August 22, 2016

San Diego Comic Con 2016 Recap

SDCC 2016 Recap: Yet another year of conventioneeringOur travel cost breakdown

Food and lodgings, $200
Gas, $150
Parking, trolley: $100
Gifts and things, $150

Total: $550

I normally love San Diego Comic Con. Perfect weather, all geek all the time, lots of fresh air and walking and being surrounded by people who are just there to enjoy the goodness.

These days, it’s so much more fraught to prepare for. The lottery system for the badges. The lottery system for the hotels. The lottery system for the parking passes. Everything depends on luck and that has my insides clenched with worry that we’ll miss something this time. This year I did miss something. We didn’t get a slot in the lottery and forgot to secure parking passes after the lottery was over. I panicked, then a friend saved me with her extra passes. (They were pricey but uber convenient for our JuggerBaby needs.)

I found myself dreading the week, rather than anticipating it. I wondered if it was a mistake to go. By the time we were a week out, already having spent far too much time working and hosting guests, a probable panic attack set in and if I could have, I’d have cancelled the whole thing.

Thankfully, by the time we reached San Diego, most of that feeling had dissipated.

On food.

We have a tradition of staying with family friends – friends who have become family, over the years – and San Diego just wouldn’t be the same without staying with them. They’re not just good company, Mama S is an amazing cook and does a fantastic family dinner every night. I could eat that baked pasta and garlic bread for a week straight. I could eat the pancit and lumpia for a month. It’s probably a good thing that it’s not an option…

We packed our lunches and snacks, as always, to avoid the atrocious and overpriced convention center food and enjoyed leftovers for breakfast. Best week of eating all year long.

SDCCA

On having fun.

SDCC is just too big. It overflows from the convention center out to all the nearby hotels and their ballrooms. The whole area out front is usually packed with promotional booths for tv shows, with prizes and treats. This year it was an enormous Superman statue, the Batmobile, and a Kristen Bell show, with an ice cream parlor theme. The crowds and the lines and the noise and all of it don’t bother me. It should. I normally hate all of that. But for this? It’s just right.

The downside is that I logged far more steps than is healthy for me. We had to walk three miles to get to the Marriott to get our badges on Wednesday whereupon they insisted that JuggerBaby had to physically be with me to pick up zir badge. So that was a wasted trip and then we had to go back with zir on a busy Thursday, wasting precious time between naps.

We took it almost as easy this year as we did when I was pregnant, but this time we shared the extra load. JuggerBaby rode piggyback in our Craigslist-purchased ErgoBaby ($50!) with me in the mornings when I was fresh, PiC backpacked zir in the afternoons. We walked the floor together discovering all kinds of new cute things, and visiting old favorites. It was a weird year, we bought more art then anything else and that’s never happened before.

I caught a couple of panels while PiC and JuggerBaby went exploring on their own. That always feels a bit luxurious because, though PiC is happy to give me a break, I always have a tinge of guilt that he’s doing all the heavy lifting whether I’m there or not so we tend to stick together more than not.

:: Do you have an annual vacation destination? What would it be if you didn’t? 

June 20, 2016

Emerald City 2016

Emerald City Comic Con 2016: We'll definitely do this againOur travel cost breakdown

Lodgings, 48,000 StarPoints / $0 (cost if paid out of pocket, $859.65)*
Airfare for 3, $350
Rental car, $250
Boarding, $450
Taxi, $50
Groceries and eating out, $240
Gas, $20
Gifts and things, $100

total: $1460

* This is why I love my SPG American Express. We pay a $95 annual fee, and redeem an average of $500-$1000 in hotel room value per year.

On food.
Meals were eclectic. Usually our lunches or dinners are the highlight of the food experience but it was flipped this trip. Lunches were picked up from a food truck (meh) and sandwich shop (awesome). Dinners ranged from fantastic Indian food, to average sushi (which still makes me sad to this day, I was so looking forward to it), to sandwiches from the amazing deli. We supplemented with the free Noosa yogurt they kept handing out at the convention center – JuggerBaby is a HUGE FAN.

Breakfasts were the fun stuff. PiC would take JuggerBaby out for an adventure every morning and they’d bring me back some yummy tidbit from Pike Place or something thereabouts. Favorites: Piroshky Piroshky, The Crumpet Shop, Honest Biscuit and Top Pot Donuts.

