Ultimate Guide to Surviving Your First Anime Convention

Let’s say that it’s almost time for that anime convention that you’ve been waiting for since you left the last one. Or maybe it’s your first time even going to an anime convention. Here’s a complete guide that will let you know everything about anime cons and the best way to prepare!

What is an anime convention?


An anime convention (“anime con” for short) is a formally-organized gathering of anime fans, who get together for a few days at a hotel or city convention center and share their enthusiasm for anime. To see what anime cons are coming to your area, Google Anime Conventions.


What do people do at Anime cons?

There are many things to do at an anime convention!

  • Guests


At anime cons there is usually a line up of Guests. These Guests may have been voice actors for some of your favorite animes, authors, companies or even creators. Usually you’ll wait in a long line depending on how many people are there to have them sign an autograph for you, or luckily take a picture with them. Before going to a con be sure to check out the Guests list online. The convention website is probably loaded with a group of Guest that you’re looking for listing the work that they have done. Just remember to not get too excited when meeting these people. (Although we’re sure many people do! ^_^]

  • Shopping

     animeconshop2 animeconshop4
    A convention really isn’t a convention if there’s no shopping involved! At most cons you’ll find a huge room full of different tables with people selling awesome stuff. This room is usually called the Dealer’s Room. You can find anything and everything here ranging from fan art, otaku pillows, clothes, and kawaii huggable stuffed animals!

  • Panels

    Panels at a convention are pretty great, especially if they’re about anime. The panels may vary from anything discussing bad to good cosplays, calligraphy lessons, video games and even why your favorite anime sucks.


  • Masquerades


Most conventions have some sort of cosplay masquerade. the masquerades have a line up of different cosplayers going up on stage and possibly presenting a little skit for viewers to watch. There are even usually contests to see who has the best cosplay and lolita dress. Winners may take home some sweet Anime swag.

  • Cosplay

    cosplayers cosplayers3

With any good anime convention come the many, many cosplayers. Cosplayers are the people that you see dressed as Anime/Videogame/Comic characters. Many conventions run competitions for the best costume, or for the best skit as performed by players in costume.  You can find large groups of characters from an anime usually outside for a photo shoot.  Grab as many pictures of awesome cosplays as you can!

  • Rave/Dance/Concert

    danceraveMost of the larger Anime conventions will offer a rave Friday night and a huge dance on Saturday evening. These things are fun! Although there is mostly techno and j/k-pop being played there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Go ahead, dance with Pikachu. I know you’ve always dreamed about it. Along with dance music and a DJ sometime there will be guest performers. Most likely performers that sing the opening to one of the most popular animes being played on Cartoon Network.




    There’s usually a screening going on somewhere at the con. Most of the time these will be either really well hyped animes, underground works or even AMV contest entries. Guests at the cons may even show you a bit of their previous works.

    Role-Playing and Video Games


    Cons most likely feature a Role-Playing room where you can go and play various Role Playing board games. (like Dungeons and Dragons] You can usually find an arcade at an anime con. The arcade usually consist of home brought gaming systems and arcade systems. You can most typically find a group gathered around a PS3 playing popular fighting games such as Streetfighter/Tekken and a DDR dance machine.

Now that you know what an anime convention is and what there is to do, you’re wanting to go to one! First things first, check out local anime con in your area.

Animecons.com is going to be your best friend.

This website here has the largest list of anime conventions going on in the world! It’s not uncommon to travel a state or two for an anime con.  Some people even travel globally just for a convention.  If this is your first Anime Convention, I recommend going to one locally or more closer to your area.  I live in Racine, WI and the first anime con that I went to was Anime Central.  Not too far from here.  Anime Central,(ACen) is the Midwest’s largest anime convention. Anime Central is located in Rosemont IL which is just a train ride away and a couple of bus transfers away. ^_^

Traveling for a Con

This is one of the more important sections of this guide.  If you know that you’re going to have to do a bit of traveling, be prepared!  Plan your transportation in more than one step, as in always have a plan B.  I recommend traveling with someone or a group. Search the surrounding area online to see where you can go if you need something.  It’s also safe to check out anime forums (cosplay.com comes to mind) and even the main convention website to find any information about the area and directions. Lots of the time on forums, others have been to the con that you’re planning on going to and will give their advice.  Make sure you know your route to get there!

