Well, another successful trip to Vegas is behind me. There is nothing more depressing than an empty countdown timer. (NOTE TO SELF: Remove the timer) This was our budget trip. We are in the middle of building a new home. Not having any extra cash we really had no business taking this trip. BUT, we kept getting free room offers in the mail and I could take it no longer. After a lot of persuasion, I convinced Mike (fiancÃ©) that WE NEEDED this time away. We had 3 offers of 2 free nights each. We booked 2 nights each at Rio, Paris and Caesars Palace. Next was the flight. Having just read that Air Tran was starting a non-stop flight from Flint to Vegas I started checking prices. WOW, $89 each way p/p, great price. I went on-line to book the flight and after entering our A+ rewards numbers found that I had enough points for 3 one-ways if I flew coach. I ended up having to pay a total of $102 for our tickets to Vegas. JUMP AHEAD 4 LONG, EXCRUTIATING MONTHS OF WAITING: 9/2 We got to the airport late and had to check in and get seats because some fool, who will remain nameless (ME), forgot to book seats on the computer the day before. Stressed over the situation and sure we wouldnâ€™t sit together I was a basket case. The ticket agent confirmed my fears. There werenâ€™t 2 seats together. But wait, are you rewards members? Why yes I replied. She said, and I quote, â€œWe have 2 seats together in FIRST CLASS if you donâ€™t mind.â€ Why of coarse we donâ€™t mind!!!!! I said very nonchalantly. CHA-CHING! First win of the trip. Great flight, arrived in Vegas at 2p.m., 20 minutes early. We decided to use hotel check-in at the airport while we were waiting for our luggage. There was no one in line. Our first 2 nights were at the Rio. I decided to try the $20 trick even though our rooms were free. I asked for a Jacuzzi room with a pool view on an upper floor in the Ipanema Tower. I figured why not ask for it all. The girl was very accommodating. We ended up with a Cariocas Suite on the 15th floor (1525), and it was ready. After baggage we cabbed it to the Rio, dropped our bags in the room and proceeded down to the casino. We were both starving and decided to wait an hour until the seafood buffet opened. We grabbed a couple spots at the bar right outside the restaurant and had cocktails while we played VP. We each dropped a $20 into the machines and after a few small hits I got 4 Aces on a JOB game. I was starting to feel better about this trip (I was a little concerned because last trip I lost my @$$). The buffet opened so we had dinner. I was a little disappointed in the food this time. I guess the selection all depends on what is in season. What they had was good just not my favorites. Afterwards we went to play cards. Mike went to the BJ table and I played Let It Ride. I had great cards all night. At one point the dealer dealt me three 8â€™s. I instantly tucked the cards. She proceeded to turn up two 2â€™s. FULL HOUSE. I got paid for the full house, the dollar bonus, and the 3card bonus for a 3 of a kind, since I had played them all. I ended the night at the card table up $940. About midnight the jet lag was really starting to kick in so we headed off to bed very happy with our first day success. 9/3 Labor Day Woke up about 7:30. We decided to shower, get breakfast and then head to the pool for a while. We have never eaten at the Carnival World Buffet so we decided to try it. Used the 2/1 coupon out of the POV. They have a nice selection but the food was just average. Service was pretty bad. The tamales were the best though. The pool area at the Rio is spread out with 3 or 4 small pools. We found a quiet spot with shade for Mike and sun for me. We took a dip then a nap. Woke up an hour later (thank god for sunscreen) and got a couple margaritas. Went in to shower about 1p.m. and then headed to the strip. We had tickets to see Carrot Top at the Luxor at 8p.m. so we decided just to spend some time on the strip. Since we hadnâ€™t seen Planet Hollywood since the transition we took a cab there. I like all the glass/metal ball things they are putting on the outside. Had dinner at Spice Market Buffet. The selection wasnâ€™t what I remembered but the food was very good. Service was great as usual. After dinner we made our way down to Excalibur and took the tram to Luxor. We decided to play BJ since we were early for the show. It was uneventful. The dealers, pit bosses and players there were very sedate. No personality at all. Played about an hour and I think we broke even. It was so boring I really canâ€™t remember. Carrot Top was very enjoyable. We saw him years ago but since the show changes daily we werenâ€™t too concerned with a repetitive act. If you get the chance try to catch his show. After the show we got a cab back to the Rio. The next morning was moving day and I had to get our things together. 