Are you ready for RTX? No no no, not just the “counting every single second until I’m in Austin” kind of ready. I mean are you PREPARED for RTX? We’re here to get you ready, and make sure you have the BEST time possible at RTX.
1. Pack right, but travel light.
Packing for conventions is a pain. You look around at all of this stuff and think “Oh! I’ll use that! Who knows, I might need that! Well I can’t live without THAT!” Don’t fall into that trap. You’re going to be away for what, 5 days tops? You don’t need to bring your entire life with you. There are some essentials that you need, but don’t worry about bringing an Xbox and 5 games to keep you entertained. RTX will be your entertainment! Here’s what you should be sure to have:
- YOUR TICKET CONFIRMATION/YOUR BADGE
I’m going to have a friend explain this one to you…
In 2012, badges were mailed out to attendees. In 2013, attendees picked up their badges at the convention center. I’m not sure how 2014 will work, but either way you’ll need your ticket confirmation or your badge. And then once you have your badge, you’ll need to keep it with you at all times. If you lose it, you lose RTX!
- Spare Tunics (Clean Clothes!)
You never know what might happen that will cause you to suddenly need a change of clothes, but you’ll want to have at least one spare set of clothing. Also, remember that Texas is HOT. Plan accordingly. (In case you were unaware, this includes, at minimum, a clean shirt, clean socks, and clean underwear. You -MIGHT- be able to get away with wearing the same pair of pants/shorts/whatever each day, but you know that better than we do.) Also: you will be hot and sweaty enough that chafing could become a problem (ouch). Plan accordingly.
- Walking Boots (Comfy Shoes!)
Yes, it is summer. Yes, it will be hot. You may be tempted to just wear sandals/flip flops, but don’t fall into that trap! You’re going to be walking around the convention center a bunch, and you’ll want real shoes and not just platforms to keep your feet off the ground. Your feet will thank you. (You may also consider bringing two pairs of socks for each day. After walking around all day, your socks will be gross and sweaty, but if you throw on a new pair to go out at night your feet will feel GREAT!)
- Toiletries (I can’t think of another name for toiletries. Smelling-good stuff?)
This seems obvious, but people forget stuff like soap and shampoo and towels all the time. You HAVE to shower at RTX. I will personally find you and hurt you if you don’t. And don’t think that you’ll be able to get away with just using the little bit of stuff you find in your hotel room, ESPECIALLY if you’re sharing a room with other people! Be smart, bring soap.
- Spare Gold (Money!)
Do you rely on credit/debit cards all the time? It might not be hard to do when you’re at home, but when you’re traveling, what happens if your card is stolen or shut down or lost? It isn’t fun, I can tell you that! Bring a bit of emergency cash in case something happens. Also, if you’re planning to bid on something in our Friday night auction, be sure to have either cash, or be prepared to do a PayPal transaction.
- Health Potions (Medicine)
If you have bad allergies, you’d better stock up on some medicine before heading to Austin! Consider a decongestant as well as an antihistamine. Central Texas (specifically the hill country) is notorious for bad allergens. Luckily, things aren’t TOO bad in July, unless you’re particularly sensitive to grasses and mold. It might be worth checking this graph if you are concerned about how the allergens around the Austin area may impact you. The last thing you want is to be miserable the entire weekend with bad allergies! In addition to allergy medicine, it’d be smart to being some general medicine as well like some Advil/Tylenol. You may also want to bring some vitamins or something to supplement your convention diet and avoid the Con Crud/PAX Pox/RTX Rads (Can that be a thing? Rads like in Fallout?). Then again, if you follow our tips you’ll know to eat right!
- Knowledge Scrolls (Maps, schedules, etc)
You may have a magic box that can store your maps, schedules, and everything else on it. What powers that device though? What happens if it runs out (though it won’t if you follow the Six Suggestions!) in the middle of the day? Bring hard-copies of everything you may need, JUST in case.
- Bag of Holding (Backpack/Messenger Bag)
How does any adventurer carry their supplies? Get yourself a nice sturdy bag to carry your supplies, merch, and other things in during RTX. Don’t have a bag? My personal favorite bags are from Timbuk2, though it may be too late to order one now. Check around some local stores for nice solid bags to use. You’ll need something sturdy, yet light enough to haul around during RTX. Consider keeping a plastic grocery or Ziplock bag in there as well, just in case it actually rains.
