The RollerCon Survival Guide

Words by Gia & Roger, photo by Charlie Chu

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Introduction


Hello, and welcome to our guide to not only surviving, but also having the best time at RollerCon. As mentioned, this guide is one-part road map and one-part treasure map. We all want or need different amenities when we leave the comforts of home, so while this guide won’t have all the answers, it’s meant to help you with the fundamentals of RollerCon good times, as well as some of the things you wouldn’t think of if you haven’t been to RollerCon or Vegas or (out of the house) before. Read on for all the secrets!

From this guide flows all the tips, tricks, and travel hacks we've learned and cultivated across our twenty combined years of travel while producing television, film, live event productions, and of course derby. Additionally, we've added all of our aggregate RollerCon attendee knowledge from our nine consecutive years of attending RollerCon Las Vegas as skaters, officials, announcers, volunteers, volunteer managers, and also as folks on vacation who want to make the most of a great time. This Summer's RollerCon is our 10th! Let's make it a great one together.

Travel


Booking Flights

• Do your research and compare multiple sites and carriers. Sites and apps like Kayak and Priceline can execute searches across multiple sites for easy side by side comparisons. Mobile apps like Hopper and GTFO can help notify you on optimal pricing or make the last minute decision to hit up the Black and Blue Ball. 

• Book early. The most desirable travel times and the most reasonably priced fares sell out first, so if you know your travel dates it can only save you dough to book early. Also, if the price goes down most carriers will match the lower price if you’re willing to call customer service and talk to someone.

• Like flights, the most favorably priced rooms go quickly. Once you have your travel dates in mind, make your reservations as early as possible. Hotel cancelation and reservation change policies are usually flexible and dependent on capacity so if your plans change or you want to add roomies later that’s usually not a big deal, but check your hotel’s policies to be sure.

• Use your points! Do you have a credit card that accumulates loyalty points that you can exchange for travel dollars? Do you have points on an airline you travel on for work or leisure? You may have a free flight waiting.

• Even if you don’t have points currently, carriers like Southwest and banks like Chase often have promotional deals with their associated credit cards that gift round trip flights or enough points for the same if you’re eligible, so research your options as time allows.

• Just like booking a flight and picking a preference between window or aisle, there are loads of preferences you can declare or request in advance at a hotel as well including a room on a higher floor, a room away from the elevator if you prefer quiet, or even hypoallergenic pillows. We suggest making your hotel requests well in advance so the notes are in your reservation. Remember that they are requests, though, not guarantees. If you don’t get your dream pillow, don’t holler at the staff.

Hotels

• Like flights, the most favorably priced rooms go quickly. Once you have your travel dates in mind, make your reservations as early as possible. Hotel cancelation and reservation change policies are usually flexible and dependent on capacity so if your plans change or you want to add roomies later that’s usually not a big deal, but check your hotel’s policies to be sure.

• Just like booking a flight and picking a preference between window or aisle, there are loads of preferences you can declare or request in advance at a hotel as well including a room on a higher floor, a room away from the elevator if you prefer quiet, or even hypoallergenic pillows. We suggest making your hotel requests well in advance so the notes are in your reservation. Remember that they are requests, though, not guarantees. If you don’t get your dream pillow, don’t holler at the staff.

• Speaking of requests, our number one recommendation is asking for a mini-fridge in your room (if it isn’t already equipped with one) because it’s great for keeping beverages and food cold and fresh. If your room doesn’t have a fridge, you can typically rent one for a small fee.

Ground Transportation

• If you’re traveling to Vegas for a long weekend you may be able to get by without renting a car and relying on ride shares like Lyft (get up to $20 in free ride credits if you're an eligible new rider) and the taxi stand in front of the hotel.

• If you’re traveling to Vegas for a week, or you hope to dine outside of the hotel property, go to a liquor store, or somewhere else fun, we suggest renting a car, or better yet splitting a car rental with a friend to help keep costs down.

• The beer/grocery run you go on will likely make a car rental worthwhile and then you’ll have flexibility to take a side trip to the Pinball Museum or Fremont Street or somewhere else interesting or delicious.

Want to get access to a digital library of  Summer Mixes to listen to while you travel this Summer? Sign up to get access to the Roller Skate Place Summer Mix Exchange Library, to submit your mix, or both!  

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together


Some of the best times at RollerCon are impromptu dance parties, staring contests, pickup scrimmages, and a million other unplanned magical moments that you don’t know you’re a part of until it’s already happening around you. There’s also that rad war paint class with Scald Eagle, Allie Gator, and Demanda that you want to go to, and the Lumberjacks versus Lifeguard challenge bout, so while it’s important to live in the moment, it’s also prudent to get some planning done in advance so you don’t miss anything you have your heart set on.

