Change your badge mailing address immediately

17 MAY 2017




Can you believe we're only 63 days from Comic-Con? I can't. It feels like we all just locked down our badges and hotel rooms 10 minutes ago and are just starting to breathe easy again.

And yet our badges will soon be sailing through the U.S. Postal Service, as CCI reminded us today. Tomorrow, 18 May, is the last day to change your shipping address for your badge. If you don't have a solid address for June - it happens, people are traveling all summer or embarking on internships or changing apartments - then pick your most dependable friend/family member and put in their address as your shipping address.

Because, and let's give CCI a virtual hug for this, they're now letting us have 2 addresses on our Member ID profiles: a home address and a shipping address. This is very convenient for more nomadic attendees, students, and international people.

Yes, international people can now have their badges sent to their best American pal. As you know, CCI won't mail badges to Hong Kong or Brussels or Mumbai; last year, international attendees had to pick up their badges on site. Which wasn't the worst thing in the world, but now CCI is eliminating even that step if you prefer to have a friend receive your badge.

As for when the blessed event/anxiety vigil will occur, CCI says badges will ship out 3-4 weeks before the Con. Basically, you'll know it's started when people begin filling Instagram and Twitter with pictures of their badges.

Make sure you're one of them - and change your address now if necessary.



Nerd HQ won't be at SDCC this year

12 MAY 2017




If you didn't get a badge for San Diego Comic-Con and you were hoping to fill your days and nights with Nerd HQ - forget it. Zach Levi just announced they aren't coming.

If you're familiar with their history, they've struggled in the past to find the funds to come to SDCC - and it sounds a lack of such is the issue this year.

Bright side: They are hoping to present other activations. He is "committed to whatever we can bring you, in whatever form" and promised that the next week will bring a flurry of announcements about other things they're doing.

So this may leave a hole in your Comic-Con plans - but if you have a badge, you should be able to find something else to fill it. If you don't and were coming mainly for Nerd HQ, you may want to rethink the entire idea.



The current SDCC hotel situation

9 MAY 2017






This year has been an odd one for hotels. There's been less drama than we had in the past 2 years, but it seems that more people than ever got shut out. The difference is the way the notifications have been staggered, which has kept people waiting and hoping instead of finding out in one fell swoop that they didn't get a room.

I don't have any great answers for you but I will advise you to get active. Find a room or lodgings outside of the CCI system, advertise for roommates, do whatever you have to. If you want to email a complaint to CCI or OnPeak, do so - but do so in a cogent manner, rather than just cursing at them. They already know we're livid.

On the following topics....


Algorithms

Everyone is trying to figure out why their friend got a room and they didn't. There are probably more factors in play than just a timestamp, but at the end of the day, waving your timestamp flag isn't going to get you a room. I'm not being callous here; I just think too many people think pointing out this system isn't fair, logical and transparent will change something. It won't - at least, not this year.

I think it would be less maddening to turn this into a parking-type lottery. We'd all have a window of time to submit our entries and they would be selected and fulfilled randomly. Still lots of disappointment, but we'd stop bashing our head against the wall trying to understand apparent inconsistencies in assignments.

I also think they should have sent out all of the emails at once, whether you got a room or didn't. I knew many people who were certain they'd get a good room yesterday and didn't. That was another week lost when they could have been trying to find something.

Early Bird and Safety Rooms 

If controlling your hotel outcome is important to you, if you don't have the stomach for this rollercoaster, do Early Bird or book a backup. It's obvious that landing a downtown room happens to a minority of people. Early Bird isn't going to involve the hotel of your dreams, but you will have something. As for backup rooms, they are available if you look around. Yes, they're more expensive than you'd like. I have a Hyatt backup right now for $2265 + tax for 4 nights. If you put 4 people in that room (it has 2 beds) that's just over 600 a person for the entire Con. I still remember my early SDCC days when I was young and destitute so I do realize that's out of many budgets. But it's not a bad price to be that close to the Con in a nice hotel without relying on the hotel sale. If you can afford it, consider this option.

Making an Exchange


I've seen some salty talk on "room hoarding." I understand how aggravating it is to feel like an outsider in the attendee world as you read about people swapping rooms and celebrating buying group victories. But no one goes to Comic-Con automatically knowing a ton of people. People meet each other waiting in line for panels, through Twitter, in hotel saunas, on ferries to Coronado, through comic shops, blogs, etc. If you want to be more "connected," it's easy to do - join the online conversation, go to Con events and mention that you want to be part of things. Volunteer. Con people are friendly and you'll be accepted no matter how much of a shy little oddball you are.

I also don't know of anyone who got a bunch of rooms to pass out; it's more likely that people funnel rooms through the people most active on social media or certain forums. So if you're upset because you don't know how people are getting rooms transferred to them, I'd recommend reading the blogs, Facebook groups, Reddit, Friends of Comic-Con, etc. It's usually just a matter of being active and attentive.

Finally, if you're worried that transfers and exchanges are sketchy, they're really not. I was on both ends in this last week and in each case it was taken care of quickly with no risk for anyone. Obviously use your best judgement if someone asks for something unseemly, but generally you just need the reservation holder's assignment email. You can then call OnPeak and get it put in your name. Very easy.


