The True Cost of Anime Conventions (and how to pay less)

the true cost of anime conventions

When you look at ticket prices for anime conventions, you’ll see numbers ranging anywhere from $45-$100 or even more. This seems like a high price, but doable if you budget for it. However, this is not the final cost of an anime convention. There are so many other factors that add to the price.

If you are going to an anime convention, you should plan to budget at least $500-$1000. The final cost can vary significantly based on the size of the event, the type of transportation you take, the hotel you stay at, and the number of people you share expenses with. 

Despite the high cost, there are so many ways you can save money and attend an anime convention even when you are on a tight budget. It will take a lot more planning ahead of time and organizing with friends, but you can afford an anime convention even as a broke college student.

The cost to attend the convention

The cost of attending a convention will vary significantly depending on which event you’re attending. Purchasing an all-day pass for New York Comic Con is going to be significantly more expensive than attending a smaller, local convention.

In general, the admission price has gone up pretty significantly in the past decade. For most large anime conventions, expect the ticket price to be between $80-$100. Smaller events will typically charge somewhere around $40-$60.

Comic Cons, like New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic-Con, tend to be even more expensive and can cost several hundred for a general admission pass.

How to pay less

While the prices for these events may seem high, there are almost always ways that you can reduce the ticket cost:

  • Get your badge early. Most conventions have early-bird special prices. If you purchase your ticket early, you can usually save $10-20 on the price.
  • Only go for one day. While most conventions span over three or four days, you can also choose to go for just one day. The price per day will vary, but they generally are significantly cheaper than the full weekend pass.
  • Volunteer at the event. I have never volunteered at a convention, but it is usually an option if you are working on a tight budget. Just know that you will have to work for a good portion of the convention.
  • Purchasing as a group. Many conventions will offer group rates for ticket sales. If you can get a group of 10 friends or so (depending on the convention) together, you can usually get $5-$10 off of each ticket.
  • Discounts for seniors and children. Conventions will also offer discounts for tickets for seniors and children. In the past, Otakon has even allowed children under 12 to attend free with an adult ticket.
otakon registration line
Expect to spend some time at the beginning of most conventions standing in line to pick up your badge for the event.

The cost of transportation to the event

Sometimes it’s possible to commute to a nearby convention, but you also might want to go to a con that’s farther away. The cost of transportation can end up being a big drain on your budget, especially if you need to fly anywhere. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of travel from the airport or train station to your hotel.

Even if the convention is within commuting distance, you still have to factor in the cost of gas and parking. Just parking in the vicinity of a city convention can be upwards of $20 a day.

How to pay less

The amount you can save will vary significantly based on the type of transportation you take. The cost of gas for a car ride can easily be split between multiple people, while the cost of a plane ticket cannot. So, you may need to get creative in the ways you save money on transportation.

  • Carpool with others. If you or a friend can drive to the convention, this will likely be the cheapest method. You can split the cost of gas and parking between everyone in the car. It’s also usually more convenient for transporting bulky cosplay items since you won’t have to pay for extra checked luggage.
  • Use public transportation. When I lived in the DC area, it was pretty cheap to commute to Otakon, AnimeUSA, and Katsucon via the metro system. This way I didn’t have to worry about gas or parking costs.
  • Get plane/train/bus tickets in advance. If you have to take some form of public transportation, start looking at tickets well in advance. This will give you the ability to compare prices and take advantage of any deals that come up. You can also opt for a cheaper version of transportation, such as a bus instead of a train.
  • Go to nearby conventions. If you really need to keep costs down, then you’ll want to stick to conventions that are within your vicinity so you don’t have to pay for an expensive plane ticket.

The cost of a hotel room during the convention

The hotel room can easily be the most expensive part of any convention. In most cities, it will come to $200-300 per night. If you’re staying Thursday through Sunday, the three nights can put you back $600-900. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get a hotel for slightly cheaper, but I wouldn’t expect to find anything under $150 per night.

How to pay less

While it may be expensive, there is a lot you can do to cut the cost of staying at a hotel for an anime convention:

  • Share the cost of a hotel room. The easiest way is to share the hotel with several friends so you can split the cost among yourself. Most hotels will have an official limit of 4-5 people per room, however, it’s not uncommon to hear of hotel rooms with seven or eight people camping out together to reduce the cost. 
  • Don’t damage the room. If you don’t want any added fees at the end of the weekend, don’t damage anything in the room. Cosplayers often have a lot of bulky props and miscellaneous items that can easily fall over and damage lamps or objects in the room. So, be sure everyone agrees to be careful to keep the cost down. 
  • Commute from home. You can avoid the cost of a hotel completely if you commute from home or a friend’s house every day instead of staying in a hotel. This does, of course, add to the cost of gas, but if you can stay nearby, you’ll save a lot of money.
  • Don’t stay the whole weekend. You can also choose to stay for just one or two nights instead of the entire weekend. You may miss some of the programming on Friday morning or Sunday. But the cost of a convention is reduced significantly if you only stay at the hotel for Friday night.

