If you’re going on a cosplay convention roadtrip for the first time, this post will enlighten you with all the details you need, including cosplay packing! Here’s what this post will cover:

I. Should you rent or have your own car for a cosplay convention roadtrip?

II. What to pack in your car, cosplay packing tips and what items to bring.

III. 10+ helpful tips for a smooth and fun convention roadtrip experience.

Let’s get started!

I. Is it better to rent a car or have my own vehicle?

Car rental cosplay packing
Renting a car definitely has its advantages and disadvantages! Image by Ximena-c from Pixabay.

While buying a car is a topic unto itself that’s beyond the scope of my blog, as a cosplayer/otaku there are advantages and disadvantages to owning one vs. renting one.

Renting a car

When you rent a car, you’re guaranteed to drive a relatively new vehicle that’s been well-maintained by the car rental agency. Instead of having to spend $20k or $30k to buy a new car, you can rent one for the weekend for around $100-$200!

And if something goes wrong with the car during the trip, the car rental agency will take care of it (if you purchased roadside assistance). Either they’ll send someone to fix the car on the spot or you’ll get you a new one to drive.

However, there are some drawbacks with renting a car. Picking it up and dropping it off is annoying. Eventually, you’ll have to drop the car off at the location where you picked it up. So instead of driving straight home like you would with your own car, you’ll have to figure out the logistics of dropping the rental vehicle and getting back home afterwards.

Since it’s not your car, you’ll need to be very careful with how you and your friends treat the vehicle (e.g. no smoking inside the car). Also, the “damage waiver coverage” you buy from a rental is nowhere as good as having your own car insurance; it tends to cover very little. Finally, if the car rental company decides to charge something on your bill, disputing it is stressful and time-consuming.

One time I rented a car and according to them, there was “damage” on the car’s side. In reality, it was a tiny dent on the car that was probably there before I rented the car. In any case, I ended up having to pay $500 for that and I had no way to dispute it. This was the first and last time I rented with this company. So learn from my mistake; before you drive the rental car out of the lot, do a circle check and see if there’s any dents/scratches/damage on the vehicle already. That way, the rental agency cannot blame you for any pre-existing damage after you return it.

Senpai’s car rental horror story

With that said however, I’ve had other pleasant experiences with renting a car. Once I rented a car in San Francisco and drove down the beautiful Pacific coastline to Los Angeles, and the rental company let me drop off the car in LA…free of charge! So some rental companies are actually great, especially for doing an Anime convention roadtrip. It’s nice when you don’t have to worry about cosplay packing too, if you rent a big vehicle. Whereas owning a large vehicle can add up significantly (e.g. they use more gas than an economy car).

Owning a car

When you own a car to yourself, it really is your property; you decide how far you want to drive, how you want it customized and the way you want to drive. Whereas renting a car, you’d have to drop all your stuff off first, drive back to the rental centre, and then take the bus or cab from the rental centre to your home. But with your own car, as soon as the convention is over and you’ve dropped everyone off, you can drive back home and start unpacking right away. It’s definitely more convenient to have your own ride.

Not only that, you’re not restrained by how long your rental is, nor the amount of mileage did you purchase. With your own car, you can drive as far as you want and stay out as long as you want. So if you want to hit up that cool restaurant that’s sort of out of the way without worrying about mileage like you would with a rental car.

But with your own car comes a lot of responsibility. Owning a car can be stressful if you cannot keep up with it financially. Definitely consider that owning a car will significantly increase your expenses by thousands of dollars or more. Not only that, you will have to maintain it in order to keep the vehicle in good shape. This not only takes money, but also a lot of time (e.g. booking appointments with the mechanic, getting your licence and registration renewed at a government centre).

You should only buy a car if you plan on using it on a frequent basis (e.g. driving to work). If not, you’re better off either renting a car or buying a bus/train/plane ticket to the convention instead. Especially if you live in one of these 5 cities.

What car does Senpai drive?

For me right now my Honda Civic is what I use when I drive on an Anime convention roadtrip. Why do I love it? Two simple reasons:

Honda civic - cosplay packing
My Civic ain’t this new or that nice. But 300,000 km, it STILL gets me to cosplay conventions. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.
  • Very reliable. This baby just keeps going! I’ve done the preventative maintenance like changing the oil and replacing worn-out parts to keep it running. It’s over a decade old and has over 300,000 km in mileage but it’s still going!
  • Very fuel-efficient. Gas prices in Canada tend to be more expensive than our American friends down south. But with my Honda Civic, I don’t feel a financial pinch when I fill up the tank. Some of my coworkers are spending more than double with their sports cars and pickup trucks.

I’m keeping this car until it goes completely lemon. Despite the car being so old, it gets the job done. And more importantly, it gets me to the conventions!

