How to Travel to a Star Wars Convention
October 8, 2009
Attending Star Wars conventions is a fun and exciting exploration of Star Wars fandom. Conventions allow you to see some of your favorite Star Wars actors in person, hear behind the scenes stories from Star Wars crewmembers, and learn about the future Star Wars merchandise, books and television series‘. Here are step-by-step recommendations to help you convert your dreams of going to a Star Wars convention into a reality.
1. SET A PRICE RANGE
How much money are you willing or able to spend on your trip? Make sure you know this in advance and budget your trip accordingly. When in doubt, round up. You never know what unexpected expenses might pop up. It’s better to be prepared to spend $2000 and then only spend $1500, than it is to expect to spend $1500 and then spend $2000.
4-Day Convention Pass:
Food (12 meals):
2. CHOOSE YOUR EVENT AND BUY YOUR CONVENTION PASSES
Some events offer lower convention passes if you order in advance. The sooner you can commit to buying the ticket, the better. Many of the big conventions have a risk of selling out. Comic-Con International sold out several months in advance in 2009.
A. Official Star Wars Conventions
Official Star Wars fan gatherings are called "Star Wars Celebration." The first Star Wars Celebration occurred in Denver, Colorado in 1999. Since then, several other Star Wars Celebrations have been held in: Indianapolis (Indiana) Los Angeles (California), London (England), and near Tokyo (Japan). These official Star Wars conventions typically occur every couple years. The next Star Wars Celebration is scheduled for Summer 2010, though the location and dates of the convention have yet to be released. Four-day passes to a Star Wars Celebration typically cost at least $100.
B. Conventions With A Strong Star Wars Presence
Beyond the official Star Wars conventions, there are several other conventions that traditionally boast a strong presence of Star Wars merchandise, displays, and panel discussions. Unlike Star Wars Celebration, these conventions are not organized by Lucasfilm and Star Wars is not the central theme of the convention. Nevertheless, the large amount of Star Wars related events and merchandise makes these events worth attending. Some examples of conventions with a strong Star Wars presence include: San Diego Comic-Con (San Diego, California) and Dragon*Con (Atlanta, Georgia). Four-day passes to these conventions typically cost at least $100.
C. Conventions With a Mild or Indirect Star Wars Presence
These type of conventions are typically small--maybe only a couple hundred or so attendees--cult conventions. Admission prices tend to be low ($10 less per day) or sometimes even free. You might be able to hear a Star Wars author give a panel discussion or get autographs from your favorite Star Wars actors (usually for an additional fee). These type of conventions are small but affordable and may be worth seeing if you happen to be in the area and like the specific authors or actors who will be in attendance.
3. SELECT A MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Websites like Orbitz can help you find the best price tickets among many of the typical carriers. If you're able to arrive in your destination a few days before or a few days after the event, select the "Flexible Dates" option--you may be able to find a significantly cheaper flight. Booking your flight with your hotel is another way you may be able to save some money--Orbitz has this option. Priceline is another good option for booking your flight with your plane ticket. After doing various web searches, I booked my flight and hotel together on Priceline for my trip to Star Wars Celebration III in Indiana and I can honestly say I saved a bundle. Remember, checking prices on multiple sites is often the best way for you to find the cheapest deal.
If the convention you are going is only a short distance away, you may consider driving. Of course, a "short distance" means one thing to one person and something totally different to someone else. Consider how far you are willing to drive. If you and a bunch of buddies are going, this might be a good option since you will be able to alternative drivers along the way and you'll be able split the price of gas and the hotel. If you don't want to put more mileage on your car, then rent a car. Renting a car costs a bit more, but it spares your car from the ware and tare of a road trip.
4. PICK A HOTEL
As previously mentioned, booking a hotel with airfare can save you money. Shopping around with websites like Hotels.com can also help you find a good deal. Proximity to the convention is key. Picking a hotel within walking distance of the convention can be helpful, especially in bigger cities where traffic, transportation and parking can be an issue. Checking the hotel amenities can also save you some money. The hotel I stayed at for Celebration III included a free hot breakfast.
5. SET ASIDE FOOD MONEY
Are you planning on eating fast food on your trip or splurging on swanky dinners? Setting aside around $10 minimum per meal is probably a good idea, if you’re planning on eating mostly fast food. If you’re going eat the high priced food at the convention or plan on eating mostly sit-down meals, you might want to allow at least $20.
6. SET ASIDE MERCHANDISE MONEY
Whether you are eyeing a coveted San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Star Wars action figure or a Star Wars Celebration exclusive T-shirt, chances are you're going to want to buy something while you're at the convention. Keep in mind that $100 can go very quickly at these conventions. Give yourself a merchandise budget before leaving, and stick to it.
FINAL MONEY SAVING TIP: VOLUNTEER AT THE CONVENTION
Most conventions offer volunteer opportunities. When you volunteer, you spend a couple hours of the day helping run the convention, then during the rest of the time you're able to explore the convention yourself. Each convention structures volunteer opportunities differently. Some conventions do not allow on-site volunteer registrations--this means you must register as a volunteer in advance. Other conventions only offer reimbursement checks for volunteers--this means you must first purchase your convention pass and then the convention will reimburse you after you've fulfilled you're volunteer duties.
Volunteering is not only a way for you to help run the convention and get in free, but it is also a way to see the event from a different perspective. Keep in mind that volunteers often need to be flexible with their schedules. If you just can’t miss a minute of the convention or know that you’re going to be spending most of your day standing in the 14 hour line to see the George Lucas panel, then volunteering may not be the right choice for you.
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