How to find an affordable Austin Hotel during SXSW?
February 18, 2013 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Can't find an affordable hotel for SXSW, where else to look?

I'm going to be in Austin for SXSW (Mar 3rd-12) but I can't find any hotels. The ones that I've found charge exorbitant rates.

Any other suggestions to find affordable lodging?
posted by touareg to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

The very nature of SXSW is that it brings a ton of people into town who are often willing to pay enormous amounts of money to do so. Welcome to supply & demand.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:50 PM on February 18, 2013


A group at my work was trying to go to this and our travel agents told us that people book hotels for this a year in advance, so basically nothing is available that is less than ~5miles away and even those are $350+.
posted by fromageball at 5:11 PM on February 18, 2013

Hostelling International Austin has space from the 3-6. You may be able to stay there for some time and then switch for the rest of your trip.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:13 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had good luck with airbnb last year. Also, I heard as late as yesterday that there were still rooms in the $75 range at a Motel6 in a not-great location (Rundberg, I think).
posted by bradf at 5:15 PM on February 18, 2013

Yeah, I came in here to suggest Airbnb. A family member just found a rental on SoCo for under $100/night during that time period, but that was a lucky find.
Check out public transportation lines and think about staying further out but near a transit line. For example, MetroRail runs later than usual during SX, so you could stay out around Crestview or even farther if you were willing to take the train in (it lets off just outside the convention center). As ChuraChura suggests, you may need to switch lodging midway.
posted by katemonster at 5:16 PM on February 18, 2013

You're also dealing with people who are traveling on corporate expense accounts. Those people just don't care what the room costs (and are probably getting a corporate negotiated rate to boot.) Corporate travelers also get to cancel rooms at the last possible minute so those rooms won't open up until 6pm on the arrival day.

Do you know anyone traveling on a corporate account who might be in a room block? If not, look where corporate travelers wouldn't bother to look - Airbnb or a decent trek outside of Austin.
posted by 26.2 at 5:17 PM on February 18, 2013

Check your MeMail.
posted by katemonster at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try AirBnB, VBRO, all social networks asking for crash space/couch space/floor space. Maybe you can find someone who is already renting a house or who will let you stay on the floor in their room.

Here's how the system was explained to me a few years ago: before the current SXSW ends, the SXSW festival has already set dates and hotel blocks for the next year. Hotels that work with SXSW are not allowed to let people book those dates, outside of the SXSW housing desk. Some used to, but the loopholes have been closed.

You cannot book a hotel room at any official SXSW hotel without a conference badge. So as soon as badges go on sale, hotel rooms start filling up. Rates for downtown rooms in the last 1-2 years have been pretty steep. The rates don't change as the festival nears, so it behooves you to buy your badge in August and book a room then based upon what badge you bought. People start planning for SXSW months in advance.

It's getting harder and harder to stay in downtown Austin for SXSW and get out for under $300/night during SXSW. Tens of thousands of people want those rooms. The festival has a near monopoly on rooms during SXSW. Once the official SXSW housing blocks are full, the housing desk adds people to the wait list. Currently, if I interpret their site correctly, even the wait list is full. So if someone cancels a room, it's probably going to someone on the wait list.

I highly doubt people are getting great corporate rates on anything--SXSW participants always book through the SXSW housing department and get the SXSW rate. They run a pretty tight ship. If you only have an Interactive badge, you're not even allowed to stay more than one night extra into Music without a special reason.
posted by kathryn at 5:44 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

My boss tried this last year and your options are either staying a fairly long drive out (like Georgetown, Buda, and Round Rock), paying $300+/night for a Motel 6 in a bad part of town, or scoring on VRBO, AirBnB, etc.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2013

How feasible would it be to stay in Round Rock or San Marcos and come into Austin during the day? The only affordable hotels seem to be in that area. I find it hilarious that 1 star hotels are charging $600+.

I've looked around AirBnb but a number of them are already booked and those that are still available seemed quite sketchy. I've got a memail with a few listings that I'll take a look at though!
posted by touareg at 6:41 PM on February 18, 2013

I used airbnb to find a place for 5 people (including my Mefite sister) during the Formula One Grand Prix in Austin last November. It is my understanding that the Formula One race was far larger than SXSW and we only paid a minor "event premium" to our host.

Memail me if you want a referral/recommendation to the lady in whose house we stayed.
posted by KevCed at 7:15 PM on February 18, 2013

You mean for next year, right? Getting a place now is INSANITY! :)

I have seen good deals on craigslist, roommates/shares on sxswbaby, and of course if you are registered you can go through the official hotel pool. They have a pool held for presenters, and if those don't fill up, I imagine they release them to the general public eventually, so checking that site a lot might help.

homeaway is like airbnb but is a startup local to austin so you might try that too.

It's very feasible to come into austin only for the day--if you don't expect to drink till 2am and then come back for 10am conference stuff.

Essentially what you lack during sxsw is time. Far away is totally doable, but know you'll be giving up sleep or events the farther you go.
posted by jennybento at 7:54 PM on February 18, 2013

I live in Austin, and I know that I've seen airbnb about trying to get people to list.

I think though it is going to be a bit expensive no matter what.
posted by hrj at 10:35 AM on February 19, 2013

Thanks for the help everyone; finally ended up finding someone with a corporate rate who was looking to share a room!

Mefi meetup at SXSW/Austin anyone?
posted by touareg at 12:21 PM on February 19, 2013

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