Pragmatism vs Hope

I'm going to be blunt: there are an astounding number of people who still think there's a surplus of downtown rooms to be handed out. Even weirder, attendees seem to think people will trade an Omni room for Town and Country. That probably isn't going to happen! Be realistic about the inventory left; it's not great.

Which brings me to the waitlist. Last year, depending on when you got in, it wasn't too bad. I think the inventory will be weaker this year. I could be wrong, but I would not stake your hopes on getting the perfect downtown room on the waitlist. You might, but you might also be forced to pick a Mission Valley hotel. Just in case, I'd start looking around on your own now.


Profiteers

I've already heard about one guy planning on charging $250 to give his airport area room away. Don't pay these people! It's not necessary, no matter how desperate you feel. It's also a violation of CCI rules. You will be able to get some kind of room when all is said and done. There are always a few rooms hanging out in the system once the rush to reserve is over.

Numbers

There seems to be a general consensus that half of all requests have been fulfilled. I haven't conducted a rigorously controlled study, so maybe that's true - but it doesn't seem like it. Last week I gave it an 11:1 ratio; now it's about 6:1. Maybe I just know unlucky people. At any rate, the staggered emails have made it harder to grasp this.

Customer Service

I heard a lot of complaints about OnPeak today. Getting cut off in the middle of a call, rude operators, being put on hold forever, going straight to a recording, inconsistent answers, etc. I think this upsets people as much as not getting a room. Attendees love Comic-Con, we save money all year and plan our summers around it - and then we get treated with stunning callousness. I understand there are not enough downtown rooms to go around, but CCI and OnPeak have got to do a better job of communicating, providing respectful service and being transparent. This is insulting.

The number of rooms up for offer have dwindled significantly this week, but I'm still seeing a few advertised. Do your best, look around and hopefully the waitlist will bring some better news.






Don't freak out if you haven't gotten a hotel email

8 MAY 2017





A quick note since I'm seeing wild misconceptions circulate online - namely that it's all over if you haven't gotten a room assignment yet. It is not over, not by a long shot. Here are your options if you didn't get an email today.

  • If you checked yes to be waitlisted on your submission form, you will later get an email telling you the waitlist is open. You can go in and book a hotel. Last year the waitlist had great downtown hotels for some rounds; I can't speak for this year but it'll have something.

  • If you don't remember, or you checked no in a blaze of misplaced confidence, call OnPeak and ask if you can be added to the waitlist. It can't hurt. ETA: I was just told they won't add you. I'd call anyhow, just to see.

  • If you feel completely bereft of all hope, know that there will be rooms - not downtown but still rooms - available through CCI after all is said and done. You'll find something. As we get really close to the Con, people will begin cancelling rooms and you'll find all kinds of surprises. Maybe not 4 nights at the Marriott Marquise, but a few nights at the Hilton Gaslamp, a few nights at the Westin, etc. You'll be able to piece together some kind of housing situation.


Finally, remember that this kind of hell-trip is why it's such a great idea to either book a safety room for next year or do Early Bird. But more about that later, along with today's patterns like people getting non-downtown rooms when they expressly asked not to, timestamp contradictions, and other madness.

Good luck. And if you're truly desperate - I have a room with 2 queen beds at the Dana on Mission Bay that could have your name on it. No doubt I'll know of other possible exchanges by the end of the day. Don't worry too much about dates - you just need to make your 2 night deposit now. Once the reservation is yours, you can trim off any excess nights or put in a request for additional dates. I'll cover more on that later.

Where we are now with SDCC hotels

6 MAY 2017





Happy Free Comic Day! Hopefully you picked up something good to distract yourself from our next date with anxiety: Monday and its second round of hotel emails.

I think we can all agree that the last week has been frustrating. And not just for those of us who failed to get a room; even the people who did get assignments ran into some trouble. Let's recap.


People Who Got a Room

There was plenty of rejoicing last Monday, but over the next few days a few issues reared their head. Such as...

Quite a few people requested 2 beds/a quad and wound up with a room with 1 bed.

While you can kind of squeeze in an air hammock for another person in a one-bed room, it's tough to squeeze in an extra 2 or 3 people. Groups that were hoping to put 6 people in a quad were really out of luck. This was the scenario I heard over and over, and in one case the above email happened. I'll summarize:

My friends got what seemed to be the perfect room assignment: one with 2 king beds at their 1st choice, the Hard Rock. Being experienced attendees, however, they knew that the Hard Rock doesn't have rooms with 2 king beds. (Real talk: I never would have caught this.) So they contacted OnPeak who swore the room really did have 2 king beds - and finally, after insistent prodding, OnPeak discovered yes, the room had just 1 bed, which my friends can't use. Not only were they assigned a room different from what they requested, they were given misleading information and encouraged to put a deposit down on a room that would have been a disaster when they showed up. 

People annoyed each other with bad room exchange behavior.

Not a new story. But guess what, I'm going to give advice anyhow! This happened to multiple people: someone would beg for a room, be offered one, and then get cagey. They wanted more proof than just the reservation email, they wanted a lot of personal information, they said they would recoup a deposit already paid and then vanished. Why do people do this? If someone has a legit downtown room to give away, be grateful and take care of it quickly. On the other end of the scale, people would offer rooms and then vanish into the night. Happened to me twice. I know it's awkward to say "I gave it to someone else" but by disappearing, you're delaying someone from moving on and finding another room. Just tell them.

