The past two years I’ve used a condo instead of a hotel for San Diego Comic-Con. There are multiple reasons but one is I didn’t want to take a risk in the Hotel Lottery and two, it can sometimes be a little cheaper. I say “sometimes” because just like hotels, condo’s do get jacked up as well. It’s just the way it works. The thing is though, you can fit more people into a condo than a hotel in most cases. Sure, you can can cram five people (or more) into a hotel room but how comfortable is it? Of course the more people, the cheaper it becomes. Let’s start with the basics though:
How to find a condo:
I’ve used both VRBO and HomeAway to find a rental. You can search via location, dates, number of people, and other options as well. Both websites are very easy to use and I’ve never had issues using either one. I know people have used AirBNB but I’ve never used it and I’ve heard of people being cancelled on last minute when using it. In the end, which condo you pick or reach out to will depend on what you’re looking for in a rental.
Can it really be cheaper than a hotel?
In some cases, yes. In others, no. Again, just like a hotel it comes down to how many people are splitting the bill and what the rates are. My first year renting a condo was 2013. It was myself and Melinda which means we were fine using a studio. Some how we were able to find a rental for an entire week for just $819 total. Yes, for an entire week. The rental was in the Gaslamp area and even had a pool and hot tub. It was the perfect little spot. It could only fit two people though. If we had a third, it would’ve been tight. We rented again this year, but this time we needed space for four. This time around, as you can imagine, it was a bit more. The total for a week was around $3,100 which came to about $777 a person.
I asked via Twitter for some input on what they paid for hotels this year. The following are all for six nights.
Keating Hotel: $1800
Marriott Marquis & Marina: $1,968 (this includes an internet fee)
Hilton Bayfront: $2021 (add $210 if parking)
Horton Grand Plaza: $2289 (This is based off the Travel Planners list, not submitted from anyone)
With a condo (in most cases, 99% I’d say) you have a full kitchen plus washer/dryer. It might sound silly but being able to do laundry during a con is amazing. You can pack less and don’t have to worry about doing everything when you get home. The kitchen is a plus too since you can pick up items at a grocer in order to cook meals in and not waste money eating out every day. Plus our condo actually had 1.5 bathrooms which really came in handy when everyone was getting ready for the day or night. One night we had a few friends over, cooked a meal, and had room for everyone (I think 9 of us over the course of the night). Not to mention most will include free parking, wifi, and other amenities that a hotel would charge for. In my opinion, free parking can be huge. That can easily be over $150 if not more when staying at a hotel.
So really, it’s all about what you want and can afford. The nice thing is not having to take part in Hotel Hell and in some cases being able to book a year in advance. I’m pretty sure we had our place booked last August.
What about paying?
When you use one of the sites listed above, they send an automatic email when the payment is due. In most cases it’s three payments but we requested this year to have it broken down into four. That way we could each pay our own payment and not have to worry about moving money around to one person. When you finally pick a place and it’s a done deal, you do need to put a deposit down. Since each condo is owned by a different person and have different rates, this amount can vary. The nice thing was though, by the time we arrived in San Diego everything was paid for. We didn’t need to worry about anything when we checked out.
- If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Listen to your gut!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know each time I rented, I asked what seemed like a million. Some of the questions you might want to ask include how many keys does the unit have? Do they have early/late check in/out?
- Most, if not all, of the listings will have a calender and mention special rates for holidays/SDCC. If you don’t see them, be sure to ask. While you might see a rate of $179 when using the calendar, it might be $299 because of the convention. You don’t want to be surprised. In most cases the people renting out the unit know when San Diego Comic-Con is, but you should still be sure to mention it when contacting them.
- When you’re looking for a job you send your resume out to tons of companies at once. You should treat your condo search the same. Don’t sit around and wait to hear back. You should send out a couple requests to see what sticks.
- I do recommend starting your search ASAP. As it gets harder to get a hotel, more and more people are turning to condos. That means less options. Some might tell you they aren’t booking yet but will add you to a list, others might be more than happy to take your money now.
- If you’re going with a large unit (some people rent out entire houses outside the downtown area) be sure everyone is on board! If you have to make up a contract, do it. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a place that now is out of your price range because someone dropped out.
- Like any contract, be sure to read the fine print. I’ve seen listings that have amazing details and list everything you’d need to know. That doesn’t mean they all do. Be sure to ask about what the cancellation policy is. Comic-Con is a year away, and life happens. You don’t want to be stuck with a place you won’t be using at all.
- Read the reviews! Also take note if the owner responds to any complaints and how they respond. Did they take care of the problem? Were they polite? Did you sense attitude?
I think that covers most of the questions you guys might have. If you have any others, please let me know! I’m not an expert but I’ll try my best to answer. If you’ve stayed in the condo, what did you think? Did it work for you? Rather have a hotel room?
As I was finishing this up someone asked about holding down the condo for the following year. All you can do is ask! If you have contact with the owner during your stay, maybe drop it a day or two before you leave. If they send you a follow up email asking how everything was, maybe ask then. I know people who have locked down their condo before so it can be done.