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Dragon Con is summer’s biggest event for Atlanta’s sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and gaming fanatics. However, the 4-day convention can take a pretty hard hit on your wallet. From admission to food, drinks, lodging and the perfect costume, the cost of Dragon Con can leave your bank account significantly deficient. But never fear! Here are some steps to take to enjoy Dragon Con without breaking the bank.
How to Save on Admission
Buy your admission badge early. At the Con each year, 4-day admission for the following year’s Dragon Con is available for the price of a 1-day badge.
Buy a single-day pass. Some single-day passes for Dragon Con cost less than $50. Although you can access the badge-only areas for just 1 day of the event, you can still spend the weekend partying in the unrestricted areas.
Share badges. While staff check badges for entry into certain areas, they do not check I.D. Split the price of a badge with a friend and trade off for access to the various areas and events.
Volunteer to work at the Con. Volunteers typically get a free 4-day pass to the convention, although first-time volunteers are typically asked to pay $20. Although you are required to work 20 hours over the entire weekend (in 4-hour shifts) it’s a cheap way into the Con and a great way to meet other attendees.
Beg for admission. Toward the end of the day, or the end of the convention, some attendees on their way out are willing to give away their badges. If you meet someone ready to leave, ask if he will give you his badge.
Sneak in if you have no money to spend on admission at all and it's too late to volunteer. This is easier while in costume, especially if you closely follow a crowd of other costumed attendees with badges. The staff looking for badges may not notice you sneaking by.
Stay in the main hotel areas. Dragon Con is about more than the badge-only areas, and a good time can be had even if you stay in the main hotel areas. You can still take in the costumes and enjoy the parties around the hotels without spending money on admission.
How to Save Money on a Costume
Revisit your past Halloween costumes. Lots of Halloween costumes are Dragon Con appropriate, and using what you already have costs nothing.
Be creative. If you don't have an old Halloween costume, come up with an idea that you can execute well without spending much money. Not every costume requires a spandex leotard, so come up with a few ideas that you think you can realistically pull off. Remember, the fun is in dressing up, even if your costume isn’t perfect.
Look through your closets. See which items of clothing you can easily construct into a costume. Rip up an old dress shirt and slacks, mixed with a little paint or makeup, and you’ve got a zombie. Got slacks, a dress shirt and a name tag? Go as Sean of the Dead. A black skirt, bandanna and frilly blouse can make a simple pirate wench costume. Even bedsheets can become capes or togas. Dig deep to find things you may not use or wear on a regular basis that will make a great costume.
Ask around for items to complete your costume. Borrowing pieces, or even an entire costume, is an easy way to look great without having to spend any money.
Ask the thespians for help. For high school and college students, see if you can borrow a costume from your school’s drama department. This could be a fairly inexpensive, if not free, way to get a costume for the weekend. Although, if you do borrow from a drama department, be sure to take extra good care of the costume.
Check the thrift stores if you can't find everything you need from your own closet and can't borrow from a friend or school. Places like Goodwill often sell clothing that you can easily modify into an appropriate costume, often for only a few dollars per piece.
How to Save on Food and Drinks
Find the Con Suite. The Dragon Con Hospitality Suite (known as the Con Suite) is a hungry con-goer's best friend. Free food (and drinks!) are available here throughout the day, and the type and quality of food depends on when you go. Either way, you won’t starve. During the evenings the Con Suite also offers free cocktails while they last.
Go off-site. Although food is available from various restaurants and vendors in the hotels, it is often cheaper to wander away from the Con site for meals. There are some fast-food restaurants a short distance from the hotel that offer a cheaper alternative to the hotel fare.
Bring your own food. This is especially easy if you’re staying in a room at one of the hotels. Be sure to know what amenities your room has, such as microwaves or refrigerators, and pick the foods you bring accordingly.
Bring your own liquor (or befriend someone else who did!). Several bars at the hotels have plenty of beverage options, but they are expensive. Bringing your own alcohol and mixers (if needed) is a cheaper alternative for partying at Dragon Con.
How to Save Money on Accommodations
Share a room with all of your friends. The more people you can split a room with, the less money everyone pays. If you’re comfortable sharing beds (or taking a piece of the floor), sharing a room with several friends makes staying in one of the hotel rooms affordable.
Book a room at one of the less-expensive hotels nearby. A cheaper hotel room means staying and partying later at the Con with more money left over to spend on drinks and souvenirs.
Find a buddy. If you don’t book a room before the Con (or if you can’t afford one), you may be able to find a friend to crash with. Lots of veteran con-goers are willing to open their doors (and liquor cabinets) to new friends made at the Con who may not have a place to crash.
Find a place to hide. Some people have been known to sneak a few hours of shut-eye underneath tables draped with table cloths, in elevators or in hallways. If you can stay up until the following day's activities, try finding a chair in the back of one of the rooms showing films for a little nap. Just no snoring!
Stay up. Although you may be hurting come Monday, staying up as long as you can is another option. With some coffee at your side, and plenty of all-hours shenanigans, it may be easier than you think.
Souvenirs and merchandise from the vendors can also be found for cheap. On the last days of the Con (Sunday, Monday) some vendors discount their wares instead of lugging them away from the convention.
Natalie David is a freelance writer and music journalist living in Atlanta. Since 2002, her work has appeared online or in print for SPIN, Beautiful/Decay, Athens Blur, StereoSubversion and Lost At Sea. Before pursuing freelance work full-time, David was also the assistant editor for The AutoPILOT, a magazine for general aviation enthusiasts.