Cosplay convention hotel rooms are never easy to get. In this post, I’ll show how to deal with this problem!
Cosplay conventions are becoming more popular each year. However, with more popularity means the more difficult it is to get the hotel you want; convention hotel rooms selling out within minutes of opening is not uncommon these days. I feel like we are reaching a tipping point where it’s becoming the norm, and con attendees are fighting for hotel spots.
The hotels I’m talking about are the main official hotels, where most of the programming and activities take place. Examples are the Delta and Radisson for Anime North, Hyatt Regency for Anime Central, The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center for Katsucon and MAGFest, and the Kalahari hotel for Colossalcon. All of these hotels are either right beside the convention centre, or part of the convention itself. And of course they’re the most popular; who wouldn’t want to be an elevator ride away from the convention?
Take a look at Colossalcon for example. This year, they had people enter in a room lottery in order to decide who gets to book the main resort hotel for next year. That’s insane! And I remember reading about one year, when attendees waited in line on the Friday of the PREVIOUS year in order to secure a spot for the following year. Could you imagine spending most of your Friday standing in line so you can attend the con next year?
MAGFest used a similar lottery system to book their hotels. While attendees who bought a badge for were given priority, they still were randomized in terms of who got to reserve a room first. I think room lotteries are going to be more common in the near future, given the demand and popularity of conventions these days.
Is it always hard to snag convention hotel rooms?
To be fair though, your mileage will vary depending on how popular the con is, and more importantly, where the convention is located. If the convention takes place in the downtown area of a city, then it’s easier to book a hotel for that con (e.g. Otakuthon, Sakuracon). However, if it’s in the middle of nowhere, then those hotels are going to sell out immediately after they’re released! That’s probably why the main Colossalcon and MAGFest hotels get booked so fast; they take place on a resort, where accommodations are limited.
For those people who have booked con hotels the moment they come out, you know how much of a pain it is. Sure, “Hotel rooms open September 1 at 10:00AM” sounds simple. Just stop by the website at 10:00AM next Thursday, enter your credit card information and you’re done…But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
How’s it like to book convention hotel rooms that are high in demand?
This below is the REAL experience when a convention opens their main official hotel block:
9:59AM – You’ve booted up your computer and got that hotel website page ready to go. And you have your mobile phone ready just in case your computer crashes or whatever…
10:00AM – You’re excited to finally book the hotel room! You’ve already got cosplans in your head for the con next year!…But as soon as you press it, the hotel site crashes. Oh no!
10:01AM – Okay, so there’s probably hundreds of people trying to book the same hotel at the same time. Of course the website can’t handle the traffic. So you try again…the page is still crashing.
10:10AM – You’ve been trying to book a hotel for the past 10 minutes, but you still can’t get through. The page keeps crashing. You’re starting to panic as all your cosplans for next year are starting to fall apart because you might not get this hotel.
10:15AM – You check the Facebook page for the con, and you see so many others complaining about the same problem you’re having. Whoops! The con staff accidentally gave out the wrong code to book the hotel room. (This actually happened to me once, while booking a hotel for a very popular convention). So you try your luck again.
10:20AM – You try with the new code, but the page still crashes. So instead, you try calling the hotel. Line is busy. You actually got through once but the operator hung up on you.
11:39AM – You’ve been refreshing the page for over an hour. You start to wonder if the rooms sold out by now. Or if it’s worth going through all this. So you say to yourself, “I’ll try one more time.”
So you try one more time and…
11:40AM – Holy crap! After an hour of trying, the website page didn’t crash and you’re now able to book a room! However, you see that the 2 double bed rooms are completely sold out, even though you’ve clicked on that page repeatedly for nearly 2 hours. So now if you book this hotel room, your roommates are all sleeping on the same mattress in that King room (or someone will be sleeping on the floor). But you’ve spent all this time trying to book this stupid hotel, so you go ahead and book the room. And just when you entered your credit card info and click “Confirm”…
11:41AM – You get an “error” page before the confirmation screen went through! At this point, you’re screaming off the top of your lungs and throwing things in your bedroom. You’re so pissed off right now. How can a simple task of booking a hotel be so frustrating?
11:50AM – After a few more tries, you finally get through the hotel booking page and you the webpage says you booked the hotel…but your friend reminds you that the servers are so messed up, you’re not sure if you actually got a room. Your friend says you should wait until you get a confirmation email before ending your misery.
So now you wait for that email, refreshing your inbox every minute. Until finally…
12:30PM – You get the confirmation email from the hotel, and now you have one of the convention hotel rooms for next year and your cosplans aren’t up in flames. Whew. It’s finally over.
It ain’t easy getting convention hotel rooms!
This is the typical experience of an attendee trying to book the main convention hotel(s) for an upcoming convention. It’s stressful, frustrating and time-consuming. You basically have to devote a couple of hours of your day to get a hotel room for a convention one year in advance! It’s insane. But it’s not the convention’s fault: their hands are tied. There’s only so many hotel rooms to block off for attendees.
Is there a way to avoid this frustrating process of booking a hotel? Yes and no. If you’re willing to stay elsewhere during the convention, then it’s definitely entirely possible and for the most part, you’re not missing out much. But if you’re adamant about getting that one particular main hotel, then it will be difficult but certainly not impossible.
If you want the main official hotel
Here are some ways to help you succeed in booking a room in the main hotel:
1) Have your friends or roommates help you book the room at the same time
When you’re booking a hotel and the page keeps crashing, it’s a matter of luck to see who is able to book the room first. Why not get some help while trying to book the hotel? If you have your friends or roommates helping you out at the same time, eventually one of you will get through and once of you are able to secure the room, you can all log off and be done with it.
