With MCM Expo little more than a month away I find myself upon my usual commute into London, Waterloo Station, pondering just how many Cosplayers have ever found themselves suffering unnessicarilly on their commute to Expo. Could that crack along you’re armour have been avoided by simply waiting for the next train, is there an easier way to ensure you don’t get muggles harassing you asking if they can try out your Halo Helmet? Well here’s Goldies guide to tube travel with your Cosplay in tow!
Let’s start with the basics, plan your route!
The TFL website has a nice handy journey planer which will give you a suitable route to the venue you want to get to and the estimated time it takes to get there. It also has the information in regards to any rail works due to take place on the intended day of travel. If you’re planning your route more than a month in advance I suggest checking back on it in the week running up to Expo (or Hyper Japan ect) to double check that last minuet changes haven’t been made that might obstruct your route.
When planning your routes count how many stops there are for each step of your journey and make note of them. Knowing this will allow you to figure out quick alternative routes if the need arises. For example say you want to get to embankment station from Euston but the Northern line is down. If the Northern line was working you’d only have to go through six stations including the station you departed from and the station you’d like to go to. Counting the stations as you go you can find several way to get to that station without using the northern line but you’ll want to use the way with as close to six stops as possible if not less to ensure you don’t add too much time onto your journey. But if you’ve planned out your routes beforehand it’s unlikely you’ll have to fret over rethinking a new way about the underground.
Have a second route! Needless to say it’s always better to expect the unexpected. Accidents do happen and sometimes you’ll have to change your route to get to the station you want to get to. Plan ahead and try your best to familiarise yourself with alternative routes you can use to prevent any unnecessary headaches.
If you find you’re not used to the underground, and it did take me a while to get used to it myself before moving to London, snag one of the mini tube maps at the station and keep it on you so you can double check it as you progress on your journey.
A Goldie Neko Golden Rule: It’s ALWAYS better to be half an hour early than half a minute late!
Plan your routes, leaving times and travels so you’re scheduled to arrive at your destination at least half an hour before you’re required to be there. This allows to any mishaps and difficulties you may have en-route I’d honestly say that it’s also advisable to avoid travelling at stupid o’clock at night/morning after a hectic con and/or party and you’re already so tired you can barely carry yourself let alone your bag filled with Cosplay and other such goodies. Avoid the rush hour if you can, but sometimes it cannot be avoided so following some of the tips on your positioning and which carriage to get may prove useful. Though following them and getting those Cosplayer friendly “safe zones” does tend to be a lot harder during rush hour.
Having spent the past six months slaving over every detail, carving the foam of your staff, stitching each minuet detail in the fabric and ensuring the cables for those all so important LED’s is wired up properly you want to make sure you’ve got them packed away safely. Doing this you’ve also got to ensure you can manage to travel with the whole thing. Having ventured on the underground with several large cosplays by myself I find that doing the following can help.
Rolling up fabric pieces, this can actually save you a hell of a lot of space inside your main suitcase when done properly. For example, if you have a long coat that you’d normally have to put in it’s own specialised bag to stop things from getting caught up the sleeves or catching on your intricate hand sewing. You fold the coat in half so that the cuffs of the sleeves meet as if you were clapping your hands. Keeping it folded you bring the two sleeves to rest upon the front panel and roll the coat in on itself as tightly as possible. Needless to say this method isn’t for everyone, it does require a bit of practice, Tetris like placing in the bags and you will have to iron out your Cosplay when you take it out of the suitcase.
Now some people will have a soft bag, something similar to the old gym bags you’d have at high school. They’re long cylindrical and can come with wheels. A suitcase with wheels is a MUST for any Cosplayer in my view and I personally prefer having a suitcase with the more tradition hard outer casing than a plain fabric bag. Fabric bags can be ripped, torn and cut easier than a ridged case and don’t usually offer the same protection for the precious cargo within.
Try to find a suitcase with those handy zips that meet up together with a means of locking them. Such as two rings that overlap allowing you to place a lock through them. Pad locking the main compartment of your bag discreetly keeping the zip either on the side or lower part of the bag if possible gives you that extra peace of mind. Try not to place the lock bag on the top in the middle of your case, usually the furthest corner where the zip begins/ends is the best place to secure these types of bag.
If your bag doesn’t have this kind of zip don’t worry, you can be just as secure by keeping the zips in the upper corner closest to you so you know if it starts to slip when you’ve filled it up with all the goodies from expo alongside your Cosplay for your return trip back underground.
