Oh gosh I wish I had looked at the forums when I first started going to cons. Threads like these would have saved my life!
1. Look at the forums. Obviously you are if you're here already, so that's a great start! The website often misses out on key details you want to look for and information that is crucial to what you want to do at fanime! So always check the forums before the con, during, and even after in case you lost something, participated in an event that you need contact info for, or just to see what's new! Many things are subject to change, like cosplay gatherings, so the forums are a great place to start when you're not sure where to go!
2. Plan out your transportation beforehand! If you're not staying in a hotel or are staying in a hotel somewhat far from the convention center, make sure you make a schedule of when you need to be there and when to leave, especially if you're being dropped off/picked up. Look up where the drop off zones are and where you can safely get in and out of a car so that you're not freaking out about it and driving in circles around the convention center losing time.
3. If you are staying in a hotel, with or without roommates, make sure you bring: a bag to put dirty clothes in/separate from your clean clothes, a garbage bag (or two) because the hotel trashcans are tiny, a safe place to put your room key so it won't touch your phone or other electronic device (this can cause them to demagnetize and you'll be locked out of your room! way too many personal experiences with this one), and and a credit card if you have one. If you put the room bill on a debit card, it will freeze your initial total amount plus a down payment of about $200, all of which you wont be able to use during the convention! Credit cards are the way to go if you have one!
4. Food - Whether staying in a hotel, coming and going each day, or only going for a single day, food is very important! There are many horror stories about congoers passing out from hunger or just being simply miserable because they didn't bring/couldn't afford the food in the convention center. Yes, there will be a stand that usually sells nachos, hot dogs, salads, etc, but can be very pricey. Starting a couple years ago, Fanime also had a room dedicated to food but only had three booths selling ramune, pocky, and some other obscure thing respectively. Unless you're willing to spend the money, make sure you have some type of food plan before going to the con!
Hotel - If you're staying in a hotel, that makes it a little easier. I recommend bringing a cooler and some sandwich materials, breakfast bars, and PLENTY of water bottles. (There is a 7-11 nearby, but quite a walk. Consider bringing bottled water with you instead of buying it there). The hotel refrigerators are TINY (literally could only fit a package of cheese and a water bottle in there one year) so don't count on them to keep food fresh and cool. Just remember not to bring anything like microwaves, plug-in stoves, etc because the hotel won't let you and they can be very dangerous for you and the hotel if something goes wrong, so don't try to sneak one in. Things you can take with you while walking around the con are great, like cliff bars or granola or even a lunch in a tupperware container so it doesn't leak all over your stuff. Just remember to take your hotel room to your advantage when it comes to storing food. You, and your roommates, will thank you for it.
If you're not staying in a hotel, consider similar options of food in packages but still healthy. You need carbs, protein and fats so don't skimp just because you're at a con. Yes there's lots to do and see but you have plenty of time to take a break, sit down, and eat a quaker oats bar. It'll keep you and your tummy happy, and then you won't be slugging around starving and not enjoying your time.
Restaurants - There are a number of restaurants from fast food to fine dining in the general vicinity of the con (you can look up the exact distances on google maps), however a popular stop for congoers has recently been closed: McDonald's. So don't count on that being there this year for your quick food fixes. While many restaurants might be out of your budget, some that aren't too bad include Jonny Rocket's, a classic burger joint with sandwiches and milkshakes too, Jack-in-the-box, a fast food place with breakfast all day, boba shops, several asian cuisine places, Psycho Donuts (great for breakfast), Pizza my Heart, Yogurtland (or one of those yogurt places fff) an indian fast food restaurant, and a nice japanese restaurant a few blocks away, but an easy walk. Take advantage of google maps and plan out how to get to the places you want to eat, and just remember everyone else at the con has the same idea, so many places will be packed at traditional eating hours. Also don't forget many asian restaurants close around 2-5pm each day (I forgot one year and was so excited to take my friends to the japanese restaurant, only to walk all the way there and find it closed TwT). Research, research, research! If you have the money, consider options like Original Joes, an italian restaurant a block away from the hotel, mccormick and schmit's, a seafood restaurant next to the fairmont, and an asian-fusion restaurant I noticed last year, but did not try. Perhaps this year~
FOOD IS IMPORTANT Yes more important than that panel you want to see. You won't enjoy it if you're starving. Remember to eat.
5. If you are cosplaying and have a prop, 1. Read the prop rules and 2. get it peacebonded the moment you get to the con! Don't dilly dally, because a rover might see you in the middle of something real fun and make you go get it peace bonded, possibly making you lose opportunities to hang out with new friends. It's easy and quick, just make sure you find out where the station is. It seems to move every year.
