How to pick a hotel for SDCC 2012

Many of you are gearing up for the SDCC Hotel Registration happening on March 9th hoping to land the ideal place for a blissful 4 days in San Diego. However, if you have never been to Comic Con or San Diego, it can feel like you are choosing a hotel with your blast shield down. Unless you are a Jedi Master, it can be an intimidating experience. For you newbies, here are a few things to consider when choosing a hotel for the Con:

  • Master your destiny: My first recommendation is to book a back up hotel BEFORE the SDCC Hotel Registration begins. Besides the fact that it could sell out, in the past there have been some problems with registration. Some were put farther out then expected and some registrations were lost. I am hoping there were lessons leanred from the past ticketing mess but you never know. So I would still book a back up hotel that has a generous cancellation policy. After March 9th, it will be near impossible to find housing without having to drive in from outside of downtown.
  • Show me the money!: Price is usually where everyone starts. SDCC hotels range from $150-299 based on location and quality. Generally speaking, the higher the price the closer the location to the convention center. Normally these same rooms would go for twice as much so it’s worth the hassle. At this point, you won’t be able to find anything in the same area for near the same price. If you are constrained by a budget, then set your price and stick to it.
  • Is closer better?: The location of your hotel can really affect your SDCC experience in a positive or negative way. Many people assume that getting the adjacent Marriott ($224/n, adjacent) would be ideal. While the location is certainly convenient, a hotel that close might not be what you are looking for. If you are new to San Diego, you will discover that it is the ideal city to host a crazy event like this. However, as awesome as Comic Con is, you will get stir crazy being locked up in the con center for 10+ hrs. The last thing you will want to do is walk more than you have to. At the end of each day, a million attendees pour onto the streets like undead zombies in search of food. This search could take you pretty far from the Marriott (or other nearby hotels) forcing you to walk 6-10 blocks to a less crowded restaurant. After a late night dinner and a few drinks, you might not want to walk all the way back to the con center every night. In the past, I have booked hotels that were closer to desired restaurant. That way, after dinner our party just had to walk a block to get home. Believe me, you don’t know exhaustion until you experience ‘Comic Con exhaustion’. By booking a place in the heart of downtown, it will actually half your walking distance each day- that is unless you plan on eating ALL your meals at the Marriott (read the comments about an attendee’s not-so-great experience at the Marriott).

  • High Maintainance: Speed and proximity might not be your highest priority. You may have needs that are going to require having more resources at your disposal. A central location like the Westin Gaslamp ($206/n, 5 blocks) might be more suitable for you. It’s located in a heavy commercial area of the Gaslamp called the Westfield Horton Plaza. There are tons of restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and a movie theater all adjacent to the plaza. If you are attending with family or friends that are not hardcore into Comic Con, this would be an ideal location for you.

  • It’s a Party in the USA!: (Yes, forgive me for the Miley Cyrus reference) Maybe for you, the party really starts when the Con ends. If that’s the case then I would suggest being at a hotel near 5th street. This is the main artery of the Gaslamp (pictured above). All the restaurants and bars along 5th st are hopping all night long. The Hard Rock ($290/n, 1 block) is the ultimate party location (it’s located just right of the above pic). The festivities never end there. One warning though, if you are prone to sensory overload, then the Hard Rock after a crazy day at the Con might not be best for you. It’s a loud hotel and a good nights rest might be ‘hard’ to come by. There is a reason why it’s not called ‘The Smooth Jazz’ hotel. On the flip side, good chances you will see Miley Cyrus while you are there :)

  • Hall ‘H’ is for Hilton: If you are going to SDCC primarily for movies then expect to spend your days in the infamous Hall H. This is the biggest hall where Hollywood pay homage to Comic Con by presenting all the big movies of the year. It’s by far the longest wait for any of the panels. As a result, the Hall H line forms fast and early. If this is important to you, then I would suggest the Hilton Bayfront ($278/n, 1 block). If you request the convention center side, then you will be overlooking the ‘grassy nole’ of Hall H (the above pic). You can not only wake up each morning to monitor the lines but you will have the quickest route than any other hotel. Timing is everything with Hall H and just walking from the other side of the con center (like from the Marriott) could mean you are thousands of people behind where you want to be. If movies are your thing, then target the Hilton.

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: For some of you, breakfast is a non-negotiable and the weeny ‘continental breakfast’ that some hotels have to offer just aint gonna cut it. You also don’t want to fight the enormous restaurant lines in the morning in order to make it to the Con. If you are in search of a power breakfast morning then I would suggest the Embassy Suites ($235/n, 4 blocks). Hands down, it offers the best breakfast than any other hotel (pictured above). It’s free, fast, and hot. They offer custom made omelettes, waffles, meats, and much more. Their buffet allows you to start your Con day with a smile. Their hotel is nice too with separate living room and kitchenette. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite places to stay when I travel.

