Going to a convention -- especially one as big as San Diego Comic-Con -- can never be done on the cheap. Or can it?
Comic-Con is like the Super Bowl of the geek world, especially if you're a geek journalist like what we have here at Airlock Alpha. Yet, the economy has hit a lot of websites hard (we're not excluded in that), and many aren't making the trek to San Diego this year to get that one-on-one time with the movers, shakers and actors of our favorite television shows and movies.
It was hard for us to go, too, so I know how they feel. For me, it's a cross-country trip from Tampa. And as much as I love San Diego and I love visiting there, Comic-Con really turns that city into gridlock, especially around the convention center.
In the past, we spend thousands of dollars on the trip. Flying people out, getting a hotel room, renting a car, parking. This year, I committed to going only if I could keep all the expenses under $1,000.
And I almost did it! I found the cheapest flight I could, I eliminated the rental car, not worried about parking. Everything was good ... until I got the bill for the hotel.
The hotel alone is $800. For four nights. About five miles from the convention center.
And it's a Quality Inn.
Not that there's anything wrong with a Quality Inn. To be honest, as long as the beds are comfortable, the rooms are clean, and there is good, stable WiFi, I'm good. In fact, I like cheaper hotels because you get many amenities for free (unlike more expensive hotels, which charge you for things like opening your curtains and Internet).
Yet, when I stay at a cheaper hotel, I kind of wish I was paying cheap, too. So you can imagine that $200 a night is not exactly cheap.
You can't blame the hotels. It's supply and demand -- and when you're trying to make room for 150,000 people, there is little supply and a lot of demand, so prices are going to go up.
Somehow, we made it happen this year. And I'm praying to the Comic-Con gods that the economy improves in the next 12 months so that we're not scratching the bottom of the barrel to try and make the trip work.
What I am really looking forward to this year is San Diego's public transportation system. Before last year, I would've never even considered it. Tampa, where I live, is not exactly known for its mass transit, so I am not familiar with how all of it works. Yet, last year, when I was in Seattle for the filming of "Judas Kiss," I decided to forego a rental car and instead take the bus.
At first I was nervous. But I bought myself a bus pass and then depended on my own god, Steve Jobs (who I believe lives inside my iPhone) to get me where I needed to go. And it worked out great.
So good, in fact, that I likely won't be renting cars for a while. Even when I can afford it again. It's cheaper, it's better for the environment, and hell, it's not that inconvenient at all.
Sure, you can't come and go exactly when you want to, but it's close enough, and the trade-off is worth it.
So yes, I will continue to wince at the $800 Quality Inn bill (and kicking myself for telling my stalkers where I will be), but you don't have to break the bank to go to a convention. Even if that convention is San Diego Comic-Con.
Curious to what the convention will be like? I just dug up the video I made of last year's event, which you can see by clicking here.
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