San Diego Comic-Con Has Officially Sold Out and Steve Has a Few Words on This Year’s Hotel Room Disaster

     March 31, 2010


With some single day and four-day badges for this year’s Comic-Con selling out months ago, it should come as no surprise that Comic-Con has announced all badges for the 2010 Convention are now sold out.  That means 125,000 people have already purchased their badges!  Of course, if you waited to buy a badge and are now freaking out…there is always eBay.  But for a non-profit convention that takes place at the end of July, the fact that on March 31 it’s already sold out tells you something.

While many don’t want to see the convention move out of San Diego (myself included), it’s clear something needs to happen to let more fans attend geek nirvana.  Cities such as Anaheim, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco have made it clear they’d love to land convention and many of those cities can offer what San Diego always struggles with: hotel rooms.

A lot more after the jump:

comic_con_2007_costumes__22_.jpgI’ve attended Comic-Con for almost a decade.  In all my years of trying to get a hotel room, this was easily the biggest cluster fuck I’ve ever seen.  The new system promised an easy way to get the hotel you wanted with the promise of rewarding those that filled out the application first.   When they announced the new system, I actually believed it was going to work and they’d finally figured out a way to deal with thousands of requests every second.

But…based on conversations with many people that tried to get a hotel room on March 18 when they first went on sale, I can say with 100% certainty the system was a disaster.

From what I’ve put together, if you submitted your application between 9:00-9:07, you made the mistake of trying to follow the instructions.  Because almost everyone I spoke with got a hotel miles away from the convention and one that wasn’t on your list (I got one 3 miles away).  But if you submitted your form from about 9:10-9:30, there was a good chance you got a top three pick and a hotel right next to the convention.  Bet you didn’t know that.

While I’m sure there are a few that don’t fit into what I just wrote, I spoke to over 25 people and everyone experienced what I just wrote.

comic_con_2007_costumes_willy_wonka_darth_maul.jpgWhen I spoke to someone from the company that sells the hotel rooms for Comic-Con, they tried to tell me it’s possible thousands of people got their application in before me and that’s why I got a hotel 3 miles away.  But they didn’t give me a real answer as to why someone who went at 9:15 got the Hilton next door except to say they know there were problems with the hotel reservation system.

The individual also told me they recorded every complaint and they are very aware of how badly the system failed.  They also said they were going to post an update/statement on the Comic-Con website which has still yet to appear.

Look, there is no way to fix this year’s hotel disaster.  If you got a room next to the Convention, consider yourself lucky.  But I’m already thinking about next year and this hotel room issue is not going away.  When you have 60 to 100 thousand people looking for a place to stay and you don’t have enough rooms to accommodate your guests, you have a problem.  That’s why there is serious talk for moving away from San Diego to another city that can offer more space.

Also, every year the lines to get into Hall H and Ballroom 20 seem to get longer and longer.  And don’t get me started on trying to walk the convention floor.  Last year’s usually quiet Preview Night was so crowded you couldn’t move.  It was like the worst Saturday I have ever seen.

Again, I love Comic-Con.  I love it in San Diego.  But it’s clear the Convention is a victim of its own success and things need to be fixed.  Either they have to sell less badges to make it a better experience for everyone that attends, or they need to expand the convention into more of the surrounding hotels for panels.  Also, perhaps they need to expand into area hotels for more dealers to sell their products.   Maybe offer a big discount to move to the Hilton or whatever hotel can accommodate  5,000 people.  They could have specific segments of the dealer room move.  While this is just a random idea that came to me while writing this article, it’s clear if the Convention wants to stay in San Diego, radical ideas must be put on the table because the system right now is broken.

Finally, I want to know about your hotel room experience and what you got and at what time you submitted.  If you don’t mind…leave it in the comments.  Also, if you have an idea on how to fix Comic-Con…leave it in the comments as I am sure people are going to read them….



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  • Ryan

    I've never been to Comic Con before but my best friend Julie and her sister are going to San Diego this July. Julie is going to Comic Con. She bought her pass when they went on sale. They were supposed to go with two other friends who both cancelled out which meant the price of the room went to a 2 way split instead of a 4 way. I said I'd come along but I'm fingers crossed that when they re-sell cancelled passes in June, I can get one. Regardless the farthest west I've been is Fargo, so San Diego will be a treat either way. Still, I'd really love to get in at least one day, and try and meet some TV personalities or something. Casts of 'Fringe' and 'Chuck' come to mind.

