s small and easy to carry and will make a huge difference after watching a new release without blinking! Paint It White….you did this to me even with the drops!
Lighted Mirror: This is a personal choice for me since I usually attend with a group and there are four of us to a room. Mirror space becomes limited and the lighting in a room is usually dull, so taking a table mirror with lights helps to keep things calm, and everyone ready to rock the convention in a timely manner.
Hair Pins/Wig Caps: Hair pins are also a blessing if you are wearing a wig or using your natural hair. Why? Because they help to keep a wig cap in place if you are wearing a wig, or to keep the random wtf hairs in line with your natural hair for a specific style. I use my natural hair to cosplay Duo Maxwell, but have to add extensions to get it as long as needed, so hair pins allow me to make sure the braid stays nice and neat without a mess. Wig caps are a must if you are using a wig as well, because it evens out your head and hides most if not all of your hair.
Hair Spray/Root Lifter: Wonderful for those using your natural hair to keep it looking good. The root lifter is great for bang styles because it lifts your bangs a little so they naturally fall in a anime like arc without thick spiking gels.
Tide Wipes: I always take these darn things because if you spill something on a lighter color cosplay, they easily dab away the substance and don’t let it sit in to stain. Your costume stays safe and pristine and your stress level drops back to zero.
Ace Bandage/Sports Bra/Chest Binders: These are great for women who are doing cross-play. They help to flatten your chest for a male character and still keep you modest and comfortable if done correctly. I personally prefer the binders, which while they will cost a pretty penny, they are also the easiest to put on and adjust for comfort.
Yourself: Remember, a convention is a place for you to meet and greet people of the same interests, and to enjoy to the fullest mediums you have come to love. It’s a great place to make friends, get awesome items and art, see new shows and movies, and learn amazing new techniques for art and cosplay. Don’t forget your manners, common sense, and treat everyone with respect and dignity. They are there for fun just as you are. Try not to be loud, because while conventions are fun, not everyone is a convention attendee, so be respectful of the areas, restaurants, streets, and the hotels. Don’t be insulted if your picture isn’t taken, it happens a lot, but that’s because everyone is moving so fast, and there are so many people that attend. Don’t be insulted if someone wants your picture or a hug. The people asking are giving you a SEVERE compliment on your cosplay and choice of character, so be nice, step out of major traffic areas, and let them get a photo. If you are the person wanting a hug or a photo, be polite and ask, because from personal experience, it’s never fun to go back to your room with bruises from flying glomps! Remember to take your smile, your cheer, and your enthusiasm. They will get you a long way and make your first convention experience one that is fond to remember.
Best Wishes! =^.~= Feel free to add to this list if you think of something I might have missed!