Four Nights in Vegas for $41.62

One of the suggestions last week when I asked for ideas to spend my money on was travel. I didn’t have any travel plans for the rest of the year at that time. Since I go to Vegas almost every year and hadn’t been there yet this year I decided to research the feasibility of a Vegas trip.

Another reason I wanted to go to Las Vegas was that I knew I’d be able to get some great bargain there due to having Diamond status with Caesars Total Rewards. It usually takes a lot gambling to obtain Diamond status, but I acquired the Diamond status when I purchased a one year Founders Card membership. One perk of having Diamond status is that you do not have to pay resort fees on your hotel stays in Vegas. With resort fees of over $30 a night at many properties, this perk alone can save a frequent Vegas traveler a lot of money.

Wanting to see what deals were available I logged into my Total Rewards account and reviewed the nightly rates for Caesars properties in Vegas for October and November. I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of low rates available and quite a few comp (free!) nights available as well. I decided to book four nights at Harrahs, from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the following Monday. The rates were super cheap on Friday and Saturday. Sunday and Monday were completely free. My total for the four nights came to $41.62 with taxes and fees. A nightly rate of just over $10 is a great deal. Friday and Saturday nights rates for Vegas Strip properties are often well over $100 a night even at lower end properties so getting a center Strip property for this low of a price is a super bargain.

Of course, I have to get from Kansas City to Las Vegas as well. I managed to book airfare there and back for free. For the flight to Vegas I will be flying Spirit.  I’ve never flown them before, but they were by far the cheapest option for that day so I’m giving them a chance. The Spirit flight cost about $60. I booked the flight through the Chase Sapphire Reserve travel portal for a little over 4,000 Ultimate Rewards points making the flight free for me. The return trip was booked through Southwest using Rapid Rewards points. I did have to pay the $5.60 security fee for this flight. However, I paid it using a Southwest gift card I received for my birthday. The result is that I have round trip airfare with $0 out of my pocket.

My only expenses in Vegas will be food, transportation to and from the airport, and gambling. The food should be pretty cheap. As a Diamond member I can enjoy free drinks and snacks in the Diamond Lounge. I plan to take advantage of that benefit. I’ll make at least one trip to In-n-Out Burger and probably sample some other local fast food as well. My overall food cost will be pretty low.

It is possible to take a city bus from the airport to Harrahs and I usually do take a bus to my hotel when in Vegas. Since I’ve saved so much money elsewhere I might splurge for an Uber on this trip. Gambling could be a big expense or if I’m lucky it could result in my making a profit for the trip. I’ll set aside $100 or so for gambling and hopefully not use it all.

My Diamond Card also allows me to see two free shows while in Vegas.  If my girlfriend had been able to come with me on this trip I definitely would be using this benefit. Since she isn’t coming, I’ll see what they have available and make up my mind on attending a show at that time. Even if I don’t see a show I will be getting great value.

Some Photos from Bruges


Since I haven’t shared much from my three weeks in Europe earlier this year, and also because I’m feeling to lazy to write a proper post, I thought I would share some photos from one of the cities I visited while in Europe. I was in Bruges for three nights, which was about the right amount of time for me. There was stuff I didn’t see. That was more due to me not knowing everything to see rather than a lack of time though.

This first photo is from a windmill in a park not too far from the hostel I stayed at. Bruges is in the Ductch region of Belgium, so I guess that is why they have windmills like you would expect to find in Holland.

 

 

 

This is Markt Square which is the main square in Bruges. Most of the tourist stuff is in this area.
This is Burg Square which has a couple more historic sites.
This is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is on the corner of Burg Square. It’s main attraction is a sacred vial that is said to contain blood from Jesus Christ. It is also a pretty cool looking old church. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.

The top photo is me in front of the famous Bruges Belfry. I have to admit I’d never heard of the belfry or Bruges, until seeing the movie, “In Bruges.” The bottom photo is the view from the belfry. It was about $10 to climb the belfry tower. In the movie, “In Bruges” a fat, American tourist has a heart attack climbing the stairs to the top of the tower. I was able to avoid that fate. There are several landings with little rooms off of them during the climb so you can stop and rest to keep from getting too overexerted and actually having a heart attack.

That is some of what Bruges has to offer. I think it was well worth the visit.

How I’m Getting 3 Hotel Nights in Las Vegas for $47.51

Welcome_to_fabulous_las_vegas_signThis week I’ll be in Las Vegas from Tuesday to Friday. This trip was planned about a month ago. I had some airfare credit on  Southwest from volunteering to be bumped last year that was about to expire and decided to use it for a trip to Vegas. With my airfare covered a hotel room was the only major expense I needed to pay. I originally only planned to stay two nights in Vegas. Then I found out my mom had also planned a trip to Vegas with a couple of my aunts and they would be arriving the day after I left. Therefore, I decided to stay another night which will allow me to have lunch with my mom and my aunts at the airport when they arrive. I felt it was worth paying for an extra day in Vegas in order to get to meet them. I also get the value of another day to do stuff in Vegas and as I explain in this post the extra day isn’t going to cost me much.

