After 10 PAX trips I feel like I have developed a bit of a system to prep. I usually start about a week before I leave, getting laundry done and all of the small stuff around the house. Packing always takes longer than I expect. I won’t bore you with the majority of the packing list, but I feel like I have learned a few things after so many shows about things I won’t go without.
I refuse to go to a show without multiple pairs of good walking shoes. Since the show means being on your feet on concrete floors for long hours, bad shoes are the easiest way to make a con day a bad day. I will usually take 3 pairs of sneakers with me to a show, so that I can change which ones I wear each day. I also make a point to have at least two of the pair be a different brand. By switching it up each day I have found I avoid some of the issues with blisters or sore spots, since each pair of shoes will fit slightly differently, which means that they will give different parts of your feet a break.
I also make sure to bring multiple types of socks. Wearing socks of different cut and thickness does the same thing that wearing different shoes does. Another trick I have learned is to wash your feet every night. It sounds silly, but taking the 15 min to run some hot water and soap over your feet before bed can mean that when you wake up they don’t hurt.
At any big gathering you are surrounded by all sorts of germs that your body is not used to. Plus you are touching controllers and demo stations that a lot of other people have touched. There is no way to know how clean those people are, or if they have been sick. The easiest way to make sure you don’t go home sick is hand sanitizer. I always keep a little bottle on my bag so that I can just use it after any demo. Plus I bring a stash of the Purell wipes with me. I usually just collect the extras from when I go to places like Chic-fil-a and throw them in my bag. They are nice since they actually can get stuff off your hands other than germs, but don’t take up much space or weight and they are disposable.
At this point I won’t go to any gaming event without the 3DS. There is no better place to get street passes than a place like PAX, since the percentage of people at the show that have one is significantly higher than the average population. The tricky part is finding the time to clear your plaza to make sure you keep collecting them. The other thing to be sure to have with you is a charger. It is not always easy to find an outlet to charge, but it is very easy to street pass away all of your 3DS power, and without the charger you definitely can’t get more miis in your plaza.
It may seem weird since you will probably have a phone with you at all times, but having a notebook and pen can be a lifesaver. It is helpful if you want to keep track of games to follow up on, since you can jot down names and developers. It is also helpful if you want to get someone’s gamertag after a good conversation in line, since you will definitely end up in line.
A back up battery
I spend most of my PAX with my phone around. I’m constantly texting people to try to meet up or figure out breaks or food plans. If my phone were to die that would be an easy way to ruin the day. I always keep a back up battery with me that just has a micro usb cord to use to charge any device. I don’t always need it, but when I have it has definitely been a lifesaver.
A good bag
I spend the majority of a PAX wandering. Throughout any given day I am picking up SWAG, purchases, business cards, lanyards, and all sorts of stuff. I always want to have snacks, drinks, and usually a sweatshirt with me to make sure I don’t end up hungry or uncomfortable. Plus, all the stuff above needs a place to live so that you have it with you. I see a lot of people with tote bags or one shouldered messenger bags, but in my experience the bag is going to get heavier than you expect, and something that is on one shoulder can lead to a headache or back ache.
I have a small backpack (mine is a Swiss gear). It is still small enough to not get in the way while walking the expo floor, but it is big enough to hold a sweatshirt folded up and the small stuff I need throughout the day. Plus it has a water bottle holder on the side so that I can always have something with me, and a good place to hang a small hand sanitizer bottle hanging from the strap. I also like that this bag has the connector between the two shoulder straps that allows you to clip it across your chest and help spread the weight.
A lanyard you trust
PAX is good about always having tons of lanyards for your badge. However, depending on the type of lanyard the clips may or may not be the most reliable. I have seen people who lose their badge because the clip on the lanyard decided to open when they bumped into someone or put their bag/sweatshirt on. I have just started always bringing a lanyard with me that has a strong clip that is somewhat difficult to open, just to be sure my badge stays with me no matter what. Plus it means I can have some of my collection of Pinny Arcade pins on it, since where else am I going to wear them?