Hi all. I'm sure I'm not the first person to post any of this, but as someone who's been going to Gen Con for the last 5 years or so, I know there are a lot of things I wish I knew going in. So, I wanted to post some tips for new people.
1. Bring a bag to take around the convention. This may or may not be the same as your travel bag, but you'll definitely want to bring a bag that's the right size and type to carry around all day. This will help you carry giveaways, dice, character sheets, and purchases.
2. Bring snacks. There are places to buy snacks in the convention center, but they're expensive and often have long lines. It's easier and more cost-effective to put a few in your bag each day.
3. Grab the coupon book as early as you can. There will be coupons for freebies at various booths on the show floor. Some of them require a playtest or something, but others are just free.
4. Note where each of your events is held, and how long it will take for you to get from one place to another. Many events don't go as long as they say they will, so you'll usually have at least a bit of time even if the events are back-to-back, but back-to-back events on opposite sides of Downtown Indy might be a problem.
5. If you plan to spend time on the show floor, make sure you have enough time in between events. It's easy to get caught up or lost with all of the dealers, and what you thought would be just a quick peek might turn out to be an hour or more.
6. Check out some of the smaller vendors in the back and sides of the show floor; you never know what you'll find. I found one of my favorite dice this way.
7. Get some generic tickets. It's very likely that either an event will be cancelled, or you won't like one of your events, or you'll miss one of your events, or whatever else might mess up your schedule. You might also learn about new things at the convention that you want to try out. It's good to be prepared.
I'm sure other people have more tips; feel free to add them here. I'll add more of my own if I think of any. And if you are a new attendee, feel free to ask questions as well.