Today's hotel sale

 2 MAY 2024

9:32 am

Nothing surprising happened today. The sale went live at 9 am; the first lucky few were able to grab top-tier hotels with full availability; the next batch discovered top-tier hotels were all booked up for the weekends; currently, I'm hearing the selection is mid list or worse for 2 beds. There are still some single bed rooms at Westin Bayview and Westgate.

And that doesn't include the people who got in early only to get an Internal Server Error.

It's all pretty typical. 

If you had your hopes set on today, you should realize that going forward:

1) You probably aren't going to get Hilton Bayfront or Gaslamp or the Omni, etc. It could happen, but it's unlikely.

2) But you will get something. I would lock down a room now and make your peace with it. If you're new to SDCC shenanigans and think "Ah, I shall be extra cunning and tenacious and make it happen" - know you are up against 100,000+ other cunning and tenacious people on the hunt. That's how we got badges in the first place.

Good luck.

Prepping for general hotel reservations

 1 MAY 2024

It's May! And - maybe you're with me on this - Comic-Con season seems to have snuck in on little cat feet like the fog. Maybe it's because we had to wait so long between badge and hotel? It's caught me off guard to see events and exclusives announced all over social. And it jolted me to see CCI's email today reminding me to update my badge shipping address. Are we really here already?

No doubt you're already locked in and prepped for tomorrow, when you can right whatever wrong befell you in the first spin of the hotel wheel of fortune. Because tomorrow, May 2, probably around 9 am PST but who knows, you will theoretically be able to go into OnPeak and choose from an array of hotel rooms.

Again, theoretically. Here's what to expect and how to prep:

  • Clear your morning as much as you can. You don't know exactly when you'll get access or if the site will struggle due to...
  • ...A jillion people trying to get rooms. 
  • Have your credit card ready. This isn't like the lottery. You'll need to pay then and there.
  • Decide now what you can live with and what you can't. Radius from convention center, room size, number of nights - where can you compromise?
  • If your screen is a sea of undesirable hotels, don't give up hope. A-list hotels will flicker into existence occasionally over the coming weeks, though they'll vanish just as quickly. 

I feel that the day you get your hotel sorted is the day you can really settle back into the pleasure of Comic-Con anticipation - checking guest and exclusive updates every day, speculating on panels and new TV shows and games and movies and comics, finding out which events your comrades are attending, working on your cosplay. Let's be honest: half the fun of SDCC is dreaming about what Comic-Con Santa is going to bring us. 

So I hope you get what you need tomorrow, after which we can all move forward together into the splendor of Comic-Con wishes and revelations. Good luck.

Where we are with SDCC hotels

 24 APRIL 2024

2 days after we got our hotel assignments - or rejection letters - most of the dust has settled. You've rejoiced over your room, traded or begged for a better one, or come to terms with your lack thereof. Or you're in that weird bardo where someone might have a room at the Hyatt for you but they have to check with one person first and now they've gone silent and you're down to your last atom of hope.

It's rough out there.

A few points:

  • The deadline to lock down your room, deposit and all, is Thursday night at 9:59 pm PST. If you're still hoping for a trade, it's definitely easier to do that pre-deposit - but don't wait much longer. Follow up with people and get a firm answer by tonight if you can.

  • If you do trade, understand it's a transaction of trust. It works best when you can both make it happen in real time and everyone communicates quickly and clearly. Why? Because there will be some back and forth until email addresses, passwords, and whatnot get changed. Also - you'll eventually need to phone OnPeak to change occupant names. Don't worry, they've done it a million times and they are unfazed by our strange behaviors.

  • Now - if you got an okay room but haven't made a better trade/arrangement yet, still put down a deposit. You can reclaim it (minus 3% fee) until May 8 which means you can...

  • ...Spin the wheel of hotel fortune on May 2. Yes, it'll be grim at first with thousands of people trying to grab rooms. But there will be good rooms available! I have gotten Hilton Gaslamp (love that hotel) and the Hyatt in years past. I don't think there will be an abundance of downtown rooms but there will be some. And more will continue to pop up.

