Our Worldcon 75 trip was a combination of a family visit and con activities. First we went to the north to see relatives, and the latter half of our visit we spent south in Helsinki. Although we were in town primarily to do the con, we did have a chance to visit family there, too, and enjoy some of Helsinki’s offerings, including some walking and eating at our favorite places.
Since it was a long trip and since our luggage needed to accommodate our clothes, presents for family, and books for the con, we needed to prepare more carefully than usual. I’ll share below some of our successful preparation strategies.
For more of our Worldcon 75 thoughts, check out the collected links page.
Accommodation sticker shock: Airbnb to the rescue
We tried Airbnb for the first time, because we knew we wanted to stay extra days in Helsinki both before and after the con and therefore hotel fares would’ve gotten hair-raisingly high. Fortunately, we managed to book an entire apartment in a quiet building about 10 minutes’ tram ride away from Messukeskus, with really considerate, friendly, and helpful hosts, plus in-building laundry, a neighborhood grocery store, all-round excellent transit connections and several restaurants in the vicinity.
Self-catering worked really well. Skipping a hotel meant also missing out on the fantastic, enormous hotel breakfasts, but we made hardy breakfasts ourselves. We also packed a few small ziplock bags for veggies and other finger food instead of buying overpriced snacks at Messukeskus.
Would I do it again: Yes. I would research the heck of the host(s), though, and pack cloth napkins to avoid using disposable ones at the flat.
Con notes: Add a folder
I typically keep notes of my con trips in small paper notebooks. In addition, I lug around a random assortment of A4 / letter-sized papers (notes on directions, restaurants, programming, etc.) folded and tucked into the notebook. At W75 I ended up picking up way more than my usual share of papers, though. For one, I was for some reason completely unprepared to get a bagful of freebies at registration, even though I knew we were going to get at least the pocket program and a souvenir book. (D’oh!)
Would I do it again: Yes, with improvements. I plan to continue using a small notebook for the actual note-taking, but upgrade to a letter-sized folder for the rest. Also, note to self: bring a few sheets of blank paper and maybe a Sharpie.
Day pack: Needs improvement
I traveled with a fairy sizeable day pack, because the trip was a long one and because Helsinki weather forecasts had looked unsettled and uncertain before we left the U.S. I tend to get cold easily, so I wanted carrying capacity for extra clothes, umbrella, water bottle, snacks, etc. Unfortunately, my backpack turned out too bulky for my comfort in the crowded Messukeskus corridors even when it was half-full.
Would I do it again: Probably not, unless I’m planning on cosplaying and need the space. I’m considering getting a smaller backpack (or maybe a cross-body bag) for my extra sweater, scarf, umbrella, book(s), and other bigger con gear, and using it with a small cross-body purse for faster access to water, snacks, pens, and notes.
Fun with flags: So. Many. Languages!
For the first Nordic worldcon, I wanted to flag myself as able (and delighted!) to function in more than one language, so I made myself a language tag to stick on my badge: Finnish and Swedish flags for my Nordic languages, and U.S. flag for American English. (I learned British English at school and at university, but I’ve since gone over to the dark side. Bwahahaha!) For good measure, I added my pronouns (she / they / hän).
Would I do it again: Yes, although I’d print out the flags instead of drawing them freehand. (Poor, butchered U.S. flag!) And make them larger. And as long as I’m including Swedish, I’d add those pronouns as well (hon / hen).
Introvert care: Off days between activity days
We’re both introverts. When planning this trip, we knew we were likely to feel overwhelmed, so we consciously scheduled introvert care days into our itinerary both before and after the con. Introvert time before the con was necessary, because our visit in the north was a whirwind of family meetings. And it was necessary after the con, because the thought of flying into one of the high-traffic airports in the U.S. in a tin can stuffed full of strangers, then standing in line for goodness knows how long in a room stuffed full of strangers in order to get a shuttle stuffed full of strangers, and, finally, exhausted, to find ourselves driving on roads stuffed full of strangers was just too much immediately after a five-day event—you guessed it—stuffed full of strangers.
Would I do it again: YES! I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do this trip without blocking off the no-people days.
Making many meetings succeed: Plan for a spot
I had heard through a Finnish contact that it’s very easy to lose track of people at a Messukeskus con. Although I have a Finland-compatible cell phone, Erik doesn’t, so we couldn’t count on being able to text each other updates during the times when we wanted to go our separate ways. So, after the Messkeskus floor plan was available, we found a spot that looked out of the way enough (to not clog any passageways) but easy to find and fast to get to. Each morning we’d go over our schedules and find at least one and preferably two times that we could meet at our spot to connect and re-plan if necessary. And if it should happen that we didn’t get into any programming we wanted, or didn’t feel like attending, or just had a change of heart and were available for doing things together again, our spot was where we’d find each other.
Would I do it again: Absolutely. We even arranged to meet my sister at our spot a few times.
Maintenance medications and time zones: Make it into a program item
Figuring out the proper time, in Finnish time, to take my maintenance medications was easy. However, I had the darnest time remembering to do it, until I wrote it in my personal con schedule. (Outside the con I had an alarm on my phone, but in Messukeskus I kept the phone on silent.)
Would I do it again: Yes! So easy! If it’s Saturday and 4 o’clock, it must be Food Lies panel and pill time.
Public transit pass for the win!
The W75 membership included a 5-day transit pass for the greater Helsinki area, and it was marvellous. It allowed for so many options for the week. About half the time we just used it to get to Messkeskus and back, but half the time we took additional trips.
Would I do it again: Yes, even if I had to pay for a weekly ticket myself.
Pre-prep is next to godliness: Following Worldcon 75 online
I’m a preparer. Even though I’m a Finn and have visited both Helsinki and Messukeskus before, I’ve been away from Finland long enough to know my local knowledge is partially outdated. I followed W75 on social media and read each and every one of their publications. (I didn’t mind possible overlap; the info put out through different channels varied to some extent and any repetitions were really easy to skip.) Just before the con, the W75 KonOpas / Grenadine guide / online program guide was hugely helpful for updates of new, deleted, or moved program items.
Would I do it again: Yes. And enthusiastically yes for any possible future worldcons, too.
Images: Eppu Jensen
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