- Pre-Register, and pay for the whole weekend. Basically, this is how to save money on the initial cost. Pre-registration is usually cheaper than the same days at the door, but there's usually a cut-off point (maybe a month before the con, sometimes more, sometimes less). It might be possible to register between then and the con, so that you don't have to wait in line at the door, but it won't be any cheaper. Also, paying for the whole weekend is almost always cheaper than the sum total of each individual day, and sometimes it just makes sense. For instance, I've been to some cons where paying for the entire weekend cost less than or equal to two single days, so there was no reason not to get a 3rd day out of it.
- Don't pay for a hotel room. There are 3 main ways to go about this:
- Go to a nearby convention. If it's in driving (or biking or walking) distance, then just drive there in the morning & then drive back home at night.
- Stay w/ a friend. Maybe you know somebody who lives near the con (and might even be attending) who has a couch, and maybe you can do the same for them for a con in your area.
- Split a hotel room. This isn't as good, as you'll still be paying something, but it's cheaper than paying for a whole room.
- Don't pay for food. Pack your own. Sometimes, the convention or venue doesn't want people doing that (I haven't encountered this problem yet), so, to solve this, eat breakfast before going to the con, and eat lunch (and perhaps dinner) in your car/hotel room/friend's room with whom you're staying, or wherever you can manage to eat some sandwiches without annoying someone.
- If there's a raffle, then play it. This one kind of varies. You'll have to compare ticket prices, prize values, and odds of winning. If you're not sure, then you might have to play it one year to see whether what you win is worth it, and then play or not play in later years based on that. Note, though, that this represents a gain in market value. If you need money, then hold off on paying for tickets, since you'll probably win objects, and not money.
Also, there are some ways to save that are more highly conditional:
- Get a group discount. This requires two significant things. Firstly, the con must actually offer a group discount. Secondly, you'll have to join or make a large enough group. We're usually talking double-digits of people (10 or more, 25 or more, etc.).
- Run events. At least at gaming conventions, it's common for someone who runs a game to get money off of his cost of entry, sometimes up to the full cost of a weekend ticket. This often involves planning pretty far in advance, and always involves, well, running some games. FYI, I've never tried this. I'd personally rather pay and play.
- Look into special discounts. For example, some conventions give a special recruitment discount for wrangling up new first-time attendees.
So, there are some basic tips for attending conventions cheaply. Maybe this will be of some help to someone.