Eating At Con


Good morning, everyone!  Sorry this is late – DragonCon ends on a Monday, but I still had that Sunday feeling in my head last night.

I know you’re going to hear a lot about the con over the next couple of weeks, and I’ll be one of the people talking about all the great things that happened there.  But I also wanted to share something I’ve learned about going to cons that’s more important than you’d think.  And that’s about eating while you’re at con.

Most people live their lives on a pretty steady schedule.  Wake up five days a week, work the same hours, go to bed at the same time, and eat meals.  We hardly think about it, because we’ve done it so long.  But when you travel to a con, your schedule is tossed out the window.  You’ll be staying up later than normal, you’ll be getting up earlier for panels, and your meal schedule will be dependent on panels ending and other people who want to go to dinner with you.  Not to mention it costs money to eat out, money you may not have budgeted for.  So you end up eating badly and within a day, your body is letting you know you’ve sinned against it.  When I attended WorldCon in Denver a few summers back, I didn’t know the area, so I ate the fast food that was handy in the convention center, but there were no fresh vegetables or fruits available.  I was miserable!  Thank goodness for the Tor party, where they were serving a huge platter of veggies and fruit.  Other people were headed for the beer and wine table, but I was next to the platters stuffing carrots, broccoli and strawberries into my mouth.  It was a good lesson.

If you’re driving to a con, you’re in a good position to take care of yourself.  While you’re planning your costumes and packing your books, pack a cooler, too.  You can bring your favorite junk food – this is supposed to be a fun time, after all.  But be sure you pack some vegetables and fruits that travel well and last a few days.  Apples, oranges, grapes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower are all great choices.  I’d also recommend packing some good bread, cheese and sliced meat, but don’t forget ice packs to keep them cold on the way, and ziploc bags to fill with hotel ice during your stay.  If there are easy finger foods you enjoy, pack them in sealable plastic containers.  We took stuffed grape leaves, hummus and crackers, but chicken fingers are a good call, too.

If you’re flying, go online ahead of time and search out the restaurants in the area, so you have an idea of what might make good choices.  You should also search for local farmer’s markets or grocery stores you can walk to from the hotel, where you can buy good snacks once you arrive.  And for goodness’ sake, check the reviews on the restaurants.  Friday night at DragonCon we wanted to go out for Indian food, and another con-goer had mentioned to me a place called Haveli’s within a couple of blocks of the hotel.  We gathered eleven people and made the trek, but once we were seated, the chef started demanding that we order family style, and insisted he couldn’t cook for a group as big as ours.  Most of the table shared meals, and the food tasted delicious, but the service was below par.  The waiter dumped water in my plate and wouldn’t bring me a new one, then it took forty minutes for the management to bring our bill.  Which was more than double what we knew we owed!  No, we didn’t pay it.  We paid what we knew we owed, and left, vowing never to return.  It was a terrible situation, and if we’d checked the reviews online more carefully, we might have rethought going there.  On the other hand, we went to Pacific Rim Bistro on Thursday night, and had such a wonderful experience we went back on Saturday.  If you’re ever in Atlanta, go there and tell them we sent you!

Finally, the most important thing: DRINK WATER.  Yes, Cokes and coffee and juice all have water in them, but it’s water that keeps your body running smoothly.  Even if you don’t drink a lot of water at home, please believe me.  You want to stay hydrated and water does it best.  You’ll feel better if you take a drink every time you see a water fountain while you’re at con.  If the con provides cups and cold water in the panel rooms, drink a cupful before and after every panel. I can’t stress this enough.

I know this hasn’t really been about writing today, and I hope you’re not too disappointed.  But I want you all to be happy and healthy when you come to cons to play with me and other writers like me, so if you follow my advice, we’ll all have an amazing time!


16 comments to Eating At Con

  • Misty, this is a great post, and while it may not appear to be about writing or industry on the surface, it really is because cons, even when we’re going to have fun, are about business. As posts in the past (and probably more this week) have/will mention, a lot of business from learning craft to networking is happening at cons, and if you get completely run down due to poor eating and dehydration during the con (not hard to do at a con that starts on a Thursday and runs into late Monday) you won’t be anywhere near the top of your game. Food isn’t something talked about much, so I think this a a great reminder!

  • I brought I cooler with a loaf of bread (frozen to help keep stuff cool), ice, PB&J (yes, in the jars) cheese, sliced rare beef, 6 sliced peaches in bags with a bit of sugar on them, strawberries and blue berries (also in bags with a bit of sugar to keep them fresh) mayo, a quart of tea, a tea cup with bags (no microwave in the room so that was wasted) and I had food when I needed it. It made all the difference in the trip. It also helped to have food in the room when David and AJ brought *Joe the actor from Vampire Diaries* (that’s all I know, really) to the room for a little get-together with our friends and Joe was starving. Yes, I fed Joe the actor.

    My roomie (waves to Bea-Melissa!!!>>><<< ) had Oreos in her stash, and the guys ate PB on Duble-stuffed Oreos.

    Yeah, and you shoulda seen David's face when he discovered that the Oreos were not mine and he was eating Bea-Melissa's food without asking. Of course, we waited until he had his mouth full to tell him. (evil grin) Not that we cared, because the food was there to be eaten, but we love jerking David around.

    It was a wonderful time all around. I'll post my own D/C tomorrow!

  • It’s not nice to prey on the weak-minded, particularly when he’s hungry and there are oreos to be had…. This is an important post, Misty, as I found out Thursday night. For those who weren’t there, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to skip lunch that day, since I was driving to D*Con and then had to deliver books to the booth and get my hotel room, etc. But by the time I made it to dinner, I really wasn’t feeling very well at all. Of course, once I got some food and water in me, I was fine again. Misty’s right — if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be at your best for all the things you want to do during the course of the convention.

