Sunday, February 8, 2009

Our Upcoming Vegas Trip

I'm taking my family to Las Vegas next week (15th through 18th) and thought I'd share some of the "good deals" we obtained by applying some of the methods we spew about on this blog. There will be seven in our party ..6 adults (sometimes) and 1 gorgeous (always) infant , my 5-month old granddaughter.

We took advantage of the Southwest Airlines half-price airfare special to Vegas that was offered in late December. The total cost for airfare for 6 adults was $705.00 ( 5 actual purchased RT's and I had a free ticket myself from Rapid Rewards redemption). That's roughly 140.00 per adult (the lovely infant flies free on SW) and represents essentially half the normal fare costs and an obvious huge savings. The Southwest Ding service paid off again.

We are rooming at 4 different Las Vegas hotels and due to player's club and casino e-mail memberships along with a low - midlevel gambling history, all the rooms are comped. MGM Grand, Venetian , Paris, and Terrible's will be happy to see this crew check out , I'm sure. They'll want to keep the granddaughter , though..she's truly a superbly natured pistol.

We expended a lot of effort at securing a decent car rental rate even though we began planning for this trip over four months ago. Car rental rates for these particular dates never dipped into the "excellent savings" category despite multiple visits to multiple sites . We rented an Advantage ( secured through an Orbitz special) minivan in order to accommodate the entire family and ended up with a $32 daily rate and a total cost of just under $135.00 after adding in all the exorbitant airport fees and taxes.We attempted to locate a significantly lower rate at several off-airport rental facilities but none were as good overall as this when considering the additional headaches associated with logistics of traveling with an infant. After much effort, we were moderately pleased at the comparative final cost of our car rental deal ( recently, Advantage minivans were renting for $99.00 per day for these particular days on their site). I can't overemphasize how important it is to revisit multiple sites several times ( and regularly) and to sign up for their special offer memberships in order to obtain a really good car rental pays off.

We acquired multiple Vegas coupons from both the Las Vegas Advisor ( 2 Members Rewards booklets / online memberships costing a total of $74.00) and the American Casino Guide ( 3 copies for a total cost of $42.00 with shipping). Additionally, we have a plethora of free coupons from What's On Magazine , Vegas Values , and
Vegas 4 Locals sources. These coupons will save / earn us significant bucks over the course of the trip, partially depending on the success of all the blackjack matchplay / free ace coupons plus multiple dining 2 for 1's and freebies.

We've made tentative plans to attend two Vegas bargain shows on the trip ; the Mac King comedy magic show at Harrah's will cost approximately $60.00 for the 6 adults (we have the free promotion that involves only the $9.95 drink purchase price per person ). Additionally, we plan on obtaining tickets for the Fab Four Live Beatle's impersonators at Planet Hollywood for $24 each from the Half Price Shows website (you can obtain many low to mid-tier show tickets at half price here up to seven days
in advance ). This will save approximately $120.00 for an entertaining bargain show on the trip.

The Excalibur is offering an all-day buffet special for $25.00 per person ; it includes all you can eat all day long for breakfast, lunch , and / or dinner. We'll do this on one of the days for the whole crew. We have some additional dining offers that were attached to our comped room offers as well. The wife and I have a penchant for those "graveyard breakfast specials" as well and we'll do two or three of these. If negative variance ( some call that bad luck) doesn't bite me at the blackjack tables there'll be some more as yet unknown meal comps as well. We won't lack for cheap eats on this trip.

Despite all the already accrued and expected additional cost savings associated with this trip, I think the highlight of it for me will be some enjoyable family time and experiencing my granddaughter's first trip to Vegas. I look forward to strolling her
(along with her hot grandma ) through all the kitschy, overdone , opulent views of exorbitant insanity in this great town. Now if I can just keep the other family members outta jail....