  • malarson2

    Going to ComicCon is the lifelong dream of my 10 and 12-year-old boys. Let's just hope this all gets fixed and settled before they actually get to do it…

  • Germain Lussier

    I've been going to Comic-Con for the past 8 years. Every year, I've stayed at a hotel within walking distance. Sure the old system was a pain in the ass, but I always got a room – even if it was a few months later when people canceled.

    This year, I had my list submitted 6 minutes after it went up (would have been quicker but, the Grand Hyatt wasn't on the list forcing me to pick another last option). I waited several hours and, yes, was placed in a hotel 3 miles away. Unacceptable. I filled out another form a few hours later but it was never dealt with.

    So, I figured I would just lock up the reservation as a back up, keep checking the Comic-Con hotel website, grab a room when it opened and cancel my original reservation before the May 14 deadline. No luck. Comic Con took down that option from their website. So – unless there's a miracle in the making, I'll be staying 3 miles away and trying to deal with parking. Something we've never had to do.

    Being a long time attendee, I know to buy a badge in advance. Last year, I bought my badge AT the convention. Why can't they set up some sort of system where people who buy their full four day badges early can get a first crack at hotesl? Same with press. If someone plans on attending a year in advance, why should those people have to wait to book their room? Open the rooms up earlier or based on when you purchased your badge.

    I know that people I'm friends with, who booked after I did, got hotels closer – AND NOT EVEN FOR THE WHOLE EVENT. They booked like Friday and Saturday nights and are at the Hilton Bayfront. I'm staying Wednesday through Sunday. How come I didn't get that room?

    I totally agree with Steve on this point. I love San Diego, the Gaslamp district and Comic Con. But this hotel thing was an abortion this year.

  • hunter_d

    Very good editorial.

  • Lizerne

    Bring it to L.A. or Anaheim already. I'm sick of taking the 3-hour drive! It was actually a 7-hour drive in 2008 with that accident on the 5 FWY.

  • Joyce

    I hit the send button for my room at 9:07 and am 8 miles away. LOL

  • Olivier_In_LA

    You can add me to the list of angry comiconers who submitted their list between 9:00 and 9:07 (I think I sent mine around 9:05) and got a room 3 miles away (Sheraton Marina).
    I'm happy to have a room and be on the shuttle route but it's gonna be impossible to not feel a little bit of rage every time i see the Omni and Hard Rock signs coming out of the convention center after spending hours in line in front of Hall H… :)
    Where is the petition to move the con to a better suited city?

  • xfsista

    I submitted my request by 9:05 AM and got my second choice hotel just a mile from the con. Seeing that I appear to be in the minority, I'm thanking my lucky stars.

    One thing I noticed you didn't mention is the issue with the Manchester Grand Hyatt. It was on the main SDCC hotel list, but on reservation day, it wasn't listed. I never saw it confirmed, but I read somewhere that Comic Con didn't complete their contract with that particular hotel.

    Meanwhile, that same weekend, the Manchester Grand Hyatt is hosting another convention for the American Hospital Association and Al Gore and Newt Gingrich are to be in attendance. So, there were a whole lot of rooms not available because they had already been blocked by another conference.

    I can see the logistical concerns and why moving to a larger space would be a great idea. However, it appears they want more space not to make it comfortable for their 250,000 attendees, but so they can squeeze in even more people. So would a bigger space be roomy for all of us or would it just be an even bigger crowd?

  • sammyjankis

    I have been lucky enough to stay with my sister a few blocks away for the last few years, but this year I had to get a room. I was on right at 9:00am and I hit the send button around 9:05am. So consider me shocked that I am at the Omni across the street. I have a lot of friends that did not get rooms as a result of the craziness this year, looks like I will have to give up some floor space.

  • David Lucarelli

    Your explanation about the hotel disaster completely jibes with my experience. My wife and I got our requests in at 9:07 and 9:08 respectively, and we got rooms that weren't on either of our lists 6.5 and 8 miles away. Luckily my sainted wife Sherry got on the internet and found a hotel that wasn't on the list for 250 a night (normally 90 bucks) that's only (!) a mile away. By way of comparison, that's what we paid for a much nicer hotel last year that was NEXT DOOR to the con.
    Here's an idea: Why don't they let you get your hotel room when you buy your pass for next year at Comic-con? That way they reward the true die hards, and it isn't left up to the luck of the draw, or even worse the complete failure of the system to work as

  • MRrSpidey

    I know what you mean. I did get lucky, and got a room not too far away, and on the shuttle route. But, it's getting worse every year –

  • NerdOverload

    Good! This will finally teach a lesson to all these nerds. Enough already. When is enough enough of collecting useless junk?! Also, this event is just a corporate commercial now, they might as well call it Corporate-Con. Hopefully this thing will just end finally, despite the crying of the nerds.

