It took an hour and four minutes, but I managed to book a hotel for Comic-Con International this morning. (Yes, it’s not until July. And I still want to call it San Diego Comic Con.) Last year I was unable to get through online or by phone, but had no problems faxing the reservation request.
Reservations went on sale at 9:00 AM. I hit the website, started calling, and started faxing.
Phone: I couldn’t get through for the entire ~50 minutes of redialing. Just “no answer” over and over again.
Fax: Busy signal, over and over again. Occasionally the circuit would connect, and it would start making fax tones, but it never actually completed the handshake.
Web: The convention website loaded, very slowly, just enough to get me the link to the Travel Planners site. I could get that first page to load—again, very slowly—and occasionally I could get into the second page, where I selected the check-in and check-out dates and preferred hotel. From that point on, it was timeouts, and a bogus error page about how either I had been inactive for 12 minutes or my browser was not accepting cookies (neither of which was true), and I should hit refresh to start over.
Around 9:50 I finally managed to get to the hotel availability page.* My first choice wasn’t available, so I went back and selected All Hotels (which I should have done in the first place). My second choice wasn’t available either. In fact, there were only about three hotels in the downtown area that had rooms left for the full length of the convention.** So I selected my third choice. In the 10 seconds between displaying that page and me clicking on it, the room had been reserved. So I went back, picked a fourth choice, filled in my reservation info, filled in my credit card info… and it stalled on the last page of the reservation, showing only the title. Eventually, in desperation, I hit refresh, and it sent me back to the beginning!
So I went through the whole process again. Fortunately, traffic has eased somewhat, and it was only dial-up slow instead of Slashdotted-slow. My fourth choice was no longer available (or else it hadn’t yet released the room I had almost booked), but my third choice was back in the running, and I was able to get it. It turns out that at the point it had stalled the first time through, all I had left was to mark two checkboxes agreeing to the room rate and the transaction, and press a submit button. I finally had a reservation number at 10:04 AM.
Incidentally, it’s very much worth booking through the convention if you can. I spot-checked some prices, and for a double room, the convention price was typically 40–50% less than the price listed on the hotel’s own website, and 30% less than prices through AAA or Travelocity.
*By this time I was using IE7, because I kept getting the bogus cookie errors on Firefox. I wasn’t sure if it was a server problem or a browser problem, though Firefox is able to get through at least the hotel availability step now, so it was probably coincidence. And I only managed to get past the first step on IE7 because I had the Web Developer add-on, which let me outline where the submit buttons were… because the server was too busy to send the images!
**Last year, they completely sold out within a few hours, and the travel agents practically begged people to let go of extra rooms they had booked “just in case.”
See Also: Convention Photos & Write-Ups