  • Whatever you do - do not abandon your Comic-Con plans! I have actually seen several people post this and I can't tell if they're serious or if it's a manipulative ploy for a top-tier room offer. For god's sake, you have a badge to San Diego Comic-Con. Everyone wants to be in your shoes. So you're at Humphrey's Half-Moon Inn - you'll ride the shuttle, so what? You'll barely be at the hotel and you'll still experience all the magic and splendor of Comic-Con.

  • As always, I urge you to consider splitting up your nights. This probably depends on how elaborate your hotel nerd campsite is. But if you travel light, don't be afraid to grab 2 nights at your dream hotel and spend the other 2 or 3 at the undreamy hotel you have currently. I don't mind changing horses mid-stream but I know this is not for everyone. Still, consider it if you really dislike your hotel. You may not be able to grab all 4-5 nights at a great hotel, but you might find one opening up for Weds-Friday or Saturday-Monday.

I still have friends looking to upgrade/get rooms so I will be in the mix on May 2. If you are currently undomiciled, keep the flame of hope alive in your little nerd heart and network. That's really the best way to find rooms at the end of the day. And if you don't have an SDCC network? Now is the time to join a community or several and make some friends. It really does make all the difference not only at Comic-Con, but throughout the year when you now have people to talk to and keep that community spirit alive.

The big hotel reveal has been predictable. How did you do?

 22 APRIL 2024

So how did you do? The proportions of celebration and dismay seem on track to me. Despite getting in nearly immediately,  I got Margaritaville, far down on my list.... hardly the worst option but a friend who got in after me got the MMM, my first choice, which burns a bit.

Nearly everyone I know got nothing or a B list downtown hotel. Which also tracks. 

If open reservations are still scheduled for May 2, you can expect a frenzy of interest and possibly some tech delays.  Be patient and tenacious but also realistic; holding out to the bitter end for the Hard Rock might lead to a very bitter outcome indeed. If you see a reasonably good hotel, grab it.

I'll try to take my own advice. For now, try to stay positive even if you were not blessed today.

It's Hotel Day! Are you ready for the best hotel room ever?

 17 APRIL 2024

2:39 pm

Overall, entry times and experiences seem to align with last year. So - adjust your expectations accordingly.

CCI has this helpful nugget on their site: "We urge everyone who still needs a hotel reservation to check this page on May 2, 2024. All rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at that time."

Interestingly, you can get a refund of your two-night deposit up until the last minute of May 8, 2024. So feel free to lock down whatever room you got and still try to trade up at the "general sale." You'll only lose the service fee.

9:17 am

Well, that was pretty smooth on my end. How did you do? 

I think the most nerve wracking part for me is selecting the actual hotels. I always have my list organized but in the heat of the moment, I always feel this tremendous pressure to just start picking any downtown hotel that looks good. The "You have less than 10 minutes" message didn't help in that regard.

8:39 am

Now would be a great time to freshen your caffeine, barricade your pets from your devices, and hit the bathroom. 

8:03 am PST

Oh look, there's a wait to get into the waiting room! People are very eager to conquer today, throttling systems and deploying all their IT tricks. I even had to complete a captcha.

Will today go smoothly or be a disaster? I ran into several kinds of trouble during Open Registration, which left a lingering SDCC-sale-PTSD so I'm a little nervous about today. But all in all, hotel lotteries have been smoother (not flawless) these last few years compared to yesteryear. (If you know, you know.)

Good luck today!

7:10 am PST

The second-most panicky day of your San Diego Comic-Con existence is here: the hotel lottery. I'll start with a positive: while today feels like your only shot at the downtown room of your dreams, there are options. Eventually you'll be able to go in and look for rooms when that portion goes live, and then you'll begin the long weeks of constantly checking, feeling hopeless, blaming yourself for not checking more, wondering if you should just take that room on Hotel Circle, then getting inspired by a post from someone who nabbed the Hilton Gaslamp in late May, and so it goes.

