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BOTCON SAN DIEGO
(griffin's 2013 BotCon adventure)


MONDAY 1ST JULY - JOURNEY HOME

Mon 1/7
11 - check-out, to airport by 1pm (check out nearby stores if time)
- FLIGHT - San Diego to Los Angeles
13.45 - SD depart
14.30 - LAX arrive
(6.5 hours to go to nearby TRU, Target & food for the flight home)
- FLIGHT - Los Angeles to Sydney (no direct flight to Brisbane that day)
22.10 - LAX depart

Tue 2/7
(flight back crosses dateline so lose a day)

Wed 3/7
06.10 - SYD arrive
- FLIGHT - Sydney to Brisbane
08.05 - SYD depart
09.35 - BRIS arrive
11.00 - home

Journey home would be three flights - San Diego (6) to LA (2) to Sydney (7) and then to Brisbane (1)

The alarm woke me up today, at 8.30am, so I was a bit tired after staying up late the night before.
I put on some coffee... two lots of coffee... taped up the boxes, showered, put clothes on and packed the rest of the things into the bag.
10.30 - took the spare two boxes to the Recycling Bin.
10.40 - called for the bellhop to help me with my luggage.  I write my address details on each box while waiting.
10.50 - bellhop arrives, loads luggage onto trolley, and we head downstairs to the golf-cart. (I grabbed the express check-out form just in case)
10.55 - at front desk to check out, but there was about 20 people waiting to check out... so I filled out the express form, and handed it in with my room key.  Luggage was already in a taxi, so I hopped in.
11.10 - Arrive at the airport

The view of San Diego past the airport was not as good as it was on Tuesday, as there was a bit of haze around today.  There had been record temperatures in the south west this weekend, so there were probably a lot of fires were around.

I was dropped off at a tiny 4-gate terminal, which seemed strange, but was dedicated to the many short flights between LA and San Diego.
The luggage carts weren't free at this airport (I don't think many airports have free carts anymore) so had to pay the $4 for one.  (I saw that the ones at LA were $5)
At the check-in desk I tell the guy that I was checking in all the way to Australia, so the first two items would be free (otherwise I would have paid for all three items)  It still cost me $125, but that was for three connecting flights, so probably wasn't too bad.
I started with the big box first (I still had plenty of time left to repack if it was too heavy).  He told me the weight limit was 50 pounds (about 22kgs)... so I put the box on the scales and it ticked up to 50.0 pounds.  JUST okay. When I was taping up the box, I was almost going to put in another piece of cardboard on top to protect the contents... if I had, it would have been too heavy, and I would have had to cut the box open to remove some weight.
So I didn't need the extra box, so took it outside and scrunched it into a bin.
I also returned the luggage cart that I only used for about 5 minutes... and got back a HUGE 25cents.

Past the security screening, I went inside the tiny terminal and when looking around I saw Toby already there waiting.
I sat down next to him and asked him when he was leaving.  He said he was on a 5.30pm flight... so had about 6 hours to wait. (and I thought I had a long wait at just 2 & 1/2 hours.

While we were there, talking about the weekend, we recognised at least a couple people from the convention - IDW's Marcelo (which Toby got a drawing of Wasp from), and Miko (the, uh, impressively creative one).

Time actually passed reall quick and it was 1.30 - time to get on my flight.
If there were any seats spare, I was expecting Toby to be moved onto it, and I'd have some company while toyhunting in LA... but maybe there was a problem with the luggage already being stored somewhere for the 5.30 flight, because there was one seat left on my flight, but he didn't get put on it.

1.45 - on the plane
1.55 - take off
2.10 - land... yes, it was just 15 minutes in the air.  The attendant didn't even have enough time to go through the plane with a bottle of water and paper cups.
2.25 - at the gate... yes, there was almost twice as much time spent on the ground in this plane, than in the air.

We parked at the "offsite" part of terminal 4, so everyone had to get on busses to get to the main terminal 4.  I went to the baggage pickup, to keep an eye out for my luggage, in case it was too long for them to hold it.  It was odd to see only 4 people from my flight (of about 40 people) there to get checked-in luggage. I guess most were just local commuters or travel really light.
Fortunately after about 10 minutes loitering at the carousel, my luggage never appeared, as the luggage cart would have cost me $5 here.