On tourist stuff and having fun.
We were in town for Emerald City Comic Con and to meet up with local friends. It’s great to be centrally located or located close by one another so we can easily spend a little time on the Con floor and then get back for JuggerBaby’s nap or to have dinner with friends. We still haven’t been to the Space Needle but I’d like to one day, just to do it.

:: Have you visited Seattle? Do you have any must-see or must-eat recommendations? What’s your usual travel budget for a longer than a weekend trip? 

July 29, 2015

SDCC 2015 recap

SDCC6

Preparation for this year was brutal

Badge purchasing was organized by lottery system.
Hotel booking was a lottery system.
Parking passes were sold on a lottery system.

It’s a flipping miracle that we got passes, secured a hotel room through the lottery system for friends, and secured a parking pass.

Our rental vehicle was booked for the week and I let out a sigh of relief on June 28th.  All was set, I thought. Then I quickly sucked it back in because with my luck….

Sure enough, I’d booked the wrong dates for the rental and rebooking was estimated to be $1800. A panicked call to Enterprise + a reasonable service rep = corrected booking. Whew.

Oh wait.

At the last minute, our lodging plans changed and we needed to book a hotel for ourselves. Two weeks before Comic-Con. Now THAT was a hoot. 99% of the hotels in our desired region were booked out and the hotels that were available were the Embassy Suites for $800/night, the Doubletree for $900/night and the Indigo for $1800/night. Awesome.

We needed both a baby and pet friendly hotel and I was not paying over $500 a night for four nights of an average hotel that would then charge for parking and a pet fee for Seamus, no way, no how!

Ten hours of searching, and 6 bookings later, we booked an average hotel somewhat near downtown that didn’t have recent reports of bedbugs. (Ugh!) Clearly, our standards had changed. And it was going to cost nearly $1700 for the whole stay. *clutch throat* I’ve never spent that much on an entire trip to SDCC, forget just on hotel! But it was a last minute change, it couldn’t be helped, and I refused to let it ruin our plans. One side effect of having been a extra frugal Con goer, and spending next to nothing on hobbies, is that our savings are absolutely solid and our cash flow can bear a hiccup or two even in the four digit range.

Packing was a bummer this year because I still don’t fit most of my clothes and that includes my standard Con wardrobe of geeky shirts.

Comic-Con commenced…

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay.

Left: BADGED! Right: a fantastic cosplay (I didn’t know the character, unfortunately).

We didn’t get Preview Night for Wednesday which, in retrospect, was for the best. Logistics were already well nigh incomprehensible, trying to make it to town and ready to hit the floor on Wednesday would have been excruciating stress.

Thursday was our first day on the floor and it was yet another bust: Seamus hurt his paws before we left. While one paw was responding to home treatment, the other significantly deteriorated in just the two days since we left San Francisco. I made the call to give up an afternoon at Con and take him to a San Diego vet to head off a major infection. I was grouchy about the loss of floor time but it was the right call. He responded to the medications overnight, allowing his paw to actually start healing. Hallelujah! And it was “only” $110.

With Seamus all set, we headed out Friday for our full day on site with a lighter step and clear conscience. Despite all the missteps and mishaps leading up to this day, it was wonderful.

SDCC photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

Left: I’m really not sure what’s happening here. A unicorn/centaur Colonel (KFC)? Right, top: Ashley on the Iron Throne (Game of Thrones Experience) Right, bottom: Tribbles! All photos courtesy of @ashleyserena

The Kelly Sue headed panel on writing, and then on their company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, were both fantastic.

We browsed a discount TPBs booth where I impulse bought $45 worth of comics for myself and a friend. Browsing wasn’t even on the list of things I thought we’d have the freedom to do but LB was so incredibly cooperative. Ze was just hanging out, enjoying the sights and sounds, and it was awesome. I picked up gifts for three people and got myself a new t-shirt. We took a dozen pictures of LB and PiC hanging out and having a good old time, and had silly pictures taken at promo booths.

I was sad to miss the panel with Congressman John Lewis, the last surviving member of the “Big 6” from the civil rights movement, who marched in Selma on Bloody Sunday. Even typing that makes me tear up at what people had to go through to be treated like humans. But I’m really happy that it happened.