(Side note: Be respectful to the hotel staff and other attendees trying to get a hotel room. Don’t use dirty tricks like calling at 9:50AM, chit chatting with the hotel operators for 10 minutes on the phone so you can book it when 10:00AM hits.)
2) Obtain one of the convention hotel rooms by working as a GENUINE volunteer or staff
Some conventions offer free accommodations in the main official hotels for volunteering a certain amount of hours for them. Usually 16+ hours for the entire convention. Note that you should only do this if you genuinely want to help out. 16+ hours is a significant amount of time. Otherwise, if you’re only volunteering to get the hotel room, you will not enjoy yourself during the convention and the volunteer coordinator/staff will clearly see this. So again, this option is only if you genuinely want to help and be part of the convention.
3) Wait for last-minute cancellations
I made an entire post about booking a hotel last-minute for Anime North. But in general, people cancel last-minute for various reasons; plans change all the time. Many conventions have generous cancellation policies that encourage attendees to book as soon as possible, even if they’re not guaranteed to show up. So if they can’t make it, they can easily cancel without penalty. This is where you come in; when the convention is close (like a week or so), call the hotel and see if you can get a room with the convention block. Likely there will be extras because people cancel all the time.
4) Get the hotel room off of third party sites
I haven’t tried this yet, but apparently you can try booking a room through third party websites like Priceline or Hotels.com. It might be more expensive than the convention block price, but it’s another opportunity to secure a room if you’re willing to pay a bit more. Think of it as the SeatGeek or StubHub for hotel rooms.
5) Wait for spare convention hotel rooms or non-convention blocks to pop up at the last moment
For those who don’t know, almost every convention takes all of the hotel rooms in advance. This is called the “convention block.” So if you were to call or attempt to book the hotel on the same weekend, you wouldn’t be able to. That way, the convention can release the rooms when they like, as well as offer attendees the reduced rate. Part of the reason why convention hotel blocks are popular is because of the discount you get. A hotel that could cost up to $300 a night, can be as cheap as $160 a night with the convention.
However, sometimes the convention won’t take the entire hotel, leaving some regular hotel blocks for the public. If there are rooms available, then booking through the regular block can get you in. Keep in mind that the regular hotel blocks will be way more expensive than the convention block. So if you’re willing to fork up some money to get the hotel room, then booking through the regular block is definitely an option.
This happened to me once. When I stayed at the main Delta hotel for Anime North last year, some “normie” knocked on our door at 3 AM. We were playing Jackbox and apparently, we were too noisy for his family sleeping across the room from us. My first thought was, “Why did they stay at this hotel during a convention weekend?” Then my next thought was, “How the hell did they manage to get a room, when everyone else was fighting for one almost a year ago?” That normie must have booked when the public hotel block was released.
Alternatives to main convention hotel rooms
Alright, those are some ways to get your main hotel. But if you don’t actually mind staying elsewhere, here are your options:
1) Stay in an overflow hotel
If you’re unlucky and weren’t able to book an official hotel room before they sold out, then don’t worry. Most conventions have “overflow” hotels that can accommodate more attendees. They’re usually located close to the convention (though not as close as the main official hotels). And the convention even negotiates with these other hotels to reduce their rates. You’ll have to walk a bit further, or even take some form of transportation to reach the hotel from the convention centre. But it’s still a good, less stressful option.
Lately I’ve stayed at the Crowne Plaza for Anime North, which to me is an overflow hotel. It’s not as popular as the official hotel and as of right now, rooms were still available (while the Delta sold out immediately, the Crowne Plaza is still available after 2 months of opening). But I don’t care. It’s close enough to the convention, and there’s free parking! But more importantly, I didn’t have to go through the rat race of hoping for a room at the Delta. I woke up one day, decided to take out my credit card and booked it right away with no hassle whatsoever. Easy!
2) Stay in a different hotel/hostel further away
If you’re driving to the convention or you’re willing to utilize transportation such as public transit or taxis, then consider staying further out. You could save a lot of money this way!
For example, during MAGFest 2018, my buddy stayed at a Comfort Inn that was a 10-minute drive, instead of the Gaylord Hotel (the official one). When I went to MAGFest in 2016, the Gaylord Hotel was about $200+ USD a night. My buddy stayed at the Comfort Inn for $100 USD a night. Not only that, his 10-minute Uber ride there and back was only $5-$10. So my buddy saved at least $200 USD by staying at the Comfort Inn instead of the Gaylord! And believe me, $200 USD is a lot of money to us Canadians up here. 🙂
I stayed in one of the many hotels available at Sakuracon. While I was surprised how easy it was to get a hotel room, at the same time it was located in the heart of Seattle. So accommodations were plenty. But I wished I stayed at the hostel that was only a 10 minute walk from the convention. Would have saved me tons of money.
3) Go to another convention instead
Honestly, if the convention is going to be packed and you know ALL the hotels in the vicinity are booked or overpriced, then why bother going? To me, it’s not worth the hassle if attending the convention is a painfully complicated process. I’ll just save my money and go to a different convention. There are plenty of great cons today worth checking out, so it’s not worth getting fixated on attending a particular one.
Ideally, a great alternative for a convention to deal with overcrowding and with hotel room demands is to start another similar convention in the same year. It’s nice to see Colossalcon create another convention out in the east U.S. Apparently they had way more people attend the new convention this year.
So there you have it. While the convention hotel rooms and the demand aren’t going away anytime soon, there are either strategies to help you get that room you so desperately want. Or you can scope out alternatives and stay somewhere else. Hope this helps!