Your Goals vs Squad Goals

• RollerCon is absolutely what you make of it, so think about setting a rough goal for your RollerCon experience. What do you want to get out of it? Are you traveling or staying with a crew of pals? What are their expectations for the week? Is the focus personal goals or squad goals? Best to get an idea of what you want out of your experience early, and be on the same page with your mates.

• Figure out what your goal for RollerCon are, and then make some time to create a list of priorities. What do you want to get out of your experience? Panels? Skating workshops? Attending fun themed scrimmages? Open scrimmage? Drinking and socializing at the pool?

• Once you have an idea of your goals, get informed about what’s happening when and where.

Get Connected

• First, point your browser to the RollerCon Master Schedule link here:
RollerCon Master Schedule

• This is the place where every event at RollerCon lives, and where the updates and changes are made. Keep in mind that the schedule does update in July when the schedule is finalized.

• Speaking of updates, it’s worth your time to follow the RollerCon Twitter feed (@RollerCon) and here’s why: scores of the games, updates to schedules (times and locations), raffle winner announcements, and also any emergency or event critical information is spread this way. If you want to always have the latest RollerCon intel, this is where it lives.

Build Your Calendar

• The Master Schedule is a Google Calendar, so if you scroll to the bottom of the Master Schedule you’ll see a plus sign that will connect the RollerCon Master Schedule to your Google account and Google Calendar.

• If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, we still suggest adding the GoogleCalendar to your phone and then creating reminders or appointments only for the events or activities we want to go to. This way we have our priorities on our main calendar and still have the Master Schedule saved for reference.

• Make sure to schedule some “you” time in there for gambling, socializing, or perhaps a well-deserved nap. RollerCon is a marathon, not a sprint.

Pack It Up, Pack It In


When you’re packing for RollerCon, consider the weather, and don’t kid yourself about wearing jeans, pants, and leg warmers, et al. Remember it’s INCREDIBLY hot in Vegas in the summer.

Weather

• The Average High Temperature for RollerCon is 104°F (40°C) with a historical range of 86°F to 114°F (30-46°C).

• The Average Low Temperature (in the wee hours right before dawn) for RollerCon is 81°F (27°C) with a historical range of 70°F to 89°F (21-32°C).

• There is a 99% chance of a “Hot Day” at RollerCon (a day with a temperature over 90°F/32°C).

Clothing & Shoes

• Bring your derby t-shirts that are on their last legs and send them off right at RollerCon.

• Layer up and tear them open for dramatic karaoke effect or trade or gift them to your new friends, but don’t bring them back.

• Bonus: no laundry to do when you get home!

• In general, you’ll want light layers, and coverage from the sun depending on how much you venture outdoors. Also, a hat. As our dermatologist says: Pasty is tasty!

• Wear comfortable shoes. ESPECIALLY at derby wedding, and at the parties, wear comfortable shoes. I love heels. I love to wear them. High heels and jeans are the Rolling Stones of outfits. I’m not even bringing heels this year. Have you ever had someone spike your foot with their heel while dancing? If you have, you know that’s pretty much your night.

• If you’ll be poolside (and if you’re going to the Black & Blue ball you will be) plan to have a water friendly option like flip flops or aquasocks if that’s your jam.

Cooler

• It seems weird at first to check a cooler as luggage, but if you tape it shut and tape down all the handles, it’ll be totally cool, and you can pack other stuff in it as well.

• Then, when you get to Vegas, you’ll already have a cooler for food, beverages, and ice packs. SWEET! There’s soft side cooler bag options too if you don’t want to commit to one of your checked bags being a cooler.

Eating & Drinking

• If you’re not planning to eat all your meals out at restaurants, you’ll be stoked to have something to eat on that isn’t flimsy and that you can reuse and travel with.

• We love traveling with a plastic camp mess kit that also comes with a collapsible sippy cup as well (which is also clutch for traveling with beverages while in Vegas).

• Another great addition to your travel meal kit is the Titanium Spork, which also has a little serrated knife edge that makes eating on the go or in a hotel room a much more convenient and less messy experience.

• Here’s the travel/camp Mess Kit we like:
Light My Fire Meal Kit

• This is the Titanium Spork we love:
Light My Fire Titanium Spork

Meal Kit Sandwiches

Climate Control

• It’s dry as hell in the desert, and even drier in your room that you’ve been running the A/C in all day and all night. If you’re sensitive to dry weather, consider investing in a travel humidifier.

• Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, and you can even pack one in your cooler to easily get it to and from Vegas.