Directions are so important to have. Worse case scenario: You arrive at the train station. The train is late arriving to the station. YOU end up getting confused because an announcement is made saying that a replacement train will stop at the spots that your train will stop at.  You ride that train.  The train doesn’t stop at your stop. You get completely lost and have no clue what to do.  You izz lost!

Don’t let that happen to you.  Know your stops/detours/transportation options before you do something that you are unsure about.  See where having an extra person with you comes in handy?  Even if someone knows a bit about the area that helps extremely. Before you leave the house or make reservations anywhere, print directions.  Call and double check with your form of transportation to see if the directions on MapQuest is correct. See if your hotel offers a shuttle service to pick you up from an airport or train station. Ask to make sure the bus is going to stop at the stop that you need to get off at before stepping on. GPS sometimes will even goof up. Always always ALWAYS make sure that you have back-up plans. If you end up unsure about how to get somewhere, maybe take a Taxi.  Have printed directions to the convention and your hotel on you at all times.


Hotels are something that you should have taken care of way before the convention date. Reserving your rooms early will eliminate the stress level and grant you with peace of mind.  The anime convention website usually will have a list of the closest hotels in the surrounding area. There are hotels that tons of con-goers have stayed at and most of these hotels are recommended based on user opinions.  The downside is that lost of these hotels are extremely expensive! For ACen which is hosted at the Donald E Stephens convention center in Rosemont IL, has a hotel built in called the Hyatt. The Hyatt can range from anywhere $200 and up for just a night.  So it’s all what you’re looking for.  Is location more important than affordability?

If you do pick a hotel that isn’t on location of the convention, check to make sure how much parking is.  Most hotels offer free parking that are off location of the convention center.  And if you’re not driving, make sure that the hotel has a shuttle that will take you to the convention or at least if there is a bus route that’s easy to take.


Make sure to reserve hotel rooms asap!  They will all book up very quickly as the convention time starts to close in. I recommend booking a room at least 4-5 months in advance. This gives you time to guarantee that your room will be saved, check out reviews on the hotel, find the best route to get there and it will give you most importantly, peace of mind.  The Anime con website may offer a special group rate in which under certain hotels you let them know while reserving that you are in that group and there may be a certain pricing offer.  It’s only available on a first come first serve basis. If you miss that window of opportunity then you’re expected to pay regular rate.

If the hotel provides, make good use of the amenities.  If there’s a mini fridge available, ask for it.  Some other amenities that may be offered could be a microwave, iron and ironing board, mini fridge, rollaway bed (good for last minute people that decide that they want to come to the con or those that dread sleeping on the floor), and even ice boxes.  Don’t go overboard with packing food. Most hotels have a ton of restaurants nearby that will deliver to your door. Every hotel operates differently.

Make sure that you call the hotel and get any information that you need. Confirm that you’re going to have your room.  Ask for the best route to take or a for a map to be emailed to you.  Be sure there’s a shuttle.  Is there a bistro/restaurant/mini-mart?  Room service? Is there a breakfast meal served?  Are they aware of the anime convention group? Is there a special quiet time on the floor you’re staying on?  Are they able to let you get into your room earlier than your check-in time.  Could they hold your luggage for an extra 3 hours on Sunday? Do you have to be 21 to reserve a room at the hotel? Any questions that you can possibly think of, ask.


Okay one of the most important things to attending an anime con is cosplay.  Decide if you want to cosplay for the convention or not.  I’ll say that about 1/3 of con attendees do cosplay. If cosplaying is not for you, no problem. Don’t worry about it at all. But I will say that you might want to suggest it.


Cosplay (short for costume play) is the art of representing a character or idea. With many Anime and Manga fans, cosplay is very common. Cosplayers often dress up as Anime/Sci-Fi/Video Game characters at special conventions. Cosplay may be done professional for a photo-shoot, or just for fun.

Who should cosplay?

I cosplay at Anime Conventions. It’s fun to cosplay because you’re just having fun dressing up as your character. Some people take it way too seriously and believe that only professionals should be cosplaying. So what! If you’re going to cosplay, do it and make sure that you’re having fun.Of course some cosplays are much better than others, but do not let that discourage you. I recommend cosplaying at anime conventions because you will see many other people in their cosplays and it’ll make you want to. XD

What if I don’t look like the character?

So what!

There are going to be mean and ignorant people out there that will make sure that you know that you don’t look like your cosplay. Do not let that get you down at all. There are many cosplayers that are plus size and non-Asian that do an amazing job at their cosplays! If the character that you would like to cosplay doesn’t look like you don’t feel that you can’t be that character. You love them and that’s all that should matter.