The point is: other rooms will open up. People will need roommates. You will find somewhere to call your own and while it may not be your dream, you really won't spend that much time there. A shuttle ride is just another way to give your aching feet a break.

Also on the downtown front - if you're watching your budget carefully, check parking costs at your dream hotel. I've heard people complain bitterly that they had no idea how much daily parking can be at downtown hotels - some thought it was built into the room cost. It isn't always. A non-downtown room can put more $$$ back in your pocket to spend in the Exhibit Hall or on your nightlife, so that's another plus if you land somewhere... distant.


Hotel Day is Wednesday, April 17

 15 APRIL 2024

CCI dropped the expected bomb today: our hotel fate will be decided this Wednesday morning. It sounds like it will be much like last year, so to roughly recap:

  • You'll click their link between 8 am - 9 am PST...
  • ... And go into a waiting room.
  • Where you'll be randomly ordered for session selection in a way that has nothing to do with what time you entered the waiting room. 
  • Once in, you can pick 12 hotels. Do not rush; you are not assigned by the time you submit your form, only by the time you gained access to it.
  • Or you'll deviate from the norm and call the telephone number provided! Some people think this gives them an edge; trusting my hotel submission to the competence of a stranger gives me high anxiety, but maybe it works for you.
  • You'll be notified Monday of your hotel room - if you got one. If you didn't, you'll know by Tuesday at the latest.
  • You have 3 days to make your deposit.

It's all pretty simple, if excruciatingly hard on our nerves. Where it gets complicated: when people start trying to trade rooms. I'll go over that when the time comes.

For now, review the sample form and list of hotels and try not to stress! If you don't get lucky, you'll find something eventually - and all that really matters is that you have a clean place to sleep, shower, and store your stuff. Most of your time will be at the convention center.

Hotel Day is nigh - probably

 14 APRIL 2024

As the world trembles on the brink of war, some of us are thinking of, well, San Diego Comic-Con. Or more precisely, where we'll set up a temporary nerd lair this July. Last year, the hotel lottery was announced on April 10 and took place on April 12. In 2022, the sale was on April 28 and was also announced with less than 48 hours notice - so no, we didn't get that much notice and we probably won't this time either. 

Last night I dreamt I got the Hyatt. Will the sale be announced this week? Or next? Maybe. We know it's soon because CCI says Early Bird ends in April - and the hotel list is live on their site. As always, you should check that out. Especially if you tend to get nervous or freeze up during the sale.

So what will the 2024 hotel sale be like?

I don't know but last year we had....

  • A fun date mismatch that eventually got adjusted
  • Just one round of room assignments - mostly downtown
  • A brisk sale pace
Initially, people did that assignment math they do every year to prove some kind of injustice - but ultimately, the pickings were decent when open reservations opened up. 

If you're a CCI veteran, you know there is a twist or surprise almost every badge or hotel sale. There will be a snafu, a glitch, a change in rules, and an army of attendees desperately screenshotting errors in hopes of CCI making it right.  And it never gets easier to be on the receiving end of that kind of unfairness.

So hope for the best and keep your eyes peeled for the official CCI announcement. Study the list of hotels. Talk to potential roommates and make sure everyone is aligned on budget and who's staying with who. If you want an Early Bird room, book it immediately. The hotel lottery could be this week, it could be in May, but it's best to prepare now.

How Open Registration goes is anyone's guess

 18 NOVEMBER 2023

10:25 am

And it's over. So sorry for those of you who were unable to claim a badge. My observations...

Overall, from announcement to finish, CCI's badge sale culture has vastly improved. I like the clarity of the instructions, the new site design, the communication overall. People say CCI doesn't listen to its base but I think they do. 

That said, the UX still needs work. They really need to just treat Preview Night like another badge day. Stop putting it in weird places with strange processes. Have it appear Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It creates chaos for us and I'm sure it was more work for them to create that strange new option for people who had 4 days. Can this really not be streamlined?

The sale was less glitchy than most I've been in, but some people did experience strange things. Passwords (copy pasted) not working the first time, then working the second time. People deemed ineligible even though they had less than the full package. Me with a session refusing to show me any days though they were all available. 