• Here’s a humidifier that’s packable in a cooler:
Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

• Here’s a humidifier that’s packable in a cooler:
Mini Cool Mist Humidifier

 Pro Tip:


Try blasting the A/C on its maximum cold setting all day long while you’re not in your hotel room, then shut it off completely overnight when it’s cooler. Generally, the room will stay cool overnight until the morning and your respiratory system won’t get dried out quite as much without the cold recirculated air blowing around.

Power & Other Essentials

• The outlet is rarely exactly where you’d like it to be, and someone always needs to charge their phone/tablet battery and plug in extra stuff. Be your own power strip hero!

• Here’s the travel power strip we use that also has USB outlets as well:
Belkin Mini Power Strip with USB

With all that said, do you have a super sweet costume for the Black and Blue ball that includes one of the warmer articles of clothing mentioned above? Then yes, bring it anyway, and channel your inner-Fashole. You can always take it off if it gets too hot, and you’ll be fine as long as you…

Remember to Hydrate!


Hydration Basics

• It seems like a der, but there are lots of opportunities for adult beverages at RollerCon, and it’s very easy to forget that you’re in the middle of a desert, which even if you’re not being active, is slowly draining the moisture from your body. Water, water, water. Learn it, know it, live it.

• Considering the increased activity level and the desert environment you should plan to drink between 2-3 liters of water per day.

• Not sure if you’re drinking enough? Keep pounding the clear (water) until your pee is light yellow.

• Read more about the Mayo Clinic science around hydration here:
Mayo Clinic’s Water: How much should you drink every day?

Finding the Right Bottle

• Get a decent water bottle and make it your hydration sidekick. It’s easier to get your hydration habit going if you have a vessel that’s easy to drink from and portable so you can always keep it nearby.

• Using a reusable water bottle will also save you hard earned cash that you might have ended up spending on drastically marked up bottled water.

• We like Klean Kanteen's sport top bottles for their maximum glug-ability.

• A wide mouth Hydroflask bottle (the 32oz is our daily carry bottle and comes in the full rainbow of colors) with a flip top lid is the best pick for an insulated bottle that keeps beverages cool all day and night.

• If you’re interested in the best tasting water, Bobble makes great bottles that have a carbon filter built into the cap if you’re into that. If you prefer cold beveraages though, Hydroflask is where it’s at. Here are links to all three:

Klean Kanteen

Hydroflask

Bobble

Start Drinking

The week before RollerCon, (or sooner if you’re a hydration badass) start playing the pee clear game to step up your hydration game in preparation for desert conditions. The pee clear game is where you steadily drink enough water to pee clear (also a great time waster at work). A hydrated you is a happy you, and no one wants to spend their time in Vegas at the Emergency Room, we promise you.

Feed Me!


Are you hitting the buffet daily and stuffing your pockets like Bluto in Animal House, or did you make plans to split a cab ride to the grocery store? Hybrid plan? Whatever your strategy, you must fuel the RollerCon skating/party machine that you are with food.

Devising a Food & Beverage Plan

• Ask around your league or newfound league friends to see if anyone has a vehicle or wants to split a cab to the grocery store. It’s well worth hitting up a grocery store and stocking up on water (hydrate!) and fruit and appropriate snacks.

• If you’re balling on a budget, PB&J and a loaf of bread could be your buddy for the whole week.

• When you can’t hit up a grocery store, look around for the best deals within walking distance. A little exploration will save you money and expand your options.

• If you’re feeling adventurous, you can grill up some chicken (or your protein of choice) and pack it in your suitcase or carry it on in your cooler bag or backpack...TSA won’t let you carry liquids onto planes, but food is fair game!

Pro Tip:


Speaking of TSA, did you know you can put little airplane sized bottles of booze into the 1 quart plastic bag of liquids you carry on? This is great for pre-flight drinks and saving at the mini bar when you arrive and desire an in-room cocktail, but don't open them on the plane or you'll attract the scorn of the Flight Crew.

Planes are treated like bars because they serve alcohol, and likewise they're responsible for not over serving you. That said, it's against FAA regulations to consume what you've brought on-board, so be cool about it or they'll fine you or worse, land the plane early.

• If cooking ahead of time or the grocery store and in-room cooking isn’t your game, there’s food deals to be had at casinos, and plenty of cheap eats within walking distance. Explore and conquer!

Merch & Swag


Plan to bring a small budget for gear and merchandise if you can! There will be amazing vendors that will have at least one trinket you can’t live without. Maybe that trinket is a some all natual muscle treatment, maybe that trinket is a league or team shirt, and maybe that trinket is a new pair of custom skates.

Secrets of Swaggy Success

• You should plan to bring league merchandise to trade with other convention goers at RollerCon: pins, shirts, stickers…whatever.

• Personally, we find that the whole “shirt/jersey trade” thing works out better if you set it up in advance (shirts are bulky!), but pins and stickers go for everyone.

