5 March 2011
So is a knot of dread forming in everyone's stomach this weekend? Have we all faked doctor appointments to get off from work Wednesday morning?
If you've booked hotels through CCI/Travel Planners before, you know the bloodbath that awaits. How bad is it? Bad. So bad that if I were evil, and this blog was read by thousands, I would tell you that it's no big deal and you can log in late that afternoon to book your room. But being so compassionate and honest, I'm here to help.
The reality is, I don't have any Jedi tricks to win your desired hotel. (I used to but the system changed.) But because I'm seeing people already floundering online and laboring under misapprehensions, here's a little primer.
1. You can book via phone or website. I've gotten rooms both ways; I've had more difficulty getting through on the phone than online, but have always scored great rooms through the phone. If you are online, do not try to hurry up the process by hitting refresh, or backing up or trying to jolt the system. Be patient or you'll be sorry. And if you haven't already done so, visit the site and read through the process.
2. This is an obvious one, but have your list of preferred hotels ready. If you have a safety hotel booked already, you can afford to list just your top choices - but if you don't, swallow your pride and list even some hotels you consider beneath you. Just do it. Even if you end up far away, you'll still be on the shuttle, and might be able to finagle one or two nights somewhere closer later on.
3. I hate to suggest anything that pours more people into a jammed system, but if you're traveling with a group, all of you should try booking a room. Yes, even if you're going to share. If all of you get assigned a room, just cancel the reservations you don't need. This will improve your odds exponentially of landing a decent hotel.
4. Have your credit card and reservation information ready. Fumbling around in your wallet once you're in the system is just going to stress you out and increase the possibility of you typing in wrong numbers. And if your finances are precarious, have a back-up credit card around in case the first fails. If your finances are outright abysmal, ask to borrow your mom's credit card. Note: I don't actually know if you'll need a credit card at this stage, since you only put down your deposit when you confirm the reservation on the email Travel Planners sends you. But you probably will.
5. Don't be a princess about which hotel has the best gym or the coolest bar or nicest sauna. You really aren't going to be spending much time at the hotel other than sleeping and the only real criteria affecting you are price and proximity. I've seen people pout over being at the Hilton Gaslamp (right across the street) because they heard the cool kids hung out at the Omni or Marriott. If you get a hotel room close by, be grateful and let everything else go.
6. If you do get stuck far away, you may find it has unexpected advantages. One is the cheaper price, obviously, but you may discover that you like being able to leave the Con behind each day. This is not consolation BS - it's very true. Staying right next to the Con can be exhausting because you never escape it. I remember the first year Twilight came to the Con; my friend and I staggered back to the Hilton Bayfront around three a.m. the first night and what did we see? Hundreds of little tents of people camping out to get into Hall H. There is no "off" switch when you're staying right next door. Staying in a distant hotel can be much more restful and make it seem more like a vacation than a plunge into exhaustion and chaos.
7. On that note, if you intend to blend in other vacationish activities into your trip, then you should definitely consider different hotels. Do you love the beach? Book the Marriott on Coronado Island. Do you want to hit Sea World or the Zoo? Look at Mission Valley hotels.
8. If you are trapped at work or somehow miss the whole shebang Wednesday, get a crappy room or don't get a room at all - don't despair. Rooms will open up over the coming months.