Gen Con is in it’s 49th year and is known as “The Best Four Days in Gaming!” which is completely true. My whole family LOVES going every year and when the last day rolls around we start talking about NEXT year’s Gen Con…we look forward to it roughly 361 days a year. If you have never been, or are going for the second time we have some helpful tips on how to prepare for you adventure.
The first year we attended we took our then 4 year old son all four days. He loved every single second. Our daughter went for one day and then when she was 4 she attended all four days as well. She will be 6 and he 8 this year and they are both very experienced Gen Con attendees!
We have learned a few things over the years about what to bring, what NOT to bring and how to maneuver through the 60k+ people with kids. I decided to share our knowledge so others won’t have to learn the hard way to bring a sippy cup or extra wipes even after potty training…you will always need wipes until they stop spilling…which appears to be never…
We begin preparing immediately after Gen Con has ended taking a note or two on what we would do different and storing it in a memo to have a reminder pop up about 2 weeks before Gen Con the following year.
I’m not kidding this is why we remember a few things to adjust for the following year…I cannot wait to see what we learn this year for next year…I mean I’m hoping we have this thing down by now…but you know how that goes.
Here are a few things we have learned to prep, bring, account for and just ways to prepare for Gen Con…some of these work without kids as well of course.
If you are attending Gen Con with people you should have one backpack per person or at the very least per 2 people. This will carry the rest of the things we will tell you to bring, is great for throwing smaller games you purchase in, snacks, drinks, wallets and anything else. We each have one and the kids have small ones for themselves.
If you are traveling alone you can always just use a fanny pack..I use one of these actually…Wonder Woman…cause Awesome! But I keep my ID, Credit Cards and Money in it so they do not get lost or left anywhere or fall out of my pocket…always a good idea.
This seems like a Duh kind of thing but do NOT forget your chargers for your phone and any other electronic device you are bringing. Tablets, DS, Cameras, Video Cameras, iPods, or even laptops. I recommend making a list of things to “pack” for Gen Con and put chargers on the top…but I like lists…
Bring a power strip if you are traveling with anyone else. Especially if you have kids with you for their tablets or DS’s and your phones. Even if you are just with a group of adults a power strip is easy to carry in a backpack or fanny pack and will make you a hero to many a person…mostly yourself and your group/family.
Bring a thermos type water bottle. Sports type or something that you can refill. They have water fountains so this will be easy and they have water stations around the convention center. The kind with those cone shaped paper cups! Simply refill your bottle there. Saves you money, is healthy and keeps you hydrated! Also a good idea for kids to have one and maybe get the pouch kind that clip..that has been our best option for everyone.
If you have younger kids make sure you have a sippy cup! My Diva didn’t have one one year and we had to buy one from the nearby mall, wash it and then she had one…but it took a LOT of time out of our gaming day. Bring an extra if you can.
Wear something light and airy. Do NOT wear long sleeves, heavy fabrics or jackets that you cannot throw in your pack easily. It will be warm in the convention halls especially the Vendor Hall. I might be a bit chilly in shorts and a tank walking the air conditioned hallways but outside it usually is warmer and inside those Halls I do not get chilly…I sweat a bit though.
You MIGHT want to bring an extra shirt. If you are traveling alone or with a group without kids you will want an extra shirt. I’ve spilled things on my shirt, had them spilled on me (kids) and if you are wearing something heavier than a tank or light t shirt you might sweat a lot. ESPECIALLY for the kids though….always helpful and doesn’t take much room in backpacks.
Bring Snacks! I HIGHLY recommend this ESPECIALLY with kids. You do NOT want to buy snacks there all day long and you certainly won’t want to deal with a hangry child…or adult while you are in the middle of a tournament or demo. Simply pull out a snack and they can chill while you finish your game.
My kids carry their snacks in their little backpacks. We got them smaller drawstring types in their favorite characters so they carry their friend (stuffed animal like a Dalek or Goblin) their electronic device of choice, snacks and anything they collect like stickers from the Con.
We tend to favor Peanut Butter and Cheese Crackers, or Goldfish, Granola Bars, Fruit Leather and Fruit Snacks (Welch’s…so tasty). These have always worked well even if we don’t have kids with us as they are easy to throw in snack bags, if they break in your bag it isn’t the end of the world (like eating broken chips!) and are adult and kid friendly…bring extra because you can always bring them again the next day if you have left overs.
