A friend contacted me looking for advice on attending their first Anthrocon, so I figured I'd share what I emailed them.
Wear comfortable shoes, you'll be doing a lot of walking between events and restaurants and stuff. I will occasionally go shoe shopping 1-2 weeks before a con. I worked in a Sports Authority for 3 years in college and that whole "I need to break shows in" mentality is stupid. Shoes should feel comfortable the minute you put them on. If you have to break them in, they're deteriorating and falling apart. Entropy is not with you on this one. Shoes will only break down over time. You should get the right length AND width of shoe you need with some cushioning and socks. I'm anywhere between a US 9.5-10.5 but I'm a 4E width. Adidas and New Balance are my preferred brands, but others offer extra widths too. Stay away from Nike, Reebok, Avia, Saucony, or others if you have wide feet. It might help to read up on "suppination" and "pronation" as well.
The "6-2-1 Rule" means 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower per day. Following this rule won't guarantee you a great con, but it's a great foundation to build on.
Budgeting your money, someone came up with this "FRESH-T" acronym: Food (and beverage), Registration, Emergency, Stuff, Hotel, Travel. Some people have unlimited funds, but for the rest of us we have to watch what we spend or else we starve or can't pay for the room or whatever. I usually set myself a limit on the types of places I eat out with others, like $10-15 max per person per meal, and $100 max or so for sketches/merch/comics/etc. Food/snacks can easily be over $30+ a day per person so consider grabbing snacks for your room or something. AC doesn't really have a con suite with free food like MFF.
What to bring: I have a Google doc I use to pack stuff. The "n" is the number of days I'm traveling. "n+1" is a phrase used to describe everything you need plus one extra as a form of redundancy. It goes like this:
Razor, Shaving cream
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Cell phone and charger
Laptop and charger
Art supplies (pencils, erasers, small ruler, etc.)
Registration lines are long, especially Thursdays and Fridays. I HIGHLY recommend you pre-register (if you haven't already) or sponsorship levels if you don't want to spend 2-3 hours standing around.
About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety/depression. I manage pretty well with medication and I'm generally OK in crowds, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed and have to take a break from things. I like to remind others that it's OK to take some out time for yourself. I will retreat back to my room on occasion and just watch TV or laze around on my laptop. There's no reason to regret not doing stuff or feel guilty you're missing out. If a con is an all you can eat buffet, I know I'm gonna feel like crap if I stuff myself. Why overdo it when I know my limits? It's an unnecessary risk. Pace yourself and do what feels comfortable.
Social media during a con has become almost imperative. 4-5 years ago I only used my phone to text and call people, but now it's a much bigger deal. Here's why:
Constant communication. Meeting up with others, organizing meals together, sharing your experiences as they happen, keeping up with the con and events before, during, and after they happen. Twitter has become my most useful resource for news/info and friends. During the con, I will set my hotel roommates and some other accounts to "send me notifications" and then turn them off after the con is over. Announcements about Artist's Alley, the Dealer's Den, Art Show, Charity Auction, the Fursuit Parade, etc. all pop up on my phone without me having to dig through my timeline. I will also keep saved searches for hashtags like #AC2015 and #anthrocon or #DLCC or whatever to read at my leisure from time to time.
Information at your fingertips. No need to carry around a restaurant guide, a program, a schedule, maps and other papers when you can have it all on a small palm-sized computer. If your signal is crappy, you can always download PDFs or JPGs to your phone and pull them up on demand rather than having to load them each time.
Emergencies. Fire alarms, bomb scares, medical problems, injuries, inclement weather, etc. During the chlorine gas incident at MWFF 2014, I started seeing tweets about the hotel evacuation 5-10 minutes BEFORE our wing of the Hyatt was told to evacuate. Before, during, and after the evacuation friends and I used Twitter to locate each other, make sure people were safe, (tried) to avoid spreading gossip, etc. Some people (like me) ended up outside in the cold without a jacket and people were offering their warm cars or rooms in adjacent hotels to wait it out. I even remember people offering water/snacks/aspirin/blankets to others via Twitter and text messages.
As a result, a good phone or tablet with decent battery is key. I have a Monoprice External USB Battery Pack that weighs about 10 ounces and lasts for hours. At $20, it's totally worth it. It doesn't hurt to have a messenger bag or backpack and bring a charger and cable with you when you're out and about.
I hope this helped! Feel free to share it with friends or whomever. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.