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Mostly Useless (and approximate) Las Vegas Facts

1. Number of Las Vegas citizens   500,000
2. Number of Clark County residents   1,500,000
3. Year first casino licensed   1931
4. Number of slot machines in Vegas   200,000
5. Number of annual Vegas visitors   40,000,000 (and dropping)
6. Number of licensed gambling entities   1700
7. Hours per day average visitor gambles   4
8. Annual state gaming revenue   9 billion (and dropping)
9. Average gambling budget per trip   560  (and dropping)
10. Mean price per acre in valley   161,000.00
11. Price per acre on the Strip   11,000,000.00
12. Number of  hotel rooms   137,000 +
13. Number of pillowcases washed at MGM daily   15,000
14. Number of doors at MGM  18,000 
15. Annual no. toilet paper rolls used at Bally's   1 million
16. Lucky The Clown marquee sign at Circus Circus has
      1232 fluorescent bulbs, 14,498 incandescent bulbs, and
      3/4 mile of neon tubing light  (no wonder they're replacing
17. In good times, Excalibur goes through over 44,000 
      Cornish game hens, 15 thousand pounds of hamburger
      meat, and 4200 pounds of prime rib monthly
18. Caesar's Palace has used 2 million plus maraschino 
      cherries, 11 thousand ounces of caviar, 2 million ounces
      of tomato juice, and close to 600 thousand ounces of
      vodka yearly (bloody mary winner?)
19. Mandalay Bay has 5,300 palm trees and their wave pool
      has a capacity of 1,640,270 gallons of water
20. Average nightly room rate  119.00 (and dropping)
21. Average number of Vegas weddings per day   300+
22. Number of golf courses  37
23. Miles of neon tubing on the Strip and Downtown  15,000
24. State's nationwide rank in gold production  1st
25. Cost of Nevada marriage license   35.00
26. Average cost of filing for divorce  450.00
27. Average length of stay for visitors    3.7 days
28. Number of hosted conventions annually  3750
29. The electric bill to operate the Luxor pyramid beam is
      approximately 55.00 per hour.
30. Las Vegas has 17 of the world's 20 largest hotels   


Just a cautionary tip when in Vegas.. there are active
pickpockets all over town. I experienced this first-hand
and came within 10 seconds of losing my cash stash last July
while visiting one of those upper end joints on the strip.

I was gambling significantly at a video poker machine, unabashedly slipping C-notes in them. Somebody had been
observing my wagering behavior. I was happily winning at the time and my cautionary tendencies regarding my bankroll
money went south and out the window.

A lady approached me from behind as I played and was all aglow with my run of good luck. She initiated a conversation about nothing and anything . I was concentrating on proper VP strategy and responding to her comments with a lot of "yeah-yeahs". I was fortunate enough to get ahead on the machine again and I cashed out. I had a satchel (I normally never gamble under those conditions) with me that had assorted trip stuff in it. The satchel presence and the relatively high denomination coin-in amount collectively screamed " please rob me!" I placed my wallet in the satchel along with the machine cash-out tickets and proceeded to reconnect with my family and head to our room.

I had developed a sense of cautionary unease as I mulled over the contact with the effusively talkative woman at the VP machine. My senses told me that something about that encounter was skewed, although at the time I didn't know what it was and I wasn't bleeding profusely..yet. My group then proceeded to meander through a very crowded slot machine aisle and some other 6th, 7th, or 8th sense that vaguely detected an impersonal yet succinct encroachment into my personal space kicked in. Instinctively, I immediately dug into the satchel to locate my wallet and it was gone. I then immediately turned around and backtracked about ten feet (a matter of maybe 3 seconds, tops) as my endogenous adrenaline kicked in. I'm not sure that my hair wasn't on fire briefly.

I then spotted my wallet (and life) in a woman's hand who was playing a slot machine. I walked straight at her and demanded it post-haste in a tone that screamed seriousness. I immediately grabbed the wallet and called for security. The woman claimed she picked it up off the floor and so did the man (her accomplice) behind her, both vowing that they were planning to remit it to the security desk. My svelte ass they were.

This team of thieves including the woman who was all goony-googoo at the VP machine were pros. I have to claim part of the blame for the openly careless manner I had displayed with my money. They were held by security and the eye-in-the-sky tapes were to be reviewed.

The good thing is I didn't lose a cent because my peripheral senses kicked in immediately and they didn't have time to bury the evidence ( perhaps they weren't the best of pros?). Take heed folks..these people are everywhere in Vegas. Know where your cash is at all times; take precautions to protect it, don't flaunt it around carelessly as I did, and if you sense something is awry while gambling trust your instincts.

Distractions from one member of a team of thieves is a common MO. Store your gambling session monies in a front pants pocket or in one of those god-awful front-loaded fanny packs (pride be damned). The lesson I learned here after several years of Vegas gambling experiences turned out to be one of the most valuable for me personally.