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A Different Kind of Trip Report

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by VermonterJohn, Jul 8, 2012.

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  1. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    My Trip Report

    Hello Friends!

    I’ve been a VMB forums member since 2004, but have been visiting Las Vegas about once a year for the past 40 years.

    Since almost all of the folks who post Trip Reports are being comped to some degree on their visits, I thought I’d give you all a taste of how us “low rollers” plan and organize our trips to Vegas.

    1. Picking a Date

    First, we check the conventions calendar website to eliminate days/weeks when there are big conventions in town. We know room rates will be higher then.

    Next, we go to a website like i4vegas.com and plug in some dates to see what room rates look like. Then we plug in a different set of dates and compare rates. We do this 3-4 times until we find the week with the lowest rates. (For example, right now the cheapest upcoming rates are around Thanksgiving and just before Christmas.
    I then take a yellow legal pad and put the dates (a trip for me is usually 7-9 nights) in a column down the left side. Across the top in a row I put the names of the hotels I am considering staying at based on what I consider to be good rates.

    2. Picking the Airline Flight

    Before proceeding any further we have to make sure we can get a flight for those dates. I almost always have enough points on my Merrill Lynch signature Visa card to obtain a free flight for my wife and I, but we have to book the flight first before we move on to booking the hotel.

    3. Picking the Hotel (s)

    Now (still using i4vegas.com) I start filling in the room rates for each date for each hotel I am considering. Although we don’t really like to switch hotels, we’ll do it if the available rates justify it. Obviously the weekends are always the problem, as room rates are MUCH higher on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Sometimes when making my “chart,” I’ll include both the lowest price regular room as well as an upgraded room if the price is within reach. For example, at the Flamingo I might price both the regular room and a “go” room.

    Once all the information is filled in, my wife and I make our picks. We work hard to find the best room at the best price. We know that the room we book is the room we will get, since we’ve only been upgraded once in our 40 years of visiting. (Even the $20 trick doesn’t work for people like us.)

    4. Renting a Car

    We usually rent a car, and always do it through priceline or hotwire. Remember, we’re on a budget and every penny counts.

    5. How we Gamble

    Over the course of a typical 8 day visit, my wife and I will spend a few hours each playing slots. She tends to like the penny slots while I favor the dollars. We'll probably run $500- $1,000 a day through the slots. My wife will play Blackjack at an average of $20/hand for 4 hours at a time, on about 3 days out of our total visit. At these gambling levels, we typically lose about $1,000 on our annual trips. Now you see why we don't get comped! We also "casino hop" meaning we go from casino to casino playing different slot machines. No sense in playing for comp points, so no reason to be loyal to one casino/casino group.

    6. How we Dine

    My wife and I LOVE to eat, and that's one of the great attractions for us in Las Vegas. But unlike the majority of those who write these Trip Reports, we can't afford the big name expensive restaurants. Thus, we seek out the nicer buffets for our one meal of the day. In a typical 8 day visit we'll do buffets at least 4 nights. The other 4 nights we seek out other economical venues such as Grand Luxe, Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy, Billy Bob's Steakhouse, etc. As I mentioned, we only eat one meal a day although we'll have coffee and perhaps a donut in the morning.

    7. What else do we do?

    We look for deals on shows, again not willing to pay the high prices demanded by the Headliners. We can always find deals at the ticket discount booths for shows like The Bee Gees at Excalibur for around $20-$30 a person, or for some of the comedy clubs.

    We sometimes go to the movies, which is a treat for us since we stopped going at home many years ago when ticket prices got so high. We just wait for them to come on TV now.

    We take day trips in the car to places like Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, Mt. Charleston (at night). Sometimes we'll drive out to Mesquite and up into souther Utah. Often we'll hit the Casinos outside of downtown and the strip such as M Resort, Sam's Town, Suncoast etc.

    We take walks through the high priced Hotel/Casinos that we know we'll never get to stay at. Hey, we'll never get to stay at the Wynn, Encore, Venetian, Caesar's, Cosmo, Aria, etc. but by God we can walk in there and play a little slots! We can even eat at their buffets if we're willing to stand in the long lines watching the "invited guests" keep cutting in front of us!