Some people look for perfection and need to only cosplay characters that they do look like. I just have to say that these people should be more open-minded and go for something out of the box. Just because you’re shorter or darker skin toned than your character over look that. If you have a good personality and can get into your character, people will completely overlook that. Stop thinking about what you can’t do and SHOW people what you CAN do! Here are some amazing cosplayers that do what they do regardless of their size or skin color:

Where do I get my cosplay costume from?

There are many places online where you can order cosplays.  Lots of cosplayers actually make their own cosplays with sewing and finding like pieces.  You could possibly find a neighborhood boutique that will custom create the cosplay of your dreams.  It’s really up to you though. Would you like to have the costume already created for you or make it yourself?

Ordering Cosplay

Ordering cosplay online seems to be the easiest method of getting your cosplay. The most work you’d have to do is first find research on the seller that you’re wanting to buy from and taking measurements.

It’s important to check out reviews on the cosplay seller that you are wanting to order from BEFORE you purchase! Lots of places online where you can buy cosplay from will be international wholesale sellers. What this means is that the seller ships mostly bulk warehouse items from overseas.  Don’t get me wrong, not all wholesale sellers are bad. Some of them deliver great quality costumes and have good communication. It’s the lower rating ones that you want to watch out for. I recommend checking out a forum thread on cosplay.com sellers before cashing out.

My experience with ordering cosplay hasn’t been as horrifying as others have experience. The first cosplay that I ordered was a Shuffle! school uniform from CosplaySky.com.  I do recommend his seller. The outfit that I ordered looked exactly how it was pictured! The only thing that I did differently when I received it was to replace the white ribbon on the hat with brown as in the anime. Here are pictures to compare what I ordered to what it came out to be;


Not the best pictures ever, but you guys get the point. Smile with tongue out This cosplay that I ordered from cosplaysky.com came out to be exactly as pictured.

Be aware of websites that host the same exactly images as other websites. These are usually the “wholesale overseas” shippers that I was talking about. I’m not saying don’t order from these places but use caution. From what I’ve read online about some of these websites, people have been ripped off, received incorrect sizes, quality wasn’t as good, lost in communication, and have experienced slow shipping.  And that’s the majority of them. There are a few good reviews out there but still, do your research.  This is an example of what I’m talking about;

Someone’s lying on which image is theirs. Do your research before ordering online and use caution. Ordering from wholesale shops, remember that the outcome may be different from what’s shown in the picture. Possibly expect to see others wearing the same exact thing too. It’s completely your decision though. Wholesale is good if you want to save money but I’d hope that you get your money’s worth. When ordering from overseas shippers try to make contact with them if you need any adjustments asap. Keep in mind that shipping will take a while. It’s best to order your cosplay at least 1-2 months BEFORE the convention.


Making cosplay/custom order

Creating your own cosplay is the most rewarding option.  Although it will take time for construction and buying parts but it’s all worth it. Just think about it; Your cosplay will fit you perfectly since you’re going off of your own measurements, will be unique because you created it yourself and you can create virtually anything! It may even save you a huge chunk of money if you can be crafty enough to create your own cosplay.

A lot of cosplays can be easily created! Think of school girl costumes.  Most of the time you could find a nice blouse, add spark to it, and then you pretty much just need a pleated skirt.  There are lots of tutorials out there that you can use to guide you through the process of creating your costume. Trust me, it’s a lot easier than it sounds to create your own cosplay.  Scavenge thrift stores every so often and search online cosplay boards for any other parts you may be missing. Take advantage of Halloween/party stores as well. You never know what you can find on a dime.

If you’re not so handy with a sewing machine, look to a family member that likes sewing. My mother loves sewing stuff so if I need an extra piece or an adjustment she’s able to do that for me.  You can also search locally for a tailor or seamstress to help create something for you. Buying material should be no problem. Check out when Hobby Lobby has their 40% off coupons (pretty much ever week) and use it to your advantage.  JoAnn’s Fabrics and Walmart stores have fabric as well. There are also online shops that cater to creating custom cosplays for you and these are just regular people willing to sew. Even if you can’t find any of those options, why not pick up a needle and thread and start making something up yourself? You might just learn yourself a new skill! ^_^

Packing for a convention

So you’ve taken this guide into consideration and now you’re ready to pack and head out to this convention. You have your hotel room booked, reliable transportation and even picked up yourself a spiffy new cosplay.  If you’re going to be staying at the convention for the full weekend you’re going to need a bunch of things. Most importantly, a packing check list!


