Five cosplayers with 15 costumes and three photographers on a week long road trip across Western Canada into the mountains and beyond. The trip was a dream come true but it did not you miraculously plan itself. Here a re a few things I have learned when planning a big trip such as this.
Research, research, research
Many, many hours were spent hunting for locations on Google, blogs, etc. Consume as much information as you can and pick the locations that fit your needs. Once you find them start keeping track. I used a combination of OneNote project pages and Google Maps (more on that later).
While you are mapping it out look into driving direction and distances between destinations (eg. 10min drive N of the hotel or 1hr drive and 30 min hike). This is especially important when dealing with cumbersome costumes when deciding how much to put on before getting to the destination and how long they can stay in costume.
KEEP MOBILITY AND EASE OF ACCESS IN MIND
Digging deeper into those travel blogs beyond the pretty photos will help you in the long run. Many sites will detail how to get to these locations which can be a tough hike. Make note of the obstacles you can face and keep that in mind when planning that leg of the trip. Another thing to remember, especially for cumbersome costumes, is to take note of the distance between the parking lot and your destination. Or simply find out if there is parking available in the first place. Parking tickets are a bummer while on vacation
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Carefully chose when to take your trip while factoring in peak tourism seasons and weather conditions. I picked September because there would be fewer tourists (meaning cheaper hotel rates), it was the month with the least rainfall in the region, the weather would be cool but manageable for most costumes, and it was right before certain park services shut down for the winter.
In order for people to confidently join you on this adventure, they should be given a ballpark figure to budget for. Hotels, rentals, passes, airline tickets should be factored in including miscellaneous costs. The onus is on them to settle n their own budgets and put the money aside.
Map it Out
I highly recommend using Google maps for planning out any trip. You can find all of your preferred shooting locations then save them to a custom map which you can load as an overlay on top of regular Google Maps. You can customize the markers' shapes and colour for even more precision, add notes and photos, plus you can add layers to your specialized map so you can filter out certain markers. My three main layers/categories were "Shooting Locations," "Hotels" and "Tourism Stuff." Best of all, you can open it up to other people the add and elaborate on.
Once you know your locations and the time of the year for your trip, then it is time to figure out what gear you will need. I cannot tell you enough how much my hiking purchases saves me over my week long trip to the Rockies. If all our locations were easily accessible I would have soldiered on with regular sneakers and made it work, however, we had to hike up mountainsides, through streams, up stone piles, etc. If you have done your research then you should have a clear idea of what the trip calls for. Granted not everyone on our trip was as decked out as I was, but I have no regrets for my purchases.
What I brought:
What I forgot:
Strategically pick your Costumes
If you are going through all the trouble of flying across the country to get photos, you might as well make it count. Pick costumes that match well with your settings by doing even more research. Have potential backups in case you do not finish your new projects in time. Make sure you have enough room to transport everything to that location.
Do all your costumes fit in your luggage? Does your luggage meet airline standards (weight and dimension)? Do you have enough space in your rental car for everyone's luggage?
Match up your costume choices with specific locations ahead of time so you can schedule out your trip and have your photographers on the same page. This way everyone knows what to expect.
Pick your Team Carefully
Spending a weekend with friends at a convention is one thing, spending a week on the road with them is another. I would suggest not inviting the ones that drive you crazy after 2 nights and to stick with the people who are cooperative. Being organized and clean are important as well as meshing with the rest of the group. It sounds cliché but teamwork is important to maximize everyone's potential. Everyone had to take on several different duties to make the vacation a success (human crutches, photo assistant, bag carrier, splash expert, bead placer, etc). Enthusiasm and willingness to help each other helped make many of these photos happen.
Also from a practical standpoint, numbers matter. Dividing costs 8 ways helps cushion the financial burden on everyone especially when it can to transport and accommodations. Since most rooms fit 4 people, a group of 8 was ideal since you maximize savings.
Set Realistic Expectations and Sort out terms with your Photographer(s)
We reached a nice balance with 3 photographers for 5 cosplayers. At any given location there were 2-4 people in costume at once. We were able to have a nice rotation of cosplayers and photographers without putting too much pressure on one person. Be mindful of the working styles of those involved similar to booking or working with photographers at a convention. Don't expect a photographer who likes to produce one polished image per shoot to pump out ten all of sudden. Be respectful and set out your expectations and goals before your book your trip so that all parties are happy in the end.
Friends and Fun come First and Photos come Second
When I signed up people for the trip I made sure that everyone would be okay going out to these locations even if the photos didn't turn out. Enjoy the trip for what it is and the photos will be gravy. To put it simply, shit happens. The weather could be awful or a memory card gets corrupted. By focusing on having fun and spending time with your friends the trip becomes less stressful.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
Have everyone on the same page through a group chat or forum. Facebook groups or a Messenger group chat work well. Be sure to post updates for everyone to see so that they can contribute to the planning process.
Have back up plans in place in case you split up and cannot contact each other. We made this mistake once. There is a surprising level of cellphone service out in the national parks in Western Canada but there are black out zones, Lake Moraine being one of them. Setting meet-up locations and times can easily solve this problem.
Where would you go for a cosplay trip?
MeltingMirror's Cosplay Blog
Learn more about my experiences in the cosplay world, from conventions to photoshoots and everything in between.