Also if you’re like me and have a hell of a lot of stuff to take to a con you can use backpacks, hemp shopping bags and the like to travel with. The bag for life bags can be slipped onto the handle of the average hard suitcases so that they sit quite nicely on top, these can have a life of their own though. So I do advise taping them to the handles with masking tape if you’ve got some spare and don’t be stingey, masking tape is easy to cut with scissors so wrap that bad boy up like an Egyptian mummy to ensure it stays put throughout your journey. It’ll really save you some hassle whilst you’re wheeling your bag along behind you.
Large props should always be wrapped up as discreetly as possible to not only ensure the safety of your prop but also to prevent curious strangers from asking if they could hold and play with your prop before you’ve even put your Cosplay on for that all important pre-masquerade judging. If you have any using bubble wrap is advisable, but it can be pricey if you have to head out and buy some. Needless to say bubble wrap or not it is advisable to wrap any large props in black bin liners. I usually use the white masking/surgical tape to wrap around the bin bags tightly and string to make handles for anything too large to be strapped onto a bag. Such as large staffs, swords and other such props you might have. Be sure to pack extra bin liners, tape and string for the journey back as well as scissors as you’ll want to wrap up your props jut that right amount that you’ll have to cut them open! With the utmost of care of course.
Know your limits. Only you know how much weight you can carry, bare this in mind when packing and what kind and how many bags you want to take with you.
It’s always easier when you have a mate to help you out. Though I can honestly say they don’t appreciate it when you bash them in the balls with whatever props you just happen to have to hand.
Picking your carriage. It’s safe to say you’d be better to avoid the middle carriages and any that happen to line up with the main entrance/exit of the station you’re leaving from. Personally the front and back carriages always seem to be the quietest, though this can vary on each line depending on where you’re departing from.
Each carriage is made up pretty much the same way. The ends, with the connecting doors to the other carriage or the drivers’ compartment and the middle section with the gap or fold up seats for wheelchair users and the like. This is the second you want to be aiming for. In an ideal world you should aim to get the fold up seat closest to the doors of the train on either side and use the space next to it for your suitcase.
A Goldie Neko Golden Rule: These seats are intended for those who have difficulty standing. If you see someone who should really be sitting out like an elderly pensioner on crutches who just came out of the eye hospital to have their retinas checked then for the love of god stand up, shuffle in front of your bags and give them your seat! If you’re lucky one of the seats next to the fold up seats might be free allowing you to sit back down next to your bags. Good manners and common courtesy never go a miss and yet seem so damn rare these days!
If for some reason you end up in the end part of the carriage the best place to situate yourself is by the door that connects each carriage. You know the one with the little slide down window which can be so glorious on a hot summers day when the big tall guy next to you has just happened to have forgotten to wear deodorant and is insistent on holding the bar overhead.
A Goldie Neko Golden Rule: NEVER Make the leap of faith! We’ve all had that moment, the lil beep of the doors closing sounds you think you can make it. As tempting as it may be I highly advise NOT to rush into it and risk the wrath of the tube doors. Unlike lifts these doors do not take any prisoners! They will do their utmost to come to a close and crush anything obstructing them from doing so, even your finely crafted rainbow dash skull you spent ages to get just right for your Brony shoot that very same day!
As mentioned earlier you may not always be able to snag these Cosplay friendly “Safe Zones” on the tube. Though it’s best to avoid slipping into the space in between the seats in the middle of the carriage. If you can get one of the spots already mentioned then try to squeeze up as close to the door where you can have a makeshift corner between the doors and the pane of glass shielding the upper/lower seating area of the train. Again get your bag in this corner and place yourself in front of it. Always ensure that you have some kind of physical contact with your bag, even if it’s just the side of your leg or shoe. Trains do jiggle about quite a bit and the last thing you want is for your bag and the packages so lovingly tied to it to tumble down onto an angry chavs foot.
And the parting word for this little set of tips is the most basic of all things. Be sensible and use common sense! If you feel uncomfortable travelling with a large Cosplay on your own, arrange to meet up with some friends and travel together. If you find yourself in a situation where there are people on the tube you’d rather no be around, such as drunkards or just a stupidly busy carriage. Get off at the next station and wait for the next train, it’s rarely more than five minuets behind the one you’re already on and will most likely be a little bit quieter if you’ve timed it right and used your head to figure out which carriages will be the quieter ones for you to step onto.
Hope this has given y’all a better idea on how to make travelling a bit easier to and from London based cons. Most of it is just stating the obvious but sometimes the obvious way will be the easiest way to go about doing things.
~ Goldie Neko