9/4 Moving Day Woke up early so I showered and went down to Starbucks to get coffee and danish for us. By the time I got back up to the room Mike was in the shower. We ate and then used the Video check-out on the T.V. Total bill: $0.00. Now thatâ€™s what I like to see. Onto our next destination, Paris. We got to Paris about 11:30 via a cab with a FEMALE driver. That was a first for us. I donâ€™t think there are many female drivers. Very pleasant young lady. Things were kind of hectic at the front desk. Check-out time. Got in line with the people checking out and decided to try and get a room now. Being a Tuesday we thought we had a chance. I was ready with ID, credit card and crisp $20 folded and placed indiscreetly in between. Joan was very nice. We told her we had never stayed there before but, our â€œFRIENDSâ€ highly recommended a P room. After some typing she said she had the perfect room and felt we would be pleased. She gave us our folder with the room number 2901P. Yes, a P room and it was available now. We got off the elevator, rounded the corner and there was our room, the Calais Suite. Uh, Ohâ€¦. This may be a problem. Our double doors are directly across from the ice machine for the 29th floor. I was so pumped about a P room on a high floor I didnâ€™t want to complain and take the chance of getting a standard room. We decided to take a chance. What a room!!!! We had a living room and dining area, with a bar and fridge, that had a perfect view of the fountains and the Eiffel Tower. Off the living room was the bedroom with his & hers bathrooms. There was a Jacuzzi tub and one of those funny toilets (hahaha). The bedroom was along the hallway but we never heard the ice machine. We got coupons from Rio and Paris when we checked in. Le Burger Brasserie was one of them. We had never been so we decided to try it. The burgers were very good and the service was excellent and the meal was cheap. After lunch we went to Ballyâ€™s casino. Mike went off to find a card game and I wandered up to a $5 minimum roulette table. I have played roulette in the past but my â€œsystemâ€ consists of birthdays and anniversaries. Needless to say I have a set of numbers that I always play no matter what the board shows. The dealer and the table were in very good spirits. I like a positive vibe when I am playing. What a great wheel. I hit the numbers over and over again. The guy sitting next to me was stunned. He wanted to know how I picked the numbers. I was too embarrassed to tell him that they were the month and day of certain events in my life so I gave him an engineering spiel on the trajectory of the ball in the wheel and where the dealer started it and blah blah blah blah blah. He knew I was BSing him so he just started playing what I played. Next thing I knew my light blue discs were flowing everywhere and the dealer was buying some back. Another purple (the second one this trip). Mike showed up and we decided to head to the street for some sightseeing. I cashed in and ended up $785 ahead. As I was leaving, the guy to my left was asking what he should play. Gotta love it. We wandered down to Carnival court and had a few cocktails while we listened to the band. It was a rock band but donâ€™t know the name. It was about 8p.m. and we were both hungry. We had made no plans for dinner, but since it was a Tuesday night we were safe to get in somewhere. We overheard someone at the bar talking about Border Grill at Mandalay Bay so we decided to try it. I love Mexican food. The restaurant was busy but not packed. We were offered a seat on the patio overlooking the water. This is also a restaurant we had never eaten at before. The food was excellent as was the service. I highly recommend the green corn tamales. After dinner we wandered around and then headed back to Paris. I have been looking for something new to learn so I watched a mini baccarat table for a while and then joined in. An easy game to pick up but not my kind of card game. I pretty much broke even. There was a man at the table that had about a 90% success rate at guessing the player or banker. He was filling in the card. I didnâ€™t get around to figuring that out. What amazed me as I wandered through the casino looking for a new game is that there is now a â€œWARâ€ table game. Isnâ€™t that the game you played as a child where everyone turns up a card and high card won? I didnâ€™t stick around to pick up the rules. After a while we went up to our room to enjoy the Jacuzzi and then the fountains. Once again, great room!!! 9/5 Crepe Day On our last trip, over Christmas, we discovered Le Village Buffet for breakfast. Mike discovered crepes. The main reason for booking 2 nights at Paris was because of the crepes. Crepes were all that he ate. He was not disappointed. I stopped counting after 5. After breakfast we went to pick up our tickets for â€œThe Producersâ€ and then headed downtown for the day. It is amazing how much cooler it was downtown than on the strip. The canopy helps and not having all the heat from the traffic makes a big difference. We went to Golden Nugget and looked at the pool area and shark tank. I would have liked to spend the day there. It is so nice. We went to Binions so that Mike could play poker and then I wandered around for a while. I ended up playing a Betty Boop slot machine just inside the door of Mermaids. I went back to Binions around noon to see if Mike had eaten. I had a 2 for 1 coupon in the POV for the Deli in Binions so we grabbed sandwiches there. Mike had a Reuben and I had a Po Boy. We could have split a sandwich. They use Boarâ€™s Head products, which