SAN DIEGO — In July, San Diego Comic-Con will return in its complete format for the first time since 2019, once again drawing huge crowds downtown.

The pandemic-era Comic-Con: Special Edition, a pared-down convention that focused more on comic book hobbyists and vendors, brought lighter demand for everything from hotels to rideshares. This year, expect the huge throngs of superfans that you’ve come to recognize from previous editions.

Attendees will book San Diego hotels solid when they become available Thursday — and they’ll do it fast. Organizers expect rooms to sell out in a “matter of minutes,” and attendees will work through an elaborate process involving a waiting room, randomized entries and a list of their top 12 preferences (plus contingency plans).

If you want to avoid that headache, it’s worth noting that you can still book a Comic-Con 2022 early bird hotel reservation on Wednesday. Those deals, which are for a select number of Mission Valley and airport-area hotels only, will close at 9 a.m. Thursday when general housing opens.

If you have your heart set on staying downtown or simply want to keep your options open, here’s what you need to know.

How to get a hotel for San Diego Comic-Con 2022

Comic-Con badge holders should have already received an email Tuesday with a link to the hotel waiting room and reservation request process. Clicking on the link before Thursday, April 28 at 8 a.m. will just show you a page that indicates you are in the right place and need to check back when the waiting room opens.

Organizers felt the need to say it, so we will too: Booking a hotel will not guarantee you entry to the convention if you don’t have a badge, so don’t get a room if you’re not sure you’re attending.

The waiting room

The waiting room opens at 8 a.m. Thursday. Don’t stress — the time at which you enter the waiting room has no bearing on your reservation priority, according to organizers. Everyone in the waiting room before 9 a.m. will be treated equally.

In the waiting room you can preview a sample version of the hotel reservation form, which is worth familiarizing yourself with, because it contains a dizzying number of options. You’ll also get a chance to test whether your browser is having any issues displaying the form.

Placing your request

When the form finally opens at 9 a.m., anyone who was already in the waiting room will be placed in a random order for entry to the form. Anyone who comes in late will join at the back of the line.

When you get access to the form, don’t rush, you have 15 minutes and organizers say that your place in line is saved while you fill it out. In other words, your priority is determined by the time you open the form, not by the time you submit it.

Attendees will fill out some personal information, get notified of a non-refundable 3% service fee and select the number of rooms they would like. Then they will list 12 hotel preferences in order of most- to least-desired.

You’ll also have options for lodging if none of your preferred hotels are available. Contingency plans include the closest available hotel to the convention center, the cheapest rate and any hotel that is on the shuttle route.

Hotel placements

Organizers will send hotel placement emails in two waves: May 3 and May 10. You will have 72 hours after receiving your placement to put down a deposit equal to two nights in the room, plus tax.

If you don’t like your hotel, simply not paying the deposit will cancel your placement and make it available to someone else. You can also notify the reservation service onPeak, which is handling placements, by email or phone.

Where to stay for San Diego Comic-Con 2022

There are dozens of hotels to choose from, and costs will be the first and most obvious factor for many attendees. Nightly rates range from about $190 to nearly $400.

But beyond your travel budget, there are some other factors to consider.

Hotels with blocks designated for Comic-Con attendees are split into five primary areas by geography:

  • Airport
  • Coronado
  • Downtown
  • Mission Bay
  • Mission Valley
  • Shelter Island

Proximity to the convention may be a bigger deal for some attendees than others, so it’s a good way to start narrowing down your options. With the exception of Coronado, each hotel is either walking-distance from the convention or along a shuttle route with service downtown.

Some hotels in the airport area have estimated shuttle times as long as 40 minutes to the convention, while certain downtown and Mission Valley locations will get you there in about 20 minutes or less.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Pet policies
  • Room configurations (1 or 2 beds)
  • Breakfast options

Check out the complete list of hotels here, and start winnowing your top 12 before you’re staring down a form on Thursday morning. We also recommend previewing the sample reservation form so there are no surprises.

Finally, check out San Diego Comic-Con’s full explanation of the process, FAQ and fine print section here.