On the whole, I suspect that demand for 2024 has dropped. I say that because I see a far higher percentage of "I got all 4 days" and only a few "I got nothing." The wails of getting shut out used to reach a fever pitch. This year - of course I still feel terrible for those people but they don't seem as legion as they used to be.

Maybe I'm wrong. How did you do? Was today a day of tragedy or victory for you?

9:35 am PST

So far - a much smoother sale than Returning Registration. 

I got in fairly quickly but my session would not show me any badges. Nada. Just was not there. Someone else at the same time bought Preview Night for me and all 4 days were available.

Next snafu - those of us with 4 days could buy Preview Night at first. Then some of us with 4 days couldn't - but we could buy Preview Night for other people who had nothing.

So that was annoying, but on the whole, this sale went far more smoothly. How did you do?

8:17 am PST

It's finally here, the last badge sale for 2024 San Diego Comic-Con. Presumably CCI will do more badge auctions next year - but that's expensive so realistically, today is your last chance to attend.

My prediction: I think the sale will go slowly but more smoothly than Returning Registration. I still think someone cranked up the pace at one point and a lot of us got screwed in the process; if that's true, they won't do that this time.

Still, I'm not feeling confident. Not only is Open Registration more competitive, it will have quite a few people who crashed and burned in Ret Reg.

I am sort of one of them, in that my Preview Night session got bounced at the finish line, but I did manage to get 4 days in another try. I want to get Preview Night today but my first priority is helping friends whose sessions died and so they currently have nothing.

What are you hoping for today? Are you hopeful?

Don't get too excited about the Preview Night Email

 14 NOVEMBER 2023

Today some of us received a surprising missive from CCI. With the heart-skipping subject line of "Are you interested in Preview Night?" (the silliest question ever asked), the email congratulated me and my brethren on obtaining all 4 days of SDCC in Returning Registration. It then reminded us we could still try for Preview Night this weekend. 

We know, CCI! But what we didn't know was the somewhat oblique process to obtaining it. You have to click the Preview Night option in the top menu bar, confirm you're eligible, etc. And then you can buy for others. I can't replicate the whole thing here so please study the email closely if you received it.

Most importantly, the email specifies "If you are selected for a session and if inventory is available" - so please don't jump to the conclusion that Preview Nights will be handed out like party favors, which some people seemed to think. The sale will be as competitive and stressful as always. It's just guiding you through the process if you have 4 days already.

Why did we get this email?

Now. I'm not entirely surprised this email went out, because I know of a few people who were confused on how to buy Preview Night in Ret Reg. (Or in my case, how to remove Preview Night before it would let me check out, only for my entire session to go down in flames like the Hindenburg.) The process wasn't clear in the moment to everyone.

And - this is still theoretical - many people have speculated that because some people who DID get Preview night originally (like the person who tried to buy for me) wound up in limbo, a number of Preview Nights went off the shelf but were never actually attributed to anyone. So there may be a slightly higher number of Preview Nights for taking. I repeat, this is theoretical. And probably just false hope.

If you didn't get this email today, you probably are not in the "All 4 Days But No Preview Night" club that I'm in. In that case, don't worry your head about it and proceed as normal.

Are you ready for Saturday?

Open Registration is November 18


While many of us are still waiting for CCI to answer our emails on the shitstorm that was last Saturday, they have announced Open Registration: November 18!

As always, anyone with a Member ID can buy a badge, whether they attended SDCC this past summer or not - so if you thought Saturday was competitive, this round will be worse.

I don't really have a lot of encouraging words. I think the best thing you can do is plan a good strategy but also prepare emotionally for not getting the badge you want - or not getting a badge at all. 

Also, please remember there are many good Cons out there. If you don't get into SDCC, you've got so much time to make alternate plans for 2024. It's only November.