First I had to find an ATM.  There wasn't one at the tiny San Diego terminal, but needed some extra cash to pay for the taxi.  I couldn't find one in Terminal 4, upstairs or downstairs, so walked over to Terminal 3 and then asked one of the baggage people if they knew where one was.  He said upstairs in this terminal... which I found and used.

Grabbing the next taxi outside, it was at this time that I realised that I hadn't written down the address of the TRU, or even brought a map with me, as a previous taxi driver couldn't find the TRU near the airport.
So I started asking this guy if he knew where the TRU or Target was. He didn't.  I said it was in Culver City... where the Westfield is located. He then had an idea, so started driving off, while typing in the ToysRUs name into his GPS.  It didn't register the name, under various combinations, so I said to him that I would recognise where we were if he just drove towards the Westfield. (I remembered that the TRU was just past the intersection that had the Westfield. (after all, I was there last September, and even walked from the Westfield to the airport in 2010... so recognised where things were)
We found the Westfield, and then the TRU.
I told him to just wait outside with the meter running, and I would be a couple minutes.
Inside I found the best assortment of Transformers toys of all the stores I'd been to in the last 10 days.  It was just a pity that I had already bought several of them at higher prices.  But fortunately, there it was... Beast Hunters Hun-Grrr.  Which meant that I wouldn't have to pay double for the one at the Airport.

Back in the Cab, we headed back to the Westfield, and paid the driver (I was going to spend a bit of time in here, so didn't need him to wait).

In the Target there weren't any toys of interest, so I bought some snackfoods for the flight home, and took some photos of their breakfast cereal aisle... because I find it amazing just how many different types of (unhealthy) cereals they have in America.
Just look at Cheerios - we have just one variety here, which is the healthy, plain flavour.  In America, I counted eleven varieties!


 

The snacks I bought, with Hun-Grrr.
White Fudge Flipz - can't get enough of them.  Pretzel M&Ms - a nice combination of sweet and salty, with a crispy centre. Cookies & Creme Kisses - a favourite flavour of mine, but these were a nuisense for being individually wrapped.  Tootsie Roll - I'd heard of them, but never knew what it was... disappointed to find that it is just a long stick of chewy caramel.

At about 4.20pm I was at the foodcourt in the Westfield... and yes, there were pretzels.

I bought a couple, and a Cinnabon too.  I didn't fee too hungry, and knew that I had all that confectionary to eat later that night.

Cinnabon - now this is about as unhealthy as you can get.  Pastry scrolls that have chocolate wrapped up in them, and then covered in molten icing, and kept warm.  Very sweet and very messy, but they are an interesting experience when eaten warm.

I sat in the foodcourt for about an hour to have my pretzel and cinnabon snack, while typing up some of my report on my computer.

It was about 5.30pm when I figured it was time to head back to the airport... as I wanted to be checked in early enough to pick a good seat. I was also still thinking about having the taxi stop off at the In-N-Out burger on the way... as I've been dying to go back there since 2010.
Finding a taxi at the Westfield was a bit tricky as there were no designated taxi ranks. After wandering around looking for one, I was told to just wait at one of the main entrancs until one came by.  It only took about 5 minutes for one to show up.

Heading back to the airport, we approached the In-N-Out Burger, but as usual there was a huge crowd, so I didn't feel like spending more money on the taxi waiting for me to be served at the drive-thru.
It could just be something else to add to the list of "next time things".
After all... if you do everything you wanted to do, there is less of a reason to go back.

Checking in (at the International Terminal this time, since I was flying to Sydney - the Brisbane flights use Terminal 4), I got myself an aisle seat, and checked to see if my luggage had made it through to where it was supposed to be.

