The hardest part about going to DragonCon is getting a hotel room, so instead of a post-con report here are my tips for getting a hotel room at *any* large convention (but especially DragonCon).
For DragonCon in particular, mark your calendar for October 1st
Free up your morning so you have time to call–and if you finish early you have some time to yourself! Arrange for time away from work, for someone else to ferry the kids around, or even someone else to walk the dog. This begins around 8 am and is your *best day* to fight the other thousands of people doing the same thing. Actually…make that 7 am Eastern.
Research Nearby Hotels
Do your homework. Look through all the downtown Atlanta hotels and research what rooms they have. For example, Clint and I are not comfortable sleeping in double beds. I check for a room with two queens or a King with pull-out sofa to accommodate our family of 4.
We also prefer a hotel with breakfast included. Even a hot Hampton Inn breakfast gets tiring on day 3 of the con, but it sure beats wasting time in the Starbucks line. You can still eat at other local restaurants, but it’s nice to have a failsafe measure if you’re short on time.
Be aware many hotels charge a deposit. It can be anything from $100 to the entire expected stay! It’s a good idea to call the hotel and ask about their expected procedure. And ask about cancellation procedures. Most give you a complete refund, but some do not! Don’t assume. Ask before you book.
Did you find a good hotel with rooms already available for the convention–this goes for any convention–during the dates you want and at a price you are willing to pay? TAKE IT. Usually they will let you rebook that same room at the cheaper rate once the convention block becomes available. Don’t count on it, though, so be prepared to pay that higher rate if need be. Think of it as a security blanket.
If you find yourself frequenting a particular line of hotels, sign up for their rewards program and use it. You may need to state “I am a Silver Awards member. Is that the best you can do?” You don’t have to be mean, but it may make the difference between staying next door or walking 8 blocks. You’ll be grateful you at least tried!
Once you’ve figured out your choicest hotel, look for another one. And a backup after that, and one more. I suggest having at least four or five hotels on your list, complete with contact numbers to their front desk, before game day: October 1st. The national hotline is usually not as much help as the actual hotel’s reservation staff on site.
Why October 1st?
DragonCon’s hotels range the gamut on how to get a room. Many of the host hotels let the people staying there this year book their room for next year before they leave the con, a full year in advance! But most wait until October 1st. So now you know what you’re up against: thousands of cosplayers angry because they’ll have to edit their wardrobe. It’s hard to work on a great outfit all year long and then decide it’s too heavy to lug five blocks.
Staying in a host hotel has challenges (especially getting an elevator) but it’s a great idea if you can. Not only are you central to the best events and parties, both official and impromptu, but you get access to the 24-hour DragonConTV. If you end up stuck in the hotel room due an ankle sprain (but those boots really made the outfit!), at least you have something interesting to watch. At this point it looks like the only host hotel with rooms available is the Marriot Marquis (they go on sale Oct. 5th). Here’s the DragonCon Hotels page.
After the Booking
There may be times when your hotel room booking gets lost, or the hotel overbooks, or they tried to put all four of you in a single double bed. The best advice is to respect the hotel employees. They don’t like the situation any better than you do, and they have the authority to try and make it right most of the time.
Be sure you have confirmation details “in print” (email is fine) or in hand when you check in. Room type, room rate–everything, not just the confirmation number. As long as you have the details to point to, regardless of what’s showing on their screen at the moment, they will try to help you.
Enjoy the convention!
I hope this helps you make a game plan for the big day and snag the hotel room of your choice!