People didn't realize the deposit deadline was Thursday night.

Yes, it said Friday, May 5 at 12:00 a.m. That was terrible communication, because many people assumed it meant Friday night midnight. No, it meant one minute after 11:59 pm Thursday night. So the midnight hour struck and like Cinderella's coach, hotel assignments vanished - in theory. Last year when I refused (via silence) the Town and Country room I was assigned, I received 2 emails after the deadline urging me to pay the deposit.

Ingratitude and unrealistic expectations were present.

The majority of attendees getting rooms were thrilled. However, a few ingrates made themselves known, like the girl who told my friend it was "too bad" that she "only" got the Hilton Gaslamp or the idiot who told me that he only stays at the Marriott Marquis - and the Hyatt (on the other side of the Marriott) is just too far, so he was thinking of letting his Hyatt quad go. Call it attendee Darwinism if he does; I have no sympathy for people who feel sad that they only got a downtown room and not a free pony to match.



People Who Didn't Get a Room

Some of us were able to finagle reservation transfers; some of us (like me) benefited from the "I really need 2 beds and can't use this room with 1" fiasco. The question is: will we still get the room assignments we would have gotten? Or did our new reservations cancel out any future assignments as duplicates? I got in very quickly during the sale so I'm expecting an email Monday. I'll be your test case as to whether transfers cancel out other assignments or not.

A lot of misplaced hope (in my opinion) is still suffusing this group. I believe there are downtown rooms that will be handed out Monday - lots of downtown hotels did not feature heavily in last week's assignments. But by and large, I don't think we're going to see a lot of first choices like Marriott Marquis and Hilton Bayfront filling our mailboxes. If you get a downtown room that wasn't on your list, remember that the shuttles can eliminate any walking to and from the Con - and you'll be right in the heart of all the great restaurants and bars. You'll be fine.

Finally, in terms of numbers, I keep seeing projections that 20% of requests were filled last week. Maybe they were, but the people I know must be statistical anomalies because it's more like 11:1 in my world.



I hope Monday does deliver; I hope last week was the trickle before the flood. I also hope everyone gets a definitive email: this is the room you got, you didn't get a room but are on the waiting list, you didn't get a room, the end. People want to get this settled and move on. Here's hoping we all get the answers we need.

Get your tickets for Game of Thrones: The Musical, coming to SDCC

5 MAY 2017






Happy Cinco de Mayo! But before you start knocking back mojitos, shift your thoughts from Mexico to Westeros, where at the end of the first GOT book, "the night came alive with the music of dragons."

What does the music of dragons sound like? No idea, but I'm going to hear it for myself and so are you - because we're both going to "Game of Thrones: The Musical" at San Diego Comic-Con.



Where: The 10th Avenue Arts Center, right in the Gaslamp

When: Thursday, 20 July - Sunday, 23 July. There will be 8 shows: at 6 and 9 pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday, a bonus show Friday at midnight and a Sunday matinee at 1 pm. So you'll be able to fit this into your schedule somehow - and if you didn't get a Friday or Saturday badge, this could be a great way to spend one of those days.

What's It Going to Be Like: Not a faithful rendition of the show/books set to music, but an opportunity to "relive the most iconic moments from their favorite show - this time as an absurd, laugh out loud musical comedy." Apparently the musical will extract all the laughs that were just hiding all this time inside the decapitations, smoke births and wedding massacres.


Why You Want to Go: Besides the obvious chance to hear a dragon symphony, you'll be helping the founders support The Wayne Foundation, a charity that promotes awareness about sexually exploited children. 5 percent of all ticket sales will go to that worthy cause. AND the creators are the same people behind Lost: The Musical and Once Upon a Time: The Rock Opera, which you may also have seen at SDCC. If you liked those shows, you'll obviously like the 12 original songs featured in this show.

And finally, you'll have bragging rights to make your friends jealous, which we all know is one of the top benefits of Comic-Con.

You can get your tickets here. Don't wait too long to book your own iron throne.


Dick Van Dyke expensively comes to Phoenix Comicon

3 MAY 2017




Over the winter I discussed a controversy over Phoenix Comicon's suggestion that prospective volunteers pay for the privilege. While that idea was eventually tossed out - after a significant outcry - a new complaint has risen like a phoenix (sorry) from the ashes: on top of the badge fee, attendees are being asked to pay an additional fee to see the Con's top celebrity draw, Dick Van Dyke.

You may not think of Dick as a typical Con panelist; you may even have believed the Facebook death hoax a few years back. But he's 91, very much alive and apparently willing to tolerate the burning hellfire that is Phoenix in early summer to meet his fans. Which is great! The announcement stirred up a lot of excitement until everyone found out that because PHXCC is "anticipating record interest," they are treating the panel a bit differently.

To attend, people must either:
  • Buy a special pass on the PHXCC website beginning tomorrow, 4 May at 10 am PST - limited quantity available. Prices range from $15-45.
  • Sign up for a lottery for any unbought tickets. What if there aren't any? I'm assuming some will be held aside but not many because money. You can sign up for this lottery for free until Thursday, 18 May.
 And you will need a Saturday PHXCC badge, naturally.



