Our own Erin used a condo this year and will be writing up a post about her own experience once she recovers from the past week. In the meantime, I’m going to write-up a little something about why a condo might be a good fit for you during San Diego Comic Con!
The number one reason is the fact that you could save some money. I say “could” because just like with hotels, prices are higher during Comic-Con. That just comes with the territory. You might not save money on the front end of things, but you might save money later on. I’ll get to that later. In my opinion, if you have a large group or it’s just 2-3 of you, a condo might be best price wise. Just like with a hotel, the more people you have to split the cost, the cheaper it becomes for everyone. The smaller your group, the more likely it is you’ll find a deal. I’m a perfect example. We’ve already booked our condo for next year and it’s just a little under $900. We paid $900 a person during SDCC 2011 for our hotel. Yes, that says per person. We were able to find a studio condo in the Gaslamp for less than what we paid for a hotel last year. The kicker? The condo is actually two buildings down from the hotel we used in 2011. Because it’s just two of us, we didn’t need much when looking for a place to stay. We needed to be in the Gaslamp and it needed to be affordable. We managed to find something that fit both of those needs. If it’s just 2-3 of you attending, don’t be quick to remove a studio condo from your options. When you think about it, it’s no different from a hotel room. You’ll just want to make sure there’s enough sleeping room for everyone. Some only have one bed but offer a couch or pull out bed. You’ll need to read the description and if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask!
Now, what about saving on the “back-end” of things? If you have a car during Comic-Con, you’ll see the most savings when using a condo. Why? Parking. In most cases the condo will come with a parking spot. I’ve seen some that even have two spots. I don’t need to tell you guys that parking at a hotel is beyond expensive. I believe our hotel last year was $30 a night. If you’re there 6 nights, that’s $180 your “wasting.” That’s a good chunk of change you could be using to buy awesome exclusives! The only thing is that in some cases the parking spot is tiny. We already know that the place we picked has a spot “big enough” for a compact car. I’ve used a condo on vacation before (Miami) and can vouch for how small those spots can be. If you have a larger vehicle, be sure to check to see if your car will fit. They might offer another option for parking or you might even want to look into renting a smaller car if you can afford it. Of course if you’re car-free during SDCC, none of this will affect you!
Another way you could end up saving is on little things like laundry and dining out. You always think you bring enough clothes until you end up with a crapload of events to attend. Melinda had to send out for dry cleaning last year and it wasn’t cheap. In most cases a condo will come with a washer/dryer. I’ve seen a few that even said that while they didn’t have one on-site, they did have a deal with a local dry cleaner and your clothes would be free! Plus you never know when you might end up with a stain on an outfit. Now you don’t have to worry about it setting in and ruining your clothes, See, it’s the little things in life! When you live in a hotel for a week, you end up dining out for a week. Well, you can kiss that goodbye with a condo. You’ll have a kitchen that’s ready to go! I can’t even guess how much we spent on dinner when we went last year but at least twice we “splurged” and I know it had to be $60 a person. Now you can prepare your own meals and not only save money, but time. You’ll no longer be standing in line waiting for a table. As we all know, at Comic-Con, time is money.
A few other things to keep in mind is that some do have pools and other amenities just like a hotel. You’ll find that information in the listing. If a pool is important to you (it’s up there for me), you can always slim down your search by adding that information. Plus if your place does have a pool, you won’t have to worry about it being off-limits because an event is taking place there. You won’t have to deal with crowds either. While I loved the hotel we had last year, it was a bit of a pain during party nights to have to show our keycard and wait for an elevator because the celebrities were using the other one. Many condos offer free wi-fi as well which is a huge plus during Comic-Con! If you have a blog to update or just want to upload photos to FB, it’s a pain in the ass to do it on a slow network or have to pay some crazy amount to use it.
Ok, this all sounds great but where do you even look? I use VRBO when looking for a place to stay. How it works is the homeowner lists their property and VRBO helps you get in contact with the owner. It’s almost like Hotels.com but for rentals. You’ll find photos, reviews, maps and more with each listing. Many even have calendars to show what dates are open. Now, keep in mind that we’re about a year out from Comic-Con 2013. I wouldn’t even waste my time looking at the calendar, I would just contact the owner asking A) are they booking for Comic-Con 2013 yet and B) if so, what are the rates. In some cases you’ll even find the rates listed, including “special event” rates. If you notice they give a range, you can probably assume that the larger amount would be the Comic-Con rate. Along with the rates, you’ll be able to see if they charge a cleaning fee or other charges. In most cases you’ll need to put something down as well to hold your spot. We had to put 1/3 down which wasn’t bad at all. Some will ask for half though. It all depends on the owner.
The most important thing to remember is if you have questions, ask! If something in their listing isn’t 100% clear, add it to a list of questions for them. The last thing you want is a miscommunication and then to end up unhappy with your choice once you reach San Diego. One thing I noticed when searching was some claimed to be Gaslamp but weren’t. If you aren’t sure about the area they claim to be in, do a Google search or even use Google maps to see if you can get a better idea.
Now, this part is very important. If you’re going to rent a larger condo/house, be sure that everyone is onboard! I’ve been stuck having to cover more than I thought and it sucks. I know we’re a year out and anything can happen in that time but you want to make sure everyone is in. There’s a big difference in price between 8 people staying at a large place and 4 people. That can kill a budget. Now, the good thing is most have a pretty good cancellation policy but you’ll need to ask about it. You might be penalized if you wait too long. Of course if you don’t care about staying with random people, I’m sure you could find a fellow Con attendee who would be happy fill a void.
Man, I didn’t expect this post to be this long. There’s just a lot of information and things to think about when renting a condo. It isn’t for everyone and isn’t always worth but I think SDCC is one of those events where it doesn’t hurt to look at all the options. Just think about it, you’ll be able to relax when everyone else is going through Hotel Hell!