Vegas Done Right … and Far Less Expensively

So, what does “done right”mean?  Well, when you and your wife are celebrating ten years of marriage (but doing it a month early since our kids’ Spring Break falls on our anniversary every stinking year), you need to a) go somewhere really special, b) do lots of cool and exciting things, and c) allow yourself to splurge a little. Marci had never been to Vegas before, so this had been on our radar for a long time.  Our plan was to fly in early

I think this will do for our anniversary, right?

Friday evening and fly home mid-Monday afternoon.  That’s three nights.  I wanted to stay somewhere memorable (Bellagio, Venetian, etc.) and we wanted to eat spectacularly.  And of course we wanted to see a couple of shows. Obviously my intent with this post is to tell you how I saved a fortune somehow, so let’s cut to the chase.  Airfare and hotel.  The lowest priced non-stop, round trip airfare to Vegas from Atlanta at the time (for Friday departure and Monday return) was around $420 per person.  As for the hotel, we chose the Bellagio because a) it’s an awesome hotel and b) I found a way to stay for free for two of our three nights.  At the time we stayed, the Bellagio was going for about $250 a night.  So, just airfare and hotel would have cost us 2 * $420 + 3 * $250, or $1590.  We paid for one hotel night, which means we saved over $1300.  The other two nights and the airfare were free.  Here’s how we did it. First, as you can read in my earlier article about the Southwest Companion Pass, Marci flies for free on Southwest whenever I fly on Southwest.  Even if I pay using Southwest points instead of cash, she flies with me for free.  I still can’t believe more people do not know about this Willy Wonka Golden Ticket in the air travel world.  I had enough points to cover my airfare, and she came along for the ride.

Feel free to sing along with Charlie and Grandpa Joe

Now, how did we stay at the Bellagio for two nights for free?  Easy, we endured a very painful 90-minute timeshare that…are you kidding me?  No way I would put us through that, especially on an anniversary.  No, here is what we did instead.  Marci signed up for the Hyatt credit card from Chase.  The signup bonus details?  Spend $1,000 in 3 months (and let me say for the 97th time, this is spend we would incur anyway) and get two free nights at any Hyatt property.  But wait Jim, you said you stayed at the Bellagio…does Hyatt own them?  No, not at all.  BUT, many “traditional” hotel chains (Intercontinental, Hyatt, Starwood) have developed partnerships with the Vegas hotel groups (Caesar’s, M Life, etc.).  So, those two nights could not only be used at actual Hyatt properties, but also at their partner hotels, including the Bellagio.  We met the spend requirement and then called Hyatt.  Yes, we did pay for the third night out of pocket, but as luck would have it, the Sunday night was far less expensive.  So, we had the flexibility to designate any of our two nights as our “free nights.”  Now, full disclosure.  If I had really wanted to, I could have squeezed a TON more value out of those two Hyatt nights because there are actual Hyatt properties that go for a lot more than $250 per night.  It’s okay to settle for less than the maximum benefit if you have a specific goal that is worth slightly less.  Here is an example: consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred (and if you have not signed up for it, what are you waiting for?).  Spend $3K in 3 months, and you will get 40,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points.  The easy way to redeem those points is to get 1 penny per point as cash back, or $400 in value.  I’d much prefer to transfer those points to an airline (Southwest, United) or hotel (Hyatt) partner and watch them become worth potentially hundreds more.

Bellagio here we come!

Having saved a fortune on airfare and hotel, we were able to spend more lavishly on shows, dining, and other experiences (such as riding a gondola at the Venetian).  I don’t advise always being a cheapskate, folks.  My philosophy is to be responsible with your money, but don’t forget to live!  The credit card signups, done the right way, make this type of travel much more doable for all of us. Incidentally, Absinthe (the show, not the drink) was spectacular, but definitely adults only.  And the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s?  Holy cow.  What a feast. Happy travels, folks!
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