So why are attendees peeved? Partly it's lingering rancor over the volunteer issue (and the various assassination campaigns that went on) as well as things like significantly higher service fees while buying 2017 tickets. Certain workshops and panels now carry a fee - for instance, the Con has 15 writing workshops for $8 each, which can quickly add up. That can come as a shock to people who are used to their bigger Con badges (like SDCC) covering it all.

And then there's the question - why pay extra for Dick? I know he is a beloved celebrity popular with all ages; my parents' best friends in their late 60's love him and so does my ex-boyfriend who's 31. One of my relatives was proud to attend the rehab named after him. But Phoenix Comicon has had other great guests. Can we expect this as a new pattern going forward - buying a badge as a starter admission and then being asked to pay for more and more offerings on top of that?

Because that quickly makes a Con feel like a money grab and makes planning for it even more onerous. People want to buy their badge or ticket and call it a day. And then there's the question of getting what you pay for. When I saw Julie Newmar and Adam West at PHXCC a few years ago, they missed almost half the panel due to traffic. Everyone was understanding - but they may not have been if they'd paid extra to attend.


I'm sure Dick Van Dyke will walk on stage to a packed house. But there's more to offering a great Comic Con than filling seats. PHXCC has shown before that they are willing to listen to their attendees; hopefully they'll consider their feelings in creating the fee structure for future Cons.

Warning on room exchanges

2 MAY 2017




Incredible as it seems, some people wound up with downtown rooms yesterday that they don't want. If that's you, or if you're one of the lucky people inheriting said rooms, a word of caution.


Try to minimize the information exchanged. 

In previous years, Travel Planners/onPeak didn't need much information to transfer a reservation. You give them the original name, email address and OnPeak ID number and ask to have yourself listed as the reservation holder. Once it's transferred to you, you'll be asked to pay the deposit and you'll have the ability to alter other information on the reservation.


You shouldn't need to give or receive much more personal information - so don't. As I've noted before, I've seen people carelessly circulate someone's details after deciding they didn't want the room after all. I know it's easy to feel like we're all friends here so why not, but there are unscrupulous people who observe the SDCC community. For instance, last year after we got our badges in the mail, some people posted their badge photos online. Scammers stole the photos and used them to create Ebay auctions, and one guy whose photo was stolen (it showed his name) had his badge cancelled. You really don't know who's hanging around, following threads and looking for an opportunity to make some cash or find a way into the Con. So be careful.


Work with people you trust.

I know this is hard because we're mostly all online. But if you have a room to give away and you don't want to hand it off to some rando on Reddit, you have options. Friends of Comic-Con does a great room exchange, very organized. Pretty much any SDCC blogger will know reputable people who need rooms, myself included. If you're looking for a room, the same applies. I know you might feel desperate, but I would not necessarily work with a complete stranger unless they have some kind of anchored digital persona you can reference.

So many of the things we do for Comic-Con - buying groups, room exchanges, event tickets sold second-hand - are founded on a precarious notion of trust. Our shared generosity is part of what makes our little community so great. But it only works when we respect each other's privacy.

If you can't find a room, don't despair; next week will bring new opportunities. Good luck.

You didn't get a hotel room today? Neither did thousands of other people.



1 MAY 2017





Most of us just spent our morning on a useless vigil, refreshing our inbox over and over. We watched on Twitter as people began crowing about getting Hilton Bayfront and the Omni, then Marriott, and so on down the line it went... while our inboxes stayed empty. (Except for New York Comic Con deciding to email a bunch of us right as emails were going out. I'm sure that caused a few false hopes.) Now onPeak has signaled they are officially done, condemning us to another week of waiting.

Here's what we know:

  • Most of us did not get an email of any kind.
  • Most of the hotels that were assigned today were downtown. Not all, but most.
  • Even people who got in around the 9:01 mark (like yours truly) often got nothing. 
  • Another batch of assignments will go out next Monday, 8 May.


Plenty of people have called onPeak and gotten various stories, which I won't repeat here because I put as much stock in any of them as I do a Magic 8 ball. And there are many theorized patterns floating around online, but I wouldn't invest too much belief in those either; at the end of the day you get the room you get. Thinking you got screwed over your choice of king vs double beds is just a ticket to a pointless circle of hell.

I will theorize this: it's going to be really, really tough to do room exchanges this year. The timing just isn't in our favor. Most people who got rooms today are keeping them - and even if they wouldn't mind trading, the pool of people with rooms isn't big enough to trade nimbly with. That means we'll have to wait until next week to start making deals - and it will have to happen in a very narrow window. You need to make your deposit that week and you only have a few days to change your mind/cancel. After Monday, 15 May, one night's deposit is gone forever.

Try to keep your hopes up for next Monday and the waitlist; and really, don't waste your time wondering why there had to be 2 batches, why someone with a later timestamp got the Westin and you got nothing, why onPeak can't get their story straight, etc. It's Comic-Con. Focus on the fact that your feet will be carrying you into the convention center in July and don't stress too much about where you're staying. You'll find a room. This is just round one.


ETA: I've heard from 3 people now who swear they got in immediately (didn't get the running man) and didn't get an email. They didn't request an odd room type either. They're upset because a few people have posted they got in at 9:02 and got one of the top 6.

