Nerds, we’ve made it. Some of us survived #4BadgeSalesInAYear, some of us didn’t – but it’s done, it’s over, and we can all breathe one big sigh of relief knowing whether or not we’re able to attend San Diego Comic Con 2018… if we’ll have somewhere to sleep besides the Hall H line is yet to be determined.

So what’s left that could possibly set our anxiety levels sky-high once more? Hotelpocalypse, of course! It’s the next randomized lottery that no one can really figure out with any degree of certainty. The good news is, unlike badge sales, you can avoid the fuss if you’d like because Early Bird Hotel Sales are already open and accepting bookings. However, there are a few catches.

Now through April 25, 2018, your group can purchase a hotel room in the Mission Valley and Airport areas, both along the free shuttle route, and guarantee your housing. There are pros and cons to choosing this option, a list of which we’ve put together for your consideration here.

First, take a look at the aftermath of Hotelpocalypse last year. If you and your group do plan to gamble with the hotel sale, know that it’s usually held midweek in the morning, unlike badge sales. It’s another “randomized” waiting room, but whether onPeak uses the time you were given access to the form or the time you submitted it is still up for confusion and debate. New last year, there were two waves of notifications for hotels – in hopes that more people would get their top picks – but there’s been no word yet on whether that process will be repeated.

Second, peruse the pricing list of hotels from 2017. Depending on your group’s budget, the Early Bird Hotel Sales may make more sense not only stress-wise but financially as well. Remember, money saved on the hotel is more money for the convention itself! And you can’t beat a free continental breakfast at a further hotel.

Pros to Early Bird Hotel Sales

Convenience: As mentioned, your plans are settled and all you have to worry about now is travel plans (which are, thankfully, in your own control). All of the hotels listed by onPeak are guaranteed to be on the free shuttle route, which runs on Wednesday, July 18 from 3:00 PM until 10:00 PM. 24-hour shuttle service begins Thursday, July 19 at 7:00 AM and runs through Sunday, July 22 at 7:00 PM. The worst you’ll have to worry about is standing in the shuttle line to get to the convention center or back to your hotel – but you’re about to be a line-waiting pro, trust us.

Price: Did you have a mild heart attack looking at the Downtown hotel prices from 2017? If you can’t pack 12 people into your room to manage the price of one of the more expensive hotels (not that we’ve ever done that…), the Early Bird hotels are all reasonably priced around $200 and often come with extras like parking spaces (avoid the parking lottery and the hotel lottery in one booking!), free wi-fi, and breakfasts.

Food: Speaking of free continental breakfasts, the hotels further out often have their own set of cafes and restaurants near them that don’t charge as much as the restaurants and bars downtown. Consider this scenario: a free breakfast in your hotel, a lunch splurged in the Gaslamp, and a short shuttle ride back to your hotel – where you can walk to a restaurant of your choice while avoiding the larger comic con crowd and the ridiculous wait times.

Cons to Early Bird Hotel Sales

Booking Restrictions: Nearly all of the hotels require a 4-night minimum stay, including Friday 7/20 and Saturday 7/21, as well as the full price of the hotel stay paid in advance. If you were cringing about pricing before, having to drop a huge sum of money all at once may deter you from using this method to book a reservation. During the general sale, it’s only two nights plus tax and fees to secure a room. They’re also non-transferrable if you change your mind for any reason.

Non-Refundable: Not only are the Early Bird hotel rooms non-transferrable, but they’re non-refundable. Once you’ve paid the money for one of these rooms, it’s a done deal – either you’re keeping it or you’re losing your money. Now that badge sales are done, this might not be as big of an issue for most people – since they know whether or not they’re attending – but it’s no small amount of money to write off if you’re not 100% committed to going to San Diego Comic Con 2018.

Distance: Great for a more relaxed social atmosphere and avoiding long waits at restaurants, less great for anyone who wants the convenience of popping into their hotel room throughout the day. If your group likes to be in the middle of the action day and night, Early Bird hotels are not for you. Likewise, if you can’t stand waiting to either get to the convention center or go home at night, don’t want to plan 20-minute bus rides into your mornings, or want to experience more of the nightlife in the Gaslamp, these further hotels aren’t the best option for that.

There is time to think about all of these pros and cons with your group because Early Bird hotels usually sell out relatively slowly, but with badge sales being held so early this year it may be better to decide sooner rather than later. It’s also assumed that once the Early Bird Hotel Sale ends on April 25, 2018, the general sale will happen soon after as it has in previous years.

And of course, you could go through the nerve-wracking experience that is the general hotel sale and still find yourself unlucky with your hotel choices. It happens to the best of us and might make your group feel like you wasted your time, which is another thing to consider when you’re debating booking a hotel.

For more information about hotels, check out the SDCC Unofficial Blog’s simplified comparison of the Early Bird sales versus the general sale, including a look at what hotels inside and outside of the Gaslamp have to offer. Wayward Nerd has a third solution to hotels in their guide by suggesting that you can book through the hotels directly (which is $$$$$$) and The Geekiary also talks about the pros and cons of staying in other non-traditional housing like condos or hostels during your SDCC experience.

But at the end of the day, what’s our thoughts on Hotelpocalypse? We’ll always gamble for the Hilton Bayfront.

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