My wife and I are traveling to our first board game convention next year, and I was curious about what things we should take with us when we go. I checked some travel sites for checklists as well as board game-specific articles, and I found some things that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of bringing.
I also thought of some things to bring that I didn’t find on any other list, so I thought I’d share my list of things to take to a board game convention that you might not think to bring. So, without further ado, here’s my list of recommendations.
I'm not a germaphobe, but I like to make sure that my hands are clean, so I usually have hand sanitizer with me. For those of you out there that don’t often keep it with you, take some hand sanitizer. You’ll be a location with hundreds if not thousands of people that will be touching games, components, door handles and shaking hands.
Conventions are a common place for disease to spread due to the close proximity of people. If the venue doesn't handle things properly, restrooms can run out of soap, making it more likely that people around you don’t have clean hands. There’s nothing like going somewhere and getting sick to make your experience miserable, so take measures to protect yourself and bring some hand sanitizer.
Speaking of your health, make sure you take your medicine. If you’re a frequent traveler or are someone who is on long-term medication, you’re probably used to making sure your prescription is with you. For everyone else, make sure you take things like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Like other conventions, board game conventions can be quite loud, and it’s not uncommon to end up with a headache. Don’t suffer through it if you can prevent it by bringing some pain medication with you. Other suggestions are antacids, cough drops, and band-aids.
A common cause for a headache is dehydration - please note, I am not a doctor, so don’t misconstrue my advice as medical advice; go see your doctor for that. Depending on the location of the convention, you may not have easy access to water, so make sure to take some with you.
Similarly, you may not always be able to get food when you need it. Pack some snacks with you - preferably ones high in protein - so that you don’t have to leave the convention if you need a quick bite to eat.
With sometimes thousands of board gamers going to the convention, the food places around the convention can be pretty packed. This can make it take some time for you and your group to be able to get food, and that’s if you even feel like leaving the convention.
A Portable Charger
If you didn't do your research beforehand - or just need to look up something new, or perhaps want to take some pictures, make sure you take a portable charger. We as a society tend to rely on our cell phones, and if you aren’t able to use it, you might become lost. Often times, you can’t charge your phone while you’re on the convention floor, so take a portable charger with you.
Portable chargers can also be used to charge other devices such as computers, cameras, lights, etc. Of course, those may not be things you usually have with you, but it’s better to be prepared than not.
Pen & Paper
Never underestimate the value of having a pen and some paper to write things down. You may need to write down scores, names of board games you find interesting, names and numbers of people you meet or any number of other things.
Of course, you could keep track of this type of information on your phone, but sometimes a pen and paper are just easier. Also, if you didn’t follow my previous advice and take a portable charger, your phone might die, and then you’ll be stuck.
It’s a good idea to keep important phone numbers with you on paper, just in case. With cell phones, I rarely have the need to memorize phone numbers. However, if your phone dies - because you forgot your portable charger, for instance - it’s helpful to have a list of important numbers.
Some numbers to consider having with you include people in your group, the hotel or convention center's concierge, and local emergency numbers. Hopefully, you won’t need any of these, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking when you’re at the convention, so a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes is an absolute must. If you’re tight on space, I would definitely opt for comfort over style. If for some reason you want to wear your regular shoes, look at getting a pair of inserts for your shoes that will make them more comfortable than what they come with.
As a bonus, if you're going to a convention during the summer, grab a pair of flip-flops. They don't take up much space, but if you plan on spending any time at the pool while you're there, it's much better to have a pair of sandals than having to wear your shoes.
If you end up buying any games at the convention, plastic bags will help you keep the pieces organized. I’m one that prefers to use containers to store my components, but plastic bags are easier to carry with you, especially if you don’t end up needing them. Also, if you fly to the convention, plastic bags take up less space and weigh considerably less, making them more convenient for travel. If you haven’t traveled with board games before, check out my article on traveling with board games for more tips.
In our era of digital payments where cold, hard cash seems less and less important, it’s a good idea to take some with you when you go to a convention. That’s not to say you should leave your cards at home, but having cash is necessary for a couple of reasons.
Although many vendors use mobile pay stations to allow you to buy merch or games, the number of people at the convention can inundate the cell phone networks, which can prevent payments from going through. It wouldn’t be fun to lose out on a game you really want because the vendor can’t take your money.
If you don’t have the discipline to limit your spending, using cash exclusively can help you stick to a budget and prevent you from overspending. Be aware that some vendors may not accept cash - especially since this usually requires a lockbox of some sort.
This one is for you fliers out there that have to take a flight to the convention. Hand scales can be quite useful to make sure that your bags are not over the weight limit. If you don’t plan on checking any bags, you won't have to worry about the weight of your bags.
If you don’t know how hand scales work, these are small devices that usually have some sort of hook and cable that attaches to a digital unit. You hook the hand scale to your bag and lift it up, which weighs how much the bag is.
It’s often times cheaper - not to mention more convenient - to ship games if your bags are over the weight limit. Of course, you probably won’t have time before your flight to ship your luggage out, so having a hand scale can help you prepare in advance.
This one may seem counterintuitive, but you may want to bring some of your own games to the convention. I know, who brings board games to a convention about board games where there will already be games to play? There are a couple of reasons, actually.
You may want to bring your favorite game to the convention that’s out of print. You might also have a few games that have gotten stale with your gaming group that you still find enjoyable to play. You can take these to the convention and find a new group to play with to revive the game’s glory days.
Additionally, there can sometimes be wait times for games you want to play. There is often limited play space available setup to play games, and you may not be able to play the game you want when you want to play it. It can be helpful to have another game on hand that you can bring out to keep you and your group entertained, so you don't have to resort to your cell phone.
Board game conventions can be enormous fun, so why not share that with someone you know? If you don’t have any friends that play board games, this can be an excellent way to get them interested in the hobby. Sharing the experience will help build some lasting memories. Also, having a friend with you can make things safer, too.
Research for the Area
Ok, so I’m cheating a little on this one since it’s not technically something you take with you. Do a little research ahead of time to find some restaurants a little further from the convention that may not be as busy.
While you could possibly look this information up on your phone, cellular networks can sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people at the convention. You don’t have to do extensive research, just get a general awareness of the location, which can help you orient yourself when you get there, especially if you’ve never been to the city before.
Finally, make sure you take your ID with you. Some conventions won’t let you in without an ID, so this one is crucial. Most of you already carry this with you anyways, but if you’re traveling to the convention - especially if you’re flying - it’s a good idea to put this on the checklist, so you don’t forget to bring it.
I know some of these items are fairly obvious, but that also makes them easy to forget. I’m not usually a person that likes to make checklists, but when I’m traveling, I like to so I don't forget to bring something. I also don’t want to take a lot of things with me when I travel, so I try to keep things I pack with me to a minimum. Most of the things I’ve listed on here you could likely fit in a small backpack, which will make your travel experience as simple as possible.
If you don’t have to travel far to get to the convention, I hope you still find this list useful. If you have anything to add to this list, I would love to hear from you, so please comment below.
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