I can't explain why that is, but I would caution taking anyone's self-professed timestamp as the literal truth. Some people looked at the time when they submitted the form and guesstimated from there - and they may have spent more time filling out the form than they thought, meaning they got in earlier than they think. It's hard to say.

I know today was really disappointing. I'm sure we'll see a whole storm of theories brew up over the coming week, but try not to get too fearful. On the other end of the scale, I've seen some people speculate that there's a new crop of Marriott Marquis, Bayfront and Hard Rock rooms just waiting to be dished out next Monday. I highly doubt that's the case. There will probably be a sprinkling of those rooms, but most likely the top downtown hotels are already spoken for. Next Monday will likely move through assignments for the other downtown hotels (still a great option) and then more non-downtown hotels.

Remember that you have other options, line up a plan B and wait to see what next Monday brings. Good luck.


ETA Again: In talking to people who got a room, there's emerged a pattern. All but 1 of my friends that got rooms started their reservation request beginning Monday or Tuesday. The ones that got in early but requested reservations beginning Wednesday or Thursday have not heard for the most part. I don't think it was the deciding factor but it could be that the most revenue-producing reservations were prioritized.

If you don't know, it's pretty easy to get a cheap downtown hotel room on Tuesday or even Sunday night. Often those same hotels are pricier on those nights through the CCI system, so many people will book outside the system. Last year I paid 169 for a room at the Hyatt on Tuesday night when it would have cost almost double through the CCI/onPeak system. (And that quickly reverses on the Con nights.)

Accommodating the people with extended reservations willing to book through the systems may be one way the hotels recoup some money lost to the discounts. Just a theory. If it's true, that means it's smarter to request an early arrival date and then change it once you reserve the room. People have speculated on this before but this is the first year I've seen it play out so starkly.

Will you land a hotel tomorrow?

30 APRIL 2017





Happy Hexennacht/May Day. Tomorrow is the day the first round of emails go out notifying us of our hotel assignments - if we were lucky enough to get one. While it seems pretty solid that your form access timestamp will determine your ability to get a hotel, it's not entirely clear who will hear when.

Patterns from previous years include:
  • Rejections going out first.
  • Hotel assignments going out in alphabetical order by hotel. In other words, people with a room at the Andaz would be notified before people at the Hard Rock who would hear before the people at Manchester Grand Hyatt.
  • No pattern at all, with people finding out they got their first choice days into the notification process.
We don't know exactly who will find out what tomorrow. But my best guess is people who got downtown rooms will get their emails. They'll have until Friday, 5 May, to make their deposit or let the room go. By the following Monday, 8 May, OnPeak will have a few relinquished rooms to assign out and the next crop of attendees will hear. I'm guessing these will include some downtown rooms and the non-downtowns.

At some point by Monday, 15 May, everyone else will get the deadly email that their "request could not be accommodated" and they'll be added to the wait list if they requested it.

So should you be worried?

Not yet. If you got in at 9:09, then you probably won't be at the Hilton Bayfront. But you'll still get some room, somehow (seriously, there are always a few stragglers left long after everyone's made their deposits) and you may be able to trade for a room. The Friends of Comic-Con site does a great room exchange, although you must be a forum member to participate.

For what it's worth, I didn't get a room at first pass the last 2 years. In 2015, a stranger gave me his room at the Hard Rock and in 2016, both the Hyatt and Hilton Gaslamp were available when I got through on the wait list. So if you don't hear tomorrow, if your heart is sinking because your timestamp was late in the game, try not to stress. You'll find something.



Going rogue: finding SDCC lodgings beyond the hotel sale

28 APRIL 2017





More than a day after the SDCC hotel sale, we still don't know where we are. We might feel tentatively optimistic, based on getting in fast, or we might be mourning our 9:08 am timestamp. It's hard to make any real pronouncements until the emails start going out - and most of us won't know for a week or two after that. Then there's the waitlist; last year, it was more than a month before the waitlist was processed and reservations opened back up. I don't think we'll see that kind of delay this year, but I do think May is going to be a long, painful vigil for most of us.

You can take your hotel fate into your hands, however, and make alternate arrangements. Every option below is exploratory; you don't have to commit to anything until you want to. But whether you scored in the lottery or not, you'll make the best decision by understanding what's available for you.

Here's what you can do now.

Look at hotels outside the CCI sale. Start visiting hotel sites and you'll see that some of those downtown hotels kept plenty of rooms out of the SDCC block. Other San Diego hotels skipped the sale altogether. What they have in common: rooms that are currently available, but at obscene prices. Are you obscenely wealthy? Go ahead and book. But if you're just looking for a roof, a blanket and a pillow, hold out. There are other options that won't bankrupt you.

Look on Airbnb,Tripping, VRBO, Couchsurfing, Craigslist, etc. Some attendees go this route every year; others hate it. Just be careful, as every year some SDCC attendee gets scammed out of their money or left homeless.

Stay at a hostel. The ratio of negative to positive SDCC hostel stories I hear is about 5:1. That said, if you're the intrepid hostel type, if you're fearless and unflappable in the face of massive shower insects, odd smells, and people who repeatedly play loud recordings of their voice down the hall at 6 am - embrace your adventurous spirit. You will save money.

