You jumped through all of the hoops — set an alarm, gathered your snacks, watched the circle spin and the man run, and stuck around as badge inventory dwindled — only to strikeout. If you participated in the Returning Registration lottery and the Open Registration lottery, you may have even struck out twice in your quest for San Diego Comic Con badges. Now you have to ask yourself, “Should I attend SDCC without a badge?”

The short answer is no.

While that didn’t used to be the case, these days it’s not worth the hassle if you’re not already local. Granted, everyone goes to SDCC for their own reasons and if you can enjoy San Diego Comic Con without heading into the convention center, by all means… But for those of you on the fence now that you find yourself without a badge, consider these things.

Hotel Competition

A coveted downtown hotel will run you between $200 (for the Best Western) to over $450 (for the Pendry) per night and may go up if you’re looking for more than one bed. Remember that “downtown” doesn’t necessarily mean “close to the convention center,” as some of the hotels labeled downtown are nearly two miles away.

At that point, public transportation gets involved or you have the stamina to survive four miles of walking outside of the non-stop walking occurring around the convention center.

This is all assuming you actually make it through one of Comic Con International’s lotteries because, like badges, hotels are mostly up to chance. The Unofficial Blog does a good job of trying to figure out how things are determined within the hotel lottery from year to year, but the usual answer is to shrug your shoulders and hope you get an email at all.

SDCC 2019 was the first year where I got no offer of a hotel, downtown or otherwise, and filled out the form within the first three minutes.

Offsites Becoming Experiences

Nerd HQ didn’t happen, the Wired Cafe became some sort of weird karaoke bus, Westworld season three is too far out to have come to SDCC and Game of Thrones is over — so many of the familiar offsites from the past few years were absent from SDCC 2019. Whether shows ended, production companies were priced out due to the rising costs of renting space during SDCC, or other reasons unknown to us, the fact of the matter is that these extravagant offsite locations were not there and in most cases, it was felt.

Not only are offsites disappearing, but they seem to be downsizing and becoming “experiences” as well. It’s amazing to get to feel like you’re in an episode of Brooklyn 99, solving a case and competing against other teams to do it, but when that experience happens once every half hour for thirty people at a time it becomes more memorable for how long you sat (stood or camped out) in line to actually get to the experience. And if you came for swag, only the winning team out of three actually go home with a prize.

FX scaled back their lounging areas, though their lines have always been a long wait. Amazon did have the space for lounging, thankfully, since they were on par with Brooklyn 99 wait times for huge, immersive experiences. If you wanted to dedicate a day entirely to three Amazon shows, it was very possible.

As offsites move towards sweeping, immersive experiences, lines are only going to get longer and sunburns are only going to get worse during the wait to maybe get some swag. We’ve been talking about how to make offsites better since 2017, so it’s safe to say we’re not huge fans in their current state.

The Expenses

Yes, you’re saving money by not having a badge, but there are other expenses that add up.

If you’re not local, there are travel expenses to get to the convention. And if you are local, there are potentially parking fees to think about. If you need a hotel, they start at $180 a night and only go up from there. But, if you need any kind of public transportation — don’t fool yourself, we always end up taking at least one Uber or Lyft outside of the usual to and from the airport trips — you’ll need to factor that into your budget.

There’s food, there are offsite events that required paid ticket entry (podcast recordings, comedy shows, concerts, afterparties, etc), and there’s the potential to buy swag in pop-up shops as well. It all adds up slowly, but surely. 

These considerations may turn you off of San Diego Comic Con completely without a badge or they may make you more determined than ever to get there. The Gaslamp is a sight to behold during SDCC and there are plenty of things to keep you busy (in lines or otherwise), but hopefully, this has given you something to think about for San Diego Comic Con 2020 and beyond — you know our thoughts on the matter.

Let us know in the comments if you’re still asking yourself, “Should I attend SDCC without a badge?” or if we’re completely off track! Did some of these points resonate with you and are you reconsidering or are you still planning to head to the convention?

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