- Entertainment (Games games games)
You’re going to be among gamers, so bring some games! Maybe you’re an analog gamer and want to play a few games of Munchkin? Or perhaps you’re of the digital persuasion and want to bring a 3DS or PS Vita? RTX is a gold mine for StreetPass-ers. Maybe consider bringing your Xbox LIVE profile on a USB stick and a controller (Instead of your whole 360)! You never know when or where a game will pop up!
- Strength potions (Energy drinks, vitamin C, Gatorade)
This is one of my convention “secrets” that I try to share with as many people as possible (So I guess it really isn’t secret?) to help them out. Any convention I go to, I make sure to take my Nalgene water bottle, some single-serving packets of Gatorade powder, and some powdered energy drink mix (Its called Power Edge). Lately, I’ve added Emergen-C to that mix. In the morning, I mix up half a packet of each into a full bottle of water, and then put the rest of the packets in a Ziploc bag and carry it with me. That water bottle will hydrate you, give you a burst of energy, and give you some extra vitamins to protect against the Con Crud/PAX Pox/RTX Rads. It won’t taste great, but it’ll definitely help you out!
DO NOT try to survive on energy drinks alone. Nothing good will come from that.
2. Know how to travel
Because RTX proper is in the Austin Convention Center you probably won’t need to travel around Austin that much. HOWEVER, if you’re planning on going out and about (Hint Hint: SideQuest!) you need to get to know Cap Metro! Depending on how much you plan on moving around Austin, I’d suggest buying a Day Pass each day you are there ($2.00 each) which will probably come out being cheaper than paying $1.00 per ride. The CapMetro website has an extremely helpful Trip Planner that can help you get from basically any Point A to any Point B in Austin (and yes, it works on cell phones—or at least it does on mine. Maybe check if it also works on yours BEFORE you get here). Please note that you can search based on address, intersection, landmark, or stop number—there are sign posts allllll over downtown that mark bus stops, and they clearly list the stop number and which bus routes stop there. You can also search based on a specific Point A to Point B need, query when the next bus will be wherever you are, or look for all stops near your current location if you can’t find an actual bus stop by you.
If you think you might be taking other sorts of detours, you may also want to check out the Schedules and Maps page to see where else Cap Metro services. Conveniently, there are several routes that go more or less directly from the airport to the convention center and ALL the RTX hotels. The CapMetro website does not recognize all the hotels by name, unfortunately, so here are some tricks for the hotels it doesn’t know: for the Marriott Austin Downtown, use the same stop as the Convention Center; for the Radisson Hotel & Suites, search with their address, 111 Cesar Chavez at Congress; for the W downtown, use their address, 200 Lavaca St. The CapMetro website recognizes ALL the other RTX hotels by name. Why don’t you take a second to play with the Trip Planner from the airport to your hotel right now? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
You may have noticed that your bus route requires you to walk a bit, as do most of the bus routes. If you’re uncomfortable with walking from a bus stop to your hotel for any reason (you’ll be carrying an inexplicably large number of bags, you’ll be arriving somewhat late into the evening, you have a peg leg, etc.), you may want to consider these other transportation options:
- The Super Shuttle –None of the RTX hotels offer their own shuttles. The Super Shuttle will pick you up from the airport and take you to wherever you ask it to. The ride to most of the RTX hotels falls in the $10-$20 range. You can schedule the shuttle ahead of time to make sure it’s there when you’re ready for it. You can also pre-pay online so you won’t have to worry about taking care of that on top of everything else. If your plans change at the last minute, though, there IS a Super Shuttle counter in the airport and you can do everything from there, but it WILL be more difficult to schedule a Super Shuttle if you wait until you’re in the airport.
- If you want a more direct trip to your hotel than the Super Shuttle (meaning you don’t want to wait through each of the other stops to get to your hotel), you can always take a cab! There are three main cab companies in Austin, all of which accept major credit cards. Yellow Cab (512-452-9999), Austin Cab (512-478-2222), and Lone Star Cab (512-836-4900) may just become your best friend not only when you’re at the airport, but for the entire duration of the weekend.
- If you already know you want to rent a car, take a look at the list of rental car companies that you can rent from at the airport. Be aware that the convenience of having your own car for the weekend may be slightly offset by the extremely limited parking situation downtown!
- If you’re traveling in style or with a big group, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport does boast a few Limousine and Charter companies that will come get you from the airport.
Obviously, most of the above are great options for transportation throughout the weekend. My number one recommendation is to use the Cap Metro bus system; Austin’s bus system is much more thorough and efficient than any other public transportation I’ve used in Texas or the south in general. It is cheap and easy to use, so don’t be afraid to try it!