Get involved in room exchanges. If you're not already part of the online SDCC community, you won't have as much pull as someone who is. People prefer to trade rooms with someone who's a consistent online presence so there's a baseline of trust involved. But you still might find someone with a room they don't need, so get out there and ask. If you have anything to offer in return - event tickets, a connection or introduction - do so. Not because we're all mercilessly quid pro quo here, but because SDCC attendees tend to take care of each other and it makes the Con a nicer place.

Put the word out. Ask your friends and coworkers and family. If you live west of the Rockies, someone in your network probably know someone who has a condo, cousin or spare couch in San Diego. If they live really far out, this probably is only an option for the desperate. But it's worth asking.

Look for roommates. Some people can bunk with strangers; some people can't. Some people actually look forward to it, which I'll never understand, but it is an efficient way to get everyone housed and possibly make new friends. If you're barely going to be in the room, it's probably the best way to take advantage of someone else's hotel sale luck.

Wait. I know it's nerve-wracking to sail closer and closer to the Con without a room, but you'll find some surprising availability the closer we get. Last year I was able to grab an extra night at the Hyatt two days before the Con; several other nights were available too. (I just didn't need them.) It may seem incredible that people would actually cancel their Comic-Con plans but they do. They get sick, laid off, conscripted into family reunions, etc. People at the Con decide to go home early and cancel Saturday night reservations. They get trapped at work and cancel their Weds/Thurs night reservations. If you have a high tolerance for uncertainty, you'll probably find some great rooms.

Which somewhat depends on your ability to...

Be willing to move. If you plan on buying a truckload of stuff, the idea of packing up every day or every other day and moving will sound onerous. But this can be one way to get downtown rooms. Back when the Marriott Marquis became difficult to attain, I'd book 2 nights there and 2 nights at Hilton Gaslamp, and then keep checking availability. Sometimes I could eventually get all 4 nights in one place, sometimes not. I don't mind moving because I like to keep everything tidy and organized anyhow, and I tend to regularly ship stuff home so I'm not burdened with a ton of bags. Ask yourself if you'd rather have 4 nights in one place on Hotel Circle, or if you're up for a more nomadic - but downtown - Comic-Con experience.

Cut a night off your stay. Do you have friends going to the Con? See if you can crash with them the first or final night. It's only one night in a crowded room and you can have your space the other nights. Are you camping out? Strike a deal to nap in their room when they're at a panel, then hit the grass come nightfall.

And finally, invest in a safety room for next year. I booked one yesterday - fully refundable, $539 a night, downtown - at the Keating. Most likely I'll end up giving it to someone else, like I gave away my safety room at Hotel Z last year and may give away my Hyatt safety room this year. But it's still nice to have. It's not easy to find a refundable downtown room and you will pay more than you probably want to - but if you are diligent in checking hotels, you'll find something. And you'll spare yourself, or at least mitigate, the horror of not getting a room at all in next year's sale.


Welcome to Hotel Day

26 APRIL 2017




10:05 am

If you're feeling bleak about your hotel room prospects after today, I'd advise looking around on your own. Airbnb, friends of friends, etc. Hotel Z has rooms available Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday right now, though I expect they'll be snapped up quickly.

Don't give up hope completely on a CCI room - but it's always good to have a backup plan. I'll post more about that later.


9:36 am

You knew this sale seemed too smooth to be true: apparently some people completed the form and then got sent back to do it again. Ouch. Hopefully their original timestamp holds.

Anyone have any other problems?

9:27 am

I've heard from 22 people right now; 15 of them say they got in right away or almost right away, and some went straight to the form. This sale moved fast.

9:12 am

Well, that was fast. I think by now almost everyone has gotten in. If you were managing multiple sessions, the little man in the green bar was really helpful - you knew what to focus on.

Question: did everyone get that bar with the advancing attendee? (Who, I must say, was so much better than the spinning blue circle. Please bring him to all badge sales, CCI.) Or did some people get right in?

I got in pretty quickly - but as bitter experience has taught me, that doesn't always mean much. So I don't have much of a feeling one way or the other about how I did. How about you? Confident? Gloomy? Unsure?

Right now we all have Schrodinger's hotel room for the next few days. Try to stay positive. Remember - you will find a room somewhere.



8:49 am

I want to reiterate not to rush. Probably you're a calmer, steadier person than I am, but I know that when I rush through the form (as in years past) I've inevitably messed something up, like picking my hotels in the wrong order or forgetting a number in my address, etc. Once you're in, take a breath and make sure you pick the right hotels and do everything correctly. That's actually faster than having to go back and change something.

8:25 am

If you've never done the hotel sale before, it's much faster than a badge sale. You won't be spending an hour in the waiting room. Usually it's only people who get picked in the first 2 minutes who get a room and 20 minutes in, it's mostly over.

That said, anything is possible. The sale may be slower this year.


8:01 am

It's here: the day you roll the dice across the cityscape of San Diego's hotels. If you've done this before, you know the odds aren't great in terms of getting a downtown hotel - but that you will get something, eventually.

Today will be more nerve-wracking than devastating, since we won't get our results until 1 May at the earliest. If you don't get in right away, it's probably not good, but you should still hope for the best and see what room trades you can make if you dislike where you end up.

