My gaming group is planning our first GenCon trip for 2016, and I'm curious about hotel strategies. Is it worthwhile waiting for the GenCon Hotel Lottery, or is wise to book rooms through the desired hotel ahead of time at the full rate? The JW Marriot looks like (one of) the place(s) to be, and I'd rather pay more to be guaranteed a room there... as long as it isn't TOO MUCH more ;-)
Any advice appreciated. Thanks!
It's worth checking the cancellation policies for the hotel, as you may be able to make a booking at full rate, then take part in the Gen Con Housing Lottery, and if you get something you want at the GC rate, you can then cancel the full-rate room.
Of course, you might look at the full-rate prices and start screaming in horror.
Already have my room at The Conrad
I always book as early as possible. I have yet to find a downtown Indiana hotel that does not let you cancel 24-48 hours before check in (there may be exceptions but I have yet to find it).
THEN hit the hotel lottery, if you get lucky and get a great room at a great price, you can just cancel the original room without penalty (remember the lottery is in January so you're really not inconveniencing anyone...the hotel WILL fill the cancelled room).
It used to be that you could pre book as early as August of the previous year, but hotels are not allowing that anymore and it's become later (like I believe it was October before I could book at Embassy Suites, but I dove on the room).
I personally have NEVER had luck with the hotel lottery after 5 years of trying (but I still do try) and have always had to rely on my fallback.
Oh and PS: good luck getting into the any of the downtown Marriott hotels (and I would love to know if you are able to do it). I've never been able to prebook a Marriott during Gencon no matter how early I've tried and I even called the hotel directly (of course I'm nobody important!!) but I believe the Gencon "powers that be" pretty much book out the entire hotel system for the lottery...it's my only explanation for it.
Another option is to book in a cheaper hotel outside of walking distance, and factor the cost of a couple of taxi rides each day into your hotel budget.
I've been lucky enough not to have had to do that, but it gets around any problems with pre-booking the Gen Con shuttle, though I'd guess that you have to be way more organised.
Something else I just remembered; The Gen Con block doesn't include every hotel in Indianapolis.
It doesn't even cover every hotel near the Convention Centre.
You might have some luck finding a backup room that way, though I've no idea how price-gougey they get.
My first year too, and am getting a bit worried reading the horror stories of the lottery. Guess I'll get to see how bad it is.
I booked a backup hotel a bit away from the con for a very cheap rate and if I have to go with that and rent a car, it's going to end up being the same price or possibly cheaper than staying right there even with parking taken into account.
I just booked an Embassy Suites King suite for Wed-Mon (the only room type they show as available)--if I can find 2 friends to share the cost (so, 2 on the king, 1 on the sofa bed), it works out to $680 a person, or $137 a night per person (includes taxes). That's pricey but doable, especially for the location, room size, and included breakfast (although a substantial increase from when 5 of us split an AirBnB house last year :p). But then I'm used to paying for the whole hotel room when I travel, so my perspective may be skewed...
Of course I'll also see if I/we can get anything in the lottery, and I'm not ruling out staying further out if that's what the group wants to do, but I figured it might be helpful to share some numbers for people looking at backup plans.
Last year we were not so bright, and although both my husband and I could have queued for the lottery, only he did. He got a 3 hour wait time and by then no downtown hotels were available. So this year, both of us will try to get a room...
We managed to get a downtown room anyway, as I obsessively checked the housing website every hour for weeks straight and someone did eventual cancel. We ended up at Embassy Suites downtown.
This year I've already booked a King room at the Embassy Suites. We bring air mattresses for the kids. We would not go to Gencon if we did not get a downtown hotel, so to us it is definitely worth the extra cost and peace of mind- even though it really bothers me to be paying it. The Hyatt's room is non-refundable while Embassy Suites is fully refundable. I would not book a non-refundable room.
I booked my 2016 Embassy Suites room on September 21st this year. I've got it for $189/night, but I had to book for 8 nights to get that rate (Arriving on 30 July, departing on 7 August). That's for a corner king room.
I'm going to try for the lottery, because we'd prefer to come in Tuesday instead of Saturday, but I can't beat the rate. It's less than block.
It all comes down to cost-benefit analysis for you and your group. Personally, I want to ensure that I have a room downtown so I always book the room outside of the block (with the option to cancel and get a refund) and then try my luck in the lottery.
Last three years I have not booked my hotel in the block because of technical issues and/or luck in the lottery draw. For me, having the hotel booked before removes the stress and frustration with the GenCon hotel block process. If I get one, great; I can cancel outside the block and get the room I wanted at a discount. If not, I already have my hotel.
I'm another of the many "no luck with the lottery" group. Each of our 6 Gen Cons have been out of block booking. With the increase in attendance (which is great that there's still growth) it makes it harder to come by a room as a plan B depending on the hotel you want. We now book as early as possible to get the location we want and use the year wait to pay for it.
Crunch the numbers for a full rate room vs. a remote location with cabs (parking is an option but deserves a thread of its own). The reports from last year's shuttle users were not overly positive (YMMV) but I wouldn't count on it for transport.
Cabs are going to get expensive, I can tell you that. Last year, I initially had a hotel about 12 miles away from downtown, and I looked up the rates on Yellow Cab's website. I think the cost was something like $30 one way.
Definitely consider Uber instead of the local cabs. Cleaner cars and more friendly drivers for the most part. It can easily be half the price at times unless they add surge pricing in. Even then, it will still be cheaper. I live here in Indy and if I wasn't already working the entire show, I'd be Ubering like crazy. Great money to be made there.
Also, not sure why people call it price-gouging with the hotels. It's simply supply and demand. You think the hotels are expensive during Gencon? You should have seen what they were charging during the Super Bowl. Insane.