3. Remember where you are
In addition to being a big city trapped in a small town body, Austin is also a college town at heart. The University of Texas is smack in the center of Austin. The reason I mention this is because the cost of living (and therefore cost of everything else) is lower compared to most large cities. When I was in Boston and Seattle for PAX, I was surprised by how much a simple dinner at a local restaurant was. In Austin (if you’re coming from a large city somewhere else) you might be pleasantly surprised by the cost of a simple meal. This also means that you’ll have to contend with students if you head out for food or late night entertainment on Sixth Street. Be sure to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to navigate potential crowds and such.
Alternatively, if you want late night entertainment without having to deal with crowds, you could always check out a pre-planned event where the organizers have reserved venues and such. (HINT HINT AGAIN: SideQuest and RTSQ Presents!)
4. SideQuester needs food badly!
In the time that I have spent at conventions, the most common mistake that I’ve seen people make is forgetting to eat. Seems ridiculous right? Well somehow in-between wandering the expo floor, running to and from panels, and having an absolute blast with everything that the convention has to offer, people forget that their bodies need energy to function!
While energy drinks, soda, and coffee may give you a bit of a burst, you’re going to need REAL food to keep you going. As far as I know, the convention center WILL have food available, but from the looks of it, it’ll probably be a bit pricey. If you don’t want to eat what they have to offer, or shell out that much cash, you’ll need to find your way to food outside of the convention center. But how on earth would you do that?
If only there was some place that conveniently put together a fancy tool to help you find places to eat near the convention center. If you find such a place, be sure to tell your friends!
Want to get the best of Austin food, but don’t want to brave the furnace (Also called “outside”)? Check out Longhorn Delivery and Eat Out In, two local delivery services that will bring great food right to you (at a premium)! Take note, though: you might not be allowed to bring your food INTO the convention center–so stake out a comfortable place to eat! A nearby hotel lobby will probably be your best bet.
Remember, eating and staying healthy is more important than catching an extra panel! You don’t want to feel like crap on Sunday because you didn’t eat on Saturday!
5. Make a Battle Plan!
This is by far the easiest thing to do on this entire list, because it just takes a few minutes of looking over maps, schedules, and information about RTX. You should definitely try to plan your day(s) at RTX ahead of time, otherwise you might end up missing something you really wanted to see but forgot about in the craziness of the convention center. Here’s how I would suggest to create your “battle plan” for RTX:
- Accept the fact that you won’t be able to go to every panel or see every exhibit. Just accept it now and be done. Okay. Ready?
- Check how far away your hotel is from the convention center. Know how long it will take to travel from one to the other.
- Look over the list of exhibitors and guests and mark off ones that you MUST see.
- Look over the list of panels and mark off ones that you MUST attend. (Be sure to reference your guest choices!)
- Create a tentative schedule of events for yourself. Include panels and expo time, but be sure to save room for breaks and meals!
- Find where the things above will be on the show floor. (There’s no RTX map yet, but I’m sure there will be. Generic maps of the convention center can be found here)
- Figure out what after-hours activities you want to participate in and map them/add them to your schedule. (SideQuest!)
- Save your personal map/schedule to your phone/tablet/computer, and print a hard copy (Just in case!)
- BE PREPARED TO THROW ALL OF THAT OUT THE WINDOW IF SOMETHING CHANGES. Don’t stress out if you miss something!
6. Stay Powered Up and Connected!
Odds are, you’re going to be bringing along at least a bit of technology with you, and that tech will need power! If you’re going to be Tweeting, taking pictures, posting video, etc (and we all will be!) then you’ll need to plan ahead and have a back-up power supply. Sure, you can probably find an outlet somewhere in the convention center, but every minute you spend tethered to the wall is one less minute of RTX you get to experience! I suggest bringing a portable external battery charger with you. A few years back, I bought the ZAGGSpark 2.0 to keep my phone charged, and it has served me well through last RTX, several PAXes, and a few long trips away from home.
In addition to needing power, you’ll also want to stay connected during RTX. The Austin Convention Center has WiFi, but if other conventions (Like PAX) are any indication it’ll be pretty congested. The same goes for cell data networks (3G at least, Verizon and AT&T LTE may be fine). Be sure you have a plan to communicate with your group or emergency contacts in the event that you need to. Plan meeting places or send smoke signals* because they’re going to be more reliable than the connectivity.
*Please don’t set fire to the convention center.
Keep these things in mind and you’re sure to survive RTX! Happy questing!