  • Trolley option: Even though shuttle service is listed, I would not depend on it because of all the Comic Con demand and the bad traffic in the morning. So find a hotel that is close to the trolley. It’s easy and runs right in front of the con center. By using the Trolley, you can save money by picking a hotel farther away. One year I stayed at a hotel right next to the Bayfront stop in National City. It was cheaper and it only took our party 15 mins to get to the Con. Check the SDMTS trolley route for locations near your desired hotel.
  • Celebrity sightings: Most of the nicer hotels near the con center will host celebs. If you are into that then the Marriott, Hard Rock, Hilton, or the W will be the place to be. There have been some epic stories of fans hanging at the hotel bar or riding the elevator with their favorite celeb. This could be you.
  • Odds and ends: You also want to call ahead to find out how much your desired hotel charges for parking each day if you have a car- some can be ridonkulously expensive. If you are alone and want to go as cheap as possible, try a local hostel. You also may want to Twitter your desire to share a room. I know it’s a little risky but it might be worth it if you are on a tight budget.
  • WWGD: What would Google do?: Do your diligence and read reviews of hotels on search engines or from trusted websites like When Nerds Attack.

I hope this helps you if you are a newb to Comic Con. I know I might have missed some other great tips so if you are a Con veteran then please leave me your suggestions. See you online on March 9th and happy hunting!

24 thoughts on “How to pick a hotel for SDCC 2012

  1. Another awesome post! Last year we stayed in Mission Valley which wasn’t bad but it sucked not being to take an easy break at the hotel. This year we lucked out and managed to get something 3 blocks away. I agree that there is no right or wrong answer, it all depends on what you’re looking for!

    • Yea, the mistake I made in the past was thinking that the week was all about Comic Con. There is really so much more to experience, especially if you have a group. So after we expanded our location, our experience was so much better. Thx!

  2. Last year I stayed at the Marriott next to the convention center and was not a fan at all – hotel rooms are not very nice, it is a far walk to Hall H, etc, although I did see a ton of celebs in the lobby and in the elevator. The year before I stayed at the Hilton Bayfront and loved it, esp for the Hall H access and the gorgeous rooms/view. This year I might try something in the Gaslamp for easier restaurant access.

    • Yea, if you are a Hall H die hard then Hilton Bayside is a must. Personally, I am a huge Gaslamp fan. I like being able to unwind after a crazy day at the Con. Everyone tries to get right next to the con center but there are better options. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Hope to see you there!

  3. Most hotels have wised up this year and don’t offer cancellations on room reservations (full deposit at time of reservation.). I’ve tried most places a couple months back and only lucked out with Embassy Suites. So for most it’s a decision of book now at $$$ rates to guarantee a close hotel or try your luck with the Comic Con lottery er… hotel system.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I was able to book 3 rooms a couple of weeks ago that had a nice cancellation policy- but it took me calling around. For those of you still looking, not sure if they have any rooms left but ya’ll can try Marina Inn And Suites (619) 232-7551.
      Vic, thanks for visiting and commenting!

      • I was able to book 3 various hotels throughout the last couple months and all had normal cancellation policies. I think it was Motel 6 and the Ramada. You just have to read the fine print. Mayne since it’s getting closer to Con time they’ve cracked down.

  4. Wow! Great Post! ! ! When I went for my first time (unfortunately, only time. . .but “I’ll be back!” lol!), my buddies and I booked, before the rooms were released, about $400 a night at the Gamlamp Marriott. I know, we paid through the nose on that one and there were 3 of us and only a king-size bed! lol! I requested extra sheets, comforter and pillows and made a bed on the floor! Actually, I was so exhausted each day, I slept fantastically! lol! With that said, we didn’t want to have to fight for a room during the “hotel release registration” process.

    But your suggestion about “book a back up hotel BEFORE the SDCC Hotel Registration begins” is an incredible great idea! (Why, didn’t I think of that. . .oh, yeah, I was a noob! lol!)

    Seriously, that makes sense! Thanks for all your help! These pointers are extremely valuable to the noobies and the experienced!

    • Keith, that’s a hilarious story! Yea, my first time we stayed in an ultra cheap hotel far away and really regretted it. Now I now that it’s worth spending a little extra to be in the right location. Thanks so much for commenting and hope you get back to the Con soon!

  5. Pingback: You favorite past SDCC hotel? « Crazy 4 Comic Con

  6. Question: I’m planning to stay a few days after the convention in San Diego. Is it possible to choose the days of my stay upon registration or at least can I change it later?

    • You can give your dates and they will do their best to accommodate. I don’t know if there is a limit but a lot of people go for a few extra days before or after. I am sure you will be fine. If any of our vets want to chime in here, please do so. Thanks for visiting and asking!

