I am getting ready to pack for the convention, and we are nowhere near ready to pack. Laundry is in various states of disarray, and every room is a mess thanks to our busier than normal schedule. However, I've started my lists because they help me feel sane. I'm making a house cleaning list, grocery shopping list, must be done before we leave list, an exhibit hall shopping list, and a packing list. I thought that last one might be interesting to you, so I'm sharing it. I'll leave off all the clothing and food necessary for eight people to survive in a hotel for three days. Here are the other things we plan to bring.
Klean Kanteens for water
Snacks for toddler and preschooler
Cooler packed with lunch (we will keep this in our hotel room or in our van)
Comfy but tidy clothes, including a sweater for chilly rooms
Back-up outfits for littles
Cash and checkbook (some vendors don't take credit)
Schedule with our session choices highlighted (I still need to do this!)
Shopping list/curriculum wish list (I still need to write this!)
My Goals and Mission statement to keep me on the right path (this will be on my phone)
Address labels to save time when filling out forms
Walkie talkies (in case we get separated)
Book cart or wagon
Medications and first aid kit
Baby carrier of some kind, maybe two
Coloring books and colored pencils (need to sharpen these)
Knitting/Crocheting (Come on, this had to be on the list!)
Nintendo 64 and game cartridges
Notebook, pens and pencils (you can bring a tablet, phone, laptop, etc. Just don't laugh at me!)
Other people have suggested reusable bags for purchases, business cards, chargers and power cords (ohh yeah, better remember those for the N64 ... well, and the phone and walkie talkies, I guess.)
Now, before I put my nose to the grindstone to get my little family ready for the convention, I have some random words of advice. You are welcome to ignore them, these are just things I have observed over the years.
If a vendor spends a lot of time answering your questions and showing you their product, it seems wrong to buy the product from someone else. I understand budget constraints, but if you know the other place has it cheaper, go use that other vendor's time to ask questions. The vendors are often run by homeschool families like yours and mine. They are usually very helpful and if they could sell it to you cheaper and stay afloat, I bet they would.
Please, don't let your child wander around playing with all the toys, instruments, popguns and swords (yep, it happens). Most of us have our children there and have to keep track of them, we don't really want to be watching yours too, ya know? Also, by Saturday afternoon my nerves can't take the pop guns going off. If you see me hiding under a table, just get me some chocolate. I'll be fine. You are welcome to hide out with me if you want.
Walk through the exhibit hall one time and make note of what you really liked, take pamphlets and brochures. Don't buy anything, walk right on out. Review the list and consider your possible purchases (overnight if possible, but at least over lunch.) Then return to the exhibit hall and make your purchases. You may miss a sale or two, but you will be OK. If you see something that is already on your shopping list at an outlandishly good price, buy it right away, but don't let yourself impulse shop!
Don't try to do everything. There are all sorts of activities your child could participate in and many of them will be represented at the convention. Don't think you have to sign your child up for even half of them.
Purchasing errors are going to happen. Don't fret. If you hate the curriculum and quit 3 weeks in, you can sell it at the next used curriculum fair and get most of your money back. (Especially if it is mostly unused!)
Every family is different. Even if they dress like you, have the same number of children and homeschool for the same reason, they are going to be different. One child might excel at sports, one loves math, another is fluent in multiple languages and yet another is writing a book. One mom swears by the Charlotte Mason approach, another says Classical Education is the way, another unschools and yet another uses the Franklin Mettle Schmirtz Method. (Not really, I just made that one up.) The moms are intimidating, too. Some bake all of their family's bread, some spend as much to feed their family of 12 as you do to feed four, some run their homeschool co-op, teach their children, keep a perfect house and work part time. Please don't compare yourself and think you are not doing it right or not doing enough. Every family has their own set of strengths, challenges and circumstances. Figure out what works for your family and pursue that. If you want to Classically Unschool, go for it. If your child loves to draw, but hates sports, that's cool. If your idea of cooking is pressing buttons on the microwave, OK. If you want to try some new things, pick one and go for it.Rock on, Homeschool Mama. You just be you and let them be them. Nobody but you is expecting you to be perfect.
I hope to see you at the convention!