When you budget for a convention trip the hotel room can be the most expensive part of your travel. Often it’ll be more than convention badges and transportation combined. Hotels are also where you can save the most money, but you have to share.
A room share is where two or more convention attendees agree to share a hotel room, splitting the cost. For anyone traveling with friends this can be easy to setup, share the room with your friends.
For those traveling alone, or a pair of friends in need of a cheaper option, you’ll be looking at sharing a room with strangers. But they aren’t complete strangers. They’re attending the same convention you are, so you already have things in common. You don’t need to become fast friends. You only need to communicate well and be courteous for a few days to have a good experience.
Finding A Room Share
Larger cons will host a forum or other online community. There you’ll find posts looking for room shares. PAX has a dedicated room share post which is well moderated. DragonCon has an entire forum section dedicated to those looking for a room or looking to share a room. For conventions without an online community reach out to the organizers.
When looking for a room to join look through the postings for available space. You’ll want to consider a few factors, which they should include in the post:
- Hotel – Make sure it is close to the convention center.
- Room Type/Beds/Total Number of People – # people > # beds = people on the floor
Cost – Expect to pay your fair share of nights stayed. Make sure hotel tax is in the total. Get your total cost before you commit.
- Age of Others – Less of an issue for most than gender. If you’re older than the average con goer and room with a bunch of early 20 year olds just remember how you were at that age. If you can’t roll with it find a different room.
When you find a room or two you like contact the poster and take things from there. Clear and timely communication is important. It shouldn’t take long to go through any questions and work out the details. Then you don’t need to worry about it until your travel day.
You can also post that you are looking for a room. Including basic information:
- Hotel preferences
- Age (if well outside the usual 18-28)
- Contact info
Hosting A Room Share
Having a hotel room to share is a more secure position than looking for a room. But you’ll also have more responsibilities.
- You’ll need to post your room’s availability and go through responses. Your worst case is paying full price for the room. Their worst case is no place to sleep in the bitter cold. Keep that in mind when dealing with others.
- As the host you have the most responsibility. Your roomies may put minimal effort into the stay. You need to make sure communication lines are open. Once everyone is there (and paid) that drops off, unless you need to deal with a room problem.
- Pre-trip communication is key. Set payment expectations (amount and form) early. Set accurate room and cost expectations. Get everyone’s phone number and share yours with them many times. Put their names and numbers in your phone’s address book with a note ‘convention room’ to make finding them easy.
- It is advisable to ask for a deposit, up to 50%. This helps ensure you don’t have a no show. Be aware some people may need to wait for their next paycheck. Be flexible, but not gullible.
- Communicate when you will arrive in town and text them after you have checked into the hotel. Ask for their arrival ETAs, but don’t be surprised if they get distracted once in town. See if the hotel will hold keys for them (you’ll need their full names). If not you need to be on standby to get them into the room (within reason of their stated ETA).
- Take final payment the first night in the hotel, period. I used Venmo to avoid both fees and excess cash.
- If people outnumber beds that is going to be the biggest point of contention. Left to work itself out assertive people will take the beds, passive people will miss out and may hold a grudge. Check out more on this below.
- Work out shower schedule if needed. Depending on morning vs evening preferences and wake up time this may not be an issue.
- Once everyone is in the room and paid up stop worrying about the room and enjoy the con. If they need something they’ll ask (or do without). If you make friends, great. If not no worries, the money saved is well worth your efforts.
- Send everyone a copy of the final hotel bill to keep things transparent.
- Be the last one out of the room and check things over. The hotel will hold you responsible for any issues. If someone’s flight is later than yours the hotel will hold their bags and they can hang out in the lobby.
This seems like a lot but it isn’t all at once. You’ll spend some time with the post and responses. But once you have names, numbers, and deposits you’re done until the trip. That first night you’ll need to get everyone in and paid up, but again after that you’re done and can enjoy your stay. Meeting new people is usually a good experience, even if you don’t hang out. And if you’re a member of a hotel rewards program you can rake in those points.
