Episodes Vegas Tips

Travel Hacking Vegas

This episode is sponsored by Casino Royale. Your #1 stop for low rolling action on the Strip. Casino Royale and I are teaming up to give you the ultimate travel hack: FREE BEER! From now until tax day, the first 50 people to stop by the casino bar and say “Vegas Fanboy sent me” will get a FREE Michelob!

After April 15th, it’s still only $1

For this very special, dare I say Royale, edition of the show, I discuss how to take advantage of a multitude of deals to maximize your Vegas travel budget. Per usual, I get some great insight from you. Here are some of the finer points:

Flights

Credit cards:

I should point out that I am not advocating for any specific credit card as I have not considered your financial situation, however, quite a few people have had success leveraging airline credit card bonus offers to score free flights.

I have had success with both the Southwest Airlines credit card through Chase and the Delta credit card through American Express. Look for deals worth at least 50,000 miles on each, which, depending on your location and date of departure, should be enough for two round trip flights. A Delta cardholder bonus: you get your first checked bag free. All flyers on Southwest already get two checked bags for free.

Choosing seats:

Obsessive planners can rejoice, for Seat Guru helps take your intense preparation to the next level. I use it when I fly an airline that lets me choose a seat ahead of time. Seat Guru, a Tripadvisor site, will show you the best and worst seats on your plane. It even offers user reviews of the aircraft along with details of amenities or lack thereof. I found it helpful for an upcoming Vegas trip, snagging a high rated seat behind the exit row with extra legroom.

Delta 757

If you’re traveling on the first come, first serve airline, Southwest, you’ll have the option of purchasing EarlyBird check-in to ensure an early boarding position. At $15 each way per ticket, it can add up quickly. What I’m fond of doing is purchasing it for my flight back home from Vegas. I usually have my wits about me the day before my trip, so I have no problem checking in manually. I can’t say the same for when I’m in the middle of my trip, so the $15 is well spent because it means it’s a little thing I don’t have to worry about when I’m in the middle of my Vegas fun.

Hotels

Leverage partnerships:

Quite a few resorts in Vegas, despite not being a part of a major chain, have developed partnerships that allow guests to use points or tier match to get discounts on rooms. I’m a Hyatt card member, which automatically placed me as a Hyatt Platinum member (Hyatt is about to go through a revamp of their reward structure). As a Platinum member, I was able to tier match my status through MGM’s MLife as a Gold member. I don’t gamble enough to get beyond Saphire,  so it was an inexpensive way to get better “amenities” when I stay at MGM properties. For instance, members in tiers higher than the basic, Saphire, get free parking. There are a number of other hotel partnerships in Vegas. Here are a few:

  • Marriott and Cosmopolitan
  • W Hotels (SPG) and SLS
  • Hilton and Elara
  • DoubleTree (Hilton) and Tropicana

These are just a few. If you’re loyal to a particular brand, check to see if they have any Vegas-based partnerships in which you could use your points.

MyVegas:

Yeah, the game has changed quite a bit and some of the more popular rewards have been removed, but there is still value to be found. Since I started playing about 4 years ago, I’ve redeemed almost $1000 worth of rewards. I’ve had comped nights at Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, NYNY, and have two nights currently booked at the Mirage. You’ll still pay a resort fee, but the game offers quite a hefty discount. If you reach enough spend of in-game purchases, you’ll gain access to the two-night comp room rewards. Those were unlocked for me after about $25 of chip purchases. If you find your progress is slowed with the desktop slots, give the mobile blackjack game a go. I find it has quicker leveling and is more fun for my taste.

Upgrades:

It’ll be easier for you to get a room upgrade if you book directly with your resort. It is certainly easiest to search prices using the hotel search engines like Hotels.com or Vegas.com, but they take a commission, impacting the hotel’s bottom line. My friends in the biz tell me that it makes more sense to treat direct bookings to some complimentary perks. Further, if you have to cancel or make changes, it can be much easier to do if you work right with the resort in question. Using a booking agent adds a middle man to the process. That being said, if you are loyal to a particular site and have points or room nights adding up, booking with one of the search engines could make sense.

You could also give the $20 trick a try. This may be getting harder at certain properties as employees are incentivized for paid upgrades, but many have found success with the $20 sandwich. If you’re looking to snag a room with a view or a little more space, it may be worth a try.

Getting Cash

Easy Freeplay:

My wife and I use a separate online checking account for our vacations. It helps keep our money separate, but another added benefit is that many online banks offer reimbursed ATM fees. If you’re staying downtown, one offer to take advantage of is the Club Cortez ATM Freeplay offer. El Cortez card members can get 5% in freeplay for ATM withdrawals over $200. You’ll have to forgive me for not remember the ATM fee. I tend to disregard them given my bank’s generosity. To redeem, you have to hit the ATM first. Then, take your receipt to the cage where they will give you a certificate. After that, take the reward certificate to the Club Cortez desk and they’ll load it on your player’s card. I did this on a recent trip and was able to sit and enjoy my freeplay for hours one morning, gulping back free drinks left and right. To use the offer a second time, you’ll have to reach a point threshold on your card.

Pharmacy ATMs:

If not taking advantage of a promotion, casino ATMs are best to be ignored. They charge astronomical rates for their geographical convenience. A quick trip to one of the thousands (rounded down, probably) of pharmacies on the Strip will net you a lower ATM fee. Or, you could grab a couple tallboys and get cashback right from the register.

Transportation

You’ll see Uber and Lyft promos everywhere. New users can easily find upwards of $50 in ride credit for both apps. If you already have the apps but are traveling in a group, give your own affiliate code to someone in your group who has yet to sign-up. You’ll both get some decent discounts on your next few rides. It’s easy to split the fares right in the app during the ride. I did this recently and it kept our ride fees down to about $5 per trip.

Don’t forget the Monorail. You won’t be traveling in style, but if you’re on the east side of LV BLVD anyway, $5 can get you up and down the Strip with relative ease. Free and discounted tickets are also an inexpensive MyVegas reward.

Gambling

Casinos are naturally protective of their number one product, but you can find some gambling discounts in the form of freeplay and matchplay coupons. One good source is the American Casino Guide (affiliate link below):

One great feature this year is that much of their promotions are not limited to new card members for the casinos. The guide also has discounts on shows, drinks, food, and more. At around $14, the book can easily pay for itself if you’re looking to go on a coupon run.

Similarly, the Las Vegas Advisor membership grants access to dozens of casino and restaurant coupons. While a little pricier at $40, it also gets you access to their newsletter. Using just a couple offers will offset the price of membership.

Grab a free beer, then play some free slots

Food and Beverage

Like I’m not going to mention my labor of love, the Happy Hour page. There’s no better way to try some of Vegas’ best restaurants on the cheap. Every hour of the day and night you can find discounted food and drink. Some restaurants feature fixed price menus, making a three-course course meal more accessible.

Know that drinks in the restaurant are bound to be more expensive than the specials you’ll find on the floor. If you want to save money on the final bill, limit your drink consumption during the meal. Pre and post-gaming can help save a few bucks.

Did I mention FREE beer at Casino Royale?

I took to Twitter to get some more tips. Here’s what my compadres said:

 

What about you? Any “hacks” you use to save a few bucks in Vegas? Let me know!