Since it had been a few years since I had used this Terminal to fly out, I had never seen the new extension before.  Two whole extra sections added - one to cater for busses to go to planes parked at the hangers (for when it is busy), and one section to cater for more of the giant A380s (they originally added a couple gates on the main Terminal but obviously needed more as more of those planes were in service).
I then realised, maybe I was on an A380 today... which I didn't even think about until now.  I'd been on one before, from Melbourne in 2011, but it was nice to be on one again, as they still don't service Brisbane yet.

One of the great things about the new extension that my flight was going to leave from, was that most of the seats had power-points on them, to cater for the growing demand of people using computers and other devices... especially to recharge before hopping on their flight.
So I sat myself down near the gate, plugged myself in, and worked on my Adventure Report.... while snacking on the junk I bought.

7.20 - plane pulls up to the gate (with the name Charles Kingsford Smith on it)... and at about the same time, about 50 12-15 year olds all in uniform, show up at the gate... fighting over seats and power-points for their phones.

9.30 - the flight starts to board, so I pack up all my stuff, take one last toilet break, and a filling of the water bottle I brought with me... and hopped on.
For a while I thought I had the two seats next to me empty, but then all the kids got on last... filling them both up.

10.10pm (Monday Los Angeles time) take off from LA.

Flying with the rotation of the Earth meant a longer flight, of about 15 hours. I didn't sleep much, as this HUGE lady in the seat in front of me, kept her seat back the entire time... even when she was awake.
I ended up watching three movies - Die Hard 5, The Hobbit, and Olympus has Fallen.  I had a controller this time (and it was still a touch screen), so played one of my favourite simple games for about an hour - Tetris.

As usual, the flight back from America had a snackbag handed out (but never handed out on the flights to America).
I had a nice Beef dish for dinner, and the Hot Breakfast just before landing.

6.10am (Wednesday Sydney time) arrive in Sydney.  The plane had to circle around for a little while because the curfew at Sydney meant that they weren't allowed to land before 6am.
The express passport line is always such a relief to use in Australia (if you have a passport with a microchip), because it eliminates one lot of lengthy queuing.
Picking up the luggage was a bit of a hassle.  I started by the carousel and got my bag, but then went over to the over-size to see if my boxes were there.  The big one came through, but then nothing... so I went all the way back to the baggage carousel to look for the smaller box.
It was there, so I then lined up to be processed by customs.

At least the luggage cart was free at Sydney airport.

When I got to the head of the line, I was asked what medications I had to declare - I told her that it was just cold medicine and some caffiene pills. She looked at me as if I was wasting her time, so I said, "it is always best to tick yes", which she agreed was the best thing to do. She waved me through to the exit.  No lengthy checking of my luggage was necessary... which could have been interesting if they found the food items in there. (the pretzel mix and scorpion lollipop)

Over to the transfer counter, I dropped off my luggage, and got onto a bus to the Domestic terminal.  Expecting to be near Gate 2 when stepping into the Domestic terminal, I was kinda lost for a moment, as they had just recently moved the transfer gate to the other end of the Domestic terminal.

Breakfast at the new Red Rooster (the domestic terminal had just been renovated this year, with new stores openning up... and moving of the transfer gate).  A bacon burger combo box.

8.05 - depart Sydney.

This plane had individual entertainment units, which is rare for the domestic planes.  Halfway through my flight, the sound didn't work on mine, so I just ended up reading the free paper I picked up at the gate.  The TV programs were just the same as on my international flight, so this was probably just one of their international planes being used during the peak morning period.

Since it was QANTAS, food was provided (in addition to the entertainment and free paper), so it was my second QANTAS breakfast.  (third breakfast if you count the Red Rooster)

9.35 - arrive in Brisbane (Domestic).

The luggage carts at Brisbane airport had a fee, so I grabbed a discarded one before someone returned it to the rank.

Grabbed luggage, went outside to the taxi rank, and off to home.

Since I took some Australian cash with me, I didn't have to pay an extra 10% (the fee for using the monopolised Cabcharge unit).  The total cost now from airport to my place is close to $80... it was only about $50 about five years ago.

A bit after 10am I was home.
 
 

The Final Haul listing...