    8. The end Results

    We ALWAYS have a great time in Las Vegas, and usually start planning our next trip while we're still on the plane flying home. And by the way, it ain't easy to fly from Vermont to Las Vegas (or from Vermont to ANYWHERE, for that matter).

    Thanks for reading. Would appreciate comments from other low rollers who may know some tricks we haven't learned yet!

    John
     
  2. chico7800

    chico7800 Tourist

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    I like your report. It is very similar to how i used to plan my trips pre comped rooms. Now getting the right airfare deal is the biggest trick for me.

    I always liked to check the following sites for hotel deals. Tripres, travelzoo, hotwire, and priceline. There used to be a thread on another site that listed all the current hotel deals in vegas but i dont think it is updated any longer.

    If you have a harrahs card i think you can always stay free at the IP :)
     
  3. luvvp

    luvvp Tourist

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    Great! If it works for you and you're happy, that's all that matters.

    It's amazing the older we get, the wiser we get! Speaking for myself of course.

    Have you ever played, stayed downtown or off strip? I'm sure you'll receive some kind of offer for a free stay at least S - T. You say you go once a year, most players clubs keep you active for 12 months. Not paying for a room for a few nights can trim alittle off the cost of your vacation.

    Since you rent a car, getting around isn't a problem.

    ** You mention I4Vegas a couple of times. Many times properties run sales of their rooms, have you ever tried booking directly with a Hotel?

    Have fun planning your next trip!
     
  4. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    luvvp:

    Yes, we've stayed dowtown (Golden Nugget) and offstrip (Southpoint, Rio, LVHilton).

    I really don't care about getting comped at a hotel I don't really want to stay at. I'm happier getting a $40 rate at Southpoint or $35 at Bill's, for example.

    I mentioned 14vegas because I use it primarily to "screen" for dates and rates. Once I find a rate there that I like, I'll always try to find a better one somewhere else, including the hotel's own website. To me, half the fun is planning the trip and finding the best deals!

    Chico7800:

    I do check all the website you mention, though I must admit I'm afraid to use Priceline and Hotwire to book a hotel. Paying in advance and THEN finding our what hotel you got is way to scary for me!

    I'm certainly not an elitist, but there are some hotels I'm happy to stay in, and others I'm not.

    John
     
  5. MisterJJ

    MisterJJ Low-Roller

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    This frugal traveler approves! :thumbsup:

    I drive and my trip times depend on opportunity so I skip step 1, 2 and 4.

    Gambling: You play at the $20 level?!? Way too rich for my blood. I would think you could get good comps at downtown and off-strip properties for that level of play. P.S. Don't just play, play right. bj21.com or wizardofodds.com will show you how to lose the least amount of money.

    Hotel: I usually use Travelaxe.com to sort through hotel prices. Hotels.com has had the best prices lately.

    Dining: I will usually go to one of the high end buffets for a splurge. To me, this is a far better deal than an equally priced restaurant.

    What else: A long walk on the strip and venturing out to off-strip properties, using gaming coupons along the way. I figure that I get more entertainment from a good movie than seeing the average Vegas show, so I skip them entirely.

    End result: Good time without spending much money (often break even or on the plus side with coupons and a little luck).
     
  6. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    MisterJJ:

    I'm glad I'm not the only non-comped person in Vegas!

    John
     
  7. ardee

    ardee VIP Whale

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    Even staying off-Strip you should use a Players Club card at all properties you gamble at. The amount you run through the slots should be enough for free week-day rooms at any of them. Ditto CET properties.

    Cheap rooms are nice. Comped nights are better. :D
     
  8. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    Ardee:

    We belong to EVERY player's club, and ALWAYS use our cards when we play.

    I once asked at Paris how much gambling we'd need to do to reach just the first level of comps. It was about 100 times the amount we do in a week. And that would probably get us a free buffet.