I had several options to choose from to get cheap or even free hotel rooms in Vegas.  I have Starpoints that I could have used to book a free room at a Four Points. I decided not to use the Starpoints since hotel rooms are already cheap in Vegas I could get a lot better value from my Starpoints using them elsewhere.

I also could have used some of my Chase Ultimate Rewards to book three hotel nights. I decided not to use my Ultimate Rewards for a couple of reasons. One is that when booking through the Chase site your Ultimate Rewards only cover the base hotel cost and taxes, they don’t cover resort fees. I’d still have to pay the resort fees out of pocket. I could write a rant post about resort fees, but I’ll save that for another day. Another reason for not using my Ultimate Rewards is that although I can use them to pay for a hotel without paying anything out of pocket it isn’t really free to use them.  Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed for cash so using them to pay for a hotel basically costs you the amount you could have gotten by redeeming the points for cash. For example, if it cost me 2800 UR points to book a hotel which I could have redeemed for $28 in cash then I’m basically paying $28 for the hotel. When you add the foregone cash to the resort fees then the hotel night from using my UR points wasn’t really free. Using the UR points would still have been an okay deal, but I had a better option.

Wyndham Rewards currently has a promotion awarding you with $100 in Wyndham gift cards when you stay two times with them during the promotion period.  I stayed at a Wyndham property once during my April hike and once during my July hike and satisfied the terms of the promotion. The $100 in Wyndham gift cards is awarded as four $25 gift cards and only one gift card can be used per each hotel stay. Also, the cards have to be used by October 31, 2016.   That makes it a little difficult to take advantage of all the gift cards since you need four different stays to use up the gift cards.

I mostly solved that problem by booking one night at three different hotels. Wyndham has a lot of properties in Vegas making it easy to stay at three different hotels. It will be a little bit of a hassle to have to check in three different times, but these are small properties so I don’t anticipate a long check-in line like you sometimes have at the mega hotels. My first night I’m staying at a property that doesn’t have a resort fee and I’ll only be paying $7 and change for my room. The other two nights I’m staying at properties that have casinos and I’ll be paying $20 and change each night for my room. I could have saved a little more money by staying at non-casino properties. However, the casino properties had much better locations for my purposes so it was worth paying a little extra. After all, $20 a night is still pretty cheap.

My only other expenses will be bus, food, and gambling.  The bus will be pretty cheap. I’m going to get a 24 hour pass for $8 the first day and I might get another 24 hour pass for the last day. The max I think I’ll spend on the bus is $16. Food will be cheap since I like cheap food. I don’t consider food a travel expense since I eat out all the time when I’m at home too.  I’ll be sure to eat at In n Out at least once and I’d like to try Shake Shack while I’m there too.  I also have a couple of free buffets from playing My Vegas Slots.  If I’m not too unlucky gambling the entire trip should cost me less than $100 out-of-pocket.  Although I’m far from a master at travel hacking, I hope this shows how it is possible to travel without spending a lot of money.

 

 

Almost Free Vegas Vacation, Broken Laptop, and Other Stuff

fremontstreetI haven’t been posting much lately. My excuse is that I’ve been working and my laptop died. My job finished Friday and I bought a new laptop yesterday so I don’t have those excuses anymore.

My excuse for not posting from October 31 – November 4th is that I’ll be in Las Vegas on vacation at that time and posting on the blog won’t be a priority for me. I do plan on taking my laptop so there is a slight possibility I’ll write a post during that time.

This will be our second vacation in Las Vegas this year. The last vacation was crazy cheap and this vacation will be even cheaper. It should be almost free. My GF is traveling to Las Vegas to attend a conference for her job which makes her hotel, airfare, and food free. I’ll be using some of the Southwest credit I received in August for volunteering to be bumped to get my Vegas airfare free. I’ll be staying with my GF in her hotel room. Luckily, her job is only booking one employee to a room, allowing me to share the room. My only cost for the vacation will be food and any gambling I do. The food shouldn’t be too big of an expense. In-n-Out burger is pretty cheap :). The gambling could get expensive if I allow myself to get carried away.  Although, I’ve lost the last couple of times I visited Vegas I didn’t lose too much.  The gambling loss was much less than what I would have paid for airfare if I didn’t have free credits. Anyway, I’ll budget the amount of gambling I do so my losses aren’t too big. If I get really lucky I could win enough to make the vacation profitable. That is unlikely, but it has happened before.

My friend Jon, at MyFrugalMiser will be flying in to Vegas on the day we’re flying out. We plan to meet at the airport for a short visit before we have to leave for KC. When I return from Vegas I should have some exciting (well, it is exciting to me at least) news to share. In the meantime, I plan on posting several times this week and reviving the blog a little.

A Fun and Profitable Vacation

View from Cape Horn
View from Cape Horn
Last week my GF and I spent four days on vacation in the Portland, Oregon area. We were visiting friends of my GF that live there. We spent one day doing a tour of the waterfalls in the area and enjoying the scenery. There is spectacular scenery in this area. We ate that evening at the Portland Grill which features a fantastic view of the city. The next day we went to the famous Powell’s Books and went out for a great lunch at Killer Burger. We also spent a lot of time hanging out at our friend’s house and catching up with them. It was a short and fun vacation.

Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls

Making the vacation even better for a tight-fisted miser like me was the fact that the vacation was almost free. Our round-trip airfare on Southwest was free using Rapid Reward points. We only had to use points to purchase my airfare since we have a companion pass allowing my GF to fly free with me. The only cost for the airfare was the $5.60 security fee. We didn’t have any hotel cost since we stayed with our friends. They will be visiting us in September so we can return the favor. They were also nice enough to lend us a car so we didn’t have to spend any money on a rental car. Other than leaving $20 for gas in the car the use of the car was free. Our biggest expense was for restaurants. We went to happy hour at the Portland City Grill which kept the cost of the meal reasonable. Killer Burger is a fast casual restaurant so it was a reasonable cost as well. Our only other cost was for airport parking. I used a coupon giving us a free day of parking which made the total cost of parking $21. Our total out-of-pocket cost was just a little over $100. I think that is a great deal.

Bridge of the Gods
Bridge of the Gods

The trip became an even better deal on the way home. When we arrived for our flight home Southwest was asking for volunteers to be bumped from our flight. Since I was traveling on a ticket bought with points and my GF was flying free on the companion pass I wasn’t sure they would offer us much for being bumped. Before volunteering I asked the agent how much we would get for being bumped. When she told me we’d be compensated $500 for my ticket and $400 for my GF’s ticket I decided to take the offer and be bumped to the later flight. The later flight was only a couple of hours later but since it was a connecting flight rather than a non-stop flight like our original flight we ended up arriving in KC about 5 hours later than we originally would have. We didn’t have anything planned for that day so the delay wasn’t a big deal. I felt like receiving $900 in travel credit for a few hours delay was a great deal.

Overall, we spent a little over $100 on our vacation and made $900 in travel credit on the vacation. This vacation will pay for our next vacation. It was a fun and profitable vacation.

Walking from the Vegas Strip to the Airport

Scenery near Vegas airport.
Scenery near Vegas airport.

In order to keep my string of travel posts on Wednesday I’m writing about an aspect of a trip I took last year. I think it will be interesting to some people.

Last year while on a Vegas vacation I decided to walk from the Strip to the airport to catch my returning flight. Walking rather than taking a cab can save you a fair bit of money, especially since many cab drivers like to long-haul passengers by taking the tunnel to the airport. If you’re just interested in saving money though a better option would be to take the bus to the airport. The bus fare is only a few dollars. Your motivation for walking from the Vegas Strip to the airport should be for the enjoyment of the walk itself rather than saving money.

I was staying at the Excalibur hotel which is located at the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard (aka the Strip) which is one of the closest hotels on the Strip to the airport. A search on Google Maps showed that the walk was only 1.8 miles and would take about 35 minutes.  This gave me plenty of time since it was 11am and my flight didn’t leave until 2pm. My gambling budget had already been spent and I had some time to kill so a pleasant stroll to the airport seemed like a good use of my time.

The walk starts by crossing over the Strip and walking past the Tropicana, Hooters, and MGM. The hotels and all the people walking to and from them provide plenty of scenery to keep this part of the walk interesting. After passing the Hooters hotel there are a couple of budget hotels and then when you cross Koval you mostly have the airport on one side and desert on the other side. This part of the walk is less interesting and the scenery is marred by lots and lots of trash.

Although this was only a 35 minute walk I took a break in the middle of it. There is a shopping center about halfway between Koval and Paradise and I had lunch at the Subway there. This added a little distance to my walk since the shopping center was on the opposite side of the street and set back a couple hundred yards from the street. I had plenty of time and didn’t want to pay the inflated airport prices for food so I chose to have lunch then. There is also a convenience store at the corner of Paradise and Tropicana where I could have bought some snacks if I had them instead of or in addition to having a meal.

Once I resumed my walk after lunch it didn’t take long to reach Paradise and turn southbound on the walk. The sidewalk follows Paradise and the bustling traffic for a little bit and then veers off into a somewhat park-like setting. There were plants and sculptures to provide some pleasant scenery. This is where I took the picture of the cactus that is at the top of this post.

It wasn’t much longer until I was at the airport terminal. I did get to see one more interesting thing. A shuttle bus driver apparently decided to enter a parking area that wasn’t accessible by his shuttle bus. The shuttle driver and the passengers probably had a much less pleasant trip to the airport then I did.

They should have walked.
They should have walked.

The walk from the Strip to the airport is easy because it is very flat. I did this walk in November when it was about 65 degrees.  I also only had a small backpack for luggage. The walk would not be pleasant in the summer with the usual 100 degree temperatures or with a lot of luggage. My last trip to Vegas was in late March and even then it would have been almost too hot to walk. I was with my GF on that trip and I don’t think should would have been up for the idea of walking to the airport so we just took the bus on that trip. The next time you are in Vegas you might consider walking to the airport or from the airport to your hotel. It might be a pleasant addition to your trip.