Be realistic about your SDCC downtown hotel dreams



Hey, hey, it's almost Valentine's Day. And if you're calculating just how much to splash out on your latest paramour, remember that another expense is looming in your future - the deposit on your San Diego Comic-Con hotel room.

Early Bird's been running for a few weeks now, but most of the hotels - even the best one, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina - are still available. That tells me that hope still springs eternal among Comic-Con attendees, who year after year prefer to gamble on the hotel sale lottery and its dismal odds, rather than choose the sure thing that is an Early Bird room.

(In case you're a first-timer who doesn't know what Early Bird is: You can book a room now, paying all nights up front. The lodgings aren't lux but they are definitely yours and you can skip the existential horror that is the SDCC hotel sale. Read the details here.)

Most of you are familiar with the terrible SDCC hotel lottery. If you're not, know that it's actually worse than the badge sale in some ways. A very tiny number of people squeak into good downtown hotel rooms; everyone else either thinks they did well but winds up with a motel by Sea World, or they think they'll get a Sea World motel and wind up with nothing. Somehow the assignment email always manages to surprise and devastate.

Even worse, it's an anxiety that lingers. You find out about Hotel Day and get nervous; it comes and goes; you wait for the first batch of hotel assignments, wait another week for the next batch, wait for the wait list to go live. Etc. It's torturous and it just goes on and on.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because I just tried steering a first-timer toward Early Bird and she got insulted and informed me she was deciding between the Marriott or Hilton Bayfront. Okay then! That's kind of like deciding between an invite to the EW party and a private dinner with Jason Momoa, in that neither is going to happen for 99.7% of us. And I'm not saying that to be mean; I just want to manage expectations, because Hotel Day is rough.

What you can do now:
  • Book an Early Bird room. (Again, the Sheraton is closer than a lot of the hotels you could get in the lottery - just saying.)
  • Start making back-up plans for a hostel, time share, family friend's sofa, etc.
  • Team up with roommates to afford an egregiously priced downtown room outside the CCI sale.

Most likely you'll roll the dice on Hotel Day. I know that. But before you sail into those waters and get dashed upon the rocks, consider steering your ship into the safe and welcoming harbor that is the Early Bird sale. Most of the hotels are on the shuttle route, you'll save money and you can spare yourself the anguish of waiting for that email that never says what you want it to.

Like this one:

Or this one:

Just think about it. Early Bird - you can settle your hotel business now and skip the gut-wrenching anxiety storm soon to descend on the rest of us.

ETA: I should clarify a few deposit facts. I know some of you are new to SDCC and you're probably baffled and maybe a little panicked about the hotel rates you're seeing online. So here are your options:

Early Bird: If you book a room this way, through CCI, your rates are quite reasonable but you have to pay your entire bill now.

The hotel lottery:
This is also through CCI. While you are not guaranteed a room, any room you do get will be significantly discounted over what you'd pay otherwise. (Usually.) The lottery works like this: you jump into a waiting room (sound familiar?) and wait to get picked for a session. Once you're picked, you enter your personal information and your top choices for downtown and non-downtown rooms. Later you get an email with an assigned hotel (which often is not one of your choices) or you get an email saying you got nothing. (See above.) If you're assigned a room, you'll be asked to pay a 2 night deposit. So if you get a room that's about $300 a night, you'll need to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 plus taxes and fees. It's refundable for a while.

Random hotel rooms you find online:
You can prowl around the websites for Marriott Marquis, Omni, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Horton, Hilton Gaslamp and other downtown hotels but you'll usually get a "no rooms available during those dates" message. If you are allowed to book a room during SDCC, the rates will be astronomical. Don't let despair drive you to this level unless you can truly afford it.

FWIW, I have a safety room at the Gaslamp Comfort Inn, half a mile from the convention center, $550 a night, no deposit, cancellable til 3 July. Not my ideal, but I know I have a downtown roof over my head no matter what. If you are as risk-averse as I am, calculate what you are willing to spend in a worse case scenario and see if you can arrange a back-up. It'll make the hotel sale a lot less stressful.


  1. So how much is the deposit??

    Also we've been looking at hotels and the ones by the convention center are going for a thousand a night. That can't be the only option right??

  2. If you do Early Bird, you have to pay all nights up front. Your entire bill is the deposit.

    If you do the official hotel lottery and get a room, you need to pay 2 nights up front. It's refundable for a brief period - then you can only get one night back, then nothing. So if you get a room that's about $300 a night, you'll need to pony up $600 plus taxes and fees when you book your room.

    Ignore the downtown hotels that are offering those sky-high rates. Both Early Bird and the lottery are much cheaper. I'll add this above.