    When we go to Vegas we like to gamble when and where we want, and to the degree we feel comfortable. If we were comped, I would feel obligated to spend enough money with the casino that was comping us to earn those comps. Somehow, I'm thinking it's cheaper to pay for the room!

    John
     
  9. ardee

    ardee VIP Whale

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    I've gotten comped at decent places for a lot less "through-put" than that. But if they don't want to give you anything, so be it. Seems like you've hit the right balance between cost and cares. :D

    If you are having fun, then it's all good.
     
  10. luvvp

    luvvp Tourist

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    John - I hear what you're saying, not having to be loyal to anyone!

    Did you ask the Players Club at Paris? They only go by a corporate guideline, their marketing dept is alot more generous.

    Next time you play at any CET property, I'm almost positive they'll send you some type of offer in the mail. Also, only play on one card, either yourself or your wife.
     
  11. Electroguy563

    Electroguy563 Over-Fried Gambler

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    I enjoyed your "different" kind of trip report because it is similar to how my wife and I do Vegas. We certainly don't play for comps, however we do join up at the casinos we like to play at. We'll take advantage of whatever comps get thrown our way.

    We don't stress to play a certain amt. just to maintain "status". If we drop down a tier, who cares. This way we play at a level that is comfortable to us and we can pick up and play elsewhere if we want. Carefree and no worries, that's how we do our Vegas vacations.

    Naturally we don't get rooms free. Just casino rate. Fine with us. Somehow I feel those who get free rooms paid for them thru "obligated" play. Works out either way. No such thing as a free lunch. Not in Vegas anyway, lol!

    Again, thanks for your TR contribution!
     
    Going to Hawaii's 9th Island!!
    Going to Hawaii's 9th island!!
  12. dostoy

    dostoy Tourist

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    I get room offers from places like Bill's and downtown hotels for a lot less than what you play at and I don't even play slots pretty much just craps.
     
  13. Bruinfan1

    Bruinfan1 Tourist

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    Love the TR - excellent analysis of your trip planning and general approach. Maybe I'm too frugal, but I don't consider Cheesecake Factory and the like to be low rolling - happy you enjoy yourselves while there. I hope you post about some of your favourite "budget" places.

    Also like the approach you have towards comps. Just the same, I am surprised (as a recent $10/hand BJ player, and the fastest loser of $40 into a slot machine in Vegas) that you do not receive offers. Maybe they like Canadians more to send out offers? The only thing I can think of based on other's posts is to avoid using the card each and every day. A CET day two in a row, MLife the next two? Beats me...but the $40 nightly rate is a small portion of your budget and I love your attitude towards it and the (lack of) comps.

    Have you ever looked at remote airports - like Logan and Montreal - for departures? Or is the added time, long travel days, inconvenience of driving, and cost of parking not worth it, especially with "free" flights?
     
  14. sco5123

    sco5123 VIP Whale

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    Excellent summary! I did enjoy. Thanks for the read! :)
     
  15. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    Bruinfan1:

    I probably made the airflight out to be more difficult than it really is. I guess I'm just down on air travel in general.

    I actually live in walking distance to the Burlington (VT) airport. Drive the wife and the bags to the airport, drop them off, drive home and then walk back.

    BTV actually has pretty decent air service. Most major carriers except Southwest. Biggest problem is no direct flight. To get to Vegas and back we have to connect either in Newark, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia or Cincinatti. Sometimes the flight requires two connections. Also, flying coach means not nearly enough seat room for my 6'1" 240 pound body.

    Still, if we leave BTV at 7am we're generally landing in Las Vegas before Noon (Vegas time). Other than the tight seats, can't complain.

    John
     
  16. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    Bruinfan1 wrote:

    "I hope you post about some of your favourite "budget" places."

    OK, I will!

    Hotels: Bill's Gambling Hall and Southpoint are most recent favorites. I've snagged Paris and Mirage for $60 in the past, but that was before they started charging resort fees. I won't stay at a place that charges a resort fee, so that narrows down the choices quite a bit.

