Don Sparrow’s Guide to Comic Cons for Artists Part 1: TRAVEL


Hello friend! Any regular reader of this blog knows I spend a lot of time as a guest at comic book conventions. Each one has a different personality, and every experience teaches me something new. So Having been doing these for a few years now, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned, or comfortable habits I’ve formed in this, Don Sparrow’s Guide to Comic-Cons for Artists.

DISCLAIMER: Am I saying this is the ONLY way to do a convention, or that you’re a hopeless case if you do a convention differently, or have different motivation or results from a show? NO! Where are you getting that? This is just some stuff that I figured out makes a show go better for ME, personally. Ok? Ok.


I’m fortunate that I live in a city that has a couple thriving comic book conventions, so getting to do a show where I come home to my family, and get to sleep in my own bed is such a blessing. But, most of the cons I do over the year require travel.

Flying: For a couple of comic-cons, because of the great distance from where I live, flying is much easier, and if you book well enough in advance it can even be more affordable than driving. I’m fortunate that with help from family, I’ve developed a convention display that breaks down into a pretty manageable single hockey bag, which makes flying to a show possible. (More about displays in another section)

•TRAVEL MUSTS! I’ll put this right at the start since it goes for both flying and driving. The two things I never leave without are an auxiliary charger for my phone (and the necessary cord) as well as headphones. You just never know when your phone might run out of juice, and my phone is often the only map I take.



Headphones are almost of equal importance, as when you want them, you’re always glad you have them. I keep an extra pair in the bag designated for my carry-on at all times for when you just need to zone out and listen to tunes.



• LOOK THE PART! I always fly in a suit and tie, and the rumours are true: I really do get treated better by the service staff. Plus, it puts me in a professional, confident mind-set that can carry over for the weekend. Fun as these trips can be, they are my business, so it’s a nice reminder to start out the trip with that approach. Plus, if it’s a choice, I’d rather be slightly overdressed than be one of these people.


• IS IT THE SHOES?! Everyone knows security checkpoints can be a drag, but you can make things go a lot quicker if you wear slip-on shoes. ‘But Donny’, you’re saying, ‘you just said to wear a suit! Now you’re saying to wear crocs or flip-flops?” No, that’s not what I’m saying–If you’re a man, unless you’re in your own yard barbecuing, or in a gym shower room, there’s really no excuse to be seen in crocs or flip flops. There are lots of formal slip-on shoes that look great, and come off and on very easily.


•STAND IN THE PLACE WHERE YOU WORK! Unless I’m super duper early for boarding, I usually like to stand and wait for boarding, rather than sit. In the first place, I’m likely going to be sitting for a few hours, so why not stretch my stuff out? Also, when you stand, you can lean your carry-on against your legs or feet, giving a nice sense of security knowing it’s there. Lastly, it’s a slight advantage for boarding quickly, as you’re already good to go.


•BOOK IT! One thing I like to do is to save a book I’m really excited to read for when I have a plane trip. As a parent of two toddlers, I don’t get as much time as I’d like for reading. A long plane ride can be a great opportunity to catch up on reading. FUN TIP: If I’m reading a hardcover book, a funny thing I like to do is to put my book into the dust jacket of another book, with a hilarious cover. Hardly anyone notices, but for the one or two people who do a double take, it’s worth it.


Bound to raise questions from your neighbour.

Bound to raise questions from your neighbour.

• OH, SWITCH OFF! There’s an airplane mode on your phone for a reason–use it. Otherwise, your phone will keep searching for a hotspot, or pinging where you are, all of which drains precious battery. Airlines don’t want you texting or tweeting from the plane anyway, so why not power down, or at least go to airplane mode?

• CARRY ON MY WAYWARD SON! Because I have to check my bags anyway (as my display bag is too large for carry-on) I try to keep my carry-on as light, and easily portable as possible, and leave almost everything else in my checked bags. However, I do keep some minimal drawing supplies in my carry-on, as well as some essential toiletries, in case something goes awry with my checked bags. It’s never happened yet, but if it did, I could still technically have the very basics for the convention that I’d need. I prefer stowing my carry-on under the seat rather than the overhead compartment, as it’s easier to just slip on my shoulder and get out of the plane.