are very good quality. After lunch we wandered some more and then headed back to the strip because we wanted to take a nap before the show. We ended up at the pool and found a couple of chairs that were in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower base in front of the EMPTY cabanas. We ordered a couple of margaritas and then fell asleep before we even drank them. We woke up about an hour later and after a swim we headed up to the room for a shower. We had dinner reservations at Mon Ami Gabi for 6:30p.m. We decided not to wait for a patio table because of our schedule. The service was a little slow at first and then things picked up. I think someone had a talk with our waiter. Mike had the pork tenderloin and I had the Salmon. We split a CrÃ¨me Brulee for dessert. The food was excellent as usual. We left and headed straight to the theatre. We were seated in row KK just off center. Great seats and performance. Tony Danza is wonderful as Max Bialystock. Tony Danza is such a vibrant actor. He brings a lot of life to his character. In the coupons that we received from Rio was a 2 for 1 coupon for The Producers show tickets. We had wonderful seats for half the price. After the show we called it a night because I wanted to enjoy our room since we had to get our things together so we could move in the morning. 9/6 Moving Day Got up early so we could have crepes one more day. We swiped our rewards cards and ended up getting breakfast free. After breakfast we used the video check-out in our room once again. Total bill: $0.00 once again. We sadly left our room and headed over to Caesarâ€™s Palace. We arrived at Caesarâ€™s and once again the lobby was crazy with people checking out. We got in line to check in and once again I was ready with my $20 trick. Paul helped us check in. I asked for a suite in the Augustus Tower but unfortunately since we were there for Thurs. and Fri. there was nothing available. Friday was booked pretty solid since everyone was arriving for the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday. We ended up with a Deluxe Palace Tower room. He apologized for my disappointment and handed me the $20. I thanked him for trying and then gave the $20 back. The good thing was that our room was available immediately. We headed up to the twelfth to drop off our luggage. I was somewhat disappointed with our room. Donâ€™t get me wrong, it was a very nice room. It had been updated with new furnishings, flat screen and very nice spa tub. After spending the last 4 days in rooms about 1000 sq ft each this was a rude awakening. Mike gave me a quick attitude adjustment reminding me that we were staying there for free and I got over it. We went down to the Forum Shops and did some shopping, then had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Mike ordered the Cobb Salad and I had the Chinese Chicken Salad. Then came the cheesecake. Mike had the Dutch Apple Caramel Streusel and I had the Godiva Chocolate. It should be renamed the Death by Chocolate cheesecake. The food was very good as usual but the cheesecake was divine. We dropped our things in our room and headed for the strip. We went down to the Venetian and took a gondola ride. Our gondolier was very entertaining. Once he saw that we werenâ€™t trying to get real lovey romantic, he tried out his standup routine on us. Seems he was planning on making his debut on one of the comedy stages over the weekend. We gave him lots of encouragement and a healthy tip. I think he will do well. We also stopped into TI and Mirage. There is now just a black fabric draped across where the aquarium used to be. Then back to Caesarâ€™s for some casino time. It was busier than I had seen it all week. I wanted to play cards but couldnâ€™t find an empty table that interested me. Mike went to play VP at the bar and I sat down at a Wheel of Fortune machine. I am generally not one to play slots but I kept hearing the machine yell â€œWheel of Fortuneâ€ and I was intrigued. I stuck a $20 into the quarter machine and ran through that in no time so I stuck another $20 in. After a few pulls I hit a SPIN spot and ended up with 100 on the wheel. Hey not bad. I then seemed to get the spin ever 3 or 4 pulls. I ended up winning back my $20 and another $160 in the end. After a while we left and went to Margaritaville for drinks and munchies and people watching. We met a nice couple from Montana who claimed to be in Purgatory with weather this hot. The temperature hadnâ€™t dropped below 105 degrees since we arrived. Thank god we both like the heat. 9/7 Rental Car Day After a lot of indecision we chose to rent a car the last day and sightsee. We called Enterprise and had them come and get us. With the 15% POV coupon we ended up paying $38 and some change for a Chevy Impala for the day. We decided to rent the last day so we could just take the car to the airport the next morning for our flight home. We went to Red Rock Canyon and then to Red Rock Resort. We had never been and wanted to check out the resort. It is beautiful. We asked to take a look at the room for future reference and they called a host to give us a tour. Tara was a very nice lady. She showed us around the casino, the spa, the pool area and then the