Managing Hotel-apocalypse for SDCC: 2020 Edition
For those heading to San Diego Comic-Con, who need a room ... welcome to Hotel-apocalypse.
By MJ Wilke
Getting a room at San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) is like getting toliet paper during the apocalypse — it's a “Hotel-apocalypse.” There are about 55,000 hotel rooms in the San Diego area, with only 13,000 in the downtown area. Attendees, professionals, press, exhibitors, and volunteers push the number of people at San Diego Comic-Con well above 130,000. While not all who attend will need a hotel room, enough do to make the odds of getting the room you want not in your favor.
You do have options. Which option you choose should be based on what is most important to you. Do you absolutely need to be next to the convention center or is keeping your cost at the lowest most important? Most of us, fall somewhere between the two.
Breaking Down the Options
General Hotel Sale. Also commonly referred to as the hotel lottery, this is the most common avenue for most attendees to get a room. However, it provides you with the least amount of control of where you will stay. The process is similar to the badge sale with a waiting room and randomized access to the sale page. Even once on the sale, it is still somewhat of a lottery, and you will not find out what hotel you have been placed in for several days.
Why this is an attractive option for most is the chance (slim as it may be) that you will win this lottery and get one of the convention center hotels for one-third the price of booking direct. The rates are fully refundable for a period of time. An advanced deposit is required. Not all who enter the lottery will receive placement. In the past, a few hotel rooms have been made available after the sale due to cancellations.
To gain access to the general hotel sale, badge holders receive an email 48 hours prior to the sale with a link to the web page.
Pros: A chance at downtown property for a discount rate
Cons: A chance at not receiving a placement in one of your preferred properties or at all
Early Bird Hotel Sale. Before the General Hotel Sale occurs, several hotels in the Mission Valley area are available for early booking. This is a good option if you don’t like the lottery variable and don’t mind taking the shuttle bus to the convention center. These rooms are fully pre-paid, non-refundable rates and tend to be about the same price as the general sale but have package incentives such as free Internet and discount parking. This is also a good option if you prefer earning points or have achieved a certain status level at a specific hotel chain’s frequent stay program such as Hilton Honors or Marriott Rewards.
Unlike the general sale, for this sale you choose which hotel you are booking at. Typically the Early Bird Sale ends one day before the General Hotel Sale launches.
These rooms are booked through an SDCC travel partner at https://www.comic-con.org/cci/hotels
Pros: The choice of hotel to book at among the listings, not a lottery system
Cons: Fully pre-paid non-refundable
Book Directly. You have much more control of the end result if you book direct with the hotels. If location or cost is your primary concern, then this is the option for you.
Near Convention Center: It’s expensive, but if you want to be next to the convention center you can book the hotels direct and not worry about the odds against you in the lottery of getting a close hotel. Warning: rooms are all pre-paid, non-refundable rates.
As of this writing, the following hotels closest to the convention center with rooms still available were:
Hilton San Diego Bayfront: $1,127 per night
San Diego Marriott Marquis: $1,099 per night
Manchester Grand Hyatt: $1,122 per night
Pros: Hotel next to the convention center
Cons: Pricey and non-refundable rates
Least Expensive: The least expensive option is to book a room directly with a hotel outside the shuttle bus zone. It has the trade-off of traffic hassle with saving money. By staying 10 miles or more outside of downtown, you could save hundreds of dollars. These rooms are booked directly with the hotel and typically you are able to cancel up to a few days before the convention. A pre-paid parking option around the convention center will be available in April on the SDCC website.
Pros: Least expensive hotel option with the most control
Cons: Dealing with traffic
Note: Use a credit card that does not expire on or before 7/20. Even if your card renews with the same number, the new expiry date will cause complications and may even cause your reservation to be canceled.
Happy hotel hunting no matter which option is for you—and see you at the con.
MJ Wilke is the founder of Wayward Nerd. She is a road warrior. A nerd. A trekkie. A whovian. A Star Wars fanatic. She will go where no one has gone before, come back and post it here.