Last year in our recap of the disastrous downtown hotel sale we said, “it won’t be a surprise if this comedy of errors is the catalyst for a switch to a truly random hotel lottery next year.” Well, guess what?
The first details of Tuesday’s hotel sale are out, and it’s official: it’s a lottery.
Similar to badge sales, the hotel sale will now utilize a waiting room and randomized entry. You’ll then do the same as you did before, which is enter your personal info and your top six hotel choices. It’s still going to be a few days before you hear back from onPeak (formerly Travel Planners) as to what hotel you’ve been booked in.
At the WonderCon Talk Back last weekend, CCI president John Rogers responded to a question about the Comic-Con hotel sale by saying it would be the “same kind of process, with some wrinkles.” This suggests the request form will be the same as last year, but the wrinkles will be the waiting room and randomized entry.
Access to the form will be done in random order, but onPeak will process requests based on the order the forms are received. This means there’s still something to be said for being familiar with the form and submitting as quickly as possible.
You can start preparing by reviewing the list of hotels on the Comic-Con website, but we’ve got lots of resources here for you. We’ll help you prepare with our usual photo guide, calculator and sortable spreadsheet, and soon we’ll have an updated video guide using the (functional) 2015 form.
- The waiting room opens at 6:00am PDT and closes at 9:00am PDT; random access to the form beings around 9:00am PST. If you are in another time zone, take note that California is now observing Daylight Saving Time.
- Emails with hotel assignments will be sent sometime on April 8.
- As usual, deposits will be required to hold your assigned hotel room. Deposits must be paid within 72 hours (which would be April 10).
The Waiting Room
The good news is that Comic-Con has experience with the waiting room and random access process, so hopefully it will work as planned. Unfortunately, this news also comes with slew of new questions and problems.
Notably, the hotel sale is still being conducted on a Tuesday morning. Previously, it was a few minutes frantically filling in an internet form. For many office-dwellers, it wasn’t too hard to carve a couple of minutes out of their morning. (Folks who work outside of an office have always found the Tuesday sale difficult, and have often taken vacation time or made other schedule rearrangements.)
Now, the hotel sale will undoubtedly take much longer. The waiting room is set to be open for a ridiculous three hours on Tuesday morning. That’s 6:00am – 9:00am Pacific, which spans essentially the entire morning rush hour. For east coasters, that means having a browser or tab open for your entire morning at work.
Moreover, it’s going to take much longer to move everyone through to fill out the form. Hopefully it doesn’t take as long as badge registration has taken – open registration last month took about an hour.
In theory, you don’t have to log in to the waiting room for the entire three hour waiting period. However, we generally recommend logging in as early as you possibly can, given the history of technical errors Comic-Con has. But if you work or have other commitments on Tuesday morning, you’ll need to consider the possibility at least making the bandwidth available for the sale for a four-hour block – from the time the waiting room opens at 6:00am and including about an hour for the waiting room to spit everyone into a session with the form.
Even the waiting room times for badge registration has been drastically reduced in recent years, down to only an hour. Four hours blocked off for a sale on a weekday morning, during commute times, is frankly unacceptable. Once again, the company formerly known as Travel Planners has failed to anticipate the needs of their customers.
Screenshots & Photo Guide to the Hotel Form
Since the form is the same, we’ll point you to your photo guide from last year, which features the 2014 request form.
Check back this weekend for a video walkthrough that shows the 2015 hotel form.
Calculator and Spreadsheet
Back again this year is our updated hotel spreadsheet with calculator!
We recommend you download your own copy so you can check out your possible total costs using the calculator.
New on the spreadsheet this year:
- Estimated travel times on the shuttle route
- A new “hotel ID” number so you can tell which hotels are the same as last year but have simply changed names
- Taxes, including the 2% tourism assessment, are included in the total calculator
- Updated parking fees
And as always, our SDCC Hotel spreadsheet includes:
- A calculator that will tell you your total for each with tax and parking included
- Room fees for all Travel Planners hotels, 2013 – 2016
- Total number of rooms per hotel
- Links to the hotel’s website
- Early Bird discount details
Full refunds will be available until April 30. From May 1 to June 1, a cancellation fee equal to one night’s rate will be charged. After June 2, your hotel deposit is non-refundable.
Use a computer.
The waiting room and form are not optimized for smart phones, and Comic-Con specifically recommends you access the sale via desktop.
Copy and paste the URL to the waiting room.
Comic-Con specifically wants you to cut and paste the URL to the waiting room. In years past, the waiting room has handled the user load, but the URL redirect service sometimes used in emails has crashed. Copy-pasting the URL will solve this problem.
Sort out your hotel choices in advance if you’re part of a group.
Unlike previous years where everyone has access to the request form at the same time, this year you may have access to the form several minutes earlier than other members of your group. However, your hotel assignments will still be processed in the order in which they are recieved.
This means that there’s not much point to you and your group all submitting for the same hotels when you will be submitting at different times.
So, you may want to try a different approach: one option is to have a list of more than six hotels: the first person in submits for your top six, and the next person submits for the next six hotels on the list. If you haven’t heard from anyone in your group when you’re let into a request form session, just submit your top six – you might all be in a session at the same time, and then it is a race against the clock.
Don’t submit duplicate forms.
It does not appear that any kind of Member ID log in will be required, or that any unique key to enter the waiting room will be sent out. This means that there is seemingly no limit on the number of browsers or computers you could have open in the waiting room at one time.
If you make duplicate submissions, the “latest” form will be accepted. There are no further details on what qualifies something as duplicate; however, in years past it has appeared to be based on email addresses.
Deactivate browser extensions.
We recommend you deactivate any ad blockers, script blockers, or other browser extensions as they may cause the waiting room or the form itself to fail to load on your computer.
Factor parking costs into your total budget.
Parking at downtown hotels runs about $40 a night. That can quickly blow your budget; you may find that your “cheaper” pick with a lower nightly rate is actually more expensive once you add in parking fees. If you’re planning to park at your hotel, make sure you’ve calculated your total with these fees! The calculator in our spreadsheet can do this automatically.
Don’t forget about tax.
If that $250/night room is already straining your wallet, it’s going to be even worse once the 10.565% room tax is added. Use the calculator in our spreadsheet.
Notice how many rooms your top hotels have.
These are also in our spreadsheet – although not every room at a hotel is available during the Travel Planners sale, knowing this will give you an idea of your chances.
Compare the total room count at these popular hotels:
- Hard Rock: 420
- Hilton Bayfront: 1190
- Hilton Gaslamp: 286
- Manchester Grand Hyatt: 1628
- Embassy Suites: 341
- Town & Country: 940
- Residence Inn Downtown: 121
If you’re a slower typist, you might want to consider bigger hotels that will have more rooms and therefore a greater chance for you.
Skip the lottery and do the Early Bird sale.
If all this is too much, buy through the Early Bird sale. The Early Bird prices are valid until 8:00am Tuesday, April 5. If you don’t think you’ll be lucky enough for a room in the lottery, and you don’t mind taking the trolley or driving to the convention center, save yourself the stress and get a discount through the Early Bird sale. Most of these Mission Valley rooms will be available again after the lottery is over, but the prices will be slightly higher.
We’ll see you on Twitter Tuesday morning as we all wait in the waiting room. Good luck!
Featured photo: San Diego from Coronado by Photos By Clark on Flickr.