21/6
BH Cmdr Insecticon, Trailcutter, Starscream
23/6
(plush Optimus, Bumblebee, Allspark Cube)
24/6
BH VOY Ultra Magnus
RB FIG Chase/Charlie
RB Electronic Optimus, Bumblebee
26/6
Blastcharge 1
Obsidian, Strika, Megaplex, Hoist, Skywarp, Starscream, Blastcharge 2
27/6
Electron, Sandstorm, Mirage, Thundercracker, Hotlink, Sunstorm, Bitstream
Kreon Hoist, Megaplex, Obsidian, Skywarp, Strika
Depthcharge (card)
28/6
BH VOY Grimwing
FOC Blaster w/ Steeljaw
Sandstorm
Capsule Micron W3 (Starscream, Wheeljack, Ratchet, 2x Dragonfly)
Metroplex w/ Scamper
29/6
(Sharkticon) Megatron, Impactor, Auto Topspin, Auto Whirl, Roadbuster, Twintwist
30/6
Red BAPE Convoy
Radio AM Robot - Red (Argentina)
Kreon Gen2 Devastator
1/7
BH Legion Hun-Grrr
(49)

This is how I had them all set up for a photo...

...and this was how they looked after my friend Julian got his hands on posing them.

Metroplex, with two previous Gen1 Metroplex toys.

The items in the small box that are for everyone else...

And what is a hotel stay, without the free toiletries (and coffee bags). Yes, my cheapness shines though... but they were paid for, so it is a waste not to take at least some of them home.
(I've never had to buy guest soaps since I started doing BotCons... and I have at least another 10 years worth left)

FINAL THOUGHTS?

Well this was certainly the most intense BotCon trip I've probably ever had... but mostly for the first five days, not the last five (which were of the convention).  Spending little more than a day exploring three different locations on opposite sides of America, I had more hours flying in planes than sleeping in a bed.

Getting my hands on a Chicago Style Pizza was a great way to end the trip, as I'd been wanting one of those for ten years. Not to mention all the pretzels I managed to have this year - it made up for the absence of them in the last three trips to America.

After 15 trips to America now (fourteen BotCons plus one day trip for the Transformers Ride in 2012), I've found that Las Vegas is one of probably four places in America that you need at least a week as a tourist - the other ones are Los Angeles, New York and Orland - as each has a concentration of numerous tourist things.  And now that I've had a bit of reconaissance of Vegas, I'm keen to go back there and include 3 or 4 days next time.
Probably the biggest let down was not having as much time with other fans this year, as I didn't share with anyone at all this year.  Aside from last year (which had me recovering from recent surgery, so didn't have that much energy, and didn't want to be sharing while in that condition), this was the first time in about 10 years that I didn't have someone sharing with me. It left a bit of a void, as a significant element of going to a convention is to immerse oneself into the atmosphere of the fandom.

I can't believe this year's report took so long to complete... twice as long as the adventure itself.
I'm just glad that it is finally done.  So I can look forward to next years - which will be timed with the 30th Anniversary of Transformers and the 4th Transformers movie.
That should be huge. At least, I'm hoping it will, as the last three years have been on a decline (with effort and results).

Gotta run now, as Metroplex wants to watch some TV...



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***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted or watermarked. Any that are borrowed, have the source credited/noted.  If you want to use/borrow any of my photos, all I ask is for you to please credit the source as well. I try to take as many of my own photos as possible, and usually only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.

OZFORMERS - The Australian (and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way back in 1996 - try to find a Transfan community that's older)
-
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
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To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au



EASTER EGG - 1 OF 3

Travel pack and checklist.

Those who travel a fair bit, especially to other countries, often (should) have a resuable checklist and travel kit ready some time before you travel... as some of it can take up a fair bit of time to chase up.
And you don't want to be running around town in a panic the day before you depart looking things you need, or doing last minute packing the night before and finding that you don't have something.

Below is my travel kit and checklist, for others to use or copy.

I keep these things in an A4-sized snap-lock bag, but you can use any type of bag that can be sealed/closed so that nothing falls out if you store it away for a while.

