Welcome to rsts11 travel, my new effort to share discoveries and recommendations from my travels.
Be sure to visit our welcome post, and watch for more Las Vegas-themed posts in the next week to start things with a pop. On the board to round out January 2017 are a mobile power post and a mobile caffeine post.
Livingston went to… Vegas?
Like many of my tech industry compatriots, I make it to Las Vegas for conventions a couple of times a year. Unlike many of them, I actually enjoy visiting Las Vegas, and end up there twice a year on average for a personal getaway, as well as extending conference/convention visits. There are definitely things you can do when traveling to Sin City to make your trip more enjoyable, rewarding, and even tolerable.
A quick preface – be a joiner; I am!
I usually recommend that people sign up for any loyalty program they could possibly benefit from. This will cause a lot of email, so you might consider a second “travel” Gmail account to manage the influx, or just filter based on sender. You can also use an existing email address at Gmail with a sub-address per program — for example, rsts11travel+hilton@gmail still lands in our rsts11travel account, but we can filter and search based on the +hilton part. Set a filter per program that attaches a label to the inbound email, and you can easily see who’s trying to get your money, or who shared your information with another company.
Note that even though Gmail has promoted this option since 2008, and it’s been an RFC standard since at least 2003 (RFC 3598 and later 5233), some websites will still fail to accept it, so don’t count on it being usable everywhere.
Hotel Conglomerates in Sin City
As in any modern US city, you can find hotels from the major chains in and around Las Vegas. Readers with status and rewards from one of the leading chains, including Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, and Hyatt will want to consider those properties if their visit to Vegas doesn’t require staying on the strip (and for some, even if it does). Rental cars, Uber, or Lyft can make transit from off-strip venues to on-strip events manageable.
On the strip proper, Hilton does have Elara by Hilton Grand Vacations, which is attached to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, as well as the Tropicana (which is now a Doubletree by Hilton). As of December 2016, Starwood’s W Hotels has taken over a tower at the SLS about 4 miles northeast of MGM (easily reached by monorail or the Deuce bus line), and the Westin Las Vegas (formerly the Westin Casuarina) is a very long but easily-walked block and a half from Caesars/Ballys/Cromwell/Tropicana off the strip. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has a secret identity (pun intended), but you’ll see that below.
(For you trivia buffs and rap fans, Tupac Shakur was shot outside the Westin, which at the time was the Maxim Hotel. But that was over 20 years ago.)
Caesar and the Lion
If you want the stereotypical Las Vegas resort experience, though, you’re going to be on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, and you’re very likely to be staying at a property run by Caesars Entertainment or MGM Resorts. And if you’re planning to spend any time or money at either, you’ll want to sign up for their respective free loyalty programs, Total Rewards (Caesars) and Mlife Rewards (MGM).
Register before your trip, or visit the respective rewards desks when you get to town, and you’ll be on your way to rewards, discounts, and (if you gamble) comps and rewards for your sacrifices to the casino gods. You’ll show ID and pick up your card on property; they don’t mail cards out although they’ll replace them on every visit if needed.
Once you’ve registered for Total Rewards and Mlife Rewards, check out their partnerships to really get the most out of your rewards. Note that these will change over time, so you’ll want to read your emails from Caesars and MGM and check their websites occasionally for the latest developments.
- Hyatt Gold Passport – tier matching, reciprocal points between chains
- Southwest Airlines – 600 Rapid Rewards points per MGM stay
- Credit card: Mlife Rewards Mastercard by First Bankcard
- Others, including cruises, cars, Cirque du Soleil, and more (see this link)
Starwood Preferred Guest partnershipended December 31, 2016 (unfortunately)
- Hawaiian Airlines – points are transferrable/redeemable between companies
- Total Rewards Dining, Total Rewards Marketplace (shopping portal)
- Credit card: Total Rewards VISA by Comenity
- Others (see this link)
Show your players club card anywhere you spend money at their respective properties (retail, dining, shows, and of course on check-in at the resorts themselves), and the rewards will add up. If you don’t know whose program applies, look for mentions of MGM/Mlife or Caesars/Total Rewards, or just ask a staff member.
Smaller conglomerates, with an unexpected surprise
Mlife and Total Rewards are the 800-pound gorillas in the Vegas rewards market, but there are a few others including Boyd Gaming, the Station Casinos group, Hard Rock Rewards and Casino Backstage Pass for the Hard Rock Hotel, and one that might surprise you.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, located near Crystals and City Center between Aria and Bellagio, has its own rewards program called Identity which offers roughly 5% back on dining and hotel stays at this one property, and various amounts for gambling.
But Cosmo is also a part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, meaning you can book through Marriott, earn and use Marriott Rewards points at the property (and sometimes get Marriott Rewards status considerations), and since Marriott and Starwood have connected their rewards programs, you can convert Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Marriott Rewards points and use them at the Cosmopolitan. If you have transferrable credit card rewards like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, you can further complicate things and get points into your Cosmo stay.
I could write an entire article about how and why to consider all of those options, and if I run out of other ways to use my time off I may do so, but you can search the web for some other travel bloggers’ adventures at Cosmo in the meantime.
Where do we go from here?
In an upcoming piece I’ll touch on secret, or not-so-secret, gems in Las Vegas for those of you not inclined toward smoke and gambling. I’ll cover the credit card options to advance your status and rewards. There will also be a review or two from some of those gems, and a couple more secrets to help you make the most of your Las Vegas sojourns.
Have you made the most of the rewards programs in Vegas? Share your experience in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook.
[Las Vegas Strip image via Pixabay. Card image by Robert Novak (C)2017. ]
Disclosure: I am personally a member of almost all the rewards programs mentioned in this article. I don’t get referral bonuses or other consideration from the companies in question, and this article is based on my personal experience and recommendations. No endorsement, approval, or review by any company or organization was sought, received, or considered.