How to Survive Arisia with Kids

Congratulations! You’re going to Arisia and you’re bringing your kids! Now what do you do?!

First, don’t panic. I’m Nicole Robinson and I’m the 2018 Division Head for Youth Services.  I’ll let you in on my tips and tricks to keeping kids happy and everyone having fun at Arisia.

My family has always attended Arisia for the whole weekend.  As a family we’ve been going nine years and my husband has been going for longer.  We live about an hour away from Boston, so we stay at the hotel.  It’s like a mini-vacation for us, and we save and plan for it all year. I’m going to go through day by day, but you can get some helpful ideas even if you go for only one day.

Pre-con

  • Register as early as you can for the best prices.
  • Book your hotel room as soon as they open up – rooms go fast. Get the size room you want.  Don’t worry about the floor at first; you can always request a particular floor or room type through Arisia.  If you can’t get a room at the Westin, don’t worry, the Aloft (overflow) is a short walk away and has nice rooms too.
  • Register kids for Turtle Track (ages 2-6) and Fast Track (6-12).
  • Think about volunteering!  Volunteers have a better experience because of their involvement and get great perks, such as t-shirts and free memberships.  You can volunteer pre-con or at con.  Arisia has jobs for tween and teen volunteers too.

Friday

  • Arrive early to get a parking space in the garage. If you can’t park there or want a cheaper option, check the parking info on the Arisia web site, or Boston parking guides for nearby lots.
  • Check into the hotel and drop off your luggage.
  • Go to Arisia registration and pick up your badges.  Everyone with a badge has to go to registration.  It’s good to bring snacks in case of a wait!
  • For Turtles, go to Operations and get the room number – this room isn’t advertised to non-parents.
  • For older kids, go to Fast Track, register and pick up your ribbons.
  • Teens: go look at and suggest panels for the Teen Unconference or hang out in Teen Lounge
  • Eat dinner!
  • Have fun: find a panel, play in Fast Track, meet other Turtles and their parents, swim in the pool, play a game, sing, dance, and stay up as late as you think is reasonable, or turn in early if you know your kids need their full night’s sleep.

Food at Arisia is key for my family because hungry people tend to be cranky, and I want everyone to have a good time.  There are food options to fit every budget, and rooms usually have fridges.  We like to bring snacks for line waits on Friday and then eat at M.J. O’Connors.  The waiting time for M.J.’s is shorter on Friday night than on Saturday night, the menu always has something for everyone, and it’s a nice treat for me too.

Food at the con suite is great for breakfast and lunch, depending on what you and your kids eat.   They tend to have a good variety of cereal and breads, snacks, soda, hot water, and coffee.  Proteins, veggies, and fruit also appear there.  We count on Con Suite for breakfast, check there for lunch, and plan something else for dinner.

Saturday and Sunday

  • Register and get your badge if you just arrived.
  • Watch cartoons on Arisia TV if you have a hotel room.
  • Roughly plan your day and tell people where you will be.
  • Drop off kids at Turtle Track and Fast Track (Make sure they have your contact info).
  • Teens go to the Teen Unconference, hang out in Teen Lounge, or volunteer.
  • Arrange to pick up your kids for meals.
  • Have fun!

More on food, because hungry people can turn into Cthulhu… Saturday and Sunday have more food options in the form of Food Trucks. They rock for lunch and even the kids like them. The best thing we found to do is send one parent outside to take a picture of the menu and get in line. The other parent then texts back the order and stays warm inside with the kids. Dinner if you’re staying usually gets chosen from the list of places that deliver (get the list from the Westin Concierge) or we split some pizzas with friends.

“Mom, I’m bored!” is a phrase I hear often from my tweens. They tend to forget that they have my permission to enjoy the con with a buddy, because they have a green ribbon. I remind them about the dealers, art show, game room, video game room, anime, and so on. This year they can have fun at the Indie*Expo.  I still encourage them to check out the panels and authors, because they often find things they like there, too.

Monday

  • Check out of the hotel and put luggage in your car.
  • Put coats in coat check (confirm that they are open until you want to leave).
  • Go have more fun until the very end and then volunteer to help clean up!

Yay, you made it!  You survived a weekend at Arisia with your kids.  Hopefully you had some time for yourself and had fun too!

What is Member Services?

Member Services is Arisia’s “miscellaneous” division. We provide many of the support services for convention attendees. Some of our areas have been around for years, and others are brand new, jobs that we have made, in part to make sure everything runs smoothly as we grow. The list changes a bit every year. Last year we added two brand new areas: line management and wayfinding.

I want everyone who comes to the convention to have a great time, and to be able to participate however suits them best. Our growth has been exhilarating for some members and overwhelming for others. As we expand in size, and reach out to more diverse communities, we have added services for new attendees and people who have been coming for years, commuters and families, introverts and extroverts, and, of course, people with a variety of disabilities.

The work closest to me, that I have built on the hard work of people who came before me, is providing resources for people with disabilities who attend Arisia. I have really enjoyed working on this part of the con for a number of years, and really touched and honored by the number of  community members who were generous with their time, and talked with me about how they experience the convention, and how we might improve things, usually with suggestions that make the convention better for everyone, not just a few members. It was hard for me to step away from Access, and learn to look at a larger picture of Arisia, but I am very happy that new people have stepped up to take on that work. We have a great Access team, who work with all parts of the convention to reduce barriers and include more people at every level. We have a Quiet Room where people can rest in a low-light environment to take a break from the noise and chaos of the convention. Recently we started making available pronoun ribbons so that people of every gender can share information about themselves in a clear and simple way.

Last year we added two departments to help people get around the convention. We have a line management team to help control lines and ensure that people who cannot stand in lines can wait seated, or in a less-crowded space. We also have a person in charge of wayfinding, working to get better signs and maps to help people make their way around our space in the hotel. If you have suggestions for good places to put signs, please send them to wayfinding@arisia.org . We’d love to hear from you!

Our two oldest departments are the Information Desk in the lobby, near the elevators, and the Coat Check on each side of the hotel. The information desk is there to answer questions, offer directions, and help you orient yourself in the space. They also have large print program guides and desk copies of our Pocket Program and Restaurant Guide in Braille. Coat Check has expanded so there is now a place to leave coats and small bags – nothing larger than a standard “daypack” backpack. On the Marina side (to the left as you enter the lobby) there is a coat check near the Marina ballrooms, to the right of Laugh Boston. The other Coat Check (also called Goat Check, you should ask them why) is in the right side of the hotel, one level down from the lobby, just across from Registration.

We also run the photo booth, where members can have their pictures taken, and get them from our Flickr page (https://www.flickr.com/photos/arisiaphotobooth/albums). We even have some costume hats and fun signs! We also maintain a costume repair station on the concourse, to help people make costume (or clothing) repairs. The repair station staff has a broad range of expertise, and sewing machines, tools, and supplies to assist you in your hour of need.

Member Services is dedicated to helping make Arisia a great experience for everyone who comes in our doors. If you like to help people, we’d love to have you on our team, and if you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them!

Tanya Washburn

Member Services Division Head