On using Airbnb for big events (like SDCC or other conventions).

keysmash on using airbnb for big events sdcc san diego comic con

A few weeks ago the SDCC Unofficial Blog published this piece on the highs and lows of using Airbnb for convention lodging. I’ve seen a lot of these cautionary tales from con-goers, and as someone who has successfully booked with Airbnb and other vacation rental sites, I thought I’d put in my two cents.

You’ve probably seen people experience (or maybe even experienced yourself) the horror of having an Airbnb booking canceled at the last minute before a convention. I can’t imagine the stress that must cause, especially when we’re talking a con like SDCC, where lodging is at a premium. There’s no way to guarantee that that won’t happen, but from my previous experience booking non-hotel accommodations for conventions and other events, these are things you can do that I think will minimize the likelihood.

Message the host.

With Airbnb becoming more and more automated, hosts and owners often set their prices and forget about them. Especially with the instant book option. This could mean that the price you’re seeing on the site is just what the host/owner put in for the entirety of summer, not taking event weekends into account. I know this seems like common sense, but it’s not something that everyone thinks about. Especially since a lot of properties are now being managed by rental companies. You think you’re getting a deal on a place, but when the host/owner sees what other people are paying for that particular time frame, they’re likely going to want to get something similar for their property, and their solution might be to just cancel your booking and put the place back on the site.

If you message the host/owner ahead of time and explicitly state that you’re going to be staying there for SDCC, then they can quote you the price they really want to get for that week, and you can decide whether or not it’s worth it.


Once the host/owner looks around and sees the prices other people are charging, they may quote you a completely ridiculous (in your opinion) number. Do your own shopping around. Prioritize places by distance to the convention center and amenities, and keep track of the prices. That will help you decide what you’re willing to pay. We’ve successfully negotiated with Airbnb owners before by showing them similar properties that were charging roughly what we wanted (but weren’t available).

Start your research early.

I’d suggest starting NOW. Six months out might even be too late for some places – we lost a condo we’d stayed in two years in a row because someone else booked it in August for the following year. If you start now you give the host/owner time to do their own research and set a price, and you miss out on the post-hotelpocalypse rush.

Have a deposit ready.

In some cases you’ll need a hefty deposit to secure your space. You want to be as cooperative as possible when booking through sites like Airbnb; remember there are more people wanting to rent than there are places to rent, so you don’t want to give a host/owner any reason to not want to rent to you.

Look at other rental sites.

The first two years we rented a condo through VRBO. It was awesome, and because we were dealing with a dedicated vacation rental company, the whole process was super smooth.

Personally I prefer renting a condo to staying in a hotel, because you can often get amenities like a kitchen and laundry that aren’t available in some hotels. Let me tell you, being able to wash your pajamas after spending the night in the Hall H line is glorious. As is cooking a real dinner, even if it is at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Have you used Airbnb for a convention or other large event? Do you have any other tips? If so, let me know. Feel free to leave questions in the comments as well.

Liz Keysmash
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Liz Keysmash

Liz has a ginger kitty named Thackery Binx who chirps like a bird and plays fetch like a dog. She reads a lot of slash, and writes a bit as well. She thinks she’s a good cook, she brews beer, she's a total nerd about baseball, she reads YA fiction, she has recently rediscovered her love of pop music, she swears like a sailor.
Liz Keysmash
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  • B.

    I haven’t used AirBNB for SDCC but I have used VRBO! I’ve heard a few horror stories about AirBnB and SDCC, so I’m still too nervous to go that way. I think it would be great for smaller conventions though!

  • Mel keysmash

    I’ve used Homeaway once and had decent luck.