II. What should I include in my cosplay packing?

cosplay packing box
Cosplay packing can be stressful. Although it’s tempting to pack your entire wardrobe for an cosplay convention roadtrip, you only have so much space, even with a car. Image by Alexa from Pixabay.

There are a lot of things you can put inside your luggage during cosplay packing! So I made the list below to with all the stuff you can bring. The items I bolded are things that are must-haves.

Cosplay Packing Convention-related items

  • Documents for the con: pre-registration “ticket”, hotel reservation number, travel insurance, car insurance, passport if you’re leaving the country.
  • 1-3 cosplays per person: I recommend only bringing 1 large cosplay and 2 small-medium cosplays per person. That way you ensure everyone’s costumes can fit the car.
  • Cosplay tool kit (e.g. safety pins, glue). If the convention has a cosplay repair station (or Cosplay Medic), then you don’t need to bring this.
  • Camera: for taking all those sexy and beautiful cosplays. Or you could just use your smartphone as a camera to save space.
  • Electronics (e.g. phone charger, your laptop, your video game portable system like a 3DS or PS Vita).
  • Makeup for your cosplay

Cosplay Packing “Regular” items

Always bring a regular map with you. Your smartphone might not work in some remote areas. Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.
  • Physical map: GPS/cellular data can fail if you’re in the middle of nowhere, so it’s super-useful to have a map with you just in case this happens.
  • Money/debit and credit cards: Note that if you’re travelling out of the country, I suggest exchanging your currency BEFORE you leave the country. It’s not always easy to exchange at the destination. (E.g. one time at an American convention, I had to travel all the way to a damn CASINO to get my Canadian money exchanged for USD. All the banks in the area were closed early on Friday and the entire weekend! So get your currency before you leave the country).
  • Clothing such as tops, bottoms, underwear, socks (I also suggest bringing swim gear and a towel so you can take advantage of a hotel’s pool or hot tub, especially at conventions like YetiCon!)
  • Emergency first aid kit and personal medication
  • Sandals. Whether you’re going to the beach or you rather not walk barefoot to the ice machine in the hotel, sandals are super handy when you’re at a convention.
  • Toiletries

Car-related items

A spare tire will always come in handy. Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay.
  • Documents like your driver’s licence and insurance policy. If you’re renting a car, then all the documents regarding your car rental agreement and contact information should be in the vehicle as well.
  • Emergency items for the car (e.g. spare tire, wrench and tire jack, jump cables, etc.)
  • If you’re driving during the winter, be sure to bring a shovel and snow brush in case a snow storm comes along your way.
  • Water: It’s going to be a long drive and you guys WILL get thirsty! Don’t rely on the nearest gas station, have peace of mind by having bottles of water ready in the car.

So those are all the cosplay packing essentials for a convention roadtrip! Let’s move onto the next section.

III. Planning out the logistics for a smooth Anime convention roadtrip!

While I agree with the notion that you should have some spontaneous fun during your Anime convention roadtrip, there are some things where you should not “wing it” and hope for the best! In the section below, here are various 10+ tips for having a wonderful roadtrip and avoiding logistical headaches, based on my own experiences.

Before you leave

Get your car inspected before you leave for the trip. Your mechanic might find problems you didn’t notice. Image by Ryan Doka from Pixabay.
  • If you’re using your own vehicle; get your car checked and inspected well before the convention date. For example, I didn’t realize that the pressure with one of my tires was getting very low. So I was able to pump it up with air and started noticing how much better the car drove after I did. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the auto shop, now is a good time to take a visit and make sure your car is good to go long distance.
  • Get CAA or AAA in case your car runs into trouble. For those renting a car, get roadside assistance. If you’re driving your own car, I highly recommend you become a CAA/AAA member. CAA/AAA stands for Canadian Automobile Association/American Automobile Association. For a small annual fee of around $100-$200 a year, the CAA (or AAA if you live the U.S.) provides you with roadside assistance if your car starts having problems. They can tow your car back home or to the nearest auto shop, fill up some gas in case you run out and they can unlock your car in case you left your keys in the vehicle. They provide very useful service and cover almost the entire continent of North America! It’s peace of mind in case your car malfunctions. Speaking of gas…
  • Fill up on gas either the night before or right when you leave the house. You’ll want a full tank of gas while you’re on your roadtrip. The best time to do so is either the night before, or as soon as you leave your driveway. You don’t want to depend on looking for a gas station when you leave the city or while you’re driving to the convention. Because once you leave your area, you don’t know where the nearest gas station will be. Also, the prices on the road will likely be inflated because those gas station owners know that the nearest one is far away. So do yourself a favour and fill that gas tank up before you leave.
  • Buy travel insurance if you’re travelling to a different country. Worst case scenario, you don’t want to be paying huge hospital bills in the U.S. in the event of a medical emergency. So get yourself some travel insurance before you leave. It’s super cheap and the insurance will cover you in case anything happens. If you have a pre-existing medical condition then it’ll cost more. But travel insurance is a peace of mind that I feel is necessary for any Anime convention roadtrip. It’s not cosplay-related, but travel insurance is an essential item on that cosplay packing list.