  7. Excellent article, Tony! I’ll mention it on my blog. Anything to help the geeks survive the con.

    Although I am curious about the people who reserve alternate backup hotels and the price ranges they are getting per night. Any recommendations from folks?

    I do online searches and often find nothing available for under $400/n if I find anything at all. Calling usually gets a disgusted sniff from the clerk or the sound of pity in their voice. The problem is that a backup at $400/n is not a backup for me at all. It’s just not financially feasible at the moment.

    As for choosing a hotel, I’m a Gaslamp guy too. I need to be in the center of it all if I’m going to hit up the various after hours events. It’s hard enough leaving the room due to exhaustion even when your hotel is across the street from the convention center. Having to drive miles each day is just too annoying and stressful. I normally park my car in a special spot downtown and keep it there all week, regardless of where my hotel is. I use it as a drop point for all my swag so I don’t have to go to my hotel room multiple times a day, especially if it’s far away. Had a hotel off the trolley line a few years ago up in Little Italy and that worked great, even though it forced me to get up even earlier every morning. I can’t recommend using the trolley enough if you aren’t staying in a hotel downtown. Avoid driving at all costs.
    Good luck to everyone next week!

    • Doug, I am a big fan of SdccSurvivalGuide.com! Great tips and I love the idea of using your car as a holding place for your swag. Yea, I haven’t been able to find rooms in the Gaslamp for under $400 but I was also looking for a certain size and quality. Appreciate all you do to help the Con nerds have a great experience. I just added your site to my blog! Thanks for visiting and commenting! Hope to meet you this year.

    • I know some people have been able to snag deals using websites like Priceline and Hotwire, according to some tweets. I was able to score my room for $199 a night (instead of the $275 that SDCC/TP wants). I found the hotel on a travel website and then checked out the hotel website and booked directly with them.

      I booked months ago though. I was actually able to find a number of hotels that were reasonable around that time but now when I look, it’s either highly expensive OR not available because of TP.

  8. We are choosing the hotels to put in our list… do you think it is better to pick up *all* of the hotels downtown (both cheap and expensive ones) or to leave at least a few choices from farther parts of town?

    And about farther parts of town, Mission Valley seems the best choice… the trolley also runs through it (while the airport and Shelter Island hotels seem to be far quite from it).

    We do have a backup hotel in Mission Valley (Mission Valley Travelodge) and we might stick to that if we don’t get a better deal.

    This would be our first con (we’re coming from Italy) so we don’t really have a clue. :-)

    • Its so great that you are coming in from Italy- welcome! I would have 20 hotels on your list to include close and far out. You can never be too sure. Thanks for your question and visiting the site!

  9. I am selling my timeshare time. July 22-25
    Its only a few blocks away from Comic Con. Wyndham Harbours Lights
    3 Nights 4 Days, $250.00 Per Night

    Important Information
    Resort: Wyndham Harbour Lights
    Unit type: Studio
    Check-in date: 07/22/2011
    Length of stay: 3 night(s)

    Email me
    luzknuteson@hotmail.com

  10. Awesome informative post; really appreciate it as a first timer coming in from Texas. Any advice or suggestions for hotels (preferably that I can book/later cancel as backup)? Prefer to be within a 3/4 of a mile, spend about $250. Otherwise, is it easy to cab it from like a mile or so away (like the Holiday Inn Express but $300). Tried most online with no luck checking in Sat (07/14) or earlier let alone refundable. Thank you

  11. Whats a really really cheap hotel/motel within a couple miles of Comic Con? I’m talking 1 star and $100 or less a night and where you can take a bus to Comic Con. I’ll probably skip the last night and wonder the town all night to save some money.

      • I think there were some for around $150. So I guess I’ll get that with my plan to skip the last night. That is if I can get tickets when they finally put them up for sale.

  12. Thanks for great informative post. I want to share some tips-
    Safety first
    Before booking a hostel, make sure that you are keeping your safety a priority. Get information on the crime in the neighborhood the property is in, check how close the nearest metro or bus stop is, and see what kinds of security measures the accommodation has in place. Do you need a key or code to get in the front door? Can anyone come into the hostel or only people with a room booked? Is there someone at the front desk 24 hours keeping guard? Are there lockers provided to store your valuables? Keep these questions in mind before booking.

    Find a hostel that’s have a kitchen facilities
    It is a really important if local cuisine doesn’t look or taste appealing to you and you refuse to eat in chain restaurants. Cooking gives you the full control of the quality of used food products and, additionally, is a money saver when you’re travelling on a budget. If you can’t cook or you don’t know any healthy recipes, the Internet is full of healthy 5-ingredient recipes or go for a salad.

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