Early Bird hotel sale is REALLY early this year

 6 NOVEMBER 2023

I know you all remember last year's hotel sale. It was especially tough IMO - so perhaps that's why CCI has served up the Early Bird hotel sale so soon for SDCC 2024. They want to get these rooms booked while the frustration of last spring's hotel sale is still fresh (or at least present) in our minds. Or maybe they're trying to be responsive to the complaints of, why can't we just book our rooms right after getting our badge like other Cons?

If you've not done Early Bird before, it's an opportunity to serenely book the non-downtown hotel room of your choosing, albeit for an upfront and nonrefundable payment. Is it worth it?

That's your decision to make.

Full disclosure: this summer I paid upfront for a downtown (non-CCI) backup hotel for next summer and I hated doing it. And my room is fully refundable up to July something. It's just not fun to hand over $1K-2K a year in advance. So I frankly can't imagine paying up front for some Mission Valley room now when you know that money will never come back even if you need to cancel. 

And let's be honest: after the hotel lottery, there will be the usual deluded tweets that say "Looking to trade Town and Country for Hilton Bayfront." Lots of people who get Mission Valley rooms dump them back in the pool. It's just not that tough to cough up a distant room, so I'm not sure why people will plunk down their cold hard cash so far in advance.... but I'm sure some of them will.

As always, my pick for this is Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's a quick shuttle ride from the Con and you won't feel as stranded in terms of coming home from a late night or going home from the Con and then coming back to the Gaslamp for dinner. That's honestly the only hotel I think is worth it if you really want to escape the agony of the 2024 hotel sale.

Which, speaking of, might be a little early as well next year? We can only guess. CCI is a wily minx that keeps their cards close to their chest - so for now, we'll just focus on getting through Open Registration.

Returning Registration is here

 4 NOVEMBER 2023

12:40 pm PST

Okay, several people have told me they had passwords not working; others got in at the Thursday/Sunday portion of the sale and still got bounced out.

Others have said they didn't see as many tweets/posts claiming Preview Night badges as usual and are speculating that the "sold out" figure included those people who got bumped at Process Payment - that their carts with PN badges were floating in limbo, essentially, but never fully processed. This may just be a last stab of hope that Open Reg will have more PN badges than usual available.

I have no idea. I was drowning in tech glitches and frantic Discord voice chats through the whole sale so I have zero idea how many people posted what. 

And I have zero idea if CCI will honor anyone's screenshots; I'm not holding my breath. I do know they need to correct the system so it is one Member ID, one session. Not a free for all where people can get dozens of bites at the apple. 

Open Registration will likely be a bloodbath. Gird your loins for badge sale battle!

10:01 am PST

Wow! Worst badge sale in a while. And I don't have a Preview Night badge for the first time since 2008. 

I'll summarize our technical difficulties:

  • Deeply slow, "page unresponsive"
  • Showing Preview Night for some people, not for others
  • Wiping out 2 of 3 people I completed badge choices and then when I redid them, it wiped out the first person and I had to go back and re-do them
  • The billing address I entered kept getting wiped out, and I had to re-enter several times
  • While it USED to hold your badge choices in your cart, I was told to remove "Wednesday Attendee" and when I tried to do this, it bumped me back to the badge choices instead of letting me just take it out of my cart
  • Process Payment was a monstrosity, hanging me and others up for minutes. Several people timed out at this stage. I didn't time out but after hanging for about 3 minutes, I was kicked back to beginning with a wait time of more than an hour.

I suspect there was a period where they let too many people into the system because the people I know who got right in, had a smooth experience, and when I got in a second time after Preview Night sold out, it was also smooth sailing. 

In other words, I blame CCI/Configio entirely.

Multiple people assured me that the Process Payment aborted sessions still went through. Our current status: the session someone else did that included me did not go through, and I was able to buy for all 3 of us in another session. However, my own initial session that got kicked out may be in limbo as we're unable to buy for them. 

What a mess! How did you do?

8:25 am PST

It appears the lack of a link/email has stymied some people, who've been watching their inboxes. You just need to go into the Member ID section, possibly complete an annoying Captcha, and then you're in.