Gen Con is kind enough to pass out Lanyards with badges and you can usually get extra but we like to have our own personal Lanyards and pick them a week before Gen Con every year. If you are not adventuring with kids then skip the rest of this one…it’s ok I understand.
My kids get one even though they don’t get badges. Kids 8 and under are free to attend Gen Con with Badge purchasing parent. They do require kids to get a wristband that has your badge info, name, phone number and kids name on it.
In case your child gets lost this information is fantastic however you will have to go every day to get a new one. We use a lanyard and it’s clear badge holder to put the wrist band inside and clear tape to keep it closed…or stickers. Their name and the info showing of course.
Gen Con is better with friends! Just kidding not those kinds of friends. If you are not attending with kids go ahead and skip this one too but if you are…
My kids both bring one friend each day to Gen Con. This stuffed animal sticks out from their backpacks (not the school size ones but the smaller kid sized drawstring size) which keeps everything else inside and is adorable. Plus they will get it out now and then to show people, play with or pretend with.
They bring their Dalek, a Goblin, a Zombie girl, Creature from the Black Lagoon or Frankenbaby…We also buy a new geeky friend from Gen Con each year.
I know that sounds weird but especially that first day you will want to take a break even for lunch and what are you going to do? Just sit and eat? No you will want to play while you eat or rest. Even kids will want to and snack breaks (which you should try to take often the younger the kids) or meal breaks are PERFECT times for family game time.
We find a spot on the floor, or find a table (Gen Con sets up tables all over for games and then not in use people can use them for their own games or meals) or a bench. Our favorite spot if we can’t find a table is the upstairs near the big windows…although not the most comfortable spot.
Adults should try to bring a couple games that are easy to set up, not heavy to carry and can be played somewhat quickly. You will probably be leaving with more games so a reusable bag to hold one or two smaller ones would be a good idea…so you have something to carry new games in too.
For kids bring a few smaller and easy to set up and put away games that are quick. We recommend Crossing(Asmodee), Spot It! (Any of them from Blue Orange Games), Mars Attacks 10 minute take down (Steve Jackson Games), Walk the Plank (Mayday Games) and/or Alien Wars (iello).
There are TONS of games out there that will be great but these are just a few of our many many favorites.
If you are traveling without kids the only other things I can think to recommend are don’t forget to sleep, eat and please shower at least ONCE in those 4 days. Also, there are TONS of options for food and Jimmy Johns delivers to the hotels nearby. Your welcome.
For those traveling with non-gamers…I’m sorry but at least they are cool enough to go with you. No need to let them suffer while they are there. There are TONS of Spouse Activities. Crafting, Couponing, and so many other events in the Convention Center for the non-gamer…or gamer who wants to do some of them. Not to mention the countless things to do around Indy while you are here!
Families who are attending either all four days, just a day or two or just Sunday (Family day is perfect for a one day adventure!) will want to make sure you are as prepared as you can be. I recommend carriers, those kind that have you carrying the baby strapped to you? Those are great for events like this!
If you need a stroller (I sometimes miss stroller days) I recommend an umbrella type as they are smaller and easier to maneuver around with all the people. I’ve seen the bigger ones but they can get stuck in crowded areas with al the people sometimes.
Food options for families are all over including in the deli area in the convention hall. The prices are decent and the food is pretty good….like salads, sandwiches and pizza! The second floor has steak sandwiches…of the philly cheese-steak variety. There are also pretzels, nachos, chips and the like for snack times.
Food trucks are lined up outside, restaurants all over the place and the Circle Center Mall nearby has a food court and some restaurants as well. We’ve actually packed sandwiches before to help with costs and pickiness of kids…it helped a lot. We used a fold-able lunchbox to stow away in our backpack afterwards.
Pro Tip that is probably too late to help anyone…buy your badge EARLY. The prices are cheaper and the badge gets sent to you so you can waltz right in to Gen Con and into any hall….otherwise you have to wait in line to get your badge.
This can take awhile but the staff is excellent at getting people through as quickly as possible…so don’t worry if you have to do Will-Call. We do every year and it has never been unpleasant…and we meet new people.
I am SURE there are more tips and tricks out there but either we haven’t had a problem and learned them yet or…we haven’t had THAT problem and learned THAT lesson yet…so maybe comment with your ideas…thanks. The most important thing to plan for is that you are going to have an amazingly great time!
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