Planning for Anime Expo
Anime Expo is one of those conventions that unless you live locally you really need to plan for it in advance, and I'm not just talking about preregistering and reserving a hotel room. So here are some things I think are worth sharing to anyone wanting to add AX to their convention circuit.
The Flight to LA
This of course only matters if you need to take a flight. Most everyone has a preferred airline and day for departure and arrival, but I'll tell you right now that a $500 flight could easily be a $250 one if you rearrange some details. Cheaper airlines like Frontier and Spirit are great if you don't mind giving up a little bit of comfort, the only real downside is you have to pay for luggage. Last I checked they charge $35 or so online if you do it ahead of time, which even both ways would only put you in the $300s. Another big one, the biggest factor in my opinion is when you travel. Booking months in advance can save you money, but so can leaving a day or two earlier or leaving a day or two later. The price of traveling on a Monday can be way better than a Sunday, or vice versa. So the best way to get the cheapest trip is just to play with your dates and see what magic you might be able to work.
Where to Stay
This is not a con you want to wait until the last minute to reserve a room for, however that doesn't mean you have to stay at one of the sometimes more expensive 'con rate' hotels. There's also Air BnB which can be the difference in paying $200 a night and $50. There's also Expedia.com and Hotels.com if you really wanna see what all your options look like. Sometimes it's worth staying a couple miles out if you save a couple hundred in the process.
Where To Park
If you aren't staying at a hotel within walking distance, you're going to need somewhere to park if you don't Uber or Lyft it. As awful as it is getting up early, I highly recommend getting to the convention center around 8:30-9am when not as many people have arrived yet. The parking underneath the convention center and the garage at the corner of Venice and Figurosa should still have room till about 9:30. There are few things better than knowing your vehicle is not far away at the end of the day and your feet want to fall off. You'll be looking at spending $20-$25 depending on which structure they motion you into, but you're also paying for peace of mind and I've passed lots trying to get $35.
This one isn't as relevant since they announced a day or two ago that next year's badges will all be mailed out. However, it may help anyone going to a larger con with similar options. AX offered a day -1 and day 0 in which to pick up your badge outside of the convention. I highly recommend taking advantage of these extra days to pick up your badges, especially if it's a con that regularly hosts over 50k people. This was a record breaking year at over 100k attendees and most complaints I heard were due to the wait to pick up your badge (2-6 hours). If you can't attend a day -1 or 0 I always suggest getting there right as the registration line opens if not a bit before then, it's always better to be ahead of the crowd.
The Line To Get Inside The Con:
So this was a running joke this year due to all the lines but in most larger cons they're unavoidable to some degree. Most of the complaints I read about (outside of the line to get your badge) were on the lines into the building as well as the lines of the panels. The line into the building is unavoidable, it's always been there as long as I've attended (since 2014) and usually only takes 30-45 minutes or so to get in once the building officially 'opens' for the day. This year it was a bit worse due to the weapons check / metal detectors at the entrances of the convention, however if you remember that Phoenix Comic Con had an actual gunman sneak in with the intention of harming over con goers, it becomes bearable. This line is at it's worst on Day 1, and this year there really was a mosh pit in front of the doors just trying to get in. On Day 1 you probably won't have a choice but to wait in it, but arriving before the doors officially opens will get you in faster once they do open. On the flip side of that, so does technically waiting a little bit for the crowds to all enter the building and waiting them out by an hour or two. But if you notice a giant clog, there are multiple entrances if you head down to the other end of the building (West Hall), or enter from the parking lots underneath the convention center. They also have bag checks but since not many con goers know of these entrances or didn't park in the garages, they'll save a lot of time!
The Lines to the Panels
Most other lines aren't negotiable, but have cut offs due to room capacities being met, so in order to NOT miss your panel schedule accordingly, like don't show up to the line 5 minutes before it's due to start. They allow attendees to begin lining up an hour in advance for most events, these lines suck to wait in, and most of them are now located outside to avoid congestion in the hallways. AX is in the middle of summer in a very hot location, so if you're super decked out in something on the warmer side, maybe dress in something a bit lighter that day, or have a friend wait in line for you. Thankfully if the room reaches capacity while the line is still forming they will stop the line from growing, that way you don't wait for a spot you don't have.
The Food Situation
The nice thing about having a convention in Los Angeles is that there are food trucks everywhere, and when a convention is in town, so are they. These are wonderful because the prices vary and so does the food, they'll be all over the area so keep an eye out for ones that appeal to you. There are also a few cafeterias inside the convention itself. The LA Convention center has a food court on the upper level, as well as a second one in the West Hall. The prices this year were about $6-$8 for a hot dog or a side (like fries), while the entrees were $10 - above. This can get super expensive if you arrive early and stay late and are eating all of your meals there. So I really recommend eating a decent breakfast before arriving and try to wait until you're able to swing by your hotel/home for dinner.
Artist Ally Clogs
Artist Ally has gotten so large that it was relocated to Kentai Hall with the Table Top area a couple years ago. What this means is that it's very large, but due to the amount of amazing artists that attend every year, is also very crowded. Unlike the Dealers Hall which isn't too difficult to navigate, Artist's Ally is always clogged and depending on when you go can easily make you claustrophobic. The best time we've found to go is first thing in the morning while everyone else is rushing into the Dealer's Hall. Less people to push through, and you'll actually get the time to see all of the booths up close.
While I won't make excuses for the badge pickup and line into the door on Day 1, most issues I heard of when it came to AX were due to poor planning, and time management which can easily be avoided. Regardless, AX is one of our favorite conventions and is definitely worth going to, even if it's just once!