A few final words:

Member IDs are optional. I'd err on the side of entering - why not.
Requests are allegedly processed based on when you access the form, not when you submit it. So don't rush, but I wouldn't dawdle either.
Watch out and make sure you don't enter duplicate information.
You don't need your credit card today - that comes later.

Good luck. Let's hope the lottery goes smoothly and the form doesn't mutate into some alternative universe oddity like it has in the past.

Crafting your Hotel Day strategy

23 APRIL 2017




Did you obsess over the SDCC hotel sale all weekend?  You can do Early Bird while there's still time - but if you're willing to roll the dice on Wednesday, here's what you should know.

Calling Vs Online

Everyone wants to know which is faster. You'll hear conflicting reports but overall, it is hard to get through on the phone, and I personally find it nervewracking and a big dodgy to verbally give my preferences to someone writing or typing them down. Phone requests take longer than filling out the form online and human error is more likely. Still, nothing's stopping you from doing both and seeing which gets in first.

Duplicates

One of the biggest - and most justified -  grievances of the hotel sale is that even a whiff of duplication can get a request cancelled. Let's say you and your spouse, who share a last name and address, both put in requests, or you and your roommate do. In the past, this has allegedly caused requests to vanish. Hopefully that won't be the case this year, but try to differentiate your requests as much as you can.


Downtown vs Non-Downtown Hotels

If you're new to San Diego Comic-Con, you might be wondering which hotel is best. So I'll give it to you bluntly: you can't afford to be picky. You might hear that the Hyatt bar gets intriguing at night, or you'll see lots of famous faces at the Hard Rock, but ultimately you'll be best off considering your price point and how close you want to be - and how likely you are to get your wish. Competition for downtown hotels is steep. Many of those rooms have already been claimed by studios and publishers. And room exchanges - which have always been a fallback practiced by attendees in the know - are harder to pull off than ever. 

I've paid ungodly amounts for downtown rooms - and have an expensive Hyatt reservation waiting for me at this very moment - so I will sound like a hypocrite now by telling you that non-downtown rooms are not that bad. But it's true. You'll save money, you can take the shuttle to and from the Con, and it can be quite nice to get away from the Comic-Con madness at night. Speaking of night, if you're going to be camping anywhere overnight for Hall H or other panels/rooms/drawings - does it matter that you're staying at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn? Your hotel room is just a place to collapse at varying intervals between panels and parties and lines.

Amenities, Restaurants and Parking

A few considerations here. One: you might envision yourself getting a massage at your hotel spa or drinking tequila at the pool bar, but those visions should not steer your hotel choices. You'll be busier than you think and probably won't see much of your hotel offerings. (Although if you want to get together with your friends, a pool night is a more relaxing option than a Gaslamp bar crawl.) As for restaurants, remember that the shuttle will bus you around wherever you want to go, and picking a hotel with great restaurants is inconsequential. You'll have plenty of places to eat wherever you are. Finally, remember that downtown hotel parking can be pricey - you should count on paying upwards of $30-40 a day, so add that to your mental estimate. (Along with assorted taxes and fees that can take your nightly rate way up.)

6 or 12 Choices

So we've got the opportunity to request 6 downtown and 6 non-downtown hotels. What does this mean? It means that if you only want to stay downtown, I think you're better off skipping the non-downtown part and checking yes for the waitlist. Otherwise you'll probably wind up in Mission Valley and that'll be it. But if you just want to lock down a room, definitely use all 12 of your picks.


The Pendry and Hotel Z

There have been high expectations for the Pendry's 300+ downtown rooms to brighten the sale - but San Diego's fanciest new hotel is not listed on the sample form. It's also not available for reservation during SDCC. Did powerful Hollywood gods snap up all the rooms? Will it be on the final form? I don't know. Hotel Z isn't on the form either but their rooms are available for reservation; I think Friday night is sold out and the others were about $500 a night last I checked.

The Waitlist

There's no mention of the waitlist in the official description of the hotels sale - but it is listed on the form. Here's the question though; options include "Book me at a hotel that is closest/low rate/on the shuttle route" and "If none of my preferred hotel choices are available, disregard my request completely." Some people are questioning if choosing the latter means your request is literally disregarded completely - even if you check "Place me on the waitlist." They could have worded this with more clarity, but I believe that checking yes for the waitlist will preserve you - even if you refuse to accept anything but your preferred choices.

The Processing Order

CCI says that requests will be processed based on entry into the session. Does that mean you should give up if you don't get picked until 30 minutes in? No - hang in there no matter what. Get your request formally submitted and hope for the best. Last year people who got in later sometimes got better rooms than the earlier-picked, and there were conflicting messages about just how randomized it all was. The year before was a storm of glitches. Don't sabotage yourself by giving up. Hang in there, do your best and screenshot any problems.

The Odds

You are not competing with 130,000 other attendees. You are competing with pros and vendors who want to upgrade their existing reservations, people who don't have badges but want to come hang out, and the public at large. Plus those 130,000 attendees.


If you've never done the hotel sale before, you won't know immediately how you did. Instead you'll get an email on 1 May or 8 May. (Yes, that week in between is going to be a killer.) Most of us will be unhappy; we'll get a hotel below our standards or no hotel at all. Attendees will be scrambling to lock down Airbnbs, condos, spare couches and roommates. If you're one of them, remember that at least you have a badge - and that's what matters. No matter where you sleep at night, you'll be at San Diego Comic-Con during the day and that's what counts.

