Las Vegas Makes Me Feel Stupid

And not for the obvious reasons.

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. Actually, I mostly just hate it, but there’s a little part of me that likes it.

Las-Vegas-101

What do I like about Las Vegas? It has great food, cocktail lounges, entertainment, and people watching (the good, the bad, and the really, really ugly). Give Las Vegas to me in moderation — we’re talking like once or twice a year, tops — and I’m a happy camper.

But there’s one aspect of going to Las Vegas which drives me nuts. And that’s the fact that it makes me feel really stupid. I’m going this weekend, and as I prepare for my trip I’m reminded of just how stupid the city makes me feel. Let me explain.

I don’t think there’s a city in the world which can be “gamed” more than Las Vegas. Whether that comes in the form of bribery “tips” or comps, Las Vegas is a city where you can get a lot more than you paid for (and also lose a lot more than you bargained for, for that matter).

While I’ve figured out how to get the most value out of airlines and hotels in most cities, Las Vegas leaves me stumped. I mean, hell, I can’t even get the $20 trick right.

Which brings me to hotels. My “go to” hotel in Las Vegas is The Delano, which is part of the Mandalay Bay “complex.” It’s an all suite property, which makes it a great value. You get what you pay for, basically. On top of that, thanks to the Hyatt/M Life partnership, I can earn Hyatt points and stay credits when staying at The Delano.

Delano-Las-Vegas-Suite-1

Delano-Las-Vegas-Suite-2

But Las Vegas actually has some great hotels. For example, I love the Mandarin Oriental, though haven’t actually stayed there. It can be booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts for ~$260 on weekends, and includes perks like:

  •  Noon check-in, when available
  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available*
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • In-Room Wi-Fi, exclusions apply**
  • Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
  • US$100 spa services credit to be used during your stay

Mandarin

The Four Seasons has similarly reasonable prices, with similar perks as well.

Four-Seasons

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually feel like any of these options are lacking “value:”

  • I like The Delano since it’s an all suite property and I can earn Hyatt Gold Passport points and stay credits for my stay; that being said, while The Delano is a solid four star hotel, there’s nothing “luxurious” about it, and you get charged out the wazoo for all incidentals
  • I like the Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons because they’re definitely nicer properties, and I think the value proposition is decent, and they’re really not much more than The Delano when you factor in free breakfast, etc.; that being said, I’m guessing a suite upgrade is unlikely at either property

Bottom line

I guess my point with this post is to see if I’m missing anything obvious? When I plan trips to Vegas I always end up going back and forth between The Delano and the Mandarin Oriental, and just end up booking The Delano, since it’s reasonably priced, an all-suite property, and I earn points.

But I feel like Vegas is probably the easiest city in the world to “game.” So much like I’d rather redeem miles for Cathay Pacific first class than outright pay for premium economy, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something obvious.

Am I? What hotel strategy do you frequent Vegasers use? Is there a bit of effort I can put “into” Vegas which will go a long way?

Comments

  1. I am Hyatt Diamond and Mlife Plat. Went this past January and stayed at Aria. Earned Hyatt points and stay credits, found it to be more conveniently located than other MGM. Properties down the strip. I wouldn’t get caught up on the “all suite” thing. Also, I Javed a ton on room rates through Mlife…worth booking through them

  2. Why don’t you try the SLS Las Vegas and get SPG credit? They frequently have incredible rates with Virtuoso benefits. They are on the north end of the strip, but you can get a monorail pass or just cab it.

  3. Vegas is NOT a particularly great city for hotel loyalty reasons, for obvious reasons; as a destination city, it’s an obvious aspirational award (and priced accordingly).

    Case in point: the SLS Las Vegas is a 60,000 a night point property for Hilton. You can stay there for less than $100 a night during the week.

    (cue sad trombone)

  4. I go to Vegas a fair amount and it depends on if I want SPG points or Hyatt points (also, I don’t care much about the rooms themselves since I am there to people watch and hang out). If I am going for SPG points I go with Harrah’s (it’s nice enough and the price can’t be beat during the week). If I want Hyatt points I go with The Mirage (If I want something a little nicer, but not too crazy in price) or go with Monte Carlo, which in my opinion is MLife’s version of Harrah’s (maybe a few dollars more a night). More importantly though, they are all in that central area of Vegas and can mostly be walked. I also can’t remember if Total Rewards count toward SPG night/stay status (I think so?) but I know for sure MLife property stays count toward Hyatt’s night/stay status, so it can be an easy way to get your night/stay count up, while getting decently priced rooms in a fun town. Just my 2cents.

