My facebook follower Jaycee asked for advice on “ways to not starve throughout the day" at a convention. I got a little long-winded, so you lucky tumblrverse you get another post out of me!
To me the issue of nourishment encompasses two major points: first, obtaining food and second finding time to eat it. Other factors include whether or not the venue allows outside food to be brought in, and any physical limitations your costume may entail.
Lets start with obtaining food. Basically you have two options here: you can either bring food from home, or you can buy food from the venue or a nearby restaurant. Personally I do a combination of the two. Whenever I travel to a con I try to pack granola bars, crackers and other reasonably healthy snacks. Sometimes I will also bring cereal so I don’t have to leave my hotel room to get breakfast in the morning. I’ve also packed bread and peanut butter/jelly and other sandwich makings. If something needs refrigeration I make sure to keep it in a well insulated cooler full of ice.
If I’m being realistic, however, I usually get tired of sandwiches pretty quickly, and I’m the type who prefers a hot meal for dinner, so I usually go out for dinner if not lunch most days I’m at a con. If it’s a venue I’ve never been to before I try to research the area online ahead of time so I know what my options are. Most conventions (though admittedly not all) are situated near at least a handful of fast food and/or sit-down restaurants, and many at least have their own concessions.
Then there’s the issue of when/where to eat. Depending on any other factors (such as the ones I mentioned above) this may be more of an issue at some cons than others. On more than one occasion I have eaten my Saturday dinner while back stage at the Anime Boston masquerade waiting for the audience to be seated, something I could never get away with at, say, ConnectiCon.
For simplicity’s sake, lets talk specifically about venues with strict no-outside-food policies. The first key here is PLANNING your schedule. The second is making sure to eat breakfast. Why breakfast? Well, aside from the fact that numerous studies encourage it as a healthy start to your day, it’s arguably the easiest meal to eat at a convention and if you do forget to eat later on in the day at least you already have something in your stomach. Also, simple breakfast food is the easiest thing to pack, and if you do so you can eat before you even get dressed or leave your hotel room.
When I say planning in regards to other meals I do not mean you have to be super type-a and plan out exactly where you’ll be at every moment of the con (though some of us do find that fulfilling…), but it does require that you think ahead at least a little bit. When deciding what you want to do for your day keep in mind how long you’ll be busy. If your plans have you going to panels straight from 11am to 3pm you may want to review what priority each event takes and pick one or two to skip so you can go get a bite somewhere. Just remember to include how long it takes to travel to and from your food source of choice and the time you’re likely to be there.
If you really can’t help overbooking yourself, consider packing snacks. Now, yes, I know we are using strict no-outside-food venues as our example, but trust me it’s doable! Just stick some granola bars, a package of crackers, or a bag of trail mix in your bag or pocket. If you really plan ahead you can even build a pocket into your costume! Just remember to be discrete about eating it.
Of course, if you’re wearing a costume that restricts your ability to eat planning is of much more importance. Take stock of yourself before getting into costume. If you’ll be unable to eat for a while consider eating something before you get dressed.
Also, a note on hydration. Hydration is much more important than nourishment. Make sure to drink plenty of water before getting into costume, and if possible while on the convention floor. Never pass a water fountain without taking a drink, or carry a water bottle and sip from it often. This goes double for heavy, well-covering costumes or cons taking place in the heat of summer, triple if those two factors coincide. If you decide to partake in alcohol remember to drink equally as much water.
Finally, a note on sleep. If you’re not able to get regular meals, exhaustion will catch up with you MUCH faster, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep leading up to, and as much as you can during, a con. Most of all, just listen to your body. If you need rest, the absolute next moment you can rest do so. If you need food, eat as soon as you can. If you are feeling dehydrated get a drink of water ASAP. Keeping on top of all of the above will lead to a much more enjoyable con.