***Before I even start this, I have one important thing that unfortunately keeps coming up: not wanting to attend tournaments due to a perceived lack of skill. This is absolutely not a reason to keep yourself from experiencing these events and you are only cheating yourself. Every single well known tournament player has had a first tournament. They may have even gotten pummeled as a "no-name" or "random." Very few tournament players show up to a tournament and win right away. Still more people, myself included, very rarely hit top four in a tournament and instead show up to support the scene and simply have a good time with friends. Do not make the mistake of staying home when you could attend a tournament simply out of fear. Everyone starts somewhere and I promise that as long as you're social and talk to people, you'll have a good time. I personally make a habit of meeting new players and taking them out with a group or simply talking one on one, and I know several other top players and tournament-goers do the same thing. Show up, meet people, and have a good time. That is what's most important!*** There are an increasing number of community members making their first forays into tournaments this year. This is a wonderful thing to see. Even better are the folks that are making a point to hop on a plane to travel for a big event; this is something that is unlike anything you've really experienced before. Traveling to a new city and going to a big tournament, like the Big E Gaming events, Final Round, or the various Cali tournaments, is incredibly rewarding on several levels. All that said, there is also a fair amount of anxiety and confusion about how to get it all done. This may even be the first time an individual has traveled at all, or possibly just alone. So to help out, I've written this little mini guide. It's mostly a read-only kind of thing, but if you have questions feel free to reach out or just reply here. Event Registration: This is something that is often forgotten about until the event and this can possibly cause you to not be able to participate! The very second you KNOW you are going to an event, hit up the tournament thread here or on whatever forum you see it on and see if there is a pre-registration process or if it's all handled at the venue. There is an increasing trend towards pre-registration and you often see perks like being able to avoid fighting people from your area, cheaper registration costs, and occasionally some swag like t-shirts and the like. Even if there is no real bonus to it, at least you know that when you make it to the event you can play. It's a peace of mind thing. Hotel Reservations: This is something you may never need to deal with, depending on your friends and/or family members who also travel to tournaments. Usually simply throwing an offer out there to split a room with someone will get a response and you can then just give someone a split of the room costs to crash with them. If you find yourself without that ability, though, you're going to need to be at least 18 in most locations. Some hotels require you to be at least 21 as well. You are always going to have to provide a credit card, though debit cards can work as well. Just be aware that your card is kept on file and that anything that happens in the room, from simply raiding the mini-bar or drinking the "courtesy" bottle of water (pro-tip: usually those aren't free) to a stolen pillow or damage to the room...well, that'll all come back on you. Your hotel room might only be $200 for the three nights, but you should have extra funds available just in case. You can book your room in a variety of ways, but for big events there is almost always a group rate. Make sure you check event threads and sites for the links to take advantage of these cheaper room rates. This also makes sure you don't have to worry about traveling from a different hotel to the venue, though that is sometimes cheaper overall (especially in Vegas). If there is no group rate, you can usually just call up the hotel to book directly through them or you can do it through a travel site like Travelocity or Expedia at the same time you book your flight. This should go without saying, given what I just talked about, but should you choose to let someone stay with you to help cut costs, you absolutely need to make sure you know and trust them. Ordering movies on demand, drinking from the bar, ordering room service...the hotel staff won't care what you say when the charges are billed to the room. You will be liable. So again, build up a certain level of trust before you subject yourself to all of that. Also, room limits are generally two adults before there are extra charges. Some hotels go up to four. Look on the website before you ask the hotel desk for an extra key or pull-out bed or you may be inadvertently asking them to charge you for extra occupants. Flights: This is the big one that scares most people the first time they go to book a flight. There seems to be a lot going on with dollar amounts and options and it can get overwhelming if you don't know what you're looking at. So for starters, pick one of the bigger aggregating sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, or (my personal favorite) Kayak. Do not buy directly from the airline unless you have a really good reason (read: your sister works for the airline and gets insanely good coupon codes). Recently a lot of the "hidden fees" have been federally mandated to be included in the costs these sites show you, so surprises should be cut down. Your general process is to figure out what city and airport you are flying out of and also what city and airport you are flying in to. You can usually just start typing the city and it'll give you a drop down list. If you only see one option for that city, that's your airport. If you see multiple, consult with someone else or simply check a map to see how far it is from your house (if it's the departing end) or the venue (for arrival). For the dates, always shoot for the day before a tournament to come in and the day after to fly out. This lets you fully experience the event and also helps you rest. Flying in to a tournament and having to rush over to play a match is not fun. Flights are also usually cheaper if you're flying on a non-weekend day as well. As for things to look for with the flights, check to see how many bags you can check for free, if any. Checking a bag is when you do NOT carry it with you on the plane. It will go below with the rest of the luggage and you will be able to pick it up at the destination. Cases where luggage gets lost do happen, but they are thankfully quite rare. I've personally never had it happen and I've been traveling for tournaments for nearly 10 years now. Also check to see what carry-ons you are allowed. If you are a light packer, you can usually just bring your one bag with all of your stuff with you on the plane. No need to worry about checking a bag at all, there. Always double check that that great flight you think you found looks great both leaving and coming back. Sometimes