Good luck. Let's hope for a smooth sale.

Hotel Day is 26 April - and you'll need to make some tough choices

21 APRIL 2017



 



Your second most stressful day of the year is happening next Wednesday: Hotel Day is 26 April.


The sale will function much like the badge sale; you'll get an email with a link to the waiting room, log into the waiting room and wait to get picked once the sale goes live. But there are some changes you should prepare for now.

What's Different

  • One difference during the sale: instead of picking 6 hotels, you'll be able to pick up to 6 downtown hotels and 6 non-downtown hotels.

  • A difference after the sale: people will be notified in two groups, 1 May and 8 May. You'll be notified "no later than" 15 May if you don't get a room.



Consider this in the context of the expanded 12 choices. Pick all 12 and you're more likely to get a hotel of your choosing, technically speaking. Pick Town and Country as a non-downtown option? Your request was granted - and now you're stuck with it. Because this part bears careful reading: "If you receive a confirmation email and are not happy with your hotel, you can opt to take no action or notify onPeak of your intention to cancel your reservations." No action means, you don't pay your deposit and your reservation is canceled.

To summarize - you get what you get. There's no mention of if/when hotel reservations will open back up, as they have every other year when the dust settles. Oh, and this maddeningly did not change: instead of restricting rooms to people with badges, any one can take part. And trust me, they will.

As for your 12 picks, keep in mind, you don't have to use all of them; you can choose to only select downtown hotels. But that's still setting yourself up for a painful email notifying you that you have no room at all.

I'll post more advice for the hotel sale this weekend. For now, study the sample list, make your game plan, and please consider doing Early Bird. It's going away very soon.

Good luck.



Take your first step toward New York Comic Con

19 APRIL 2017



Was SDCC Open Reg really only 11 days ago? It seems like forever. If it's still on your mind, however, because you didn't get a badge and you've been moping around ever since, you should definitely consider going to New York Comic Con. And your journey can start today.

Fan Verification has opened up today and closes 3 May. Much like SDCC Member IDs, everyone who wants to get a NYCC ticket needs a profile, so make sure you and your friends all create one.

Having a profile doesn't guarantee you a badge. But while the annual NYCC sale has gotten increasingly competitive in recent years, your odds are still better than with SDCC. It's a big, beautiful show and it takes place in October, which is a great time to be in New York.

Seriously - think about going.

Reminder: the Early Bird sale won't last forever

17 APRIL 2017



I speak to you today in a spirit of pragmatic pessimism. You know that the official San Diego Comic-Con hotel sale is just around the corner. And if you're like most attendees, you're hoping to score a downtown room.

But if you lived through the last few Hotel Days, then you know how unlikely that is. Landing a discounted room for Comic-Con has gotten tougher and tougher, and the sale itself - bizarre glitches, an inexplicably high rate of failure, the frustrating lack of control - sends up an annual outcry from attendees.

(First-timers who think I'm exaggerating, Exhibit A and B and C.)



With that in mind, you may want to consider the Early Bird sale. Rooms are already selling out but there are still some hotels left (including my recommendation Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina). I know these aren't your dream hotels, but this process at least offers you some control, unlike the hotel sale proper. Shuttle service is always available, so you can still party till all hours and make it back to your room safely - for free. And if you're a Hall H camper or any kind of overnight-line person, does it even matter where you stay?

Just something to consider. Early Bird will close when the real hotel sale happens, so you won't be able to crawl back to this as a safety option should you not get a room in the sale. If you want to book a room without drama, if you want to avoid the below email - seriously, consider Early Bird.





And one final suggestion: if you're looking for a roommate, don't wait for the sale. Start asking around now so you can team up together during Hotel Day.

Promote literacy - and maybe go to SDCC

14 APRIL 2017





Contest time! This is your chance to help kids read and maybe help yourself go to Comic-Con.

This contest comes to you courtesy of IDW and Traveling Stories, so yes, it's legit. Never heard of Traveling Stories, you say? Their mission "is to help kids fall in love with reading by the 4th grade." So you know they're good people.

What the winner gets

  • Two 4-day badges to SDCC
  • Roundtrip airfare and hotel for 2
  • A stack of comic books
  • 2 tickets to the Wynonna Earp party
  • Meet and greet with Kevin Eastman of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame

How to enter

Visit their site and make a donation to a literacy program. You can go as low as $10, if your wallet is a bit light at the moment.


The reality check

This contest has been promoted at WonderCon and runs through 14 June, so you'll have plenty of competition.


Why you should enter anyhow

Because 32 million U.S. adults can't read. That's 14% of the population; and 21% read below a 5th grade reading level. So even if you don't win this contest, you'll help people have more earning power, higher political literacy, and the joy that comes from reading magnificent books and comics.

And given that 82% of kids from low-income families have trouble reading by 4th grade, setting them up for an unemployable future, contributing to literacy programs does more than help these kids on an individual basis - it creates a healthier economy and puts more incredible books, screenplays and graphic novels in everyone's future. Every writer begins as a reader, after all.

Good luck.