The best advice I can give you - for what it's worth - is this: Don't panic. Ultimately, things are going to crop up that interfere with those best laid plans. You'll oversleep and get in line too late to gain access to the panel you really wanted to see. You'll have some sort of wardrobe malfunction with your superhero costume. Someone you wanted to meet will cancel at the last minute due to illness or scheduling conflicts. Basically, the best thing to do is to plan to your heart's content, but with the knowledge that you're going to need to be very flexible about changing your plans.
In regards to packing, I am a sort of an "always be prepared" packer. I tend to put a pair of undies and a fresh shirt into my carry-on in case my checked luggage gets lost, for example. An important note: make sure every bag has your name and contact info inside (yes, in addition to the outer luggage tag). Sometimes the baggage handlers can get rough enough that your tag gets separated from your bag. Here's my standard packing list for whenever I'm traveling to attend a convention:
CARRY ON LUGGAGE
- travel itinerary including phone number and address of my hotel
- any pre-purchased tickets to events, including of course the printed out badge confirmation
- reading material
- toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, and deodorant
- any electronics I'm bringing (phone, computer, camera, MP3 player, etc.) along with the necessary cords and chargers
- contact case and solution, glasses with case
- a spare pair of undies and a fresh shirt
- the BACKPACK with it's supplies
- comfortable clothing and comfortable shoes (seriously can't stress comfort enough, people!)
- a "nice" outfit or two for going out to dinner or to someplace dressy outside the convention center walls
- a swimsuit for the hotel pool
- sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razor, and any other related thing that would hold up the line at the airport if I put it in my carry on (put these in Ziploc bags, squeeze most of the air out of the bag before sealing - you don't want to open your suitcase and find all of your clothes covered in shampoo)
- an extra duffle bag with secure luggage tag (in case I can't fit all of my con swag into my luggage)
You may decide that this list is just right for you, or you may need to add or remove some of the items I've listed.
I'd love to hear from you. What sort of preparations do you make prior to a big trip and/or a big convention?