On the left is the checklist I used for BotCon 2012, which is recycled each year (copied from the previous year & new things are added if I find I needed something on a recent trip). You could write up or print out a checklist to keep in the kit, so you don't have to remember what happened to the last one.

On the right of the checklist (which will be detailed below), are the items in the kit. (Items with * are important)
- *Passport (get one at least 3 months before you travel, to make sure it gets to you before you need it)
- *travel agent contact card (ask for one that has 24 hour contact)
- *Department of Foreign Affairs/Smarttraveller contact details (for emergencies in other countries)
- *American dollars and money of the country you are going to (even if you aren't going to America, it is a fairly universal currency around the world - have about AU$100 worth of foreign currency before you leave)
- *Electrical adapter plug (if you take anything electrical to recharge, you'll need the right Adapter plug - the two above are for America and Asia)
- *Pre-paid cash card (always have multiple money options as a back up - foreign cash, your own credit card, your keycard and pre-paid debit/cash card)
- *About $100 Australian (this is your last-resort money, to either use to convert and get to an embassy or airport, or to cover a taxi from the airport to home if you spent everything on your trip)
- *Customs Travel guide (download or get from airport, detailing what is prohibited and what needs to be declared when you return - you should also research Customs restrictions of your destination as well)
- baggage tags (you can do this at the airport when you check-in your luggage, but keeping them handy for later saves time)
- *sandwich snap-lock bags (about 5 or 6 - use them for your passport, phone, camera, money in your pockets if there is a chance you could get wet or out in the heat for a while)
- Plastic cutlery (not in photo) - these are essential when travelling and living on processed/junk foods, or regular groceries.  Best source for good, strong cutlery is international flights (if they use plastic, not metal cutlery). Next time you fly and they have plastic cutlery, get out one of your ziplock bags when you are finished eating, stick them in there and wash them later.  Then keep them for as long as they last.
- small zip-up bag (not necessary, but can be useful if you get one on a flight that hands out goodies in a bag like QANTAS or Singapore Airlines)
- rubber bands (3 or 4)
- twist ties (I kept about a dozen from when Transformers toys used them - they are useful if you have a bag or backpack with zippers to minimise them coming open or being opened by someone)
- *luggage locks (not pictured, as I don't use them - but you should use them on checked-in luggage if you don't keep them with your bags)
- panadol (for headaches, without having to find it at your destination) NOTE - ALWAYS declare medications to Customs (these are legal, but you will get in trouble if you don't declare them)
- Cold & Flu tablets (airports are breeding grounds for germs, and the last thing you want is to catch something at the start of your trip)
- Caffiene tablets (for near the end of a long trip, or after a long flight)
- Temperature conversion table (something I wrote up for the annual trips to America, to better know the day's temperature)
- Transport cards (if you've been somewhere that has Public Transport cards that you have to buy before loading credit, keep them in case you go back there again)
- Vanity kit & sewing kit (these I picked up from past hotels, so aren't vital, but could be handy if you can get them or buy something similar from a store)
- Blindfold/sleeping-thingy (I got one years ago from a QANTAS flight, so kept it as it can be useful... but often if you are so tired to want to sleep on a plane, you'd pretty much sleep through anything)
- Tissues/serviettes (if you keep tissues in your house you don't need to keep them in the kit - I usually don't have tissues, so keep paper serviettes in the kit when I get them)
 

CHECKLIST
This is the basic checklist I use for BotCon, which I've been using now for over 10 years... but obviously it will be different for other people, especially of different genders or ages.  But use it as a framework to create your own checklist.  Start ticking-off the items 2 or 3 days before you depart and put those items somewhere together ready to be packed all at once.
I often have a bench area that I will grab and dump the items the day before I depart, so that they are all ready to pack in a hurry if I am running late to get to the airport.
Some items in this listing will be in the Travel Pack above.

