I’ve been dressing up and attending Comic Con-type conventions for about 15 years, but taking a child with me was an entirely new experience. My usual plan was just show up, take a lot of pictures and basically party all day and night. Suddenly I had to plan around nap times, changing diapers and having no choice about being up at 7 AM every morning. I’ve learned a lot from the past four years, and would like to share my Top 10 Tips for Taking Kids to Comic Cons – and Enjoying It!
One of my favorite big conventions is almost here – San Diego Comic Con! I went the year I got pregnant and haven’t made it back since I had my son, but we have done a lot of other conventions together. In fact, he attended his first con at just 6 weeks old. I look forward to taking him to SDCC one day, but until then, we’ll be hitting up cons a little closer to home, since going to conventions with kids takes a lot of planning and a lot more stuff! And that leads me right into tip #1:
10 Tips for Attending Comic Conventions with Babies and Small Children:
1 – Try something local first. Short trips are best. You can search sites that list cons by state like ConventionScene.com & Cosplayconventioncenter.com, but if you just put “cosplay conventions” or “comic conventions” along with your location into Google, you’re going to find something! If you are in Florida like us, you can check out Wasabi Anime Founder Tom Croom’s blog where he does an Annual List of Florida Geek Events, covering not just conventions, but smaller geek events as well.
2 – If you aren’t going to be local, pick a hotel close enough so you can easily walk back for nap time. Believe me, this will make things SO much easier. Once my son reached toddler-age, he was less likely to ride around in the stroller and fall asleep. Being able to leave and take a nap was a necessity! And being able to just walk back to our room made it way easier to not only get back before a tired tantrum started, but for us to take turns going out and enjoying the con on our own until he woke up.
3 – Check out the event schedule ahead of time and plan your day. Make a list of events and things you want to attend with time and location. Having a plan makes it more likely you will get to actually see and do more than aimlessly wandering.
4 – Forget about actually making it to any of those things. Just kidding. A little. Just be a little loose with the plans and know you will probably not make it to half of those things. Don’t stress over a schedule. Your kid will most likely do everything they can to derail your plans.
5 – If you want to cosplay, plan your costume around being able to pick-up, hold, feed, change diapers, etc. If you are not able to do this, make sure you have a “baby handler” with you for assistance. You can’t change a diaper if you are wearing armor and can’t bend your arms. You can’t pick up your child if you have a corset so tight you can’t bend over or a skirt so short you’re flashing everyone. And you can’t hold a baby if you happen to have spikes sticking out of your bra. (I’m speaking from experience here) I used to do a test run on costumes to make sure I could eat, sit and use the restroom. Now my testing phase involves seeing how difficult it is to pick up my son and do basic mom skills. And if you have a baby, be sure to bring something to cover your costume when feeding. Spit-up doesn’t compliment your outfit unless you are dressed as a zombie.
6 – Go easy on the kid’s costume. They are probably just going to fall asleep, drop food on it or rip it off after two minutes anyway. A good easy costume is a t-shirt that matches your general theme. When I do Wonder Woman, I often dress my son in a Superman t-shirt. When I did Captain America, he wore a matching onesie. Nice and simple! Now that he’s older, he’s graduated to pajamas and cheap kid’s costumes. Disney actually makes really cute themed pajamas that pass as costumes. I learned the hard way not to invest a lot of time and money into making a small child an elaborate cosplay. So unless you have one of those kids that just loves to dress up and not destroy things, save some time and money and just put them in something simple.
7 – Pack more than you think you need– extra food, diapers, clothes, drinks…extras of everything! We went to a convention in Orlando and after a two hour car ride my son started projectile vomiting. We went through a LOT of clothes. You never know what you are going to run into, so be prepared. Also pack the stroller even if you rarely use it anymore. It’s really handy for piling all your gear into! You may have a tough time navigating through crowded convention halls though, so bring a smaller style if you have one. It’s also easier to keep up with a small child if you can put them in the stroller. Another option is to use a child leash. They make harnesses, wrist leashes and really cute backpack styles. Don’t judge until you’ve tried to keep up with a three-year-old in a crowd!
8 – Look for the Family Room – a lot of bigger cons will often have a family room with activities for the younger kids, like coloring or story time. It’s a nice place to get away from the big crowds. Sometimes they will be stocked with juice, snacks and small necessities. They never seem to make it easy to actually find this area, so look on the map or ask someone when you get there. If they don’t have a family room, then look for the Con Suite, which is an often over-looked con perk. It’s a room filled with complimentary snacks and drinks for con attendees, and sometimes offers other things like costume repair.
9 – Be prepared to change a diaper anywhere. Make sure you have a pack with plenty of diapers, wipes, a baggie for disposal (very important!) and a changing pad. We were at Star Wars Celebration and the bathroom was too crowded and we were far from the family room so I whipped out the changing pad and changed my son on a table I found near the back, behind a big display.
10 – Prepare your child for the costumes. If you start taking them when they are young, then they will love it as they get a little older and you won’t need to worry about them being afraid of the characters and costumes. I’ve heard many parents’ stories about taking their child to Disney, only to have them run screaming from the costumed characters. My son has grown up around cosplay and loves the costumes, but even he isn’t so sure sometimes. He was VERY concerned that I had turned into a real Wookiee when he saw me in my Chewbacca costume for the first time. Mostly because he didn’t have a chance to watch me get ready. If you are planning to cosplay, it helps to have your child watch the transformation.
I hope you found this list helpful! Please comment if you have any questions or anything you’d like to add from your own experience. Most of all, just remember to have fun, soak up the experience and share every moment with your little one. This is your chance to share your fandom and geekiness as a family affair. Keep it simple, don’t try to do too much, plan ahead and you’ll make some great family memories.