    Great seeing everyone in Atlanta. Looking forward to the next get together, whenever that may be.

  • Between this post and all the #dragoncon tweets all weekend long, I felt nothing but pure, green, jealousy. I really wish I could’ve been there, and I’m going to do my best to be there next year. Glad y’all had such a good time, though.

  • marlenedotterer

    This is a post right after my own heart. The one problem I have with traveling is the lack of vegetables and whole grains. We always bring fruit, whole wheat bread, and peanut butter with us when we go to cons. We tend to skip lunch anyway, but it’s nice to have the food in our room for a snack if we need it.

    I like some of the ideas you’ve posted. I never thought to bring a cooler, but if we do that, we can actually skip eating in the restaurant all the time. That will save us a lot of money.

    We also bring a couple of bottles of wine, and our special brandy for a treat. But we’re actually too busy to indulge for most of the con.

  • Beatriz

    Important tip: If David or Joe-the-actor stop by your room for a visit HIDE THE OREOS! *grins, ducks, runs*

  • My eating problem at cons? I want to go to all of the sessions. I’m still new to cons, and I’m sure after I’ve been to enough I can trim out a few sessions, but right now…all of them, or at least sessions in all of the time slots.

    That tends to leave at most five minutes to grab coffee, eat, head to the bathroom, or whatever. Needless to say, I’m a bit exhausted around seven or eight when I just might get a break.

    I can probably grab a pastry at the coffee stand, but I tend to be a bit carnivorous and need a good protein source. Ugh.

    Fortunately, the last con I went to spaced out their sessions a bit, so I generally had a half-hour. Not great, but better than nothing.

    Oh for the days when I could eat total crap and do just fine.

  • Beatriz

    Roxanne– have you thought about bringing a thermal lunch bag to the con for meals-on-the-go? You could toss some ice in a doubled plastic bag, add some fruit/cheese/meat/nuts (from your room cooler) and a drink. Voila! Lunch on the run!

  • Roxanne, you’re right – once upon a time, we could get by on some pretty awful food. Not any more.

    Marlene, my husband always makes me eat, whether I think I’m hungry or not. Even if I only have a short time between events. He’s a dream.

    I wish y’all could have seen the guys assaulting the food supply – they were like a plague of grateful and happy locusts! -laughs-

  • There’s a pretty good monetary reason to bring food, too – it’s CHEAPER! I sat down with some other friends on Saturday morning and had the breakfast buffet in the hotel, not even thinking about the cost, then my eyes bugged out when I realized I’d just paid $30 for bacon and eggs! I sat in more than one panel munching on yogurt and fruit because I didn’t want to miss the panel, but the dinners with friends were some of the best times I had of the whole weekend, and I second (or third) the Pacific Rim nod – they were AWESOME!

  • My sweetie and I both get grouchy when we miss a meal by even an hour. On top of that, she generally gets a headache and I get a stomach ache from too much sugar. Thus, eating properly at a con is important not just for energy levels, saving money, and feeling healthy, it’s also a matter of avoiding unpleasant irritable moods.

    ‘Cause you don’t want to SNAP on somebody for nothing, right? Especially if they’re a new fan, or heaven forbid, another professional.


  • Wayne McCalla

    I too usually bring a cooler for snacks, quick breakfasts and even lunch. Actually meals seem to be more rounded at Cons for me because actually making an effort to pick out healthier things to bring because of all the strange times you may be eating… Plus the empty cooler on the drive home can hold all the things you purchased… 😉

    It was good seeing everyone at the con even if sometimes where very short.

  • Spot on! I missed my chance to talk to some small press editors at Fandom Fest this summer because I was so dehydrated I could barely walk straight. I suppose not talking to them is better than babbling incoherently at them, but still I would have gotten a lot more out of the experience (and just had more fun) if I’d stayed healthier.This post is a good reminder.

  • So DragonCon was probably the first con I’ve attended where I’ve had access to a fridge, and you’re absolutely right, Misty. Having good, healthy (and free) food available made all the difference! Our friend Skrybbi–the other Lauren–had the foresight to make two giant vats of stew (while the rest of us ran around like chickens with our heads cut off finishing costumes) which we brought with us along with gatorades and frescas. We were extremely lucky since we stayed at a friend of a friend’s place for free. Even though D*C was no less hectic or overwhelming than any other *big* con I’ve been to, there was nothing quite like sitting down to a nice bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup at end of the day. It really helped me recharge and replenish–especially since sleep usually becomes somewhat of an afterthought at these things.

    I also completely forgot to ask when I found you in the dealer’s room… Does this mean I can still win? 😀

  • Razziecat

    My sister and I had this process down pat when we used to go to a con in Maryland. The hotel was near a supermarket, so after checking in, we went to the store and bought a selection of cold cuts, rolls, fruit, ramen soup (we brought a hot pot with us), condiments & snacks. We brought stuff like sugar, tea bags, etc, from home. The hotel room had a coffee maker and a small fridge. This way we could not only eat according to our own schedule (such as in between workshops), we could avoid the expense and waiting time at the hotel restaurant. Key point: We didn’t have a car, so getting to other restaurants was problematic (It’s a pet peeve of mine that most cons take it for granted that every attendee either has a car or knows someone they can cadge a ride from). Our method gave us control over where, when & how we ate, & how much we paid. Leftovers were donated to the con suite on the last day (& happily accepted!)

  • Raven, I just messaged you on FB. *grin*

    Razzie, you’re right – sometimes cons are in hotels that have a plethora of restaurants around, but sometimes there’s nothing anywhere nearby. I flew to a small con a couple of years ago by myself, and the only restaurants were in a mall half a mile away on the other side of a major interstate. Meals became a bit of a challenge.