  • At least 2 pairs of pajamas
  • Your cosplays
  • Any extra cosplay accessories (sword, tights, mini-nuke)
  • Fresh pairs of clothes for each day (you probably want actual clothes to wear while at the dance. Don’t funky up your cosplay there. Also you’ll need a pair on the last day when you’re traveling from the convention)
  • Undergarments (includes underwear. bring extras! slips to wear under cosplays and things like that. And don’t forget socks)
  • Accessories (earrings, jewelry, glasses, contact lenses, hair)
  • Extra hosiery (ladies, it’s going to suck if you get a snag in your tights. Make sure that you have a backup for sensitive stuff such as that)
  • Jacket (it doesn’t have to be big and bulky. Just a light jacket incase of rain)
  • Shoes (bring an extra pair of flats in case your feet hurt. Don’t forget cosplay shoe covers and boots)


  • Tooth brush
  • Tooth paste and mouthwash
  • Any medications that you must take.
  • Extra medications (aspirin, ibroprophen, allergy meds, cough drops, pepto bismalt)
  • Extra towels/toilet paper (might be necessary if you’re rooming with a huge group of people)
  • Hair supplies (gel, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, hair spray)
  • Hair tools (straightener, blow-dryer, comb, brush, curling iron)
  • Smell Goods (lotion/perfume/cologne/body spray)
  • Shower Gel and bar soaps
  • Make-up (mascara, eyeliner, powder, foundation, concealer, primer, eyeshadow, lipstick, gloss)
  • DEODORANT (Very important!!)
  • Extra hygiene products (Extra prespiriant, baby powder)
  • Feminine products (you never know)
  • Facial moisturizers/cleansers

I hope I didn’t forget anything here. These are basically things that you use every day. Remember that you’re not going to be at home to grab whatever you need, so bring things just incase. At conventions you may be walking around all day. So bring a travel stick of deodorant to carry with you in your bag. Sanitation items are also very necessary.  Use hand sanitizer religiously because colds and sicknesses like to hover in convention centers.


  • Cell Phone
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • MP3 Player/Handheld Game
  • Charger for MP3 Player and Handheld Game
  • Camera
  • Camera Charger
  • Books/magazines or better yet, Manga!

You really don’t want to bring too many electronics. Bring some stuff for the road trip but at the convention I guarantee that you’ll be so busy wrapped up in the awesomeness standing right in front of you!  Keep your cell phone with you at all times. You never know who might be trying to contact you or when you may end up lost.

Everything else that IS necessary

  • Photo ID/Drivers License/Passport
  • Your convention Badge
  • Extra batteries
  • A bag/purse to carry stuff around the convention (you will want extra bags to carry your goodies around, trust me. Especially if you plan on shopping. Those Green shopping bags will come in handy)
  • Mini sewing kit, safety pins (to repair torn cosplays)
  • Gum and breath mints
  • Water (sip on this to keep yourself hydrated)
  • Snacks (good to carry some chips/granola bars/candy around with you at the convention.)
  • Food to store in hotel room (If there will be a microwave, bring microwavable meals like ramen bowls, pasta. Don’t pack too much food, remember there are usually restaurants that deliver)
  • Badge receipt confirmation page printed
  • Directions to convention printed
  • Directions to the hotel printed
  • Money with you in cash (for spending at convention)
  • Notepad (for autographs, also contact information to give to new friends)

Definitely don’t forget to bring confirmation items like an ID and printed directions and receipt for you badge. We don’t want any trouble going on for you when you get there.  I REALLY suggest bringing a certain amount of cash with you to the convention daily. Reasons being is that you don’t want to spend all of your money on one day and in the dealers room when your shopping, most of them will only accept Cash.  There will be ATMs there but they’ll end up broken or out of money by the 3rd hour or so. If you can get some cash at the Hotel before riding to the convention each day. Also don’t carry a ton of cash with you at once, what if someone jacks your money?

Phew! That may be everything.

I hope that this guide has prepared you all with some of the best information out there for going to your anime convention!  This info comes from personal experience. My biggest worry is thinking that something may go wrong, so it’s always great to have more than one option available for you! If you keep everything organized, plan ahead, group with others and do your research. I guarantee you that you’ll have an amazing time that you won’t ever forget!

Take pictures! You want these memories to last you for a long while! Smile

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