- BAGGAGE
Check-in baggage (with lock)
Carry-on baggage (a comfortable backpack for constant useage while at your destination)

- CLOTHES (enough to cover each day, but try to recycle clothing on the trip - wear items twice if clean & cool enough, and wash/dryclean clothing if possible to save space in luggage)
t-shirts (I take 2-3 less than the days away, as I will get a BotCon T-shirt to wear for a day or two indoors, and will usually wash/dryclean 1 or 2)
shorts (I take about half as many as the days away - jeans will count as a day, and shorts can be worn twice if cool and clean, otherwise wash/dryclean 1 or 2)
socks (these can be easily washed in a bathroom basin and hung to dry somewhere during the day while out, so only need about half as many days away)
compression socks (a pair for any long-distance flying, to limit swelling and possibly prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis)
underwear (same as the socks)
hankerchief/tissues (even if you don't normally use them, take something in case you catch something while in transit)
shoes (at least one pair that are suitable for a lot of comfortable walking)
jeans & belt (a belt that can go with dressy trousers if they are required)
hat (if expecting to be out in the sun a lot)
jumper (depending on the season or where you are going - if you get cold easily you will need one for the plane ride, but it won't add to your luggage space as you'll be wearing/carrying it)
(dressy outfit if required - collared shirt, tie, trousers, good shoes - I will usually take new black 'shiny' sneakers, so that they can be worn the entire time away, including the semi-formal events, to save space)
(sleepwear if you need to - if you aren't sharing accomodation with others, use the space for more regular daytime clothing)

- VITAL ITEMS
Passport
Phone (with global roaming activated) & Charger cord
wallet
Cash (AU$ & Foreign cash)
Credit cards
Keycards
(any pre-paid cards or travellers cheques)
House key (& car key if driving to airport)
Itinerary (with your hotel addresses, flight numbers & all booking reference numbers)
Convention confirmation paperwork
Printed maps of area where you are staying (always useful, especially if you research beforehand where all the nearest stores & food options are)
This checklist (in case you need it to check you have everything when you are packing to return home)
Electrical adapter plug
Emergency contact details
Any medications you currently need, INCLUDING any chemist labelling on the packaging to verify it is legit (BE SURE TO DECLARE IT TO CUSTOMS AS WELL)

- OPTIONAL ITEMS
Computer, power cord, mouse, (extra battery if you have one)
Earphones
camera, charger, extra battery, transfer cord
Notepad & pens, notebook
About 6 plastic bags (one or two for dirty clothing to keep them separated from everything else, one for all the electrical cords, one for paperwork & maps, others to use when necessary)
About 4 ziplock bags (one for currency you are not currently using, one for passport, others to use when necessary)
Roll of packaging tape, carton cutter, posting labels, maker pen (if you are likely to be taking back a box of toys as luggage or posting something back) NOTE - tape and cutter MUST be in checked in bag. If you are flying there with just carry-on luggage, buy them when you get at your destination.
(Anything else from the Travel Pack above that you think you will need - tablets, sunscreen, plastic cutlery, temperature guide, transport cards)
GPS SatNav device (if you plan to drive in that country, buy one here if the ones sold here can include maps of your destination, otherwise buy one when you get there and keep it for future trips)
Toy wantlist (very handy to have on hand at the convention, or even retail shopping, to keep track of what you want and what you've already got)
Toys for trading/selling
Small (600ml) EMPTY water bottle (to fill up at the airport for your flight, as you can't take liquids through security, and it is too expensive to buy water at the airport - find a water fountain if you can).

- TOILETRIES
Toiletry bag
soap
toothbrush
toothpaste (or a travel size bottle of mouthwash)
razor
non-aerosol deoderant (or buy a travel sized one when you get to your location)
Tweezers
Lip balm/vaseline/moisturiser (long flights in airconditioned planes can dry out the lips, nostrals, skin)
Vanity kit from the Travel Pack, if you have one
 

Naturally, as you travel more, your checklist will adapt to your own needs, including how many of each clothing item you find you need (start out first with enough for each day, then cut back on future trips as necessary).  Just remember to add or remove items when you think of them, so you don't forget next time you are packing.

It is also worth noting that when you arrive at your destination (hotel), it is a good idea to seek out a department store for supplies, including anything that you couldn't bring.