  5. Booking rooms through MLife can be a huge $$ saver. Also, if you book through MLife and even do a small amount of gambling you will get random free comp nights. I just got 2 comped nights at MGM Grand because of my last visit. The casino reward programs are the key to ‘gaming’ Vegas…although I have to believe Vegas is actually gaming us in the long run.

  6. Hah, I’m in Vegas right now with my partner for a wedding. You know where stayed, despite SPG status and Hyatt status? The free comped room. In my opinion, there’s no time in Vegas between the gambling and the partying to worry about points. 🙂

    Feel free to connect if you’re here.

  7. Stay at Bellagio, Wynne or Encore and you will never want to stay any place else in Vegas.
    Wynne/Encore run some incredible specials at $139/night. Truly nice places!

  8. Best off skipping Las Vegas. I really don’t like Las Vegas, but if I had to stay there it would be at The Palazzo or The Venetian, both of which are all-suite properties.

  9. We usually stay at Bellagio, but sometimes do the Four Seasons, and always with FHR. There are great benefits and the net room cost is sometimes $30. Twice we’ve made money staying on FHR during off peak times. That said, next time we go I think I’ll try FHR at Encore. Their suite upgrades are real.

    BTW, when I do an FHR booking, I then call the property to have them add my mLife number to the res. Never had a problem with this nor with earning the associated points/credits.

  10. Vegas is a great place to try aspirational properties at reasonable prices. Book the Mandarin with a FAN Club agent or the Four Seasons with a FSPP partner agent, and you’ll have much better odds (haha) at getting upgraded rooms and better amenities, treatment, etc. Having said that, my go-to is the Wynn via Virtuoso or FHR. Particularly love the Tower Suites, where you get a private valet entry, lobby, elevators, and even pools just for Tower guests. Also, the Palazzo has a private level as well with a huge club lounge that has incredible views. Private check in with champagne, etc. I love/hate Vegas as well, and guess my bottom line is break away from the points for a moment and enjoy something new!

  11. @ Katie — I could be mistaken, but I don’t believe the SLS Las Vegas is affiliated with Starwood, unlike the Beverly Hills property.

  12. I agree Gene. LAS is American over-consumption and non-sustainability at it’s finest. Las Vegas is America’s Dubai. As for hotels, Venetian is a nice IHG property.

  13. I love Vegas for many reasons: craps at Bellagio; dinner at Picasso; Absinthe (the show); skydiving over the desert.

    But staying at the extraordinary Mandarin Oriental Hotel is truly one of the highlights of each trip to that chaotic city. The Mandarin is certainly the most gracious, the most tranquil hotel that I have ever experienced. The service is nearly flawless.

    Ben, forget the suite at the tawdry Delano. Stay at the uber-refined Mandarin. The MO’s location is far better; it’s an intimate hotel; it’s completely non-smoking; the spa is outstanding (I highly recommend a massage with Jeffrey); the bar is gorgeous.

  14. The Hyatt/MLife partnership is the best. They don’t advertise all the benefits but googling will quickly teach you all the freebies you can get.

    Do a status match before you arrive. (Pick up the card once there but start the ball rolling.)
    Book the room through MLife. Once your status is matched the rates are super cheap.
    Tell them 500 times you want Hyatt credit
    Google to find out all the tricks like – free parking passes right up front, front of the line access to the buffets (AND STARBUCKS), free tickets to the aquarium/white tigers/Bellagio art gallery, etc etc
    Figure out where the secret VIP lounge is at EACH Mlife hotel and make yourself welcome. We had many free drinks, coffee & snacks throughout our week in Vegas

  15. In Vegas right now for my son’s bachelor party. As a Hyatt Diamond/Mlife Plat I got a great rate at Vdara. Then the 20 dollar trick got me an upgrade to an executive corner suite. Not bad… But I’m with you; once or twice a year in Vegas is plenty.

  16. As someone who lives in Las Vegas, went to UNLV, and has connections within almost every aspect of the hospitality industry, I can say with certainty that if you don’t like Vegas, you’re doing it wrong.

  17. I stay at Vdara a lot again now. Possibly the best value on the strip, get a Vdara suite or higher and you also get a washer & dryer in the room. As someone who travels from the UK that is a life saver for me meaning I can travel light. Vdara gets you Hyatt/Mlife points.
    We’ve stayed at MO a lot in the past, I wouldn’t be wowed by the free breakfast, it’s expensive and you don’t get much for your breakfast.