There were many other fun and wonderful things this year, and we missed many of our regular visits (Marian Call’s concerts, for one) but this trip renewed our enjoyment of the event. Every year we’re aware it might be our last, but as long as we can go, we will.

July 28, 2013

SDCC 2013: Best SDCC ever?

I think we all know I’m crap at anniversaries, right? Well, I’m pretty sure this was my tenth anniversary of attending Comic-Con. Or 11th. Whichever it was, it was AWESOME.

Welcome to San Diego, Comic-Con Style

We had to make a lot of compromises throughout the Con due to schedule conflicts and I was at least a bit amazed: they were none of them disappointing. I rarely experience that “Fear of Missing Out” except at SDCC when I hate giving up even a minute of hard-earned fun. Other than having to reconcile myself to not getting Preview Night, which wasn’t really a choice, we had barrels of fun. But that’s ok, we spent Wednesday with family friends and then goofing off at the close of the Petco Park exhibits.

Thursday was full of floor time to make up for missing out on the usual Wednesday Night scouting run. I bought seven TPBs, two to give away, commissioned a tiny pet portrait from the talented Katie Cook (@katiecandraw, now of My Little Pony fame), and got to chat with both her and another talented creator, David Peterson (of the gloriously cute MouseGuard).  The creator and artists of Elephantmen were again, super funny and super nice. I wished Pia Guerra were there hanging out with them when I stopped by.  I missed her if she did.

I blew through one-third of my $300 allowance in a day. !!

DTTrolleyDogsCollage2

Scratching every possible itch I had:

Top left: A DUCK TALES GOLD VAULT TO DIVE INTO.
Top right: Game of Thrones trolley station stops.
Bottom left and right: Dog-Friendly on the floor and across the street. ConDogs were dressed up as Princess Service Dog, Scout Service Dog, BatDog, DogRobin, and casual we’re here to play Dogs.

BloodConcertCollage

Top left: Blood Drive at the Omni Hotel
Top right: Molly Lewis, singing about her offer to bear Stephen Fry’s baby
Bottom left: Marian Call, pre-Browncoat song
Bottom right: All the ladies together!

I’ve never been one to go to concerts but lately, indie artists who are both a delight in person and amazing on stage have been creeping their way into my schedule.

My attempt to give blood post-weight gain was denied, but we basked in the musics of Marian Call, The DoubleClicks, and Molly Lewis at a coffeeshop later and that salved my wounded pride of being rejected. I was so excited! And then so dejected. The guy who gave me my consolation t-shirt saw my face said, “Oh nooooo….” Oh well.

The Money Recap

… and “never again”…

After totaling the cash and credit card spending, it looks like I’ve only spent $220 of my $300 personal allowance.

Our hotel rate was bumped up a bit because it was evidently booked wrong, but since we usually share rooms, it keeps our accommodations cost to a reasonable rate. This time, the room-sharing was a bit of a disaster and has gotten one person bumped off my list of “I’d be fine never seeing you again” forever.

By common consent, shared rooms get divvied up into personal zones. You don’t put your stuff on another person’s bed if you’re not either married or related to them, you share the common desk areas and split the use of nightstands down the middle: you get the one you’re closest to and you don’t spill over into someone else’s. And you always respect the sleep! You don’t make noise when anyone is still sleeping, clattering and clanging, slamming doors and such. It doesn’t matter if they’re the last one to wake!  (This hasn’t always been me, either.) And snoring? You warn your roommates if you snore. These are all courtesies observed without discussion by all roommates we’ve had, male or female and we’ve generally had decent rooming experiences.

Shared rooms can be a somewhat tight fit and we go out of our way to be more polite: asking if people are night or morning shower-ers and what schedules look like so we don’t cause a bathroom traffic jam, checking to make sure that no one wants the bathroom or shared surfaces when you’re about to monopolize it, etc.

