Source: The Westin, Pittsburgh
Even before you plan for what panels to go to, who you’re going to see, or figure out where the bar is, one of the first things that you need to do when going to a convention is to figure out where the heck you are going to room.
You might only be in your hotel room for a few hours a night, but you still need to drop your swag off somewhere and have a place to shut down. Trust me, you do not want to go the “sleeping in your car” route. This should really be the first thing on your mind once you’ve decided to attend a convention..
Most conventions have a specific hotel that are known as the “con hotel”. These are hotels that the convention has negotiated a block of rooms to offer at a reduced price during the period of the convention. For smaller conventions, the con hotel may house the entire event and this block of rooms is usually enough for most attendees. For larger conventions, the con hotel is usually next to or at least within a short distance of the convention space.
For larger conventions these hotel rooms can sell out cheetah fast, sometimes in the matter of minutes after the hotel block is released to the public– so larger conventions have what are called “overflow” hotels. These are hotels that are within easy traveling distance to the convention center/hotel and also have room blocks with lower rates negotiated by the convention. It can take longer for these to fill up, and there might be rooms at these hotels even months after the blocks have been released.
There are pros and cons to being in the con hotel or overflow hotels. The con hotel tends to have more people around at all times of the convention, but there is also almost always a line for the elevator. A very, very long line. Con hotels can also be noisier, and things like room service can take longer. On the flip side, overflow hotels don’t have the lines or the noise, but they can be several blocks away, an important consideration for anyone wearing a fursuit or who has difficulty walking.
Before you book your room, you will also want to consider who you want to room with, if anyone. Rooming with people will lower the cost of the room and can also be really fun. Your roommates can always change down the road, but it’s good to consider who you want to room with when you book the room. The maximum allowed occupants will be different for each hotel according to fire code or company policy. Some hotels may turn a blind eye to an extra person or three sleeping in chairs or on inflatable mattresses, but keep in mind your comfort level with other people, hygiene, and personal security.
Do you want to room with friends? Or are you comfortable with strangers? My personal preference is to room with people I have known for at least a few months online or met at least once at a convention. Make sure that you can trust the people that you end up rooming with. If you need to, you may want to talk to other people that you know have roomed with these people in the past. Many conventions also have forums where you can find people who are looking for rooms, or offer a room spot if you’ve already got one. It’s also a good idea to cover the “ground rules” for what people should or shouldn’t be doing in the hotel room, including things like drinking, inviting guests back to the room, whether or not you will book a smoking room, etc. [Editor’s Note: You may also wish to clarify any “eccentricities” with your roommates as well. This editor once roomed with someone who preferred to go nude in the room once it was decided they weren’t going out again that evening.]
Okay, so you figured out what hotel you want to be in and who to room with. Now comes the hard part: booking the room! If someone else is handling the booking, time to cross your fingers and wait. If you are handling the booking, time to get serious.
On average, Anthrocon’s main hotel sells out within five minutes. So be prepared! If you’re doing the booking, watch the convention social media sites for when they are going to release the hotel block. Get ready to be awake at that time and have your information on hand. Some conventions also require a down payment of a night by credit card, so have that ready as well!
If you don’t get the hotel that you want, don’t get discouraged! Overflow hotels will usually be available, and staying in one won’t make the convention less fun. Conventions may also negotiate additional room blocks with the hotel or people may cancel later, so it’s worth trying again later if you don’t get the room that you want.
Now that you have your hotel ready, next up is registration!
In order to attend most convention activities you will need to register for the convention. The basic cost of registration for furry conventions is around $40-60 USD for a badge that gets you into the main activities for the whole convention– anime or comic convention badges can cost more. Usually this gets you into the Artist’s Alley, Dealer’s Den, panels and any entertainment.
“But wait, what are these other options available to me?” Good question! Conventions also offer sponsor upgrades for additional goodies. You can get things such as t-shirts, special sponsor meals, shorter sponsor-only lines and seating in certain events, among other perks. Plus you get to show the convention that you really like it and want to help support it even more. These usually come in two or three levels of sponsorship, with more goodies in the more expensive ones.
Of course, if you’re just going to the convention to hang with friends, then why do you even need to register? Going to a convention and booking a hotel room but not registering for the convention is called “ghosting.” While you’re not likely to get in trouble for it, this is highly frowned upon since you are using the resources of the convention but not paying for it. Plus you can’t actually go into any convention areas, which sucks. Conventions are also not public space– while the hotel likely won’t kick you out of the lobby, they also don’t have to let you in.
Room booked? Registered for the convention? Good, now you can breathe easy for a couple weeks to a few months until you need to consider the last of the three big things: travel! Come back next week where we’ll be talking about how to actually get to the convention.
Have any recommendations for new people booking for a hotel? Or maybe suggestions for choosing roommates or any fun stories you might have? Share them in the comments below!