Convention-related tips

  • Completely finish cosplay packing the night before. Trust me; you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches if you finish cosplay packing the day before. Even better if you put your stuff in the car before you go to bed. That way, you can wake up and head straight to your car without having to worry about what you’re missing.
  • Figure out who is bringing cosplay props. This involves coordinating your cosplay packing list with your passengers. But this is very important because not only do cosplay props like swords take up lots of space in the car, they’re also fragile. So you’ll need to pack them carefully. I suggest either placing cosplay props on the bottom of the back seat in your car or on top of all your other stuff in the trunk. That way, when you drive and hit a bump on the road, it won’t bounce around as much.
  • You can save space by choosing to bring more casual cosplays. This will make your cosplay packing list easier! A Haikyuu jersey is going to take a lot less space than a full-blown Fire Emblem outfit with Worbla and props. Like I mentioned earlier, each person should only bring 1 bulky cosplay and 2-3 smaller outfits.
  • I highly recommend figuring out where you’re going to park your car during the convention…BEFORE you guys leave. Because there are lots of attendees, not only will parking be more difficult to find but the rates may also be inflated during the convention weekend. So in order to park your car right away and to ensure you get the best rates, be sure to plan out where to park first before you leave for the convention.

When I drove to Youmacon for the first time. I thought to myself, “Oh Detroit is Car City…there’s got to be tons of cheap parking around the convention center!” Boy was I wrong.

Although there were plenty of parking lots in Detroit, most of them were expensive as hell. I drove around the convention area looking for a parking lot with a decent price, but I couldn’t find one. Eventually I got tired of looking, so I settled for a lot beside the hotel I was staying at. I ended up paying a ton of money to park there.

The following year I decided to look up a parking lot in advance to save time circling around finding one. And lucky for me, I found a parking spot that was reasonably priced and beside my hotel! So when I arrived at Youmacon, I immediately parked my car there and checked in my hotel right away. I only paid half the price I did with the expensive parking lot the previous. So a little research and planning in advance can save you a lot of money and time.

Always do your research for parking rates before you start your cosplay packing list or hit the road. Otherwise, you may end up paying a lot for parking when you get there!

The day of the convention…roadtrip time!

Suitcase cosplay packing
So many things on your cosplay packing list, so little space…even in a car! Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay.
  • Install Maps.me on your phone. This is a great app that works offline. So if you lose cell phone reception, no need to worry as you can still use this map tool offline. Having this app along with a paper map will ensure you won’t get lost during the trip, even if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
  • If you live in a city, leave early to avoid rush-hour traffic. Make sure you guys are out of the city by 1-2 p.m. the latest. Getting out of the city for an Anime convention roadtrip during rush hour is a major headache, and the best way to avoid it is by leaving before everyone is getting off from work.
  • When you pick someone up at their house, immediately ask them, “Did you bring your passport?” A passport is essential for traveling outside of your country. The worst thing that can happen is if you’re at the border and one of your friends forgot their passport at home. Now what do you do? Do you drive all the way back home to get their passport? Or do you ditch your friend at the border and drop them off there? You don’t want to be in any of those situations, because it will ruin your Anime convention roadtrip! So ensure everyone has their passport when they get in your car.
  • To save on vehicle space, buy food/drink/alcohol AFTER you arrive at your hotel. Instead of buying food and alcohol in advance, you should buy them AFTER you arrive at the hotel and unpack everything in the room. That way, you’ll have lots of room to buy liquor when you have way more room in the car. I’ve been to many conventions and there was always a location nearby to buy these things. There’s always a supermarket and alcohol store nearby, because most cons are located in convenient locations. So you don’t need to worry about not having it when you arrive at the convention.
  • Bring a music playlist! We’re all Weebs. We love our video game and Anime music. So make sure one of you guys bring a playlist while riding the car. If your car has an old music player like mine, you can a buy a super cheap Bluetooth player for $15-$20. You insert the player in the cigarette lighter and you’re good to go.

And that’s all you need to know; what to put in your cosplay packing list and how to go on a cosplay convention roadtrip! Trust me, they’re hella fun. When you’re driving to the convention, the excitement and hype you get while making your way there is an experience you never forget. And when you’re driving back, the stories of what happened during the con make for memorable times.

I hope you found this useful. Now get out there and plan your next cosplay convention roadtrip!

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