This time? Oh man. We checked into the room after dropping off our stuff, claiming one bed and the area around the bed, furthest in the room to give our next roomies a clear path to the bed by the bathroom and door. We came back later that night to find that Roomie 1 had strewn stuff all over his bed, gone to the far side of our bed and claimed the whole desk with his electronics and food and beer and trash was on our nightstand, the floor, and the desk. He’d basically pooped on every surface. He didn’t shut down the computer until nearly 1 am, took a phone call in the room at 445 am and conducted a full freakin’ conversation, then let his phone alarms go off multiple times until 6am. Then at 630, he decided work at the desk next to our bed instead of taking the laptop back to his bed, so as to put space between us and his clicks, clacks and beeps. Then he acted put out when I lost my temper and asked him to leave the room as he’d keep me up for the past two hours already and I was sick with exhaustion.

That was Day 1. If you wonder if I had strangled him by Day 3, that’d be a valid question. He was passive-aggressive when he wasn’t being downright rude, talking through me to PiC. What a jerk. Once we get his repayment for the room, I wash my hands of him. You can be certain that I set a deadline for that payment.

The rest of the Con was fantastic and worth every penny. But I will likely never allow someone to room with us again without a full background check. I’d simply say no roomies ever again but it’s such a good way to save money and hang out with good friend-roomies that I don’t hate it.

June 26, 2013

Upcoming Events: Comic Con 2013!

The Exhibitor list for this year’s Comic-Con has been posted. Time to start plotting who to visit, which booths to patronize.

Does this ever get old? Normally the answer would be *insane cackle* “Of course not.” And in a lot of ways, nope. It really doesn’t. Mecca, after all.

But even I have to admit,  after the Badging Debacle of 2011 (wherein my intrepid beloved never-to-be-sufficiently-thanked husband sat up ALL NIGHT among hordes of other similarly intrepid fans to buy our tickets for 2012’s SDCC solely because he knew that the prospect of not going to SDCC the next year would cause me *hic hic hic* “But .. but .. ok .. but but” *hic hic* speech-impaired grief), and after the Sit at the Computer Ready for Anything and losing out on Preview Night 4-day passes Debacle of 2012, a little of my pure, shining, glorious joy in going to Mecca has been tarnished.

I hate crowds, I’m not a huge fan of people in general and you know how I feel about paying ridiculous prices. And yet I’ll plow headfirst into every one of those conditions for Comic-Con, because there’d always been something utterly uplifting about going to SD just for fun. The one time in my year when work wasn’t allowed, when it was completely about fun and nothing else. When it was ok to spend money on myself if I wanted to, and not spend 3 days looking for a bargain first, and then talking myself out of it.

Life isn’t nearly so bleak these days 🙂  but there’s something about keeping the traditions originally built into the Annual Pilgrimage that’s homey and comforting. I started out watching every penny, parking out back of beyond, staying with friends because they’re awesome, and buying gifts for people six months early because you can find unique gifts there. Most of it sort of stuck.

It’s the one time in the year we spend quality time with certain friends; it’s awesome if we can find good presents, or at least ideas,  well ahead of Christmas; walking the Con floor from end to end is like navigating an obstacle course collecting bonus gifts on the way.  It’s really too bad we can’t hit a box for bonus coins or lives but this is good enough.

In recent years, the Con has grown exponentially, promotional events and booths spilling over the edges of the Convention Center itself into neighboring hotels, into the Gaslamp District and clear through to PetCo Park. It’s a sight to see, I tell you.

The main casualty of this growth is their ability to properly sell tickets. It’s become a situation where attendees can’t buy tickets in a sane manner on site for the next year, the vendor managing sales cannot serve up tickets online only without servers collapsing under the weight of anxious buyers and no one knows how many of what kind of tickets will be sold at any given time. It’s a bit of a mess.

There’s no longer a guarantee that this year won’t be the last year that we can get tickets and that’s terribly dispiriting. It seems easier to get a ticket if you went the previous year because you get two shots at the ticket purchasing gauntlet so once you drop out of attending, you almost can’t plan to go back. (Pessimist.)

On the other hand, if this is the last year, we’re going to make the most of it. (And look, I typed that whole statement without having to hold my breath or tearing up. I’m finally making my peace with it. Probably.)

Which means: we’re staying at a hotel in the Gaslamp District at conference rates (only hotel we could get at the time), sharing out the cost by rooming with friends, and planning to make the most of what little time we have left.  I have a lot more flexibility with regard to work than I ever have before, so there’s that.

 

:: Have you got any travel/fun-only traditions? Any that you’re going to have to (or have had to) let go of?

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