San Diego Comic-Con Hotel Sales Simplified: Early Bird vs. General

San Diego Hotels City View - Hyatt Embassy Hilton Early BirdEvery year, we get a lot of questions about the difference been the Early Bird Hotel Sale and the General Hotel Sale, and which one is right for you.

For that reason, we’ve attempted to break it down, and make it as simple as we can.

First, the basics:

Early Bird Hotel Sale

  • Mission Valley and Airport hotels ONLY
  • Prepayment for entire stay is required
  • Non-refundable
  • Most rooms require 3-4 nights minimum stay

General Hotel Sale

  • All hotels – Downtown, Mission Valley, Airport, Shelter Island and more
  • Prepayment for two nights stay is required
  • Refundable up to a certain point (2017 dates: May 15 for full refund, June 6 for full refund minus one night’s stay)
  • No minimum stay

But obviously, there’s more to consider than just the simple facts. What about price? Availability? Which hotel is best for you?

Those sort of questions become less about which hotel sale is right for you, and more about which area is right for you. We recommend you read our Count/Counterpoint for both Staying Outside the Gaslamp and Staying Downtown, but here is a quick list of pro’s and con’s about each area.

Courtyard Marriott Mission ValleyOutside the Gaslamp

  • Cheaper (prices range from $181 – $219 for single occupancy in 2017) – This is the #1 selling point for staying outside of downtown, as trying to stay closer to the action can eat a huge chunk in your wallet.
  • Shuttle access – Most of the hotels have shuttle access, meaning a safe, Comic-Con International shuttle bus will pick you up and drop you off relatively near your hotel. You may still be doing some walking though, which is why Option B is always:
  • Parking – You can always pay to park around the convention center – and Ace Parking holds a sale every year, so you know ahead of time where you’ll be parking, and don’t have to worry about circling all of downtown until you find an open spot. But this could also eat into your budget.
  • Away From the Action – You might view this as a pro or a con, depending on your own feelings toward noise and action. If the idea of being far away from the parties and inside your nice, quiet room instead after a long day at the convention center sounds like heaven to you, this might be the way to go. If it sounds awful, well, let us introduce you to the Gaslamp District, where the party doesn’t stop (until Sunday night, when it becomes a ghost town).
  • Much Easier To Get – We’re not going to say that you can always find a further out hotel, but they’re certainly not as in demand as the downtown options. Which can do amazing things for your stress levels.

Inside the Gaslamp

  • More Expensive (prices range from $180 – $352 in 2017) – There’s really no such thing as a cheap hotel during San Diego Comic-Con, but there’s no doubt about it: a downtown hotel is going to cost you more.
  • Within Walking Distance – One of the biggest selling points of staying downtown, though, is that you can walk just about anywhere. That means what you’re spending on the hotel room, you’re probably saving on parking (and in time waiting around on shuttle buses – never underestimate the value of your time). Walking around the Gaslamp and downtown is also a great way to run into offsites you maybe didn’t even know were there, and experience a fuller, more complete Comic-Con. Plus, if you’re lining up for Hall H or Ballroom 20 at night, having the option to walk to your hotel for a shower and a change of clothes is much easier if your hotel is a five to ten minute walk, rather than a 20 minute drive.
  • In the Heart of the Action – Especially at night, you can barely walk out the door of your hotel without tripping over two parties. Staying downtown makes the convention seem like it goes all hours of the night, which can either be a good thing, or a bad one.
  • Harder to Get – When Hotelpocalypse hits, you will feel the stress like you have never felt stress before in your life. Why? Because there are about somewhere less than 130,000 attendees trying for just 11,205 possible available downtown hotel rooms (and in reality, there’s less than that). The process in 2017 was based on luck, rather than speed – but it doesn’t make the drawn-out process any less stressful. However, CCI is often able to offer some of these returned rooms to those who didn’t score a downtown hotel and wanted one, but don’t count on absolutely getting a downtown hotel just because you want one. Like with all things at Comic-Con, demand simply outweighs supply.

Do you have a preference for staying inside or outside the Gaslamp? Let us know in the comments.

About Kerry Dixon

Kerry Dixon is Editor-in-Chief of The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog and the site’s resident panel guru.

  • Randy Nickel

    How in the world does anyone get all that information done in under two minutes?

  • Ed

    This is gonna be my first time, so i wanna book somewhere near to gaslamp… just to complete my entire life-dream.

  • semigeekgirl

    Google auto-fill and sheer panic-induced speed. At least for me.

  • Jon Racasa

    i already have enough stress from badge sales now that its purely a lottery system so when it comes to hotels… i just go with the early bird option. i’m not really much for partying at SDCC so i’m glad to be far away from the gaslamp. i also love that i take care of the hotel payment now and when SDCC rolls around, i don’t have to worry about paying for the room and i’ll have that money for food and spending money.

