Continuing my series of Con Survival for Cosplayers, today I will be covering that dreaded subject: Packing. (Part one is about your Cosplay Repair Kit)
Most cosplayers can relate to rushing to finish your costume before leaving for the con, only to realize that you still have to actually pack everything. Leading up to DragonCon this year, starting about a week out, I saw post after post on Facebook from people who cheerfully posted photos of their neat little R2D2 suitcases with the annoying caption “I’m all packed for DragonCon! Are you?”. Meanwhile, I was buried underneath 15 pounds of velvet, still handstitching linings, hems, and trims and couldn’t even begin to think about the daunting task of packing.
For non-cosplayers, packing for a convention is basically like packing for a normal trip, except with geeky t-shirts and alcohol. For cosplayers, however, we have to consider packing not only 10 times the amount of stuff that a normal, sane con-goer would pack, but we are also packing some of our most precious, valued, and fragile possessions.
I have been very fortunate because up till now, I have been able to drive to all of my favorite conventions. When I bought a new car this year, I upgraded from my tiny Honda Civic to a roomy SUV. Because cosplay. With that said, with a little planning (and Tetris-packing), I still managed to transport insane amounts of stuff with my tiny Honda.
Step 1: Make A Checklist
I’m a big fan of checklists. Start working on your checklist weeks out from the con. That way, you can pull it up whenever you think of something you need to add, and you aren’t being rushed to remember it all at once. This could be via a note on your phone, a paper notebook, or even a word document on your computer. I don’t simply write “Tauriel cosplay”. I make bullet points, itemizing every single item that I use for that costume, right down to any special makeup, prosthetics (and adhesives), hair accessories, and specific underwear that I need for that costume. Everything. It may seem tedious to include the most obvious things, but write it down anyway. All of it. Because the day before the con in the middle of a mad rush, you are going to forget. This is an example of a checklist I made from a past con.
On that vein, as you are making your list and as you find the time, take those items out of storage whenever you think about them. Start compiling those things in a bin. Spanx that go under that superhero costume? Wig caps that are buried in your makeup drawer? That very specific pair of lucky socks that you HAVE to wear with those boots? Yep, those things. Dig them out and set them aside. You will thank yourself when you are rushing to pack the night before con, because often those things are not obvious and you might not remember them till you’re at the hotel
Step 2: Choose Your Luggage
If you are travelling via car and are bringing more than one or two costumes, I recommend investing in a double-sized black plastic storage bin. These are like the plastic storage bins most cosplayers know and love (I also recommend), but twice the size and with wheels and a pulley. These retail for anywhere between $25 and $50, depending on where you get them. I got mine from Wal-Mart for $25. This actually fit into the backseat of my two door Honda (with three normal sized tubs in the trunk).
Bellpeople at hotels always seem super appreciative of our streamlined luggage, since it can be tedious and time-consuming (which means loss of income/tips! ALWAYS tip your bellperson well) to safely load up lots of small items onto a cart. If you are rooming with other people, these can also help keep your stuff more consolidated and protect your costume from being sat on, people throwing their own stuff on top of it, having things spilled/body paint sprayed on it, etc by your roomies. 😉
Another luggage item that I absolutely cannot live without with I am driving to a con is my train case. (You can, of course, travel in style like Joan Holloway from Mad Men and use this as your carry-on when flying. Just remember than many makeup items are considered liquids/gels and you need to make sure everything is organized to be TSA compliant.)
My train case is vintage and similar ones can be found at antique stores and on etsy/ebay, but you can also get a professional makeup case, or get in touch with your inner 90’s kid with a Caboodles case. Just make sure you get one with a tray or some kind of layered organizing feature. I keep all of my hair and makeup supplies for ALL of my costumes as well as my toiletries in here. Mine used to have a mirror, but it broke so I keep a small makeup mirror in here too. Again, it keeps things neatly consolidated and protected both while you travel and in your hotel room, especially if you have roommates. It’s also easy to move around so you can do your makeup by the window or at a table in the room while the bathroom is freed up for other people to use.
Step 3: Protect Your Costumes While Traveling
That brings me to safely packing your costumes for transport. The most disheartening thing that can happen is to arrive at your hotel and open up your luggage only to find that your worbla has become misshapen/broken, a prop has gotten scuffed, or your dress has gotten a killer wrinkle down the front. Here are some tips to keep your costumes protected en route.
For armor/fragile things: I collect those big plastic “bubbles” that come in shipping
boxes. These seem to be non-reactive with paint (as are anti-static dry-cleaner bags rolled up and stuffed into things), so they keep my armor pieces from sticking to or scratching each other. They also provide a little buffer in case of minor impact. If you are travelling by air, you can also wrap clothing items (leggings, t-shirts, etc) and layer them around your fragile things to protect them. There is no guarantee with air travel that nothing will break (always bring your repair kit!), but careful layering can reduce the chances of breakage.Some items do unfortunately just need to be carried by hand.
Sewn Costumes and leather items: For sewn costume and leather items, stuffing them with either tissue paper or dry-cleaner bags helps protect the shape. My Tauriel boots, for example, have a lot of fragile detail work on them, so I stuff them with plastic bags to help keep their shape and retain the integrity of the detail work. Same can be said for certain types of bodices, etc that you don’t want to be crushed. Again, for air travel, you can use clothing items in place of tissue or bags.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but this is what has worked well for me thus far. Hopefully some of these tips help you when thinking ahead to packing for your next convention! Do you have any tips that you’d love to share? Let me know in the comments below!