Sunday, April 8, 2012

SDCC 2012: The Battle For Hotel Rooms - Round 2 Is Coming

When SDCC hotel bookings became centralized via Travel Planners (TP) last year, there was already a sense of panic about the limited available rooms for that one weekend in July.

And things didn't let up this year either.

Even though Red Dot Diva and her frenemy @eserei27 managed to get SDCC passes last year, they were not able to secure a room even as early as August 2011. None of the downtown hotels would entertain any advanced booking request!

In order to get a hotel downtown or somewhere nearby a trolley or shuttle route, one had little choice but to be ridiculously famous, able to hack into a downtown hotel computer system, or wait for SDCC hotel bookings to open up on 29 March at 9am PST.  Reading the booking instructions which were sent a few days before and waiting for registrations to open were almost causing Red Dot Diva a minor nervous breakdown.

Coincidentally, SDCC 2012's Epic Rush For Shelter came in the shadows of the movie box office hit, "The Hunger Games". The urgency to compete for limited room did seem even more intense and many were geared up for the kill.

So, what was the final outcome of that morning's race for rooms? Well, the hotel allocations were not announced till towards the end of April Fool's Day. And mostly, it turned out to be a bad joke for many.

If you didn't get in your registration within the first 5 minutes, the likelihood of you getting a hotel room allocation was practically zilch. And for several who did get theirs within 5 minutes (with some even choosing a list of 10 hotels), they were (not) surprisingly left without a room allocation too! Conversely, Red Dot Diva knew of quite a few people who only listed a couple of hotels and got their first or second choice. It seemed so random!

Sitting by the comp waiting for the emails to trickle in was a nerve-wrecking experience. And Red Dot Diva knew her group was going to get allocated unfavourable locations (if there was indeed any allocation at all), when they did not receive their emails after people got their Westin hotel bookings. The hotel room allocations were emailed alphabetically and the rest on the list were farther out in Mission Valley.

True enough, one of her roomies was allocated Sheraton at Mission Valley and the other at Town and Country. Red Dot Diva, who had her registration in at the 7-minute mark, was not allocated any at all. After doing a bit of research, the Sheraton just looks really dingy. So, @eserei27 quickly placed a deposit for the Town and Country. At least our group had a room! It was a small comfort, and with the shuttle running 24-hours this year, commuting would not be as much of a pain. Even if the Town and Country was 5 miles (about 8 km) away from the convention centre.

After the 1st  round of emails were sent out, there was a lot of speculation about how TP assigned the hotel room registrations. Apparently, TP had about 20 people hired to process the registrations by hand during that weekend. It still doesn't explain why some people who submitted early were not given rooms! Was there an internet/ website blackout for a couple of minutes or seconds so that they were not time-stamped correctly?

To give TP some credit, from what Red Dot Diva saw, this year's hotel booking and allocation process by TP was faster and less hiccup-y than in 2011. But the allocation method was certainly still very very mysterious.

Well, the SDCC hotel room lottery is not over yet.

There would definitely have been some cancellations and hotel swappings since 1 April, and come 10 April, some rooms may miraculously be made available for Round 2 of The Battle for SDCC Hotel Rooms. Details about the second round of registrations are still forthcoming from SDCC, although Red Dot Diva hears that only Mission Valley hotels would be opened up for this opportunity. However, this may yet be a better than nothing chance for those who do not have any rooms at all.

What is one to do if you do not have a room allocation from TP? There are other options available of course.

If you are rich in moolah, there are a couple of swanky resorts and penthouses available that week -- all at a hefty price in the region of USD4,500 to $5,500/ week. Or, if you are the aquatic type and not prone to sea-sickness, you could consider renting a yacht. Or post vigourously in forums/ Twitter/ Facebook to see if anyone is looking for an extra roomie. Finally, if you are willing to take the risk and wait, there should be rooms freed up when the deposits are due for payment in June. Because by June 2, all deposits become non-refundable.

There is still 94 days more to SDCC.

So, they may be HOPE yet!

Update: Well, Red Dot Diva and her roomies decided to become poorer but happier by quickly booking a room at the Mariott Marquis and Marina - just walking distance away from the convention centre. They are now looking for a 5th roomie to help defray costs. If you are interested to room with a cool bunch of international geek gals (from USA, Canada and Singapore!), tweet @eserei27 for more details!

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