By Joe Glass
So you've managed to get your table/press pass/weekend pass, or far more likely now, single day pass to NYCC. You booked you flight/bus/train, made sure the car is gassed up and ready for a long and once you hit Manhattan, slow drive. All you need is a hotel, right?
In a different country/state/city. In a place you've maybe never, ever been before.
Well, let me warn you, gentle reader: you need to make sure, DAMN SURE, you know where you are going before you get there.
Case in point: I booked my hotel on a very well known and reputable hotel booking website. I read the reviews, saw all the pictures, and saw the site's own rating of the hotel in question, and all seemed above board. The hotel in fact seemed ideal! Not in Manhattan itself, but close enough and with a direct route on the subway, this should be perfect.
It was far from it.
When my cab pulled up, I found myself in a rough, practically abandoned part of Brooklyn. The hotel was the only building still in use in the immediate vicinity, everything else dilapidated, run down and falling apart. Directly opposite was a massive railway, which had not once appeared in any of the pictures online. I had to double check the address as I thought I was in the wrong place.
When I entered the hotel, I was hit in the face by a strong smell of marijuana. It would turn out this smell pervades the entire building, and was so strong it was like the smell was a solid smacking my sinuses with every breath. I'm amazed I wasn't high every day at the show, to be honest.
The hotel room key stopped working every day. Ultimately, I had to rely on one of my room mate's to let me in. There was no hot water…not once. And one morning, I woke to the screams of a young woman demanding she get her 'cut'.
Frankly, I feared for my life there, and it certainly didn't help that we had learned that the area was colloquially referred to as the Alley of Death.
The one element we did have was the previously mentioned closeness of the subway station (which thankfully was accurate) as it was a big station with a police station which meant the immediate surrounding area was the safest zone in this area suffering from a very high crime rate.
And thankfully, we did all in fact survive the experience.
Reviews and angry complaints to all involved are forthcoming, though I will not name and shame either website or hotel here. I do have to say a big thank you to comics creator Andi Ewington who had offered me an alternative solution if things got too much for me.
So what can you do? If, like me, you are based in a different country or area, it may be worth seeing if you can get someone local to stay with you, or a friend who is local, to scope the hotel out before you hit that book button (or, if you have free cancellation, scope it out and cancel while you can). Certainly nothing can beat an eyes on investigation, but if you can't arrange that, then a full Google search independent of the booking site/hotel would probably also be best.
If you know people local to the area, it may be wise to ask them to sort out the accommodation plans, and sort payment out among yourselves: after all, a local will have a better idea of what areas are best to look at.
But, worse comes to worst and you find yourself stuck in a hell-hole like me and my colleagues, the best advice is this: be safe, be aware of your surroundings at all times, stick in groups/pairs as much as possible, and act like you know the place.
It worked for us, anyway.
Joe Glass is a Bleeding Cool reporter and comics creator, having created and written The Pride, an LGBTQ superhero team comic that is available here and on Comixology. He has also co-written a horror comedy series set in his home of South Wales called Stiffs, which is available here and on Comixology…and it features a talking monkey, so there's that.