Tomorrow morning at 9:00 PST, rooms in the convention block go on sale for this year’s Comic-Con International. I was going to write up a bunch of tips last week, but CCI beat me to it by launching their own blog, Staying In San Diego. Visit it today, because it’ll probably be swamped tomorrow. (Though if it’s actually hosted by TypePad, direct visits may not take it down.)

Update Wednesday Morning: Well, I made it through. Oddly enough, in exactly the same amount of time as last year. I had the confirmation number at 10:04. Weird.

Once again, I was completely unable to get through by phone. The website was hit and miss, and actually crashed at one point, serving up only a “500 Server Busy” error. Right after I entered my name and address for a reservation. Nice. The current blog entry is filling up with complaints from people having similar or worse experiences.

Update 2: The Beat has a growing comment thread as well, and notes that the con hotel blog is making noises about trying to get Travel Planners to fix the problems. I think having an official place where they can read exactly what people are going through is helping convey the fact that the reservation system is broken, and that it’s not just the imbalanced supply and demand for rooms. (end of update 2)

I’m going to repeat some of my criticisms about the actual website, which seems designed expressly to make it bog down under this load:

First, it’s got way too many images. Every image takes extra bandwidth that they don’t have, and it requires another round-trip for the browser to request it. And that really slows things down. People trying to get a room for Comic-Con don’t care whether a header is in a nifty font, or the borders are rounded, or the button looks nifty. They want it to work. Replace all those text images with actual text, and do any borders or backgrounds or colors using CSS. If it only takes 3 hits to load the page instead of 20, that means they can serve 6 times as many pages with the same number of connections.

Second, they use JavaScript where it’s not needed. Seriously, the “Book this hotel” link should be a normal link so that as soon as the sloooow page brings up a hotel I want that has rooms available, I can click on it, stop loading the list of hotels, and be on my way. I shouldn’t be stuck waiting for the whole page to load before I can click on one link.

Finally, and this was something that I couldn’t see at the time I posted my comments over there, the actual reservation process uses too many pages. Submit personal info. Click on continue (which is a JavaScript link, naturally—WTF?). Then it brings up a page with a button to enter your credit card info, which is another JS link that pops up a new form. What the hell? Every page load is a possible point of failure. That form should have been on the page immediately following the personal info page. And after that was the “Wait, you’re not done yet!” confirmation page. “Well, I should be! What if this page doesn’t load completely!” And then the “processing…” page, which refreshes to the “Okay, now you’re done” page. I kept expecting the connection to time out again, or to see that “Server Busy” error.

Anyway, enough ranting for now. I got the reservation, and that’s the important part. Time to get some rest and see if I’m feeling well enough to go into work later (I’ve been fighting a cold the last few days).

See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups

9 thoughts on “Getting a Hotel for Comic Con (2008)

  1. Congrats on getting through. I’m so happy I don’t have to deal with it. I have friends who spent 2 hours trying before finally managing to get something (I don’t know what yet; I’ll hear the saga later tonight).

  2. Thanks! It’s hard to say whether it was more or less of a pain this year than last year, for me. I guess being sick made it worse, but it was a bit simpler since I was only trying phone and web instead of trying to fax them as well.

    I don’t remember it being such a problem the first time I booked a hotel through the con, but the last 3 years have just been crazy. (Who am I to talk, though? I actually got a room.)

    As far as not having to deal with it, are you staying with the friends who did, or are you skipping the con this year?

  3. Good lord! You were done at 10:04?? I didn’t even make it to the “Make a reservation” page till then! I finished the whole process (after a good deal of head banging….) at 11:00….and I didn’t get a confirmation e-mail till I telephoned them and whined (and THAT was after I’d gotten to work, so it was somewhat later — I never did get anything but a busy signal on the phone in the 2 hours I was beating my head against the internet system….).

    I agree 100% with you about too many images and too many pages and too many points of failure. I timed out or got “Server is too busy” messages multiple times. What a joke!

    (As you know, I *did* actually end up with a room, but I’m still fuming over the hassle, and seriously considering skipping the con next year….)

  4. I’m either staying with friends who did or staying with locals. Or I’m not going, but if that happens it will be for career reasons (like in 2007) and not out of frustration. I can’t schedule that far in advance, so I can happily sit back and read horror stories about the mayhem.

  5. I’m getting ready to call on Wed. think I’ll have better luck by using the 212 number? Or do they all go to the same system?

    Did you link to the reservation fro the page?

    Which hotel did you end up with? Did you get to choose? We want the Embassy Suites.

  6. Check the date — the lines open on Thursday this year!

    I think the toll-free number and regular number go to the same system. But then the last time I was able to get through on the phone was 2006!

    You do get to choose your hotel, but keep in mind that there are thousands of other people calling in at exactly the same time as you are, so be sure you have a backup or two. If you use the website instead, be sure to do a general search, not one for the specific hotel, because it will be incredibly slow and it’s much faster to just look down the list of alternates than have to hit back and re-submit it.

    Last year we got the Horton Grand, which was small (or rather the rooms were), but quite nice. The location is great, less than a 10-minute walk from the convention center (and even that only because you have to go around the railroad tracks). The only thing we didn’t like about it was that our room was right above the street where people were walking by all night going to/from parties, and the windows didn’t really block the noise.

    Good luck!

  7. When you book the hotel through the comic con website, do you have to pay full price at time of reservation, or just give them credit card information, and pay full price when you arrive at the hotel? I was wondering, if anyone knows, many thanks!

  8. Just valid credit card info at the time. In theory they charge the card somewhere around June (so that’s when people cancel their backup rooms), but I think they must just pre-auth it then, because I can only recall ever getting charged after the actual stay.

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