Looks like I'll be heading to San Francisco again this year. This will be my third trip for JavaOne, making something like fifteen nights I've spent in San Francisco. I don't even think I've slept that many nights in Boston or NYC. Well, that's what happens when the company pays.
To be determined is whether I travel alone, or with Jess. We hadn't planned on an expensive trip together this year, but basically having her along on a company trip (if we don't do anything expensive) is a severely bargained vacation for her. We pay for her flight and her food, and that's it. Still, it's a different trip with just work going on versus sharing the time with Jess. Not that I mind a lot, but when every moment you're busy at the conference is a moment you're not seeing San Francisco with your wife, you kind of find reasons to stay away from the conference.
What I also have to decide, and soon, is where I'm going to stay. The place we stayed last year, Pan Pacific, is no longer affiliated with the conference. I'm not sure why; it was a fine location.
So, there are a couple metrics I need to worry about. Price is the smallest issue. Ideally I should pick a spot with a reasonable rate, but it's not a huge factor.
The next issue is location. While all of the hotels are "walking distance" from the conference, they vary from "next door" to 8 blocks away. Last year's hotel was a bit of a walk, but I never really minded it. Still, closer might be cooler, if it can be arranged.
The final issue is character. The truth is, I like to travel. I like to be in new places. While there's nothing wrong with staying at yet another Marriott, you have to wonder how different the Marriott San Francisco Downtown is from Marriot Boston Copley Place, say.
This creates an interesting dynamic. Close to the conference center, you have bland expensive chains which are designed for convention-goers. You also have a few expensive luxury hotels, and these are the ones I might have trouble getting paid to stay at. Further away, you have some of the more interesting, cheaper places, with more personality. Of course, one person's personality is another person's "dirty, noisy, and cramped." Finding the compromise is the hard job. The bonus here is that price and character are often inversely related. The $230 room at the Marriott is probably much less interesting than the $120 room at the Mark Twain.
Anyway, right now I'm seriously considering Hotel Rex, a small hotel with a literary theme near Union Square. The problem? I remember where this place is, basically another block further from the conference than I was last year ... uphill. Deal breaker? Or deal sealer?
It remains to be seen.