  • otakuon

    I had my submission in by about 9:06 as well. Like others had said, it took me longer than expected to submit because the Hyatt wasn't there forcing me to change my list. Even though the site said I would have a confirmation in 5 hours at the latest nothing came. And after reading all the depressing twitter chatter about how people were not getting rooms, I was certain that no confirmation was coming. But low and behold, 9 hours after I had hit the “submit” button, I did get a confirmation for a double/double room at the Westin Gaslamp. While it was number 4 on my list, it is a hotel I stayed at during the 2007 Con and it was a very nice hotel with only about a 10min walk from the convention. And being that it is smack dab in the middle of the gaslamp next to horton plazza, there are plenty of places to eat and kick back (saw lots of industry people at this hotel too). So anyway, I feel sorry for the people that apparently submitted before me and didn't get any of their hotels. Guess I should feel lucky. Every year Comic Con hotel reservations is a toal failure and yet every year it seems to get worse. As much as I love San Diego, at this point I would not be opposed to having the Con move to Anaheim…I wouldn't even need to get a hotel room then…

  • Jonas Renkse

    I want the Con moved to Vegas! Plenty of hotel rooms there.

  • Corin Prendiville

    You my friend are a moron. It isn't so much about collecting things as it is getting to communicate with the people who work hard all year to bring us valuable entertainment, meeting cast members of shows, films, etc. Talking to producers, directors or just hearing them in person. Don't forget premieres and other events. Not to mention anyone who is looking to be a part of the industry, whether comic book, film or television will find the event informative and interesting. It is no different than going to a convention for plumbers, only people who aren't plumbers actually care about this convention.

  • NerdOverload

    Corin, I am not a moron. I am telling you how it is. You have a better chance to talk to a producer, etc. through the internets! The lines are nuts, the walkways are nuts, the real people who want to go for the reasons you stated are being pushed out due to both an influx of people and and influx of corporate bodies. It's sickening. And a big part of this is just so nerds can collect more toys and junk. We have real problems in this country, I don't need a nerdfest cry-athon. In the old days, your point would be valid but now this whole event plays as one giant commercial filled with annoying people. I get it, you made a stormtrooper costume and you want people to see it, thanks. I'll try to remember it along with the 4,723 others I've seen. Very original.

  • Michael Heister

    I'm skipping Comic-Con this year b-cuz I simply don't want to deal with masses of people and the hassle (even tho I could've gotten laid at 2008 Comic-Con if I'd had half a mind to).

  • Ben

    Do the closer hotels specifically make you go through the Comic-Con reservation system in order to book rooms? Because I've been staying at a place in Hotel Circle the past several years, and I've always just called the hotel number directly and have been able to book rooms far in advance, even before the booking through Comic-Con becomes available. It seems it would be easier to just cut out the middle man and go through the hotel directly.

  • Jeff

    I filled out the form at 9:00am. Submitted at 9:06. And I am still waiting to get a hotel. I was recently informed I was on a waiting list and as rooms become available I could snag one of those. This infuriates me as I submitted my request BEFORE others, yet I was given nothing?

    Good article. Nice to see someone speak up on this terrible system that obviously screwed many people out of the opportunity to attend this great convention.

  • Nancy

    I logged on at 9:00 am and after several days got a message saying there were no rooms. A friend who submitted a few minutes later got a room. A couple of other people I talked too who also logged on right at nine also got messages days later saying they got nothing. There was no “time stamped queue” at all. Why hasn't travel planners at least offered a mea culpa, and some sort of apology for failing completely? Worst year ever for rooms..

  • Cristal

    sent my picks at 9:05 got my 3rd choice.

  • sf

    Submitted at 9:07. Received confirmation about 2 hours later that I got my first choice hotel, which is about 5 blocks away.