8:09 am PST

Well, here we are, ready to lock down our fate for San Diego Comic-Con 2024 - the Part 1 of locking it down, anyway. By now, you're probably in the waiting room and feeling your heartbeat accelerate, your palms sweat, as you wait to see what hand you're dealt.

Remember to have your credit card at the ready if you didn't put in your payment details yet; make sure everyone in your buying group has their information updated; get your drinks and snacks ready and sequester any pets who might jump on a laptop and send your SDCC plans to hell.

I feel like today will be calm. How do you feel?

Returning Registration is almost here

 2 NOVEMBER 2023

Maybe it's me, but there seems less fanfare about Returning Registration for SDCC 2024. Are we all just inured to the process? Maybe so, but CCI's email today did hit on 3 good points - test your Member ID access, pre-save your payment information, and slap your buying group into shape. (They didn't put it that way but this IS the time to make sure your most scatterbrained friend has shared an accurate version of their Member ID name.)

San Diego Comic-Con 2023 wasn't the splashiest Con of all time, but don't let that lull you into a false confidence. This Saturday morning will be competitive, stressful, and disappointing for many. Prepare as carefully as you normally would - and don't try to cheat the system. Last year (I think it was last year) people shared their waiting room URL if they had a good spot in line - and their badges got cancelled.

Good luck!

Do you want to visit Salem? Maybe you do.

 11 OCTOBER 2023

Welcome to a non-Comic-Con post. It qualifies as nerdy only by the barest of margins - that being relevance to horror nerds. If you've ever contemplated a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, particularly during the crowded, expensive, yet glorious month of October - something that is becoming more of a mecca every year - read on.

I don't remember when Salem became so crazy, but it was already pretty bad years ago when I lived in Boston. Back then, Salem was a favorite destination of mine in the summer, when its brick sidewalks, tree-lined streets, yet ominous air gave off a small-town-in-a-Ray-Bradbury-story vibe. But I would inevitably get dragged up in October by friends, at which point the carnivalesque chaos would make me nuts.

But here I am, going back. And it's become something akin to Comic-Con in some ways, in that it requires planning almost a year in advance, and many more people want to go than actually can. Whenever I say, "No, I can't go to NYCC, I'll be in Salem," some people get a faraway look and say, "Maybe I should go next year!"

This year, an astounding number of people I know have expressed envy, interest, and determination - so I thought I'd provide some guidance.

Talking Board Museum

Why you might want to go to Salem

Overlooking the fact that the Salem Witch Museum was recently pronounced the #2 tourist trap in America, which to me announces something magnificently tacky, Salem does have a lot to offer for the right people. Are you one of them? You might be if you're interested in...

American history in general and the witch trials in general. You'll have to travel round to surrounding towns like Peabody or Danbury (the site of most of Salem Village back in 1692) to see some sites and ruins of interest, but Salem itself (once Salem Town) does offer some interesting sites. The Witch Dungeon Museum made a huge impression on me when I was young, the aforementioned Witch Museum is a horrifically vulgar affair of wax figures and strange voiceovers, there's the "Witch House" (where Judge Corwin lived - in a different location) and a plaque announcing where the condemned were actually judged. And there are the memorials, the newer one at the recently determined hanging spot behind the Walgreens. The Peabody Essex Museum is offering an exhibit of actual objects from the trials. Point being - you'll find plenty to interest and intrigue if the trials are your thing.

Proctor's Ledge, site of hangings

Paganism and witchcraft. There are so many witch shops in Salem. Also a Witch's Ball on Halloween, plenty of public rites, and for tourists, the occasional "ritual" involving just watching, mostly. I'm not sure if paranormal/ghost hunting falls in this category, but this is another draw for many people - the holy grail being to stay in a "haunted" hotel room. This is an entire YouTube/TikTok genre.

Halloween, horror, and Hocus Pocus. I'm blending these together. Salem has a Halloween museum, several horror museums (with some gorgeous gift shops), the local theatre will play horror classics and some more obscure old films (where else can you see Dracula in Spanish?), and of course there are the Hocus Pocus filming spots. This last seems to be a huge attraction for die-hard fans.