Budget for food during the convention

Many people forget to budget for the little costs that come up during a convention. The most important one to remember is the cost of food. Walking around all day at a convention can be pretty exhausting, especially in the summer heat, so you really can’t skip meals to save money.

Personally, I like to budget $50 a day for meals ($10 for breakfast and $20 for lunch and dinner). Food around conventions is often more expensive than elsewhere, so it’s necessary to put aside more than you expect to need.

How to pay less

The cost of food can vary a lot depending on where you go to eat. That means there are plenty of ways to save a few bucks during mealtimes:

  • Look up food in the area and plan your meals. Before the convention, you can check out google maps to find cheap food locations in the area. There will often be fast-food restaurants nearby where you can get a quick meal for cheap. These places do tend to get crowded during conventions, so I also recommend planning extra time to wait in line before you order and eat.
  • Bring easy meals with you. While you won’t be able to cook in most hotel rooms, you can still bring simple snacks and meals with you. You can easily bring and refrigerate simple sandwiches, and carry granola bars with you for a quick bite to eat. Bagels and oatmeal are also easy to bring and eat for breakfast. 
  • Split the cost of a pizza or cheap delivery. You can easily split the cost of a large pizza or order of Chinese food among your friends. Expect delivery times to be pretty long (an hour or more) because many people will have the same idea for cheap eating.

DON’T skip meals. As tempting as it is to save money this way, I do not recommend it. At best, you’ll be grumpy and have a harder time enjoying the convention. At worst you could end up fainting, especially in the summer heat. So just do yourself a favor and make sure you eat throughout the day.

comic con dealer's room
In the dealer’s room you can find anything from official merchandise to T-shirts and stuffed animals. It’s often one of the busiest rooms of any convention.

The dealer’s room and artist alley

If this is your first time going to a convention, you might be unprepared for the temptation of the dealer’s room and artist alley. These are places where you can purchase merchandise and all kinds of artwork relating to your favorite anime, comics, and games. If you’re not careful, you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on the many items you’ll find here.

How to pay less

The good news is that you don’t have to spend anything in the dealer’s room or artist alley. However, for most people, it’s an enticement that can’t be denied and may as well be treated as a regular expense of conventions. However, you want to keep yourself from spending more than you can afford:

  • Don’t go into the dealer’s room or artist alley. If you really cannot spend extra money at the convention, ban yourself from entering these rooms. The best way to avoid the temptation of an unnecessary purchase is to simply stay away to begin with.
  • Only bring cash. If you don’t like keeping track of the amount of money you spend in the dealer’s room, limit yourself by only using cash for your purchases. This way you can set the amount you will spend ahead of time and can continue to buy more as long as you have the cash on hand.
  • Give yourself a strict budget. If you’re good at keeping track of money, you can plan out a budget ahead of time. I try to not spend too much in these rooms and give myself a budget of $100 while keeping track of my purchases in my head.
the cost of a cosplay
Even a simple costume like my Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII can end up being pretty expensive I commissioned the costume pieces, but still had to buy the wig, ears, shoes, etc. for a total of $205 for the cosplay.

The cost of cosplay

If you plan on wearing a costume at a convention, then you also need to factor in the cost of the cosplay. It can be a pretty expensive hobby and easily add a couple of hundred dollars to your total convention cost. You’ll to think about the price of the costume, wig, props, and other accessories when deciding what kind of cosplay to wear.

How to pay less

If you enjoy cosplaying as a hobby, it will be one of the main reasons you attend conventions. So it’s good to find ways to cut costs here without sacrificing quality. Some basic ways you can spend less on cosplay include:

  • Make your own costume. It’s not always cheaper to make your own costume, but if you have skills in sewing and costume construction it can help you save a lot of money.
  • Create a closet cosplay. A closet cosplay is when you put a costume together using clothing from your wardrobe or pieces found cheaply online or in a thrift store. There are so many simple costumes that can be put together in this way, cutting the cost of the cosplay significantly.
  • Wear your costume to multiple events. If you wear the same costume to multiple conventions, the cost-per-wear is reduced. This makes it more worth it to create an elaborate and expensive costume because the cost will be split between multiple events in the long run.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

Recent Posts