  • redsonja1313

    well I don't know what time I submitted it but I was on at 9 and filled out the form and listed all those freaking hotels. I am guessing it took me 5-10 min to fill out so I submitted between 9:05-9:10. I got my first choice hotel but this year since I am going all four days I picked one 6-7 blocks away so there is a possiblity of getting some sleep if I have to get up at the butt crack of dawn one day for a panel line. (we were in line by 645am for Doctor Who last year) I am feeling fortunate at this time !! I will say most hotels will let you book rooms for the following year at check out but you will pay full room rate where as there has been some discount using the comic con system. Last year I stayed at the Hilton on the convention parking lot and paid 275 a night when I went to book it for this year upon check out I was quote 300 a night. Looked at it this year still a little cheaper through comic con. I am fine with them moving to LA or Anaheim but I think Vegas or SF will suck plus SF already has a CON

  • Storyboard Mark

    IMHO — This was the worst hotel fiasco ever (even worse than last year, when, for some reason, I couldn't get onto the site or was on hold or something for over an hour). This year, I followed the instructions and if memory serves, submitted my request(s) at 9:06. Naturally I was offered a hotel 6 miles away that was like, last on my list. I'm still not sure what was wrong with the set-up from two or three con's ago. I remember that being relatively easy. However, given how screwed up it's become, I covered my bases and reserved a full-price room (outside the convention block) at the hotel I wanted, a few days before the rooms set aside for Comic-Con went public. It's full-price, but I've been going to Comic-Con for years, since I lived in New York and was an artist, writer and editor in Comics. If this wasn't mostly my family's vacation (my kids love it) I'd just skip it. I hope to heaven it moves to Anaheim or L.A. I wouldn't need a hotel room then. If it moves to San Francisco or the hell-hole known as Las Vegas, I won't be going anymore.

  • Krystal

    Basically, I made sure I wore my finest make-up while getting fucked in the ass by Travel Planners. That is all.

    We submitted our form by 9:01am. We got a hotel that's like, 5 miles away. I think last year's system (although semi-shitty) was better.

  • me

    this post is boring.

    • Jmourgos

      If it’s boring then don’t answer. Idiot.

    • Jmourgos

      If it’s boring then don’t answer. Idiot.

  • lame

    submitted our request…. got no response back for hours….then days… then said they are still processing ours…then couple more days go by….then it says we're on the wait list. Im not holding my breath, and im fucking pissed. especially after finding out people who submitted it after us got a room. this is all a load of horse shit. No hotel booking should go through Comic Con. people should just call the god damn hotels themselves and book that way. less hassle for everybody, and its a first come first serve basis. ITS FUCKING SIMPLE.

  • Erin

    Submitted my request at 12:05 am (EST).

    Got my reservation confirmation e-mail at 1:36 pm (EST) — 1 hour and 31 mins after I sent the request!

    …and it was for the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina!!!

    I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. :)

  • Eva Snyder

    I'm going with a whole group of people. Like every year, several of us all tried to get in apps for rooms so we'd have a better shot at getting a good hotel. I don't think any of us had realized the system had changed till we signed in.
    It took me the longest to get my app in since I only knew about 6 hotels that we wanted and had to go and pick a few more. I know I was the last to hit submit, but when the emails came about lunchtime I'd gotten the best option about 9 blocks away. The one of us who submitted a good 5min before me didn't hear back till almost 5 and had us placed a good 3 miles away.
    What's really frustrating though is that the room assignment I ended up with was for 2 kings and not 2 doubles (quad person rooms). That means we will have friends who have to sleep on the floor. They're worried the hotels won't let them stay but since comiccon messed up I'm not letting them kick any of us without a fight. :(
    I'm hoping we'll be able to jump rooms in the next month or so while scanning the cancellations so there won't even be a worry about it.

  • Eva Snyder

    You should take the amtrack. 2.5-3 hour ride, you can have a beer on the train, and you get dropped off next to the San Diego transit line. Way better than driving. If ComicCon moves I'll really miss the ride.

  • Lauren

    The first year I went to Comic Con it was on a moments notice because some friends on mine had a spare badge. I ended up staying at the only place available which was a smelly, filthy youth hostel, but it was only $90 a night and I booked it the Friday of the con. Last year we stayed at this hotel circle area, but it cost $20 each way for a cab and driving there and back was ALWAYS hard because the freeway system in San Diego is SO confusing!!

    This year, I booked a hotel right after Christmas on my own. Got right in, no problem. Some of the hotels I looked at where extremely pricey and others flat out said the rooms were all sold out on the web, but when you called they said they were holding them all for Comic Con. All I know is I'm staying in a dump about a mile away for $109 a night because I took the matter into my own hands.

    What I'm really afraid of now is the con moving somewhere I cannot get to from LA. I work in animation, we are all dirt poor. Flying is not an option. =(

  • Chip

    We sent in our request at 45min after 9. We have not had any room confirmations. Only emails saying to wait.
    I dont think we'll be able to get a hotel room at all D:

  • Jack

    The new and supposedly 'improved' hotel system seems to have been a serious disaster. Thankfully, it turned out well for myself though I chalk this up to pure luck. I submitted around 9:03 and got my 3rd choice — the Omni. No complaints at all on the hotel choice, but again the reservation system seems to have failed for many. The processing of orders by time stamp does not seem to have happened as we would have expected.