rooms. They are really nice with a great view of the canyon and 42â€ plasma TVâ€™s. After about an hour she left us alone after giving us her card. I was hungry since we had only snacked for dinner and skipped breakfast. One of the main reasons for going to Red Rock Resort was to try and meet Heather who is a chef at Terra Rossa and last years winner of Hellâ€™s Kitchen. We had a chance to do just that. After we ordered we asked if she was working and requested an introduction. She was in the kitchen and came right out. I got my picture taken with her and an autographed menu. Mike had the Panzerotti and I had Linguine with Clams. We shared a Molton Lava cake for dessert. The food was good but meeting Heather was the highlight. After lunch we played BJ and had a good time with the other people at the table. There was a couple from Florida and 2 guys from California. We both ended up $100 ahead and full of great stories. We got back in the car and headed for Green Valley Ranch. Traffic was good, for Vegas, which is one of the things that scared us about renting a car. Dropped the car with the valet and then proceeded to wander around looking at the resort. The pool area is really beautiful. I love it when the lounge chairs are at the edge of the pool. The main purpose for coming to Green Valley Ranch is to meet Rock who was this years winner of Hellâ€™s Kitchen. His prize was the head chef position at Terra Verde. Unfortunately we arrived at the restaurant only to find that they donâ€™t open until Sept. 10th. OH HELL, 3 DAYS EARLY!!! Sad and depressed we went to find a snack before heading back to the strip. We found a Tropical Smoothie CafÃ© and got a couple of Hawaiian Breeze smoothies to go. Traffic back to the strip way pretty heavy since it was early evening. Back at Caesarâ€™s things were pretty crazy with all the celebs showing up for the pre-award parties. Lots of bling and lots of security dudes. I called my 22 year old daughter and told her about what was going on and who we supposedly saw (we heard people whispering names). She was very envious and told me a couple people to look for. All you had to do was look for the mobs of screaming young people to know someone big was in the area. We decided to try the Wynn buffet for dinner since we had heard so much about it. The line for dinner on a Friday night was very long. I stood and waited while Mike wandered around playing machines. About an hour and fifteen minutes later we were being seated. The line moved better than I expected. What an amazing place. The selection and quality was really very good and the service was very accommodating. Our waiter asked us if we were looking for anything particular because he would be happy to bring us some as soon as they brought out a fresh batch. My favorite was a stuffed pork tenderloin. The pastries were to die for. I was so full when we got done that I had to be rolled out to the car. We really enjoyed it and would recommend it. It is pricey but well worth it. Since we had to be up early to return the car and catch our 9a.m. flight we chose to head back to the room and start packing things up. 9/8 Going Home We decided to order some coffee, juice, pastries and fruit through room service since we were leaving so early. The tray arrived while I was in the shower. After we got everything together we headed to the rewards counter to get breakfast taken off our bill. Since room service was all that was on there we ended up with a total bill of $0.00 again. We headed to the car and off to the airport. There was no traffic at 7a.m. and the weather was perfect. We dropped the car off and took the shuttle to the airport terminal. Since I had gotten lucky scoring first class on our arrival I decided to press my luck try it again. Unfortunately they had 2 seats together. I enquired about first class seating and they said for $120 they could change our seats to first class. I looked at Mike who had the sad, I want to sit in first class look on his face look, and said o.k. I figured I had won enough on this trip that I could pay for this one. We went to the gate to wait for boarding. Since we had about 30 minutes or so we decided to play some video poker. I instantly lost $20 in my machine so I moved on. I spotted the Wheel of Fortune machines so I put a $20 in. 3 or 4 pulls later I got to spin the wheel and hit for 30 credits. A couple pull later I got to spin the wheel again. This time I hit 100 credits. I heard them call my flight so I pulled on last time. SPIN again. This time I hit for 1000 credits. OH YEAâ€¦ I cash out for $298.75. What a trip. The flight home was uneventful. Back home, back to work, back to the real world. SUMMARY: I ended up coming home with about $1500 more than I left with. Mike said he probably came close to breaking even. Three great hotels, six great FREE nights, lots of new restaurants tried, our first car rental and still I come home wanting more. We werenâ€™t home 3 days before we received free nights in the mail. Here we go again. I want to thank everyone on the board for all the information and suggestions. The car rental, $20 trick, room selections and restaurants are all thanks to you. Until my next trip, I will be reading and taking notes.