    Certain dates this coming November and December find weekday rates as follows:

    $39 at Bill's ($69 weekends)
    $39 at the Rio ($59 weekends)
    $55 for a "luxury room" at Harrah's ($65 weekends)
    $53 for a "premium room" at Las Vegas Hilton ($62 weekends)
    $59 at Southpoint ($110 weekends)
    $59 at Tropicana ($139 weekends)

    I have no problem paying up to $60 per night for a room. As you can see, there are times when that's really no problem.

    There are other hotels I'd probably be happy to stay at that offer similar prices, such as Orleans. In fact Orleans has actually sent me offers for a free night! (Just call me "Mr. Whale.")

    Dining: I consider the top-of-the-line buffets to be a tremendous value. Our favorites are M Resort, Wynn, and Cosmo. One step down are Paris, Mirage and Mandalay Bay. We don't like the Bellagio anymore. We'll sometimes do lunch at Mon Ami Gabi and dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy. If we really want to spluge on a steakhouse, we might go to The Steakhouse at Circus Circus. For a much lower priced steak dinner, Billy Bob's at Sam's Town. We also like PF Changs for Chinese. And, of course, I already mentioned Cheesecake Factory and Grand Luxe Cafe.

    John
     
  17. Someone

    Someone High-Roller

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    I liked your report....I bet you could find a way to get one of those weekend nights knocked off/comped if you really worked at it like somehow using only one of the players cards instead of two on a few days or making sure on the days that you do trips you don't gamble at all to show a "low day"

    also if you were really cheap (like I can be) you could fly in late on one of those expensive nights then just stay out all night doing something after sleeping on the plane.....coming from Vermont you will be on a schedule three hours ahead anyway......maybe rent the car and drive out to some place and then nap in the car after seeing it (like the Grand Canyon) (might be hot in Nevada though) and then head back into town and try to early check in haha......or just hit a pool that you know you can get into while waiting for the early check in where you are staying and sleep in their chairs

    or check out from one place Friday......pull an "all nighter" after getting good rest earlier that day and then hit the pool/early check in at the second place you stay.....I know that is extra "work" but if you save $75 to $100 dollars on one expensive room night that is two more week nights you could stay for the same overall money :poke::thumbsup:
     
  18. queentata

    queentata High-Roller

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    Ditto on the play on one card. Also check with a host before check out instead of the tr desk. I also agree that part of the fun is the plan. Doing it now for NYE!
     
  19. LaRae

    LaRae Low-Roller

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    Hi John. I love a good deal, as well. Have you ever used the ACG (Amercian Casino Guide) Book? For as long as you stay, it would be worth the money. We save a ton on eating & I do like the free play that is offered in the book, as well.
     
  20. VermonterJohn

    VermonterJohn Low-Roller

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    Someone wrote:

    "I bet you could find a way to get one of those weekend nights knocked off/comped if you really worked at it..."

    Perhaps...but the thing is I really don't want to work at it. I'm happy to pay $60 a night average for my typical 8 night stay. That puts us at around $480 plus tax. On most visits we're even under that, as we can catch a decent room at Bill's for $35-$40 most Sundays-Thursdays. Around the same at Orleans (though we've never stayed there).

    Although I've never been comped so am really not qualified to say what I am about to say, it seems to me that it's much more relaxing to be in Vegas with "no strings attached," and free to drift around and gamble anywhere you want and for any stakes. I can only assume that accepting a comped room and meals implies an obligation for a certain level of gambling action at the host hotel. I just have no interest in that.

    Generally speaking, we spend 8 nights in Las Vegas on the following budget:

    $0 for airfare (always use rewards points from my credit card)
    $500 for hotel rooms
    $800 for meals ($100/day)
    $250 for rental car and gas
    $300 for misc entertainment including shows
    $ 20 for valet parking
    $ 30 for misc expenses

    $1,900 total PLUS gambling losses (we generally don't lose more than around $500)

    We'd probably spend that much in 8 days if we drove to Maine and rented a motel room near the beach. Rooms and meals would be much more expensive than Las Vegas.

    John
     
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