Traveling with Costumes and Props: How to Make Sure They Arrive

My husband and I joined the ranks of Cosplay enthusiasts traveling around the nation (and globe) to various conventions. From ComicCon to Dragon*Con, Gamicon to Rustycon, gamers, sci-fi fans and fantasy enthusiasts will be hitting the road with a litany of costumes in tow. But even for the seasoned Cosplay traveler, getting through airport security can be a real problem if you don’t think ahead.

The first thing to consider once you’ve selected the dozens of conventions you’ll be attending this year is how you’ll be traveling. Prop swords, aether guns, oversized platform shoes and metal breastplates all have a fair chance of holding you up in security if you try to carry them on an airplane. To avoid wary looks and long bouts of questioning about your gamma-ray gun tucked in your checked luggage or the dragon in your backpack, take a look at these travel tips for getting your gear to the convention:

By Car

If you are lucky enough to be within driving distance to the convention, even if it lengthens your trip by a couple of hours, you may want to take the easy road and load your props and costume accessories in the trunk of your car or a closed car-top carrier (no sense in frightening other drivers on the highway with your Keyblade collection propped up in the back seat). If you do decide that making the trek by car is going to be the easiest way to get your Knights Templar getup to the Con and you get pulled over for a traffic violation that you disclose any and all props in your car should the officer ask if you have any weapons so that there are no surprises if the officer catches a glimpse of the hilt of your sword or tip of your zombie-slashing chainsaw.

By Train

Another lucky option for Con-goers is traveling by rail. If you happen to be able to take the train to the convention location, consider it. Pricing is often much less than air travel, and there are far fewer restrictions and fees for large luggage. Should you take the train, put all of your costume materials and accessories in appropriate sized luggage and mark the bag with stickers (or for those of you who are on a budget, masking tape) that say “Props” in bold and easy to read lettering. Although it isn’t as likely that your bags will be eyed by wary security guards at the train station, should your luggage break open during travel the easy to read signage on the bags will help to dispel any fears of other passengers and train staff.

By Bus

When traveling with a large group of Cosplayers, consider chartering a bus service to travel from your hometown to the Con. Chartering a bus is probably not an affordable option when, on your own, but if you are able to split the cost ten ways it may be the perfect solution for your group of traveling Serenity crew; prop pistols, Reaver swords and Vera included.

By Plane

If you simply must fly, then do so with caution. Rather than trying to find loopholes in TSA’s strict security guidelines, do your best to find a costume that doesn’t need a dozen prop-weapons to complete it. If you are going to cowboy and ninja it up, check your swords and prop pistols in your checked luggage and clearly mark them with tags or stickers that say “Props” in bold lettering. Remove the batteries, any high pressure air or CO2 sources before packing and, when possible, carry weapon props in the original packaging so they are easy to identify.

By Mail

If you’re nervous about taking your costume and props with you as you travel to the con, or simply don’t want to bother with the hassle of a security guard nervously eying your pocket-sized steam engine, check with the hotel that you will be staying at to find out if they will accept packages on your behalf. This is something I discovered many Cosplayers did during Dragon*Con 2010, and it made their lives much easier. Mailing the props and your costume to the hotel for them to hold until their arrival takes the guesswork out of packing. Just make sure that they provide an outgoing mail service for your packages as well.

The big secret to successfully traveling with costumes and props is to know before you go. Travel restrictions are constantly changing, so check these great travel resources to find out the latest information on what’s allowed and what’s not:

Amtrak

CharterBus America

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

United States Postal Service

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