Halloween Museum

Cosplay. If you've always wanted to strut your stuff on a cool fall day or crisp fall night, rather than a humid convention center, this is your chance! People do dress up as whatever they please, but the majority align with the witch/horror/spooky theme.

Parties and events. Salem and the surrounding areas offer some unique events. You might catch a candlelit seance summoning the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, a Wiccan burlesque show, true crime dinner theatre in a nearby castle, a Hocus Pocus drag show, a reenactment of the witch trials, etc. These vary year to year. And there are the good old-fashioned parties across town every night, which tends to feel like Goth Mardi Gras every night in late October.

Fall/New England. Maybe you hunger for the type of falling-leaves-and-cider sweater weather autumn shown on TV shows. Maybe you grew up somewhere like that but moved away, like I did, and you wistfully dream of revisiting autumns past. The North Shore of Massachusetts is gorgeous in the fall (so is Vermont) and Salem itself offers some beautiful streets of old Victorian houses decked out with glowing pumpkins for Halloween. 

Essex Street

Why you might hate going to Salem

The crowds. Oh my god, the crowds. If you want to do the witch trial stuff and that's it, don't go in October. Go some other time and save your soul. The traffic alone can trap you for hours in your car. And parking? Forget it. Every year they beg people to take the train and not drive in. You can wait hours outside a restaurant. Museums and attractions can sell out within a minute of going live.

It's expensive. Hotel room rates go way up (last year at the Hawthorne was about 400 a night for me; this year, I'm paying about 1000 for 3 nights at the Salem Inn, which isn't terrible, and the bed and breakfasts can hit 700-900 a night or higher) and even things like Ubers can get crazy expensive because traffic is slow. 

It's tacky. If you recoil from neon-colored sideshow exhibits and wax figures and torture museums and overpriced spell kits, you may be too refined for Salem! Be proud of your good breeding and leave the vulgarity for the rest of us plebians.

Salem Witch Museum

It's exploitive. Is it? I don't know. 1692 was a long time ago. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the trials, lessons about nonconformity and profit-motivated magistrates and scapegoats and misogyny and religion as a political cat's paw and well, I could write a whole essay on that. But there's no denying that the town - which for centuries tried to duck its shameful past - now leans in hard for tourism dollars. Maybe not every citizen, but the town collectively has lurched in that direction. 

So if you want to go? Treat this like a popular Con; plan well in advance, and that includes booking a Salem hotel as soon as you can. Popular hotels like the Hawthorne or the more luxurious bed and breakfasts like the Merchant House sell out immediately and can open reservations a year in advance. Once you have your dates and hotel locked down, study what you want to do so you don't waste time on the more tasteless attractions (unless that's your thing.) Your best resources: Season with the Witch by JW Ocher; Derek Millen videos on YouTube; and the Spooky in Salem group on Facebook.

As you get within a month or two, book restaurant reservations where you can (so you don't spend 2 hours in line) and identify the museums, tours, and parties that sell tickets online only. (So many people show up only to discover that everything they wanted to do is already sold out.) 

Is it worth it? If it's always Halloween in your heart, if you love a classic New England autumn or vulgar tourist attractions or wax figures of Old Hollywood film monsters - yes, definitely. And consider this selling point: you can blend a Salem trip with a NYCC trip quite easily. Personally 2 days of Salem is enough for me and many others, so if you're a Con nerd and a Halloween/horror fan, consider that action for next fall. 

Happy hauntings.

Returning Registration is November 4

 10 OCTOBER 2023

Did you breathe a sigh of relief today? It seems no one was ready for Returning Registration quite yet - so having a few weeks to prepare for the November 4 badge sale was a nice revelation.

CCI offers up detailed instructions on its pretty new site, and basically it seems like not much has changed. So go ahead and indulge yourself in the Amazon Prime sale or at NYCC - you've got a few weeks to get your money together. 

