Marci and I recently celebrated our 12th anniversary and our respective 50th birthdays in a two month span. So, we went to Vegas and Lake Tahoe to celebrate all of them in one trip. I don’t have anything groundbreaking to report on making Lake Tahoe more affordable (we used Chase Ultimate Reward points). But holy cow did I get creative for saving money in Vegas. I’m really excited to share my tips with you.
For a guy who is not much of a drinker or gambler, I absolutely love Las Vegas. It’s Disney World for adults. It leaves all pretense of subtlety behind and dares you not to be drawn in. And yet, at the nicest hotels, you can find moments of pure zen by just lying by the spectacular pools. The food can be out of this world and the entertainment options are first rate.
But staying and playing on the Strip can be really pricey (dining and entertainment especially), even if you don’t gamble. So, being true to my nature, I am always trying to find creative ways to cut the costs. Let’s take a look at how we saved several hundred dollars this time around.
STEP ONE: GETTING THERE
Southwest to the rescue, again. I am sitting on tons of Southwest miles from credit card signups, and they offer non-stops from Atlanta to Vegas. Luckily, we also have a Southwest Companion Pass, so Marci came along for free while I flew on points. Easily $600-800 saved right there.
Okay, so now we are in the city. Nope, sorry, we are still at the airport. How do we get to the hotel? Ride sharing. Lyft to be exact. We used taxis in our previous trips to Vegas, but I was eager to see what ride sharing was like. And we actually grew to love it. It was much cheaper, and we met some interesting people on the way. Tip: if you use Uber/Lyft, it’s easy to find promo codes that will get you some free rides. Almost all of our rides were free or $1-2 by using promo codes. Just Google Lyft or Uber promo codes.
STEP 2: STAYING THERE
So, where are we staying and how can I cut the cost as much as possible? We love to stay at the Venetian for a few reasons. First, it’s breathtaking. We honeymooned in Italy, and while the Venetian is far from the real thing, it evokes memories of a very special week in our life together. So there’s that:). It also has everything you could want from a hotel: majestic pools, multiple shows, huge rooms, and a dizzying array of dining options. Eating in St. Mark’s Square? Sign me up.
Now, the first way to cut our cost was to use the free anniversary night that comes with the IHG card from Chase. You can read more about that here. In short, for $49 a year, we get a free night at almost any IHG hotel. But that free night can also be used at the Venetian or Palazzo!
Now, we wanted three nights in Vegas, so we still had to pay for two more. Given that we were staying Sunday night through Tuesday night, the cash rates were not too bad (around $169/night). I could have used Chase Ultimate Reward points to stay there, but when I called the hotel, they saw that I was a member of their Club Grazie loyalty program and that I’d dropped some money in the slots last time (trust me, it wasn’t much). This qualified me for a “casino rate” of $109 a night. I’ll take it!
Now, $109 a night is pretty nice, but I knew that I had $39 a night in ridiculous “resort fees” (the bane of my existence with hotels) to look forward to. When we checked in to the hotel, I decided to do a little gambling outside the casino. Ever heard of a $20 sandwich? Here’s how it works. When you check into a hotel, the rep will ask for your ID and your credit card. Fine, I stacked them together, but I made sure to fold a $20 bill in fourths and slide it between them.
As I handed the sandwich to the rep, I told her “You guys already gave us a great rate on the hotel. Anything you can do about those resort fees? We really don’t need any of the things they cover” (which was 100% true). After a few minutes of typing, she told me that “this one time” she could do it. Score. $20 in, $117 back. As we walked away, Marci told me “You are so hot right now.” And really, can a man ask for more than that?
On to the room. Oh, I almost forgot about the room itself. Venetian rooms are all suites, at 650 square feet. And they are beautiful. Now, I would have been happy with the base level suite, but folks, you never know what you can get unless you ask. The worst they can do is say “No”.
So, I emailed the hotel ahead of time to tell them we were celebrating our anniversary with them (which again, was 100% true). I received an email letting me know that we had been upgraded to a Fortuna Suite, which was over 900 square feet in size! Out of curiosity, I went to YouTube, knowing that someone must have made a video of this room. Yep, they had. I have lived in apartments that weren’t this big. And all because I asked nicely. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned in this hobby…ask and ye often shall receive. This room would have cost about $300/night while we were there, and it goes for much more at busier times.
STEP 3: PLAYING THERE
So, we are off to a flying start, and we have only just checked in. We still have dining and entertainment to worry about. Let’s start with shows. Marci saw David Copperfield as a child, and she has always wanted to see him again. He performs at the MGM Grand, which is part of the M Life group of resorts. It turns out that AMEX Membership Rewards can be redeemed for gift cards that are accepted by M Life. It’s not the ideal use of MR points, but at a rate of 1 cent per point, I can live with it. So, we took $200 in gift cards to the nearest M Life resort and bought our tickets.
On to dining. We still had some money left over form the gift card, and we used it for a meal at Bellagio (another M Life resort). For two of our other meals, I got ridiculously creative, and it’s not something I would necessarily do again because of how much time it took. Ever heard of MyVegas Slots? It’s a game that is available through Facebook. The idea is simple. Play free online slots, earn points, and redeem them for various MLife freebies (meals, shows, room discounts, etc.). I played enough to get BOGO offers for dinner at Bellagio and lunch at Aria. As I said, I would probably forego this approach in the future, but the meals were very good. If you are truly looking for a way to save on meals and have some time to kill, it’s a legitimate way to do so.
So, I hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as I have enjoyed relating it to you. Let’s summarize the different money savers we employed on our journey:
- My airfare: paid for with Southwest points that came from a credit card signup. $350 saved.
- Marci’s airfare: she flew as my companion (no points needed) using the Southwest Companion Pass. Another $350 saved.
- First night at The Venetian: Free night using our IHG card anniversary free night. $169 room – $49 annual fee for credit card = $120 in savings. Even more if you factor in the upgraded suite.
- Second and third nights at The Venetian: $169 room for $109 per night by getting casino rate. Multiply by 2 nights for $120 in savings. Again, even more considering the upgraded suite.
- $117 saved in resort fees – $20 to get this done. That’s $97 in savings, but understand that this is a YMMV situation. You may or may not find success with the $20 sandwich, and resort fees are particularly hard to get waived. You may have better luck asking them to upgrade you or offer late checkout.
- About $150 saved on Copperfield tickets using MR points.
- About $70 saved on two meals using MyVegas Slots.
- Around $25 saved on Lyft using promo codes and using the ride share option.
So, that adds up to about $1300 in savings. But it’s nothing compared to my wife telling me I was hot.
Hope you found this helpful. If you enjoyed this article, please share it or email it so others can learn from it as well. Let’s help as many people as we can!