6. If you are staying in a hotel with friends, make sure everyone can contact the person who's name is on the reservation in case anything happens like you lose/demagnetize your key, accidentally put something on the room bill, etc. Even if they don't have a cell phone, make sure they can be reached so no one is left out to dry in a stressful situation. (From being locked out to friends being locked out I have plenty of experience in that)
7. If you are cosplaying something very open/covered, check the weather and make sure to bring something appropriate you can change into/put on if need be. Usually, it's hot as shiiiiit during the convention, but last year it was a bit overcast, even a little chilly! Your comfort comes before your cosplay. Put on a jacket or take part of your costume off if you need to. Don't make yourself suffer just to look cool, it's not worth it. Heatstroke is very serious business and I always pray those people in the gundam suits etc aren't dying of it in there. Take water if you're wearing a costume that will get very hot, but take water regardless!
8. Pay attention to the walk paths on the main concourse! There are usually arrows made with duct tape showing which direction to move to keep the slough of people moving. Don't stop to ask for/take pictures on the walkways. Move to the side where people aren't walking. (I've personally been yelled at for doing this TwT) Be courteous, don't be in the way. Stage Zero is right next to the walkway, so if you want to stop and watch whatever's going on, move off the walkway and onto the side so you don't block other people. Also! If you have a big cosplay or one with big parts like wings or horns or a train of a dress, make sure these articles don't hit/trip/bump/smack people in the face while you're moving. The walkway on the main concourse is VERY crowded, and the last thing you want to do is either hurt someone with your cosplay or have it be damaged by someone because it was sticking out. Remember not everyone is so courteous. Just be aware of your cosplay!
9. It's very useful, if you are cosplaying, to have a friend walking with you. Not only to hold your stuff (I've been abusing a friend for this for 5 years now LOL bless her) but also to tell you if any part of your cosplay is falling off, tearing, slipping, or revealing parts you don't want to be seen. It's better to have a friend tell you so you can go fix it or change than for a Rover or a stranger telling you. Ladies especially, please be careful with revealing cosplays! Not so much for keeping them in place, but be careful of other congoers. I've had personal experience when cosplaying as Dark Magician Girl with a hella short skirt and had people cat calling me from their cars, even another cosplayer trying to follow me into my hotel room and touching me without my permission. The scary part was I was alone nearly the whole time. Travel with a friend/someone you know. It makes it much less scary. There is safety in numbers. Cosplay is not consent, you do not have to let anyone take a picture of you if you do not want to, no matter what cosplay you're wearing. Just remember: your safety and your comfort is most important. If anyone tries anything that makes you uncomfortable, report them to a rover or other person of authority.
And in the other direction, cosplay is not consent! Do not be a creeper, do not make people uncomfortable. It's fine to ask for pictures, but if someone declines, please respect that. Do not try and force a picture out of them or try and get a candid photo without their consent. Do not touch cosplayers unless they specifically say you can. Do not assume you can put your arm around their shoulders or waist for pictures. Always. Ask. Do not cat call. There are so many better ways of giving compliments. Just walk up and say "Hey I like your cosplay!" or "I just wanted to say you look beautiful" that's it. It's that easy. Just be respectful and kind. Remember these cosplayers are not here for your enjoyment.
10.And finally, don't impulse buy! Especially in the dealer's hall, usually whatever you can find, another shop has possibly for even cheaper. Make sure you go around to all the shops, even ask the staff for specific things, and make sure you're getting the best deal. The worst feeling is buying something you love and immediately seeing it at the next shop for cheaper. Your heart just sinks. Trust me I've been there. Unless it's some super rare thing, check your wallet before you wreck your wallet. You have the whole weekend to buy things, and often shops will give discounts on Monday! If you can wait that long, it'll save you some money.
Artist alley is another story. If it's something you really want, go for it. But you should still check around the whole room first. If you're worried something might sell out, ask the artist how many they have to sell and if you could possibly reserve one with a small down payment. I've never done this before, so I'm not sure if artists do this. Rule of thumb, ask questions! Talk to the staff and artists in the halls. They'll appreciate your interest in their product and you'll get some information about what you want to spend money on. Whatever you do, don't spend all your money the first day! Remember some artists are only there for a few days, some do not come until Saturday or Sunday to sell.
Always have emergency money, not only for those situations, but in case the worst happens. Always have a way to get home, a way to feed yourself, a way to get water, and a way to stay warm.
Overall first timers, be smart, be safe, be kind, and have fun!