I attended my first San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. This was back when you could just get up and go. Seriously, I think Melinda and I decided to go a few months before tickets went on sale. It was back when you could just get on the website and order tickets. The days before a waiting room and Member IDs! Ah, those were the days. In total I’ve attended SDCC four times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) and honestly I have a blast every time. But this post isn’t about me, it’s about trying to help you. I’ll do my best to share what I can but at the end of the post you’ll find some links to some awesome resources. My first post is going to focus on costs/budgets!
This is probably the hardest part of attending. It’s not cheap. Yes, you can do it on a budget but for some of us it’s harder than others. I live on the East Coast which means I have to buy airfare. That can add up quickly. I normally use Southwest which helps with baggage but I’m still looking at close to $500 (if not more). If I’m lucky I can catch a sale but that’s not always an option. I know people who come from the UK and they’re looking at easily over $1,000. If you’re thinking of attending in the future and you’ll need to fly, start looking at what prices are now. Use that as a baseline for saving! Assume it’ll be higher because airlines, but it’ll give you a solid idea about cost.
Of course then you have hotels. Look, the prices aren’t horrible. I believe the highest via the hotel lottery is $350-$400? I might be wrong but I’m pretty sure it’s close to that. There are more affordable options too of $199 a night and everything in between. The best way to save money on a hotel is to obviously split it with friends, the more people the more you save. Just make sure everyone is 100% committed and that you’re not squeezing too many people into a room. I like saving money, but I like having a little space too. I know some people have had 6 people in a room but that’s not my style. If you aren’t worried about staying Downtown in the Gaslamp area, you can save money that way too. Personally, I love being in the Gaslamp. I’ve done Hotel Circle before and it’s just not for me. Just like with airfare, start looking around now to get an idea about your budget. Start asking friends if they’re interested in attending as well. Another option is to look into renting a condo. I’ve done this twice and while it use to be a great way to save money, the prices have risen a lot in recent years. Believe me, the people that live in San Diego know the deal and know they can get what they ask for. A condo is a great idea though for those of you with a large group. You normally have laundry and a kitchen which are simple ways to save money. If you’re thinking of going that route, start looking now. Seriously, once SDCC 2016 has past, start contacting them. I normally use sites like VRBO and Homeaway.
As far as spending money goes, well that’s where it all depends on you. Do you plan to eat out every day? Are you into exclusives? Are you attending events or parties that require a ticket? I’ve taken as much as $1,000 before to as low as $500. You know your spending habits best. Keep in mind, it all depends on how long you’re in town for as well. I’m someone who does about a week when I go. I try to get in on Sunday/Monday and stay until the Monday after SDCC. Obviously the longer you’re on vacation, the more money you need for basic needs like your room, spending money, and a rental car if you have one. I’ve only had a rental once and that was my first year. If you’re Downtown, you honestly have zero need for one. Hell, with shuttles even if you’re away from the action you really don’t need a car. In some cases that can add another $40 a day to your daily costs because of parking.
Random Tip: Even if you don’t plan on getting into town early, I highly recommend staying Sunday night at least. The last thing you want to do on the last day of the convention is rush around to pack and check out, plus worry about storing your bags. If you have to pick between coming in a day early, or staying an extra day, pick staying an extra day. You can thank me later.
Here’s what I spent in years past:
2011: $1,185 (super rough estimate)
The reason 2010 and 2011 are on the low end is because I managed to have free flights from Southwest. Using rewards or gift cards is a great and easy way to save money on your San Diego Comic-Con vacation! 2013 was reasonable because Mel and I managed to find a condo for around $800 for the entire week. You won’t find that these days. I still don’t know how we found it then. I know for 2014 I paid around $800 for my part of the condo and $530 just for airfare. That alone is $1,330! If you want to see the full details here are my posts from When Nerds Attack: The Cost Of Comic-Con 2010 & 2011. There’s also a post that features cost breakdown from friends and readers here. Here’s another that my friend Erin submitted. When you take a look at the different posts, you really see that costs are all over the place. Something to keep in mind too are your “at home” costs. Do you need to park at your local airport? Do you need a pet sitter? These are all things you need to make sure you work into your budget.
So, I know there’s a lot here, and I’m not even sure any of it really helps since every budget is personal but I hope it at least points you in the right direction. If you have any questions please feel free to drop them in the comments!
If you’re looking for more helpful posts about San Diego Comic Con, be sure to check out When Nerds Attack, The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog, and The Nerdy Girlie. If you’re from the UK, you’ll want to check out An Englishman In San Diego. Don’t forget about the Friends Of Comic Con forum too!