CCI updates SDCC badge prices, hints that badge sale is "soon"

 9 OCTOBER 2023

Courtesy of

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day! If you're looking for something to focus on besides the distressing weekend news, you will want to visit and check out CCI's latest hints that Returning Registration is almost upon us. 

While it's merely listed as TBA, they do say "on sale soon" and point out that new attendees still have time to create a Member ID account (hint, hint.) They also list the new prices: $350 for a full Preview Night badge.

I'm resigning myself to an October 14 badge sale, though I really hope I'm wrong. Whether it's next Saturday or not, it's imminent enough that we should all prepare. That means logging into your Member ID account and making sure it all looks good, confirming you have the $$$ to pay for your badge and whoever else you're buying for, and organizing your buying group details. And get your first-timers set up with their Member ID accounts now.

If it is next weekend and you're going to be at NYCC when it happens (East Coast time puts you right in the convention center with the Con in full swing), I wouldn't count on doing this on your phone. Just my advice. 

We'll see what announcements the week brings.

Do you want to become a Legend? And when is Returning Registration?

 4 OCTOBER 2023

There's been a lot of speculation on which Saturday morning will be claimed by Returning Registration this fall. Because of the Junior Badge email CCI sent out, many predicted an early sale. (Though what qualifies as "early" is debatable: last year it was October 15.) Quite a few people thought we might get Ret Reg this weekend. But if you were waiting for a CCI email today announcing a Saturday, Oct. 7 badge sale, you got something else instead: an invitation to empty your coffers to become a Legend member at the Comic-Con museum. 

A membership which includes a full Preview Night badge. A membership which costs a mere $1900. (Missing the visual gasp of a $2000 price tag by a whisker.) CCI assures us that "the memberships will sell out quickly" (will they, though?) and that you get all kinds of discounts and previews and a docent tour - for one year. Yes, this is not a lifetime membership. That $1900 and the ghost of compound interest floating behind it is an annual fee. Not tax deductible, I believe, but correct me in the comments if I'm wrong. I know museum membership tax rules aren't clearcut. 

It's entirely possible to have the badge sale right before this Legend launch, of course. It officially starts Saturday morning at 10 am and involves museum staff who won't be involved with the badge sale. But that's a lot to pack into one morning so I'm going to assume we can cross Saturday off our Ret Reg list of possibilities. 

Should You Become a Legend?

If I lived in San Diego, I'd probably do this just to be a good supporter (and I really like the Museum) so maybe there are many other people who feel the same. But if you are contemplating this solely to lock down a badge - I wouldn't advise it. CCI will likely put some badges up for auction like always and you can probably pay about the same or less to score one that way. That's just my advice - but if you're one of those luckless people who've been striking out in Open Reg for years, I can see where this would appeal.

Anyhow. The membership sale starts Saturday morning at 10 am for people with a current SDCC Member ID and runs through Monday night. Then the general public gets their shot on Thursday. Oct. 12.

I'm hoping CCI then catches its breath, skips over October 14, and serves up Returning Registration on October 21. Or October 28 or returns to November. Anything but October 14 as I'll be enjoying the tacky Halloween pleasures of Salem, someone else in my group will be traveling for the eclipse, and thousands of SDCC people will be wandering around New York Comic Con. It's just not a great day. And it would be pretty savage to schedule an SDCC badge sale during the next best-known Comic-Con.

But who knows what our cunning overlords will do.

How to Become a Legend

The process for becoming a top-tier Museum member is strangely analog. You have two options:

1) Visit the Museum in person on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

2) Watch for an email with a link to an online form where you will not purchase your membership, but "express interest." Then a museum staff member will call you to process your payment. I feel like this is extremely inefficient - will they call right away? Are you supposed to hang around waiting so you don't have to recite your credit card number from yoga class or a screening of The Exorcist: Believer or wherever you happen to be when they call? I feel like there's a story behind their attempt to avoid online payment, but we're never going to hear it.

So! Will you become a Legend at the Museum - and the very first verified attendees of San Diego Comic-Con 2024? Do you have any Returning Registration dates you're hoping for? Any dates you're worried about? Share your theories.