• A LITTLE PATIENCE! C’mon–everybody wants off the plane as quickly as possible, especially the plane’s crew. But just be patient, and know you’ll get off. Instead of elbowing and jostling for position, you’re better off letting the people whose seats are closer to the door debark before you. BUT! Don’t dawdle. Get your stuff and get off the plane, or get out of the aisle. C’mon. Common sense.


Pretty much the complete opposite of my approach to flying–when I’m in my car, I am all about comfort. Ball cap, sweats, sneakers, and I’m good to go.

• MY SHOULDER BAG IS MY CO-PILOT (ALSO JESUS)! These cons are usually a pretty solitary experience for me, so before I hit the road, I try to get everything I might need access to while I’m on the trip organized on the passenger seat. That way I can quickly grab whatever I need without taking my eyes off the road. Same goes for meals. When I’m really trying to make good time to my destination, and don’t want to sit down in a restaurant en route, I still take the time to lay everything out on my passenger seat in a neat and orderly way so that I can eat without taking my eyes off the road to take the pickles off my burger, or squeeze ketchup out of a packet. Do it in advance, it’ll save you time and keep you a lot safer.


•LARGE AND IN CHARGE! A power adapter for your cigarette lighter is such a must. You can reach your destination knowing you have a full charge, which is a nice feeling. Plus, if you have toddlers, like I do, you can rely on it to power your mini-dvd player or whatever it is you’re using to distract them.

• IT’S A GAS, GAS, GAS! I’m a real nerd when it comes to having a full tank of gas. In the city, I play fast and loose, and often drive around on fumes. But when I’m doing a road trip, I really don’t like letting the tank get below 1/4. I’m realizing how OCD I’m sounding with some of these routines I’m sharing, but it really is a comfort knowing you’re covered. Plus, it gives you a chance to get out and stretch your legs, and maybe get to know the area a little better. I like stopping in smaller communities and chatting with the people, too, as they always know the upcoming weather, or what’s going on, which can be a real help. During one road trip, I wish I’d heeded a gas station attendant’s warning about thick fog on the road ahead of me. Stopping for the night would have saved me a few hours of white knuckled tension, desperately trying to perceive the road lines.


•BRAINFREEZES: A MYTH! I’ll cover this a bit more in the eating and con sections to come, but I’m a big fan of slurpees on the road. They’re a lot more portable than a full fast food meal, and they fuel you up for much longer than another kind of drink might, so I often use them as a meal replacement. Plus, when I’m on the road a long time, I find it does weird things to my appetite. Because driving requires so little, physically, I seem to be able to go longer without eating than I normally would. So I like to take advantage of that, and press on, making my destination in great time.


•ROCK AND ROLL HIGHWAY! Since my cars are super old, the don’t have a way of connecting my iPhone directly into the speakers. So I’m forced to listen to the radio, CDs, or my iPhone. For the sake of convenience, I’ll typically listen to my iPhone on headphones. Be careful, though–this is considered illegal in certain provinces, as it can be considered distracted driving. When legally permissible, I’ll still keep the volume low enough that I can hear the road noise. I haven’t (yet) listened to many podcasts while on the road–not sure why, but I think music has more variance in terms of style and tempo, so it’ll help keep my mind sharp while hurtling down the road at a hundred kilometers an hour.


•SPEAKING OF HURTLING! This will be hard to believe, perhaps, but I never speed. Sure, I might lose some time not pushing the envelope in terms of speed limits, but I just don’t do it. I’ll take getting to my destination safely (if a little later than I wish) over stressing when I see a patrol car, or paying a fine.

Let's see if these b******s can do 90.  On second thought, let's not.

Let’s see if these b******s can do 90. On second thought, let’s not.

Coming in part 2: YOU ARE HERE: ARRIVING AT YOUR DESTINATION! Tips on being a good houseguest, hotel hacks, and other helpful hints from a paranoiac foodie! Coming soon.

Thanks for reading, I love you.