  18. @ Lucky – have you attempted $20 trick again? You should do it every time you visit and then post your experience 😉

  19. Ben is right (and I was wrong!) – the property is not SPG affiliated, but it is part of the Hilton CURIO collection and Preferred Hotel group. So there are some point earning opportunities, just not with SPG.

  20. Definitely the Aria. You can typically get nights in the $79-99 range, it couldn’t be in a more convenient location (unlike the SLS) and as stated above, mlife and hyatt points.

  21. Bellagio through FHR and Aria through Virtuoso. Perfect hotel hopping opportunity with the tram running between both properties. Much prefer Aria over Bellagio when it comes to the rooms and service. The Signature at MGM Grand has $100 F&B through Virtuoso, but the location isn’t great.

    If you go with the Aria option, best to book a Deluxe Cityview room which more or less will get you a suite upgrade.

  22. At the risk of telling you something you already know, the trick to Vegas, besides greasing a lot of hands, is the player rewards programs. Sign up and do a little gambling, and they’ll comp you for years to come. If you don’t like gambling, play a game like Pai Gow where you can stay at close to break even for hours at a time. If you play poker the poker rooms could do the trick too. You don’t have to blow hundreds of dollars on craps to start getting comped. Do it once and the benefits will continue to come from there on out. Case in point: I haven’t spent a dollar at the Hard Rock in close to 2 years, but next month I’m staying Friday through Sunday (3 nights, including both weekend nights) fully comped, including the resort fee. Rack rate for those three nights was about $500. It’s not the Mandarin Oriental, but it’s plenty decent (good for my trip because of proximity to the convention center), and it won’t cost me a single dollar or point. Even when the rooms aren’t free, they’re often significantly reduced. Sign up for Total Rewards for all the Caesers properties, and you already have MLife. Always give them your card – when gambling, when buying something at a shop, at reception for stay credit, when paying for dinner, all activity earns points.

    Besides the Hyatt / MLife status match, there’s a Total Rewards Visa card issued by Comenity Bank that gives 5x points on all on-property spend and an opportunity to manufacture status (Platinum included first year, $5K after, and $10K spend for a neutered version of Diamond they call “VIP All Access”). I haven’t done the math on how valuable those points are, but that might be worth looking in to. They also transfer to Hawaiian Airlines 2:1 (exciting, I know). Here’s the card: https://www.totalrewards.com/content/cet-tr/en/earn-and-redeem/with-tr-alliances/tr-visa.html

    Or just drop $50K at the blackjack table and you’ll get comped everything. 😉

  23. @Lucky MO and FS and even Fairmont are really different hotels, you can’t really compare them with normal Las Vegas hotels. Their competitor should be Ritz Carelton….
    So why they are different, because they are hotels, not just a place to stay in Casino, MO doesn’t even have casino…

  24. Go to the Marriott website and check out Marriott Grand Chateau. It’s centrally located a half block off the strip between Planet Hollywood and MGM Grand. It compares to any top end suite in Vegas and it can be had for Marriott points.

  25. Ah, Linda’s post, with its “better odds” comment, wins my coveted Best Post of the Day prize — I think.

    But here’s something I’m obviously missing. Why would any single guy, or a guy traveling with just his SO, care about a suite upgrade? For a family or a larger group, ok. But just for you?

    Like a lot of folks, on the other hand, I really do care about getting a free breakfast.

    As for Vegas itself, I don’t get it. I’d rather go to Paris or London or a beach practically anywhere.

  26. A couple of thoughts…

    1. Never book the “standard” room deal at a Vegas hotel. If you click around on the hotel’s website a bit there will always be some kind of promo — 50% off second night, free buffet, whatever. Often these will be based on a higher base room rate, but usually there’s something worth doing.

    2. Check out Visa Signature Hotels, which is like a less-rewarding version of FHR, but which has some unique options in Vegas.

    3. In my experience most Vegas properties get *very* cheap during the week, even luxurious ones like the Bellagio (and even if booked through FHR), so there can be great deals — but the Mandarin Oriental seems to never lower its rates below $300/night or so, presumably due to corporate pride / policy. So if you are staying over a weekend, I think that’s a reasonable price to pay for the Mandarin (and it can often be found if booking in advance), and similar to what you’d pay elsewhere. But if you’re staying midweek, the Mandarin is a terrible idea, as you can stay at other, nearly-as-luxurious properties for well under $200/night.

