conventions · Food

A Guide to Eating at Conventions

With convention season coming up, I wanted to make a guide on eating at conventions! At conventions, there sometimes are misconceptions that fast food or junk food is the only options to get by a weekend. But the truth is…you won’t be able to get through a convention with instant ramen alone.

I have been going to conventions for almost a decade. I have gotten into a routine over the years and have found what works for me. Although this guide may not work for every con goer, I still wanted to share some tips! This is from the point of view with someone who has a few food allergies. I noticed there was a lack of guides on the subject and made sure to add some allergy-related suggestions.

1.) Research Your Options: This is especially true to someone with food allergies. Google Maps will be your friend. My friends and I tend to stop by a Walmart or other major store beforehand to pick up cheap groceries, rather than relying solely on takeout.  ‘But of course, sometimes you do need a hot meal. I like to also look up local restaurants and look at factors such as distance and options. Convention websites also feature some restaurants which can work with the event and give decent discounts if you show your badge.

Bonus tip: If you have allergies, be aware that some locations might not be entirely allergy-friendly due to cross-contamination. I always make sure to mention my allergies prior to ordering–sometimes allergies can be in products you might not expect. 

2.) Make a grocery list: I know this tip may be a bit… obvious. Sometimes folks are able to make a mental list.  I am also getting to the point where I know the items that are needed for an event.  But physical lists are very helpful, especially if you make them a bit in advance!  Below is an example of a partial convention list that I applied to this post. For the sake of keeping to the food-theme of this post, I will only really discuss my food list. But of course, it is important to remember other items, especially toiletries! Anyway,  I also made sure to add water to this list because it is essential for any occasion. But for any  con, you especially need to stack up on water.

Getting groceries not only saves money, it gives more options for those who may have allergies if there are not too many choices for allergy-friendly food at the con itself.

  1. Case of water bottles
  2. Trail mix (100 calorie packs tend to be for a good price and also tend to have dried fruit, rather than candy). I tend to combine all of the packs into a ‘ziploc’ bag for the weekend.
  3. Granola bars
  4. Fruit
  5. At least two non-perishable meals. I love bringing microwavable rice!
  6. Something sweet! (It is okay to treat yourself every so often–it is a con weekend, after all).

3.) About Ordering Food at a Convention Center:

I do love conventions, but the truth is, food that convention centers sometimes sell is not always that great, and can be a bit expensive.  Usually convention food is the same food you may get at a cafeteria–and you often have to wait in long lines. Although some cons have improved with their options in recent years (some even work with bringing in food trucks), sometimes it is not worth it to get food directly at a convention center. I like to scour out the eateries at convention centers before I get hungry and look at my options and pricing before making a decision later on. If I am able to think in advance, I can avoid making an impulsive decision later on.

4.) Getting Delivery: 

As a rule of thumb, I generally try to limit myself to a maximum of one meal per day through delivery services. I absolutely love using cell phone apps such as Grubhub and Uber Eats on a convention weekend.  But do keep in mind that many applications do sometimes have additional fees due to their convenience…and sometimes there is a minimum amount you need to order. I like to order with friends occasionally at cons– we split the fee and  tip to make it more affordable.

5.) Try Mobile Ordering:

In recent years, it seems that more and more locations have ‘mobile ordering’  through cellphone applications or on their direct websites. Mobile ordering is a bit similar to the previously mentioned Grubhub or Uber Eats, but is generally done directly through the eatery. Mobile ordering is especially recommended for locations which tend to be busy at conventions. Mobile ordering allows you to place your order in advance. You typically pay ahead and walk or drive to the location to pick up your food. Some applications even state the approximate time when your order will be ready, which is very convenient.

Bonus tip: As a rule of thumb, the closer the location to the convention center, the more hectic it tend to be–especially if said locations have caffeinated drinks on the menu. In all of the years  I’ve attending events, I have learned that cafes in proximity to conventions are typically busy or have longer waits. The same usually applies to big chain restaurants. But luckily, many chain restaurants also have mobile ordering! 

In Closing: Conventions are all about having fun, but it is also important to stay hydrated and well-fed throughout the weekend. I think planning  in advance is one important pieces of advice I could give when it comes almost any convention-related topic.

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