Dealing With Too Few Beds
Not enough beds is the worst part of a room share. People don’t want to share a bed with a stranger. People also don’t want to sleep on the floor, I don’t care what that friend in college said. Most hotels will have two beds, a sofa bed if you got a suite. So what are your options?
- Room share with the same number of people as beds. In most cases this means two people per room. Your cost will be double that of a room share with four people, but there will be no bed issues.
- Work out bed assignments in advance. This can include rotating beds to floor each night. Hotel staff will change the sheets daily if you ask them to.
Bring air mattresses. This is easy if you’re driving, but also doable if flying. The effort pays off in filling up the room quickly and reducing stress for everyone.
Air Mattress Solution
For my room share at PAX East (Boston) I brought a pair of twin air mattresses from Huntsville. The whole thing cost me $25, which against a $1200 hotel bill was a good investment. I advertised two beds and two air mattresses and worked out who would sleep where in advance.
You can get twin air mattresses from Walmart for $8. If you also need an air pump the total for two mattresses and pump is $23. Once at the hotel ask for extra pillows and blankets to complete them.
I flew Southwest, so I had free bag checking. I used a large rolling luggage for my stuff and the air mattresses. While heavier than how I travel it was fine and I hardly ever had to pick it up. If your airline takes payment for a checked bag it’ll be ~$25-35 each way.
If you don’t usually check a bag you could see about splitting the checked bag fee with your roommates. Be transparent about this and include yourself in the split. At less than $20 per person that’s a good deal to keep everyone off the floor. Don’t include the cost of the air mattresses. Consider them an investment in a less stressful convention trip, and you can use them for the next trip.
You don’t have to be the room host to put in place this solution. If you’re willing and able to do it contact your room host and offer to help everyone out.
Being a Good Roommate
Being a good roommate in a room share is a lot easier than at home. You only need to be considerate for a few days.
- Keep your stuff neat and in your space. The more you can keep in your bag the better. You won’t be creeping into anyone else’s limited space and your stuff won’t get lost or stepped on.
- If you have a lot of electronics to charge bring a small power strip. If you have a multi-USB charger offer to share.
- Consider your usual sleepwear (or lack there of) and then adjust as needed. Modest pajamas are good. Shorts and a t-shirt are fine. Underwear only, not so much.
- If you snore bring nose strips. And warn everyone else in advance, give them the option to pack earplugs.
- Mind your time in the bathroom, especially in the morning if others are up but not ready yet.
- Don’t expect everyone to be your friend and to hang out with you. If something happens, cool. But in the end everyone is there to save money.
- If bringing in food to save money avoid anything with a strong odor. Even if it smells great, giving everyone else the munchies and not sharing is mean.
- Help keep the room clean. Trash empty cans, even if not yours.
- If you’re a cosplayer:
- Try to room with other cosplayers. You’ll all know what to expect and you can share resources.
- If rooming with muggles you need to keep that mind and make some compromises. Don’t expect to get more than your fair share of space. Don’t drop pins or leave a hot glue gun running. Don’t monopolize or destroy the bathroom.
- “Don’t be a dick.” -Wil Wheaton
Watch Out for Yourself
You can’t expect anyone else to have your best interests in mind. In the end you’re paying money to be at this convention like everyone else. So make sure you have a good time.
- If there is a problem in the room, speak up. Be nice and professional about it, but bring it up. Passive people get stepped on.
- If you aren’t sure about something, ask.
- Keep your stuff safe. There are almost no stories of room theft from these kind of room shares. But there is no reason to not keep your wallet on you and your electronics in your bag.
- Get up when you want to get up. If you want to be there early ignore the lazy bums around you and head on out. If you want to sleep in that cool too, though don’t expect everyone to be silent as they head out.
- You can use the room as a place to sleep and store your stuff.
- You can use the room share as a chance to meet new people and get to know them. If someone else is there solo they may be interested in going to the same panel or the expo hall. If you do click with someone keep in touch. Maybe you’ll have a set roommate for next year.