  27. @George,

    With all due respect, to compare the rooms at Marriott Grand Chateau with “any top end suite in Vegas” is laughable. Have you ever personally stayed in one of the high end suites at the Wynn or Bellagio? I have, and there is NO comparison. The location of the Grand Chateau is OK, but there are much nicer properties for the money. If you want to use Marriott points (and have status), stay at the Ren or the FS by the convention center, at least you will get an upgrade and free breakfast or lounge.
    I agree with the above recommendations to use FHR to get the most bang for the buck in Vegas.

  28. The sls in vegas is nothing like the one in Beverly Hills. I was there last week for a conference and there were parties most evenings at the sls. Nothing wowed me about the place. Virtuoso have a deal for $189 with $100 f&b credit which is a deal. But honestly I wouldn’t take it. A friend of mine is a travel booker for Sony music and asked me for my opinion on the hotel as they are being encouraged to send clients there. I couldn’t lie to her. So I doubt you’ll see too many stars there!

  29. My secret weapon is the Monte Carlo. Has lower rates than it’s neighbors but is very well located on the free tram line to Aria/Bellagio. Except for couples, who the heck stays in the room anyways?

  30. Let me know if you ever need help with Vegas bro. You got my email
    Your blog has done wonders for me

  31. I am not a big gambler but I make sure they know every penny I put into a slot and every hand of blackjack I play and that’s enough to score free rooms. Never pay for a room in Vegas! Just came back and scored the Superman Suite at Planet Hollywood! It’s was full of memorabilia from the Christopher Reeves movie and was huge! Didn’t pay a dime for it! Well in reality I did at the tables but not as a room rate.

  32. I agree with you, often hate it. Las Vegas in moderation is okay. But, sorry, I’m cheap. I love the Golden Nugget with their offers of $37 a night . In fact, I like it more than the Venetian and Palazzo, and I believe it is an overall greater value. It has wonderful rooms and comes with a buy-one-get-one-free at the restaurant. To me, I like to travel more and stay at top-of-the-line less.

  33. I’m not a gambler but my Better 1/2 does it some. Not heavy but enough so that I give her my card to put in the machines (I believe that its TR [Total Rewards] whereas you can add someone to your acct). I hotel hop which she doesn’t mind b/c its casino hopping for her. I rent cheap MLife and TR rms for the credits (always keep in mind of the resort fees) but have never stayed – mostly Venetian/Palazzo award stays.
    For Mom’s Day I will be taking both the Better 1/2 along w/ mom and father-in-law (couldn’t believe mom-in-law accepted to fly). Mom-in-law is great at the slots. I will give her my cards to rack up all benefits possible. My pop-in-law doesn’t gamble as well.
    4 AA tix ($187×4). I booked 2 rms at the South Point under Pointshound (2500 & 2K-$225 each w/ RF’s). Not great but being that my in-laws are elderly I decided to stay here for 2 nights b/c of reservations at Michael’s (Opentable pts and Freedom’s 5X bonus). Then 2 rms @ The Palazzo for 1 night (25K pts each) and 1 rm @ the Rio (SPG pts and we fly out @ 12:40am). I still might do a cheap MLife res. We also eat at places outside of Vegas that are connected w/ Rewards Network.
    What is FHR?

  34. We go to Las Vegas at least once a year. We belong to all the players’ clubs. We gamble on average about $50 a day. Our average hotel rate is approx. $40 a day. Many times we just pay for the Fri. and Sat. nights and all the other nights’ stays are free. We wouldn’t stay at the Delano as it is too far south on the strip. It is better to stay in the middle of the strip. The Mirage, Bellagio, Planet Hollywood and Caesar’s are all nice hotels that are mid-strip. Each is a very different “flavor”. Paraphrasing @Church upthread, even a little gambling goes a long way in Las Vegas. Even the no money spent, “Play Vegas” game on Facebook will earn you freebies. We have earned multiple free tickets and meals, with Play Vegas.

  35. Another vote for Vdara, it is non-smoking, non-gaming. Also, the Four Seasons can be had for less usually on lmtclub.com. And the Signature at MGM Grand goes on sale on Groupon Getaways sometimes. There is an established thread on FT with Las Vegas hotels deals. Las Vegas is definitely not the loyalty traveler type.

  36. If you’re going to Vegas with friends to have fun then pay for the better property. Both you as well as your friends will appreciate it more. If you’re travelling there just for business/layover/etc then go with your points strategy.

