Living The Dream On A Budget – 7 Ways Any Fan Can Save Money At A Convention

Whether it's Sci-Fi, fantasy, movies or television you love, the ultimate fan experience is attending a convention. Unfortunately, it's a rare experience for most fans because it can be a budget-buster. Between flights or road trip expenses, hotels, food and all the paraphernalia being sold at the convention once you get there, the costs can get quickly out of hand. So, how can you enjoy your favorite genre convention and still end up coming home with some money left? Here are seven tips for any fan.

Leave the Cards at Home. Pack one credit card for emergencies if you're traveling, but leave the rest at home. You may even want to leave your debit card at home and use cash only for your convention trip. Not only do you avoid impulse buys but you're less likely to overspend on everything when using cash instead of cards. 

Volunteer. Nearly all conventions are always looking for more volunteers and many of them offer perks like a free day's admission for working at the con. It may not be the most convenient way to save money, but you can still have a lot of fun with your fellow fans while volunteering. You're likely to meet new friends (and get invited to new things) and even have a unique experience that you wouldn't otherwise get to have over the weekend. 

Get Off the Hotel List. Convention hotels offer convenience but are not often a bargain deal.  To save a lot of money, ignore the suggested hotels and do some research on the city itself. Look for unaffiliated, cheaper hotels within walking distance or along the routes of local public transportation. If the convention provides shuttles, look for hotels near shuttle pickup points. For added savings, make sure you find a hotel that offers things like a complimentary breakfast, free evening drinks or relaxing amenities for unwinding. Contact a hotel like Clearwater Lodge for more info.

Pack Snacks. Convention food is notoriously expensive, and it can come with a lot of precious time wasted standing in food lines. Avoid both problems by planning ahead for your snacking and drinking needs. It's easy to become dehydrated at a hot, crowded convention, so bring water bottles that can easily be filled up in the hotel or at water fountains. Pack high-protein snacks like nuts, bananas, peanut butter treats or edamame into snack-size bags and grab a few whenever you head out. 

Make a Spending Limit. Long before you arrive at the convention, make a spending plan. This is the best way to avoid an impulse buy for that one perfect collectible you find that's so far over your budget as to be ridiculous. If you know what kind of merchandise you're looking for, you could even set a spending plan for different types of memorabilia or different franchises. 

Shop Around. Avoid the trap of buying the first things you find in the dealers' booths. Shop the entire merchant area at least once before plunking down your money for anything. If the thing you want to buy is not a one-of-a-kind keepsake, look around for others in the convention or even do research on the internet for a better price. Buying larger pieces on the internet also usually means you can have them shipped home and avoid carrying things around all day or paying baggage fees. 

Stay Out of the Dealers' Room. The easiest way to save money on purchases at the convention is to simply stay away from the merchants' rooms. You can't buy what you don't know about, after all. Occupy your time elsewhere with panel presentations, fan group activities or just people-watching. You likely won't even miss the time spent shopping. 

Whether you can make use of only one or two of these ideas or implement all seven, you'll save money and frustration during your convention weekend. The result will be a trip you'll look back on with fond memories instead of big bills.