Prelude: For approximately the last 18 months, I’ve been unemployed/self-employed, which has been simultaneously great (11 Vegas trips in that span!) and nerve-wracking (uncertain financial stability). Well, I recently landed a new full-time job and learned I’d be starting the second week of August, so suddenly the pressure to make the most of my remaining “free time” was amped up significantly. My wife and I started talking about the possibility of throwing together a quick Vegas trip if she could get a couple days off, but then she was able to get an entire week off of work, so we went full bore and planned a big, five-night family getaway. The planning began by choosing a one-night Mandalay Bay reward on my wife’s myVEGAS account and a two-night Mandalay Bay reward on my account. The available dates meant we’d need to travel home on August 3, which happens to be my birthday. So we decided to extend the trip one night with a super-cheap rate for the Plaza downtown that I found on Orbitz. We’d never stayed there, but the room pics on their website looked pretty good, and we figured it would be fun to try somewhere new. (We typically stay at Downtown Grand when downtown.) Because our trip wasn’t scheduled to begin until Monday, I then took advantage of a flier I’d recently received from CasaBlanca Resort in Mesquite. The flier offered two free nights Sunday-Thursday, but we only needed one night, so we booked Sunday night there to kick off our vacation a day early. All we had to pay was the $6.99 resort fee. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this hotel, but the pictures of their pool looked great, and the fact the pool has a waterslide nudged us over the top. My wife already dislikes the four-hour drive to Vegas, but she was willing to endure an extra hour drive in exchange for an extra day of vacation. CasaBlanca also happens to have its own golf course, which I had never played, so I booked a 5:50 a.m. tee time for Monday morning. Finally, we chose a few other myVEGAS rewards and a Groupon to make the trip more economical: My wife and I each got the 2-for-1 entree ($35 credit each) for Nine Fine Irishmen and we also nabbed rewards for a free dinner at either the Mandalay Bay or Aria buffet. On a recent trip we’d enjoyed a great Groupon deal at a sushi place called Sushi Ko, so we purchased that same deal again for one dinner. We threw all these plans together in just a couple days, and a few days later it was already time to go. Come along for the ride!