  • Diane

    Submitted at 9:08 & got a hotel over 5 miles away in Mission Valley (not in my top 12) for $175 a night!

  • bango skank

    little late to the party but i just went to check on prices for passes to find out they're alreadt sold out almost a month ago. if sd cant accommodate the currently ballooning size of the convention, it needs to be moved somewhere that doesn't have some po dunk tiny ass convention center and shit for lodging accommodations.

    just bite the fucking bullet and move it to la.

  • bango skank

    little late to the party but i just went to check on prices for passes to find out they're alreadt sold out almost a month ago. if sd cant accommodate the currently ballooning size of the convention, it needs to be moved somewhere that doesn't have some po dunk tiny ass convention center and shit for lodging accommodations.

    just bite the fucking bullet and move it to la.

  • Jim

    Great article. Seems to me Comicon saying they will move is just a bargaining chip to get the city of San Diego to start coughing up some hotels and expand their facilities. At Wondercon, they used other hotels and a nearby movie complex in addition to Moscone Center. It would be well to do the same at San Diego. I've been to Comicon twice and this year will be my third year. I got a four day pass and found a Hostel to stay at using Shared showers but cheap little rooms.

  • Jim

    NerdOverload: You may not be a moron, but you certainly don't understand comics conventions. If the lines are really that bad and all, then don't go. Boycott it. I'd rather have arrogant guys like you not show up than anything. You're right, you don't need it. Obviously you're still going though, even though you don't understand the purpose of a comicon. Don't be so serious.

  • jim

    Really? Do tell.

  • jim

    SF has several cons. Actually the San Jose one cancelled so we have room for SDCC!

  • FHW

    The problem isn't the number of rooms. San Diego has plenty of hotels. It's just that the hotels have become greedy come convention time and aren't blocking off enough rooms for Comic Con's hotel system to answer demand. (And, for the record, Downtown L.A. doesn't have enough hotels in walking distance of the convention center. I believe they have less hotels downtown than San Diego does).
    The problem is the size of the convention center in San Diego. Comic Con has simply outgrown this space. I don't, however, see a problem with capping the attendance at 150,000. That's a lot of people. Sometimes popular events sell out.

  • Brattius

    I have a room at Comic con in a convention partner hotel and I need help filling it up! If you know of anyone who is going who needs a place to stay, hit me up! Please!

  • Jmourgos

    Very good article. I have not seen any new news about any potential moving. From what I've read, SDCC is not moving because of a deal they made with the city. Don't know how true that is. This will be my third visit to SDCC, flying in from San Francisco. We already have Wondercon which is a smaller, saner experience. Hotels: I use Trip Advisor or Expedia and search out the $99 hostels. Separate showers but so what? European style and cheap rooms, a short walk to the convention. I won't tell you which one it is, that's a secret!

  • I hate travel planners!

    I'm a fast typer. Had 12 choices posted in 3 1/2 minutes! Got the Bayside Holiday Inn 5 miles away! Wasn't even on my list! Husband did the phone thing, took 5-6 minutes. He got nothing. We got screwed. Got back yesterday from comic-con and 5 days of TWO transfers on the STUPID shuttle! Thanks Travel A$%'ss!

  • Chris O'Rear

    Same problem with the hotels. We followed the rules and not only called but went online at the same time at exactly 9:00 am. On the phone they took my name and I got nothing. My wife did the online and got a hotel 5 miles away! This was all within the first 5 minutes! When we called to complain they put us on a waiting list. 2 months later they let us know the Towne and Country had openings… We do agree it is getting too big for San Diego. The shuttle buses did run well I thought but still, who really wants to drive around for 30 to 40 minutes to go 5 miles!

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  • Bunkyknudson

    So like everyone else,I get online,make my ten choices
    in record time and end up at the Holiday Inn by the airport which is
    five miles away. My first choice was the Manchester Grand Hyatt next door with a Comicon nightly rate of $260. ………Yesterday
    (April 19.2011) I got online to the Manchester Grand Hyatt and got a room for three nights ( for2 people) at a cost of $1583
    which had to be paid in full in advance with no refunds allowed. After I stopped hyperventilating and calmed down,I entered by credit card number,pressed the “make reservation”
    key and got my confirmation number….. Yes, I decided to bite the bullet and put out the cash, it was for a good cause……… .I also cancelled my reservation at the Holiday Inn Bayside, that was for a good cause also (it was five miles away)

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