February 1, 2009

A few Frugal learnings from Vegas vacation

My wife and I recently went to Las Vegas for a short vacation. I'm always looking for a good deal in Vegas. In my mind, vacations are meant to be fun so I don't mind spending money on a trip. Why spend the airfare and hotel costs to travel somewhere fun and then sit in the room and play cards? However, theres nothing wrong with saving as much as you can doing the fun things you want to do on your vacation.

Below are the some cost saving ideas that I picked up in my most recent trip.

1) AAA discounts

I never think of asking if there's a AAA discount on goods or services but it can pay to do so.

We decided to see the Titanic : The Artifact Exhibition at the Luxor. Normal price tickets were $27 each but with our AAA card we got the tickets for $24.60. So we saved nearly $5 just by showing our AAA card. Not a bad side benefit at all.

I looked at the AAA site and I found a few more discounts in Vegas:

Blue Man Group: Save up to $40 on select tickets. Also, save 10% on merchandise at the Blue Man Group Retail Store in Las Vegas.

Hard Rock Cafe: Save 10% on food, non-alcoholic beverages and merchandise at all U.S., and select Canadian and international locations.

Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters: Save 10% on all Grand Canyon South Rim Tour Departures. Save 25% on Las Vegas Night Flights and 20% on all Las Vegas Grand Canyon Departures.

2) Excalibur had a 2-for-1 deal in their Buffet.
The deal is only good for the hours of 2pm-6pm and there was a pretty long line at 1:55pm waiting. But this is a hard to beat buffet deal. Their dinner buffet is $18 per adult so two people can eat for $18. Not bad.

3) A taxi may be better than monorail for short trips for 2 or more people
Normally I take the monorail up and down the strip since a single $5 ticket seems like a bargain compared to a taxi. However a couple times we had to go a few hotels up and down the strip. For these short trips I figured a taxi shouldn't cost us more than the $10 in monorail tickets for two people and the taxi would save us a lot of walking. Turns out I was right. We were going about 1 or 1.5 mi. down the strip between 2 major casino hotels. The taxi ticket cost us just about $10 each way. And it was a LOT faster and easier than the monorail. The more people you have then the more economical taxi's are over the monorail. If we shared a trip with our friends then a trip for 4 two ways would be $20 or $5 per person and monorail tickets 2 ways would run $40. On the other hand if it was just one person traveling then the monorail would generally be the cheapest travel option for anything but the shortest trips.

4) Watch out for extra hotel fees
I booked a mid week stay via Orbitz in a 3 star strip hotel for about $51 a night. I as proud of the decent deal I'd found. But then when we got to the hotel they charged me an extra $1 fee plus a $7 'resort fee' to add another $8 to the bill. I'm used to and now accept the misc. $1-2 fee that hotels sometimes tack on for phone usage or 'energy' surcharge or whatever other random fee they decide to come up with to pad the bill. But a $8 charge is beyond what I'm happy to accept. Unfortunately at the time it was too late. When I got home I was going to give Orbitz a piece of my mind for not alerting me to this. I looked at the receipt from Orbitz and the $7 fee was spelled out right there. It was my mistake to not notice the fee in advance. The moral of the story is to watch for extra charges from hotels added at check in or check out.

5) Taxis may or may not be cheaper than rental car
Normally I do not get a rental car in Vegas. Usually I take a taxi from the airport to the strip and back and then take a few more taxi rides during my visit and use the monorail. Depending on how much travel you plan to do and how much the rental car rates are its possible that either renting a car or using taxis may be cheaper. On this past trip we went in January and rental car rates were dirt cheap due to it being off season. I could have gotten a rental for under $30 a day. What I would do is think about how much traveling you'll be doing during your trip and then add up expected taxi charges and compare to renting a car. Say for example you'll be there 4 days and plan to go to Fremont street one night and then take another side trip. You'd be looking at round trip from the airport, round trip strip to Fremont and round trip strip to off strip location. If each of those trips is approximately $20 each way in taxi fares then you'd come to a total of $120 in taxi charges. If your rental car is less than $30 a day it may be cheaper to go with the rental but if the rental is more then taxis would be cheaper.

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