Getting To A Con
Joining the Convention
Wherever you hear about a convention, you should find contact details for the people in charge of memberships. Contact them for full details, then send them an appropriate sum of money plus your name, address, etc.
Before the convention
Once you have joined, the convention will send you a few "progress reports" or PRs. The number of PRs sent will vary depending on the convention, but a typical pattern involves three - the first being sent well before the con (maybe a year ahead), the second a few months beforehand, and the final one a few weeks before the con. These will usually contain some information about the venue, the guests of honour, and some hints of what is to come in the programme. Hotel booking forms will usually be sent out with the second PR.
The last PR will contain details of how to get to the venue, when registration is open (see below) and maybe even a provisional programme.
What to do when you arrive
Check in to the hotel, or whatever lodgings you have arranged. Once you've dealt with such mundanities, find the con registration desk. The last PR should include details of when this will be open, and finding it shouldn't be difficult (all the other attendees will be looking for it too). Tell registration who you are, and they'll give you a membership pack. This will normally include several vital items:
This is your identity at the con. Without it, you will not be allowed in to the dealers' room, or the art show, and you might not even get served at the bar. Wear it at all times. It also makes a nice conveniently-sized souvenir.
This is possibly the most useful item in the the pack, containing a summary of the programme (including last minute corrections) and other useful information like a map of the con facilities, details of when the dealers' room and bar are open, and anything else the con organisers think you need to know. Note to foreign readers: I am informed that in the US, this document is usually known as a "Pocket Programme"
At some cons, this will actually be two booklets, the "Read Me Inside" (details of what's happening in the con itself) and the "Read Me Outside" (a quick guide to the area immediately around the site, including restaurant details, etc.)
The detailed description of the programme, plus detailed pieces about or written by the GOHs. Tradition has it that attendees usually read this when they get home after the convention.