Con Survival Series: Room and Board

If you are even thinking of going to a convention and will need a room, get a hotel room as soon as possible. Like as soon as the con rate is available. Hotel reservations can be canceled with 48 notice (even 24 hours at some hotels) with no charge to you, so make it. If you don’t end up being able to go there’s no harm done but if you find out all of a sudden you can go a month before the convention you are going to be hard pressed to find a hotel with a decent rate.

We unfortunately were not able to attend the incredibly awesome Otakon 2008 this year due to our own lack of foresight. Usually we book our room for Otakon the day they announce the date of the next Otakon. For some reason this year everyone involved totally forgot to make the preparations. So by the time we remembered all the con discount rooms were already long gone. By the time the chance to snag a room again came up most people involved had budgeted their money towards other endeavors so nobody we normally attend with went. And so we missed out on one of the most awesome Otakons in recent memory which was a darn shame. Don’t lets this happen to you! Make reservations for the room the second you can.

Now picking a hotel. Well, that is all personal taste isn’t it? I’m incredibly picky so once I find one I’m happy with I always go back to it. Of course price is a factor but even the most expensive con rates for hotels aren’t bad if you split it between many people. Hotels have a 4/5 person limit for rooms because of fire safety, but as long as you aren’t acting like a fool no one is going to mind an extra body or two. It is pretty expected at cons. More expensive hotels usually have bigger rooms and bigger bathrooms.

Yes, but the magic key of not acting like a fool is harder than it seems for some people. This means keep your room parties to a dull roar, not getting alcohol poisoning, not getting under-aged drinkers alcohol poisoning, not vandalizing your room and the hotel, not harassing the non-otaku hotel guests, or doing any of the other countless stupid things to get you kicked out of the hotel. These all seem like easy enough things to avoid but you would be surprised how often they happen.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you can go but don’t have a room, there are a couple of things you can do. Persistence will be your friend! Write down all of the hotels and their phone numbers then call them everyday to see if there is a cancellation. Since you can cancel anytime many people overbook or end up not being able to go so you have to hope you call at the right time. But this does seem to work especially the week right before the convention. Also try the major travel sites like Hotwire and Expedia you never know what kind of deal might be out there sometimes they are just as good or better than the convention rates.

You can also see if anyone is willing to share a room at one of the local hotels in the area on the convention forums. There is usually a thread for people who want to share some space in their room with others. They have to pay less for their room and you get somewhere to stay for the convention. If you don’t see such a thread then start one. You can even ask the forum moderator if they will make it a sticky so it stays on the top of the forum. You might also be able to find a local who will put you up in their home for the convention.  If you have any preference about smoking or other important preferences don’t forget to mention it in the posting. I have one word of caution about this whole idea. When ever you do something like this you taking somewhat of a gamble. You could be signing up with total slobs whose room looks like a natural disaster. You could also get people who decide to kick you out at midnight so they can consummate their love for several hours. Or even people who regularly post on 4Chan. Think about your own tolerance of others before you do such a thing.

For the love of all things mighty, have the hotel send you an e-mail confirmation for your room. Then guard it with your life. The last thing you want is to show up at a couple of hundred miles (or more) away from home and hear that they don’t have you registered. This can happen especially with the craziness of conventions, lots of cancellations, people in and out, etc.

I remember the first year we went to Anime Boston, disaster was narrowly avoided. When we arrived at our hotel they told us that they had no reservations for us (mind you us being 15 people). It was a tense few minutes of deciding what to do, until Narutaki whipped out his powers of negotiation. They quickly found us two free rooms at the con rate. All of this could have been avoided. Afterall, what if you don’t have a Narutaki with you? A good rule of thumb is to print out a confirmation of anything you reserve in advance, then place it in a neatly labeled folder for the convention. This makes sure you only ever have to look in one place for any pertinent documentation. You might also want to give each person coming their own copy of the print outs as well. This gives everyone the ability to deal with situation should it arise.

If you are driving or even if you aren’t a good way to save cash over the weekend is to bring some grub along for the trip. The best times to save are on breakfast and those hunger pains in between meals. This can also save you time away from the convention. Each hotel differs but almost all of them provide a coffee maker (i.e. you can have boiling water) and some provide mini-fridges but don’t bank on it. I know that our favorite hotel for Otakon doesn’t have them. Don’t forget a bowl and silverware!

Suggested groceries you might want to bring/pick-up:

  • Parmalat (milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, stays good for seven days after opening)
  • Cereal
  • Granola bars/Fruit bars/Cereal bars
  • Instant ramen/Cup Noodle
  • Loaf of bread
  • Butter/Peanut butter
  • Juice boxes
  • Fresh fruit

There is a dreaded affliction that many people come down with after attending an anime convention (or any convention for that matter) called the con flu. This epidemic is when people seem to get sick immediately after attending a convention. It is caused by two major factors. The first is when you get a large number of people together you are just going to have a decent amount of trading of germs. The fact that many otaku are not the most hygienic of human being certainly does not help this fact. While you may be a decent human being that does not mean than everyone breathing on you is. The second reason is that most people eat like crap when they go to a convention. It’s all fast food and snack food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Combine that with a lack of sleep and it tends to weaken your immune system. Therefore unless you are going to eat out healthy, your best bet is to bring your own healthy snacks to balance out your otherwise terrible diet. Plus you will probably save some money in the process as well. That means more money for sake, bishonen, and anime OSTs.

We always try to have one nice meal out with all our friends who’ve come along. This usually takes place on Thursday night, the only night when everyone is not dead tired or running in four directions at once. Besides, room parties are going on Friday and Saturday nights!

12 thoughts on “Con Survival Series: Room and Board

  1. omo says:

    Yeah, con flu sucks, but I’ve never caught it \o/

    Eating right is a huge part of keeping yourself healthy, and that one Korean self-serve place @ Otakon rocks for that purpose.

    The other two things–avoid the raid and get plenty of sleep–are not valid options for some people but not sleeping is a fast ticket to con flu. Sometimes sleeping in the day after a big con might also help.

  2. Lothos says:

    Hmm, never heard of parmalat. Would have been nice to know about it when I was having to stay at hotels in Lexington for months without a fridge. Though i definitely prefer my milk cold, room temperature milk is better than no milk for cereal. And I loves me some cereal.

  3. reversethieves says:


    I felt I little under the weather after I went to NYAF and I did most things on the list. I remember Monday was not a fun day at the office. So no matter how well prepared you are sometimes it just plain does not matter.

    Getting little sleep is just a con tradition at any con where you have a reasonably good time. So you are almost always going to choose talking to that attractive otaku, trading stories with that guru, or just getting your drink on over a few extra hours of sleep. If you are finishing up your last minuet work on your cosplay costume, working on your panel, or just plain busy getting work related stuff out of the way before the con you will usually go into the con with a sleep deficit too which does not help at all. So like you said if you can’t get the sleep (which is often the case) make sure you don’t just consume McDonalds and Pocky three meals a day. If nothing else Subway sandwiches tend to be almost everywhere and they are not terrible.


  4. Vampt Vo says:

    Oy, I got con flu after NYAF, and it sucked. The tips for avoiding that were great, I’ll definitely follow them. Parmalat sounds awesome too, especially for a cereal whore like myself.

    I’m currently looking over my options for Otakon. I’ve gotta find some friends to share a room with me, but I guess I really should book the room early. This’ll be my first con where I’ll actually have to get a hotel. Hope it goes well…

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