I had a little difficulty deciding whether to address this subject or budgeting next. The real problem is that you need to know what your budget is before you can decide where to stay, and you need to know where you’re going to stay in order to figure out your budget.
For number of years I would go to conventions without a place to stay and would just stay up all weekend. Don’t do it. It ages you quickly and, honestly, between somewhere around 2 to 4 in the morning till 10 AM nothing really happens at a con. You may be young and disagree with this, but when you get older you will realize how right I was.
The best housing arrangement if you can afford it is to stay in the convention hotel and let them know you’re with the convention and want the convention rate when you make your reservation. This helps both the convention and you as you don’t have far to go in the middle of the night when you realize that it is time to crash or need a place to take your date.
In my opinion the second best arrangement is to be going to a convention less than 5 miles from your home. For economic reasons, being able to go home to sleep or having a friend you can stay with near where the convention is held is the best deal. For enjoyment and safety, the best place to be is in the convention hotel. Often times we have to compromise. Throwing in with several people to get a hotel room is common in fandom. Local ordinances and hotel rules aside, there is a limit to how many people you can get in one room. I recommend fewer than 10.
Three or four is usually the maximum reasonable number of people to have in a room but if the hotel room is in your name and you are going to share the room, get money from the other people who are going to be in the room before you check in. I don’t care if they are your friends. If you don’t get the money up front you better be able to afford the room. Generally you should get the money as close to when you get the reservation as possible or, if you are not reliable with money, just before leaving for the convention would be good.
Another option is to shop around for cheaper hotels near the convention. Often times you can find deals nearby but remember: the larger a convention the sooner hotel rooms will sell out. You can only expect to check in on the day of the convention without a reservation for very small conventions.
Looking for crash space at the convention. They used to put up a board for people looking for crash space, but I haven’t seen one of those in years. You can go to a convention and ask around and it is possible you may find crash space. Your chances are obviously much better if you are a girl. They are exponentially better if you are a pretty girl. Yes, the reason is that con guys are hopeful. Frequently delusionally and unrealistically hopeful, but most of them are not jerks who are going to try and take advantage of you. Unfortunately some of them are. Sometimes they will have a reputation for this and you can find out beforehand.
Over the years I have seen a large number of people sleeping in or behind hotel furniture. Personally I can’t sleep that way. Even I have on occasion tried to crash in an unused conference room during the middle of the night. We were snowed into the hotel for a week and I had not gotten a room because I was expecting to be back home and sleep in my own bed by Sunday night. That was when I realized that hotel staff never sleep and are always doing something.
Many conventions are not even in hotels and often you cannot stay on site after a certain time. I hope that if you’re going to a convention, you find out where it is first. If you don’t, somehow I doubt that you’re going to make it there anyway.
I have known people who slept in their cars but I’ve never done that for a convention. I have slept in my car when camping if the weather got too cold and honestly a car full of people trying to sleep sucks.
Sometimes if you’re working staff there is a staff crash room. This frequently involves carefully stepping over people while you look for a clear place big enough for you to lie down. After a few days, particularly if you’re doing a convention that starts on a Friday and ends Sunday week, this can look really good. Note; if you’ve been up for five days, it is not a good time to hook up with somebody you just met. Just saying.
If you work in a hotel, it may be possible to get employee discounts with other hotels of the same name or owned by the same company. This is not always true but some hotels do offer employee rates. You may have to get a “white card” or other documentation signed by your supervisor, but this could still make a convention that would otherwise be out of your price range affordable. It may even be possible to get friends and family rates for other people you know, but this can backfire on you if they don’t appreciate the effort you’re going to and start to expect it. This is not the sort of thing you can guarantee, but real friends will appreciate it if you can manage it.
If you are a famous big-name guest, try and get the convention to throw in a room for you. This may be especially easy if they have offered to pay your expenses. They might even pay you to come to the convention. That must be nice.
Finally, if you do own a TARDIS you can park it wherever you like and invite your friends to stay in it but please, please, please, pick me up and take me with you!
So in short, what this largely boils down to is make sure that you know where you’re going to stay, keep your stuff, or sleep. Before you go to a convention, figure out how much it’s going to cost you, and use this information to help you figure out how much to budget for the convention. Sometimes you can’t afford a convention and you just have to go. Under those circumstances all I can say is use your best judgment.
Copyright 2012 Julian Thomas Reid III