Or, how to lessen the nightmare of carting huge bulky costumes to foreign conventions of your choice.
Going to Anime Festival Asia in Singapore was an educational experience for me and my wife Jewel especially regarding bringing rubber sheet mecha costumes. Months ago, the very thought of cosplaying mecha on a foreign land terrified us in terms of finances and the dreaded customs, but after some research and some calculated luck, it may turned out to be easier than you think.
Here are some quick and hopefully reassuring tips on how to safely and cheaply be able to bring bulky cosplay costumes to overseas conventions:
Choose the convention of your choice at least 6 months in advance. This should not be something you decided on the fly, it has to be prepared thoroughly.
Book your flights online at the minimum of 3 months. Airlines such as Cebu Pacific and Tiger Airways give away huge discounts up to 40% off if you book months in advance. In our case, we paid P4,500 each round trip, with 15 kilograms per person. Flight Tax however will get you around P1,600 so the overall total would be P6,100 each. This is not bad considering if you decide to book your flight within one month, you will spend P9,000 per person, and that’s without Flight Tax!
Check their websites often for additional perks such as bringing extra kilograms and such. In our case, we were able to procure an additional 10 kilograms per person (making a total of 50 kilograms for the both of us) for only an additional P1,600. To show you how much we saved, our airport charges P400 PER EXTRA KILO.
Check with hotels months in advance as well, and better yet, find friends willing to go with you and share the expenses. In our case, in AFA Singapore we were able to find a couple of friends (Hello Rotch! Hello Rael!) who offered us to be their room mates and was able to split accomodations for a room worth almost P20,000 for two nights. The hotel is high class, but we were willing to shell out as much as P5,000 per person just so that we can get a hotel that is spitting distance from the convention itself (just crossing the road, and that’s it!). However if you feel its too expensive, there are other hotels or hostels available that might be able to find to your liking and expense.
Check if airports have van services you can afford to pay, especially at the destination. In our case, the Singapore Changi Airport has a van service that cost us 50 SGD (or roughly P1,600) to rent from airport to anywhere in Singapore. Most regular taxis will turn you down due to your huge boxes, but it will heavily depend on what country you are in. I hear that Malaysia or Indonesia have more flexible rates. If you have a friend to pick you up, even better!
As much as possible, use rubber sheet as your material of choice for your mecha or armor cosplay. Metal based costumes bring sharp notice from airport authorities who do not trust metallic items, especially props. We would strongly recommend using harmless materials like paper, carton, sintraboard or rubber when building costumes. Its also practical since these are light materials and would easily accomodate your kilogram limits.
Make sure the design of your mecha costume will allow you to fit several pieces inside the bigger pieces for a more compact and convenient transport, as mentioned by my friend Wilson Tortosa, who along with Ricki Buzon, helped me with the construction of both Zakus in the month before AFA.
Design your bulky costumes that would accomodate the usual 20×20 inch boxes. And get the grey or brown ones, not the white cheap weak ones. But if your costume is bigger than 20×20, you can combine the boxes to make bigger ones, or go to your nearest FedEX or LBC office and purchase their 20×40 inch boxes. And make sure the total weight would be well inside the kilogram limitation you paid for.
AVOID PUTTING GUN-SHAPED OR BLADE-SHAPED OBJECTS INSIDE THE BOXES. Those will definitely be investigated by airline security and will require you to open your already carefully sealed boxes. What we did to be able to bring the gun props of our Zakus is that we chopped up the rubber sheet guns into 6 pieces each and distributed them apart in our three boxes.
It is okay to bring liquids like Greco and cutters/scissors as long as you put them in your Check-in luggage and not in your hand-carry.
Tapes such as duct tape, masking, scotch and the like are not allowed inside your hand-carry and will be confiscated. Pack them in your Check-in luggage as well.
To avoid losing your boxes, be sure to put IN ALL SIDES a bond paper sized tag that has a printed copy of your whole name, your destination address (in our case, our hotel address in Singapore) and the country you plan to go to (in short, a capslocked SINGAPORE written there). Many luggages such as boxes get lost because they arent tagged clearly.
Customs will not charge you for large unusual costumes, unless they look like electronic equipment that needed inspection or huge all metal sculptures. This is assuming you are just bringing rubber sheet costumes will little metal in it.
When bringing your luggages to the airport, whether leaving your country or arriving to your country destination, be honest in informing authorities on what you are bringing with you. The biggest mistake you will make is to be embarrassed on what you are actually bringing and try to make up a story to explain them. Go to the TO DECLARE Baggage counter and declare to authorities that YOU ARE BRINGING A COSPLAY COSTUME, FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL USE AND FOR WHAT EVENT. If you have a brochure of the event, the better. This is especially for those bringing huge bulky mecha costumes. When we had them x-rayed at our airport at NAIA Philippines, we told them we were bringing two robot costumes. Rubber sheets, btw, hardly register in the xray since they arent metal or objects of high density. Against popular belief, airport authorities do have a sense of humor, and strange harmless luggage often give them something to talk about after their shift.
Upon arriving at the airport, you may change your money to the country’s currency. We recommend changing what you need at the moment (so around P5,000 worth first) then change the rest for later once you get to the hotel. If you have a credit card that can work on that country, even better. But always, always watch your expenses, and spend what you need and prepared for.
And yes, as my friend Steve Yau reminded me in the comments, it is very very essential that you will never, EVER, miss your flight. Missing your flight will result in you purchasing a brand new ticket home, that essentially booking a flight on the day itself, thus rendering all previous discounts moot! Yes, we missed our flight, and it was a very expensive lesson we learned that resulted in one of our boxes left behind due to over the kilo limit, and had friends ship it back to us via LBC (in which we owe them money for that).
Another thing to add, part of being a cosplayer is of course meeting new friends and making sure you have the option of getting hi resolution copies from foreign photographers who took photos of your cosplay. To do so is to have cosplay cards printed. These are like business cards but more personal and more into the cosplay theme. I personally never heard of this before, and was only informed by my room mate Rotch about its importance as well as it being common practice in Singapore when we arrived at the hotel. She lent me some of her extra cards and I wrote our names and email addresses at the back. So far it worked with one photographer, who sent me nice hi res photos, whom ill post in my blog soon along with my AFA report.
So all in all, its not that difficult to bring mecha or armor costumes overseas, although its definitely not very cheap, but at least you can minimize them and prepare for them months in advance. If you have a credit card, it would be a great help when booking online, saves you the effort in travelling to the airline’s office for booking. Answer everything honestly and cooperate with airline authorities, they would most likely not delay you too much especially since its not unusual for them to encounter cosplayers travelling from abroad to attend their country’s convention.
So hopefully with these tips, you can travel in confidence with your mecha in tow, and experience fully the enjoyment of cosplaying mecha or armor in other countries.
This entry is reposted with permission from Robert Wong via Facebook. Additional photos by magnetic-rose.net.