  • Ashley Snowden

    I have done all three, the drive in, outside of Gaslamp, and in Gaslamp. I do prefer Gaslamp and have found if you stay at the “edge” your don’t get sucked into the party life if you are not a “partier” and actually use your room to sleep.

  • Bobobo

    FYI, if someone has a lot of money and does not want to go through the general sale on March 24, then they can actually reserve some nearby hotels for some outrageous prices right now. Just checked the Hilton and Marriott websites. Like the 2 next door hotels, Hilton Bayfront is from $900 per night while Marriott Marquis is from $700 per night, crazy!

  • Mollie P

    “Plus, if you’re lining up for Hall H or Ballroom 20 at night, having the
    option to walk to your hotel for a shower and a change of clothes is much easier if your hotel is a five-ten minute walk, rather than a 20 minute drive.” Make that a 45 minute shuttle ride sometimes.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve already booked my early bird hotel. I enjoy the peace of knowing that I’ve secured a place to sleep during the con. ALSO I’m not made of money, feel me? PLUS sleeping ballroom 20 line is the worst and makes me hate everything so never again.

  • We don’t have any special trick other than “type like your life depends on it”.

  • Randy Nickel

    lol…alrighty then 🙂

  • Christine S

    I’ve always stayed in Mission Valley (Hotel Circle), but this is the first year my sister and I have done the early bird sale. We’ve always just booked ourselves in the past but this year the Kings Inn (where we’ve stayed the last 3 years) was already booked, at least according to their website) and there didn’t seem to be a lot of availability on Hotels.com. We’re just really comfortable with Hotel Circle. We know how to get there and how to get to the Con from there. We’re creatures of habit, what I can I say 🙂 Anyway, I like being away from the action for a bit and it’s affordable. I agree with Jon, it’s nice to pay now and then build up some spending money over the next four months. And I love the shuttles. It’s a very well-run operation.

  • SDCC Virgin

    This will be my first time. I have a room booked down in National City temporarily since I saw the trolley ride is not too long but I fear for the safety of the area…LOL. I’m hoping to try for a downtown hotel in the open sale. My only concern with the ones out on mission valley – getting on that shuttle bus – is it hard? Do you have to wait for a few buses to go by because perhaps they’re already full? What kind of wait time are you looking at? Are the trolley stations nearby just in case? And then it kills me that all these hotels (downtown or out on hotel circle) charge for parking. Totally not cool.

  • jm5150

    practice practice practice… I have a homemade mock copy of the form and every year i practice. It boils down to muscle memory. for example:when at came to selecting hotels I learned hitting “M” so many times after clicking in the field would give my my correct hotel pick (M being the first letter of that hotel would “tab” through all hotels that begin with “M”)so that turned into something like ‘click, H H H… enter, click, M M M M… enter click. B B… enter …etc” (or something like that, havent started practicing yet) once you practice this enough you just know it. You dont look at it, you just type youre desired “code” so to speak(just a memorized chain of tabs, mouse clicks, letters, names address etc). Once i got this down and typed “like the dickens” in all my name fields, i was able to get it filled out in about 45-50 seconds (in practice anyway). Once it goes live im more nervous so get in around 1:20- 1:30. this is what i LOVE about the hotel sale though. If i WORK HARD it improves my chances, unlike EVERYTHING else now where i just log in, wait and hope im “lucky” (im not 99% of the time). If the hotel sale turns to a lottery system, I wont be going back to SDCC.

  • Amy Mueller

    When are the hotel choices and prices posted for the general sale? It’s less than a week away! I want to practice.

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  • Sylverster Tillingsgrad

    I stay with my sis/bro-in-law in a timeshare near the City College. 2 block walk to the trolley or the nearest Bus Stop (8th and A). The walk to the Convention (mostly downhill) is not objectionable, and we’re not spring chickens.

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  • Almost Sober

    You might want to try the Sheraton on Harbor island. I have stayed there the last 4 years. It’s a fairly short ride on the shuttle. We gave actually walked back there after eating at Joe’s Crab Shack the last couple of years just to take in the waterside scenery.

  • Almost Sober

    My very first year I stayed at The Marriott Marquis attached to the convention center. It was great and convenient, however, our room faced the trolley and it was noisy. Also a lot of noise in the hotel. If I was an all night partier I probably wouldn’t have minded, but I get up early, line up for panels and return late. I value my 4 hours of sleep. LOL. After staying on Harbor Island the second year, I decided it was more to my liking. The shuttle runs often, the ride is short, the hotel is a lot less hopping. I still go out and do my thing downtown, just have to wait for the good old yellow shuttle to get back to my room.

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