a flight looks great but you'll look closer and realize that the flight actually is a day later than you selected. So double check the dates and times very closely before selecting anything. If you can choose your seat, sitting closer to the front of the plane is ideal, as is getting either a window or aisle seat. Aisle seat is nicer if you're a bigger person so you're not crushed against the side of the plane, but the window naturally offers the best views of landing and takeoff. That's about the only time you see anything because at cruising altitude it won't matter. Just clouds. Preparations: If you're like me, no matter what anyone tells you, you will wait until the very last second the night before to pack. Once you settle into a rhythm this is completely fine, but you are very likely to forget things if you try this the first time or two. Make sure you bring all the clothing you would need at home, bring contact stuff if you wear them, toothbrush and toothpaste, mouthwash, personal grooming appliances if you need them (razors CAN go in checked bags), medications if you have them, and for god's sake bring fucking deodorant. People forget basic hygiene is important somehow when they're in public. It happens at every tournament. Don't be a part of the problem. You do not smell good when you're sweating; I don't care who you are. You don't. So bring some. And Axe doesn't count. Grow up. Once the packing is all done on that end, make sure you have your controller of choice. You will not see a major tournament offering up controllers very often and most players are loathe to part with their own to let you borrow them for a variety of good reasons. Just bring it. If it takes batteries, bring a spare set just in case but be careful how you pack those. Bring a sync cable for your PS3 controllers too but keep in mind that some majors, most notably EVO, ban the standard PS3 controller outright due to its ability to interfere with the consoles after you walk away. Make sure you keep your controller on your person at all times as well. Things can and will walk away at tournaments just like anywhere else you might bring something valuable. Look into taking a cab or shuttle to your airport. Driving yourself sounds like a great idea until you have to pay to park it in a lot for four or five days. It's cheaper and easier to get a company to handle carting your ass around so do it if you can. Make sure that, regardless of how you get there, you do it early enough. Most airports will tell you on their site how early you should be there for domestic or international flights. Assume they are rounding down, especially if you're taking a shorter flight with a smaller plane. If they say an hour, make it an hour and a half or even two hours. Two hours is a pretty safe bet as it will leave you with plenty of time to check in for your flight, get your boarding pass if you didn't already print it, and get through security to find your gate. You will get bored. But it's better than missing your flight. Also, you will very likely experience your first Cinnabon in an airport. Get it and enjoy it, but be aware the whole time you're eating that you just doomed yourself to death years earlier than if you had just kept on fucking walking. Moron. The Venue: Once you get off your plane, you will need to collect your bags if necessary and head to the venue. Some hotels offer free shuttles to and from the airport, so check into that. Cabs are a safe bet as well, though more expensive obviously. Having a friend that's there meet up with you can cut down on cab fare, though having a local friend just come get you is the best possible scenario. Once you get to your hotel, check in, get your room keys, drop your shit, and then go down to collect your event badge/pass if you can. Otherwise you get to chill and enjoy being in a possibly new place for you. Just make sure you don't miss sign in, whenever it is. The Tournament: On the first day of the tournament, make sure you know your start times and whether you have to meet a tournament organizer for brackets, check-in, or anything else. It's always a good idea to anticipate a large crowd (especially at majors) and give yourself plenty of time to be where you are supposed to be. Generally speaking a half hour for most majors is a good lead time. Make it an hour if the event is being held in one of the larger venues like the massive hotels that EVO is generally held in. It can often take 10-15 minutes of walking just to get to the tournament ballroom in those situations. Arriving early helps to ensure you will not end up being disqualified (aka DQ'd) for not being present when your match is called. Keep in mind that tournament organizers must keep things moving smoothly to avoid running late as oftentimes there is a strict time that the venue needs everyone out of the rooms by. Checking in with your tournament organizer is especially important if you choose to participate in other games. Letting them know where you can be found, or at least having a friend stay near the tournament organizer to let them know, is imperative. You might be playing in another official tournament but if they don't know you are highly likely to take a loss. Once brackets are set and something is changed, you generally have a matter of minutes to undo that change. If you are disqualified and the bracket moves too far ahead, no amount of explaining why you were not able to be found will be able to move the bracket back. Be sure to fully read over the rules for your tournament as well. In one tournament you may not be allowed to pause the game or you forfeit the round. In others, you lose the match. In others still, it may be left up to a judge or your opponent. What controllers you use, DQ-able actions, and other things related to the game are spelled out there. If you have questions, ask a judge or tournament organizer BEFORE you act or start your match. Something as small as changing your character when your opponent chooses to after you've won a match can often lead to forfeiting the match entirely if your opponent chooses not to warn you. Rest assured, there are people who will take the easy win; especially late in a tournament. Finally, be a good sport. Shake your opponent's hand before the match, say "Good game!" after the fact, and so on. This is the generally expected behavior and nearly every player observes this kind of etiquette, win or lose. Without a solid foundation for a community, tournaments wouldn't exist. Without players seeing how respectful other players are, people would simply not show up and our scene will shrink, slowly but surely. Always bear in mind that you are a representative of yourself and your community. Acting childishly or angrily in a tournament setting will cost you respect and possibly even get you ejected if it's taken too far. Don't be that guy/girl. If I've missed anything, or you're curious about something, reply below and I'll add things in as necessary, but this is a pretty good start. I look forward to seeing you out at an event as soon as possible!