As a bit of a bonus, while I think of it, a quick rundown of very very rough timeline for me travelling to BotCon (from afar).
6-12 months before - Book hotel as soon as it is announced and make the booking as long as the discount rate covers (you can change the dates later).
6-8 months before - plan out what you want to do in addition to the convention and start looking at flight options/pricing/sales with your travel agent (and get time off work if authorisation is required)
4-6 months before - book/pay flights & insurance, and any other hotels/events if you are doing other things on your trip before or after BotCon. Start putting aside $50-100 per week spending money.
3-4 months before - pre-register as soon as it is open. Get a passport if you don't already have one, or if it needs renewing.
1-3 months before - change your BotCon hotel reservation dates if necessary (if you booked more days than you needed). Do some research online of what is in the local area and where the stores are.
1 month before - register for your visa waiver (through this US Government site), go through your Checklist to see if you need to buy anything for the trip, including any foreign currency.
In the week before you leave - recheck with your travel agent all your flights, to see if anything has been changed.
 

*If you are looking at booking airfares early and the seats aren't running out, wait a couple weeks to see if a sale pops up (if there isn't already a sale on at that time).
*Pre-registration should be booked and paid as soon as it is released by the organisers, as some components can sell out within hours or days.
*Accommodation should be booked straight away (details are on the BotCon website above). NOTE that the Hotel might ask for a deposit now, to screen out all those people that book early but never go, leaving a lot of empty rooms that attendees missed out on (and had to book elsewhere). Check the fine-print to see if the Deposit is refundable if you cancel before a set date. If you do end up going, the rest of your stay is paid when you check-out (but they will usually put a hold on the estimated amount when you check-in).
*MAKE SURE YOUR PASSPORT & VISA WAIVER is valid, with enough time left on them to cover your trip. The Visa Waiver is valid for 2 years, so keep the details recorded somewhere in case you go back to America within that time. Cost for the Waiver is about US$14. (it was free before Obama became President, and needed to raise taxes)
*Plan out your time over there, with some backup plans in case something doesn't work out. Maybe print up some maps to help familiarise yourself with all the places you plan to go (look up their addresses), and where you are staying. Have at least 2 or 3 different money sources to utilise (cash, keycard, credit card, pre-paid cash card, etc), and have contact details with someone who can help you out if you need help (either someone else there, or someone back home that is easy to reach and can send you money if needed).
*Be mindful of any differences in the Laws over there, especially if you are under 21.
*BE AWARE OF TIPPING while in America. A lot of "service" jobs over there require payment of a tip on top of whatever you are buying, as it is part of their wage to survive on. There are different tipping rates (either 10-15% of the bill, or double the tax amount are two examples), but it is up to you as to how much you give... if at all.

Major costs to factor in when pre-planning if you can go (approximate AU$)
NECESSARY COSTS
- Return Airfares to LA, $1000-$1500 (sale fare), $2000-$2500 (full Economy).
- Return Airfares within America, $200-800 (depending on the location & your package deal with your airline/travel agent)
- Travel Insurance, $100 (MUST GET TRAVEL INSURANCE WHEN TRAVELLING OVERSEAS)
- Pre-registration, $500-800 (depending on how many add-ons you include)
- Club Membership, $82 (MUST JOIN THE CLUB BEFORE REGISTERING TO BOTCON - it will save you $85, which ends up getting you a free toy & magazines)
- Accommodation, $150-200 per night (if not sharing, and are staying at one of the Botcon hotels)
ADDITIONAL EXPENSES
- At-show BotCon toys & merchandise, about $300 if buying all 7 toys and t-shirt.
- Additional spending would then include toys, food, transport and entertainment. (give yourself about $50 per day outside the Convention, and then whatever you want to spend in the Dealer Room)
NOTE - sales tax is always extra in America, often about 8% for purchases, and about 15% on hotels.

The important thing to remember after all of this - Have fun and don't stress too much about what could go wrong. No matter what happens, if you have Travel Insurance and enough reserve cash to get you to the airport, your airfares were pre-paid way back when you booked them, so you only have to get back to the airport to get home.

Hope all of that helps make your trip a great one, with the least amount of hassles or unexpected problems.