Travel is part of the cosplay lifestyle, but with ever-increasing baggage fees, cosplayers are travelling lighter and lighter. More than ever, it’s important to separate what you really need to take, and what you can do without. But with conventions getting bigger and bigger, self-care is also important, and that combination of things can make figuring out what to pack turn into an stressful situation.
If you do a lot of conventions, you also start feeling wear and tear on your body, your immune system, and your emotional equilibrium. Living out of a suitcase, being around a lot of people, and eating a lot of restaurant food – or worse, fast food – can wear you down. Here’s my list of essentials that don’t weigh much or take up much luggage space.
Nasal spray and antihistamines – I’m allergic to a lot of things, and I never know what perfumes or general body stench I’m going to encounter, so I bring these things with me as a pre-emptive measure before heading to the airport or train station. If I get back to my room at the end of the day and discover that my eyes are red and I’ve got a weird rash, I also have fast acting antihistamines like Benedryl on hand as well.
Compression stockings – This is one of the best cosplay tips I’ve ever gotten: if your feet tend to be in agony at the end of the day, wear compression stockings under your costume. They’re not cheap, but they’re way better than being in pain.
A pair of ballet flats or slippers – The idea here is to pack a pair of shoes that’s small and light, so you can not only wear them at the end of the day, but you can also take them to the convention center in case your feet quit on you earlier than expected. They’re especially great to wear on return flights because of the way airplanes make your feet swell.
An extra pair of tights – tights are not lifetime investments. They can snag and run. Always have a backup pair.
Thong panty liners – Guys, be glad you don’t have this problem. Airplanes, stress, lack of sleep, change in diet, even binge drinking, can cause breakthrough bleeding. Be prepared.
Contact lens friendly Visine – you will probably not get enough sleep at a convention. Visine helps you look less exhausted on the Sunday of the event. I’m still in search of a cosplay for Sundays that lets me wear my glasses. I am not ruling out Bayonetta.
Sleep aids – Jet lag is a bitch, but so are noisy people in the hotel hallway at five AM. If it’s a convention hotel, you will not be able to sleep in even if you want to, so pop a melatonin tablet to help you get to sleep faster and stay asleep through minor disruptions. Some people use Zzzquil, but I have asthma, so I avoid it.
Cold FX – I have had more cases of con plague that I care to count, and I hate getting sick at conventions. So I do everything I can to avoid getting sick. I like costumes with gloves because they’re natural barriers between my hands and germs. Zinc lozenges are another option. Echinacea is good too, but I’m allergic to it. Whatever you can do to boost your immune system, do it.
My own hair dryer – I try to use my real hair for costumes when I can, because wigs can get itchy after a few days. But hotel hair dryers suck. It may seem like a waste of space to pack your own hair dryer, but after you get your hair caught in a crappy hotel hair dryer a few times, you start to see the wisdom in bringing your own.
A portable garment steamer – You can get them for twenty bucks, they’re small, light, and worth their weight in gold. Steamers are gentler on costumes than irons, and they can also be used to restyle synthetic wigs.
My own tea – It’s amazing how terrible hotel room tea is, and it’s often made in the coffee maker, meaning it ends up tasting like coffee. Even room service tea can be overly elaborate. That sort of thing really throws me off, so I bring my own. I even boiled water in my portable garment steamer once because I couldn’t take the coffee taste. I love my tea. Everyone has that something that makes them feel human at the beginning and end of the day. Whatever that is for you, it’s worth the luggage space… unless it’s an Xbox, that’s pretty big.
A small bottle of laundry soap – Shampoo will do in a pinch, but just in case you need to prevent stains or wash something out for the next day, it’s good to have the proper stuff on hand.
My own pillow – I’ve tried to make hotel pillows work, but I always wake up sore. So I found a travel sized memory foam pillow and it’s a lifesaver. I get better sleep, feel less sore in the morning, and it even helps protect fragile items I buy at the convention… which brings me to the last thing I always include in my luggage…
Around twenty extra dollars in local currency – It might be ordering a pizza late at night. It might be that extra cash you forgot to save to tip the maid. Worst case scenario, it’s money that doesn’t disappear if your wallet is lost or stolen. Emergency cash is always a good idea,
Empty space – If you pack your suitcase tight on the way down, you’ll have trouble fitting everything in on the way back. Even if you buy nothing, which never happens at a convention, check out is usually rushed, and things don’t go back in the way they went down. Leaving an eighth of my luggage empty is planning for peace of mind.