ALA 2013 was my 4th year in a row, and 7th overall. It's still a fun convention to go to, and nice way to start the new year, even though it was still freezing cold all weekend and windy..
I was able to pick-up my pre-registration at 10:00pm on Thursday so that was nice w/o having to wake-up early on Friday and wait in that semi-long line. But another year with pre-reg, I didn't really need the badge all weekend for panels, the Dealers' Room, Masquerade, and other rooms downstairs. The only time I needed my badge was for the Con Suite and when they did badge-checks at the door, and occasional staffers coming-up and asking to see my badge. (That only happened once the entire weekend.)
With the badge-checking at the main door to the Pool Area (PA), it made it worth having a badge, but I feel that the PA will always be the most crowded area at ALA, regardless if people are checking badges or not. Each day the PA was crowded, but only on Saturday I noticed that there was a staffer checking badges. I don't recall seeing anyone there on Friday and definitely not on Sunday. Just the sign on the door which said "Badge Zone" isn't enough to deter people from going outside without a badge.
And even if there was a staffer who was checking badges at that main door all weekend, there's still at-least 3 entrances into the PA that people can enter without a badge (4 if you count through the gymnasium if it wasn't under renovation.)
Overall, I enjoyed this year at ALA and will definitely return next year.