Planning for Your First San Diego Comic-Con: A How-To Guide (Part 2)

Hotel, Parking & Passes, oh my!

Finally, Part 2! It’s been a busy couple of months for me, and my planning sensibilities have been on overload. However, I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging, so for your reading pleasure, here’s Part 2 of How To Survive San Diego Comic-Con (with your sanity intact). Here’s Part 1 for reference 🙂

In conjunction with my initial research and provision preparations, I tackled what could have been the most costly part of the trip – our accommodations. As a newbie travel hacker, I have been steadily accruing Hilton Honors points for some time through a credit card signup bonus and everyday spending, and although I had earmarked the points for a different trip, I knew the only way we’d be able to swing this trip was by using all available resources. Thankfully, I found a Hilton Garden Inn not too far from the convention center for 40,000 points per night, and since we were driving down and not taking the train, we could afford the commute.

Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Mission Valley Stadium Hotel, CA - Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Mission V
Hilton Garden Inn San Diego Mission Valley Stadium Hotel (source: Hilton)

If you’re looking to save money, booking somewhat last minute or don’t mind driving to and from the area around the convention center, I highly recommend staying at a hotel like this one. In fact, many SDCC attendees were staying at the same hotel, so unless you’re fifty miles out, you’ll probably be in good costumed company.

One thing attendees also need to take into consideration is transportation, especially if you’re staying at accommodations that aren’t within walking distance to the convention center. Many travelers take the train to and from San Diego for the weekend which is great if you’re staying in the immediate area, but if you’re like us, you’ll want to make sure you explore all of your options. Taking our own vehicle gave us more freedom to kind of come and go as we pleased, but it also meant figuring out logistics about where to park during the day, parking fees, and ultimately getting to the convention center proper. If you decide to drive, take note – UNLESS YOU’RE AN EXHIBITOR OR GOD, YOU CANNOT PARK AT THE CONVENTION CENTER.

During my initial research, I realized that as nice as it would be, we weren’t desperate enough to spend $75-$100 PER DAY to park within walking distance of the convention center. Bear in mind, I can be incredibly lazy and have no qualms about shelling out cold hard cash to make life easier, but in this instance, it simply wasn’t worth it. Thankfully, SDCC’s website had some useful information about different parking locations, which led me to SpotHero, a parking site that listed everywhere to park and the cost for each. I ended up choosing a shady looking parking lot posted for $10 a day that could be pre-paid ahead of time. The best part? RetailMeNot had several different discount codes, so I ended up paying $10 on day 1, $3 on day 2 and $8.50 on day 3.

Parking lot 851, home sweet home (source: Google Maps)

Mr. P² was a bit apprehensive, to say the least. The parking lot had no security, and did not feel like the safest place to be after dark. He was also curious how we would get to the convention center with almost 3.5 miles between us and it – SDCC website to the rescue. I would say the best and most well-organized part of SDCC was their free shuttle system, which stopped at various locations on various routes to ensure maximum transportation coverage. The closest stop to us was right across the street at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, and shuttles ran so often we never waited more than ten minutes.

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The 2017 SDCC Shuttle Pickup Locations (not my photo) – our pickup was around #49

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t touched on the inevitable struggles for obtaining not one, but TWO passes for us. Several of my friends who go every year have legendary stories of clicking and refreshing their browsers for hours when passes go on sale to the general public, and while thankfully I’ve only had to do that once in my life for a different reason (damn you, Hamilton) I’ve got a bit of a secret to tell – we got our passes through friends who know people in the industry. Remember at the beginning when I said I was using all available resources? That applied across the board, down to begging, prostrating and very nearly performing unspeakable acts to get our passes for free. It was only by incredibly good luck that the stars aligned enough for us to pull this off, so in the interim, I’d recommend getting your passes the old-fashioned way – get up at the crack of dawn and keep refreshing your browser along with all the other fans.

I’ll probably do one more part to wrap up this How-To guide. Honestly, the hardest part of this whole endeavor was locking down the hotel once I knew we were going. Since I didn’t book until March 2018, I was honestly terrified that we would have to sell a kidney or two to afford a semi-decent room. Thankfully, we were flexible in our planning and ultimately ended up finding a happy medium.

All the best,

Mrs. P²

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