  37. I also happened to be in Vegas at the time of this blog post. We split our stay between Mandalay Bay and the (new-to-SPG) Four Points Las Vegas East Flamingo (which is quite mediocre). I would say that Las Vegas is not a great city for Starwood travelers, but that it can be a great city for Hyatt travelers. If you’re a Hyatt traveler, you can link up with Mlife, get cheaper bookings on the Mlife websites, put restaurant charges through Las Vegas (in MGM hotel restaurants and more places such as the Mandarin Oriental bar) on your room charge, and rack up the Hyatt points.

  38. (1) Thanks to Jeff who was the first person in a LONG chain of replies to take the time to define what FHR meant. For everyone else, please define the acronym the first time it is used in a thread.

    (2) I was just in Vegas for two nights (Thursday and Friday) of last week. It was a spontaneous trip since I was already in Phoenix and I got a one-way fare for just $130 on USAirways. I found myself in baggage claim without a hotel room (that’s how last minute the trip was), so I pulled out my laptop and spent some time looking through all the options:

    (a) The SLS Las Vegas (previously noted) was giving away rooms for $65/night. Again, it is on the north edge of the Strip, next to the Monorail, and offers Hilton points.

    (b) The Luxor had rooms available last minute for $46/night — but I had heard that these were in need of a renovation.

    (c) The friends I was meeting up with were staying in the Wynn/Encore complex which has no affiliation with anything. Using the Hotwire.Com opaque hotel machine, I was able to get a room at the Wynn for $118/night. (I know you’re not supposed to know where you will end up — but Hotwire gave me enough hints that I decided it was worth the risk to spin the wheel and I got exactly what I wanted.) I accepted the opportunity to upgrade to the Encore for $35 more/night at check-in (the rooms were nicer/larger/newer) to which you need to then add the resort fee and the tax. It was still a great deal considering it would have normally been $310+resort fee+tax on a straight reservation.

    (d) I’m surprised that no one else has mentioned the best way to get free rooms at any of the MGM resorts (in Las Vegas and elsewhere in the USA). About 2.75 years ago, MGM Hotels unveiled a “MyVegas” application on Facebook. By playing their games, you earn Loyalty Points. You can then cash them in for free nights, buffets, and shows at MGM properties anywhere. I’ve now accrued almost 1.3 million loyalty points so I will be able to use them up for a better planned Las Vegas trip in the future. There are a lot of tricks to using your points well and you have to be careful not to let them accidentally expire (if I recall correctly, you have to play at least once a month). Their best reward is for 1.2 million points and it is a Caribbean cruise for two — so I might just do that instead.

  39. Just spent today booking all my hotels in Vegas and Arizona for an upcoming trip and trying to maximise points, rewards and discounts! It’s midnight!

    Anyway, I absolutely suck at getting/using hotel rewards as they never seem to go through, but have managed to get a stack of Virgin Atlantic airmiles from the Hilton – both double earning and then converting to Virgin airmiles. (Oh yes this trip to Vegas is a reward flight from London – yeah baby!) so I focus on the bonus airmiles you can get by going through to booking websites from the Virgin Flying Club – today that was 7 miles per £1 on hotels.com, 5 miles per £1 on booking.com which were the cheapest room prices when checked on Trivago. They also use Pointshound and Rocketmiles but I found the hotels were a lot more expensive. Also Hotels.com do a book 10 nights and stay free one night, but I tried to use a 10% discount code, which did work (for a Bellagio booking) but threw out the free night. So as it was slightly cheaper when logged in with my Sapphire (i.e. zero) MLife membership I decided to go for that and see what those points might do for me in Vegas. Booking.com actually had a room which had two free buffets included (which you only saw when you looked at room information) but I decided to go for the smaller room and play dining by ear.

    Although I haven’t stayed in the Mandarin Oriental in Vegas I have stayed in MO Miami (it’s just incredible) so please, please do yourself a favour and give it a whirl, and like another poster here says, don’t get too hung up on the suite/room definition (or even the square footage). I got my room (more like a suite really) there for around $195 per night (including taxes, fees and resort fee) for a Friday AND Saturday when I booked it with my flight (still a great way to save) on Expedia (but then I didn’t get any airmiles).

    This is kind of a round trip for me starting and finishing in Vegas, so I found the biggest saving was just playing with the dates and going cheap and cheerful on my road trip accommodation (all dirt cheap on Hotels.com) so I could splurge in Vegas.

    Another great tip for any hotel which has a lowest price promise is to check on Trivago, as there are a few sites I wouldn’t actually want to book with due to some bad reviews on Tripadvisor, that sometimes offer ridiculously low prices – then ask the hotel to match – so you book direct with no risk of the third party ending up leaving you hanging but get the silly deal price.

    (Apologies for any typos – it’s even later now!)

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