On 5th August, I’ll be flying to Bristol and driving down to Bicton College in Devon for the 2017 UK Mega Event. This year it will be a flying visit as I have a ‘mega’ life event the following week (a.k.a. my wedding!!). I have seen lots of questions on social media from mega event virgins wondering what to expect when they arrive, so I thought I’d put together a few helpful tips to help you get the best out of your experience.
Before You Go
Once you’ve made the decision to attend a mega, there are a few things you’ll need to do in the lead-up to the big day.
1. Log your ‘Will Attend’
Not only is it nice for the organising committee to know that you’re coming so they can assess numbers in advance, but by logging your ‘will attend’, you will automatically receive any ‘event announcements’ which may be important, regarding things like parking, lab caches, food options, etc.
2. Follow Mega Social Media Accounts
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… if you use these platforms, make sure to give the mega pages a like or a follow, or if there’s a Facebook group, request to join. Not only will you see updates, but it’s a great way to interact with committee members for any questions you may have. Facebook groups are even better because you can also see other people’s posted questions, and see answers to things you may not have thought of.
3. Plan the Logistics
If you want to camp at the mega campsite, check out the website of the mega event (usually, each mega has their own website outside of geocaching.com, where you can buy merchandise and book camping, etc). If you’re camping, it’s a good idea to research in advance the closest shops to buy food and supplies.
Aside from booking accommodation (if necessary), you need to work out the logistics on how to get to the mega location, whether it be via public transport or your own vehicle, and find out where you can park if it’s the latter.
4. Plan your Geocaching…. or Don’t
Many geocachers are habitual planners, so it goes without saying that they will do a tonne of research on caches near the mega location, as well as along the route they’ll take to get there. If you’re not a planner but are lucky enough to be attending a mega with someone who is, you can just sit back and relax, you lucky thing! If you are looking to make a plan yourself, you might think about things like side events for any other days you’ll be in the area, specific challenge caches you qualify for, DTs you need, hidden dates/months you need… if you have the time to plan, it can be a really fruitful trip geocaching goal wise.
For the upcoming UK mega, I will be flying in on Saturday morning and out on Sunday night. I have barely even looked at the geocache map but I know I can just open up Cachly when I’m there and off I go. Honestly, I haven’t had the time to plan but there’s so much going on, I’m sure my time will be well spent with a sprinkling of geocaches in there somewhere!
5. Pre-Order Merchandise
Things like supporters packs or specific geocoins related to the event must be pre-ordered and then picked up on the day. Even geocoins that don’t require a pre-order can be sold out when you get to the event, so it’s worth pre-purchasing if you really want something.
While You’re There
So you’ve planned your visit and the day has come, what should you think about doing while you’re at the mega?
6. Sign the Logbook
Not all events have logbooks, but all megas I have been to do and usually, they are pretty cool. It’s a nice memento of the day to get your name on the ‘logbook’.
7. Check out the Trackable Table
No, it’s not a table with a 6 digit code somewhere on it. It’s a table (or some sort of surface) with an abundance of travel bugs and geocoins to be picked up or discovered. If you have never been to a mega event before, chances are you’ve never seen a ridiculously sized trackable, so it will be a treat for the eyes! Take a moment to reflect on the poor committee members who will no doubt be stuck with the huge trackables at the end of the event!
If you’re trying to maximise the number of trackables you discover, take a wander around the car park at the mega location – at least every second car is likely to have a travel bug in the window. Also keep an eye out for trackable people as you walk around and if you have a trackable shirt on yourself, be prepared for people to walk up to you, stare at your chest/back, perhaps take a photo, then walk away without saying a word. Totally normal.
8. To Lab or not to Lab…
Lab caches are a … weird type of geocache that count towards your overall find count but don’t count in your stats on Project-GC. For this reason, lots of people choose not to log them, as their stats will never properly line up with their find count.
Groundspeak call lab caches an ‘experimental’ cache type and what you’ll find at a mega event is usually something that resembles every other cache you’ve found in absolutely no way at all. I have played in a ball pit, blown up balloons and played a game of hook-a-duck all in the name of finding a code to enable me to log a lab cache.
My advice would be to do the lab caches, because they’re fun – you can always decide not to log them if you don’t want to!
9. Bring Some Cash – But Set Yourself a Budget
The opportunity to walk in to a store and buy geocaching goodies only exists in very few locations worldwide, but when you hit a mega event, you’ll have stall after stall of caching wares right in front of your eyes.
You will see caches you want to buy and hide, and if you’re a geocoin addict (like me!), it will be difficult to buy just one shiny. Some stalls will probably be cash only, so be prepared and take some with you, but set yourself a budget so you don’t go too crazy and spend next month’s pay check on sneaky hides and travel bugs.
Where else will you get hundreds of geocachers in one place? Generally speaking, cachers you meet at mega events are a friendly bunch (there are always exceptions). If there are geocaches in the immediate vicinity of the event location (and there usually are), head there and you will undoubtedly meet a plethora of geocachers. It’s a great way to meet people and you could end up doing a series of caches with your newly formed geo-team.
11. Make the Most of Your Time
This is definitely the travel junkie in me, but if I go somewhere new for a mega event, I like to – nay, I need to – check out some interesting stuff and take some photos, so that’s what I’ll do. Maybe you’re a foodie, so you’ll check out some funky restaurants, or you love museums, so you’ll check out the local ones. Maybe you’re just a geocaching addict and want to find as many caches as you can when you’re in this new area. Whatever you are, use your time wisely and enjoy it!
Mega events are what you make of them. Some people will plan a visit to a mega, spend 20 minutes actually at the event, then go off caching elsewhere. Others will spend hours perusing the stalls, doing the lab caches and maybe even meeting Signal the Frog, who tends to pop up at some of these things 😉
Have you been to a mega event yet? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!
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