• Speaking of stickers, be respectful about where you’re sticking them and keep them off things that aren’t yours. We are all representing the convention as attendees. Don’t ruin it for future partiers.

You Have Arrived!


You survived the trip and you’re here! The first usual order of business once you’re on site is getting checked in and settled in your room. I can already tell you that you’re going to need another towel, and maybe another pillow too. Next, we’ll help you get settled in:

Hotel Hacks

• If we happen to pass a housekeeper's cart on the way to my room, we’ll grab an extra bath towel as we pass by. We’re not taking it home, but we know the usually wafer thin one they’ll supply won’t be enough for my roomie and me.

• If you’re not cool with creeping the maid’s cart, you can call the front desk and ask for extra towels, pillows, blankets, soap, or whatever else you need.

• It may seem high maintenance, but you’re the customer here, and by their very nature, hotels are a customer service industry. They’re here to serve you. Just remember to be polite, they’re people too.

• Keep in mind that gratuity greases the wheels of the service industry and you should expect to kick the bellhop at least a buck a bag for the trip to your room with an armload of stuff. The same goes for anyone who is going out of their way to help you out during your stay above and beyond the usual service.

Food/Water/Supplies

• Whatever your food and beverage plan, it’s best to assess if you need anything (or forgot anything) before you dive right into the convention so it doesn’t become an emergency later.

• We’ll usually get a few of those 3-gallon store brand water jugs so we can ensure we’re drinking enough water by setting up a little fill station in the hotel room by the door. This way there’s a quick and easy place to fill up my water bottle every time we stop by my room which is another way to help keep yourself well-watered and the large containers are typically priced at a fraction of the cases of small bottles.

• We’ll also buy cans of seltzer to keep a stock of cold fizzy water because we find it easier to drink lots of to stay hydrated. House rule is that you have to take a water with you every time you leave the room, and finish it before you get where you’re going.

• If you brought a cooler (or bought one on your supply run), fill that sucker with beverages on the bottom layer before you add the ice to ensure good beverage density and quick cooling.

• If you didn’t bring a cooler, you can substitute a wastebasket from your room (use a clean liner so it doesn't leak quite as much), or even the sink in a pinch.

Lay of the Land

• After check-in, settling in to the room, and going on a supply run if necessary, check in and get your RollerCon badge goodie bag if you haven’t already. Remember to be friendly and polite to the volunteer staff, they’re people who love roller derby and are donating time just to help you.

• This is a good time to double check the schedule for any updates or additions as well against your calendar to ensure you’re completely up to date.

• If the event halls are open, familiarize yourself with where the various tracks are and where your favorite vendors are set up. The pool is another hot spot you’ll want to know how to get to as well.

Pro Tip:


Time how long it takes to walk from your room to the Event Halls to figure out if the timing on your schedule is realistic. When the weekend hits, add ten minutes to your time to allow for increased crowds. Arriving late is a bad look, and also you don't want to miss the events you've carefully planned to attend.

Buddy Up!

Not everyone is as amazing as your derby crush and your derby wife, so protect yourself and be watchful for others too. If you see some shenanigans going on, or if your Spidey sense tingles, then say something. Please.

• When you’re at RollerCon, travel in a pack just like on the track.

• Find a buddy and don’t go it alone even if you’re sober, and even if it’s a short trip away from the group. Never leave your friends alone either.

• Yes, the folks you just met may seem like derbybros4lyfe, but also keep in mind you just met and there is often more than meets the eye.

Safety Pro Tip:


Not every predator is a stranger.

• If you’re not comfortable saying something about weirdness you observe yourself, find someone in a RollerCon volunteer shirt, a hotel employee, security guard or similarly dressed official type person to help you. Keeping yourself and others safe helps preserve this great event for future you to enjoy!

Pace Yourself

Give yourself realistic “socializing” and “resting” time. If that 10am panel on Saturday is something you HAVE to go to…then maybe go easy on the adult beverages Friday night. The same goes if you’re signed up to skate a ton of challenge bouts, or if you had your heart set on skating The Strip. Make sure you build in some time to kick it and socialize to stand in for the time your body is usually recovering in between practices or games. Again, RollerCon is a marathon, not a sprint.

You Do You, Boo!


Remember, Rollercon has something for EVERYONE, and just like life: you get out of it what you put into it. Have fun, and we'll see you there!

-Gia Culpa & Roger Assaultrey

Go Green Savings Flyer

The Wrap Up

Thanks for checking out what all we've learned across our RollerCon adventures, and if you have suggestions or comments, we want to hear from you in the comments section below. One last Pro Tip: Be on the lookout for a "Go Green" incentive at your hotel, like at the Westgate for a chance to get $10/day toward food and drinks at your hotel!

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