So far I’ve been talking a lot about the theory behind maximizing comps, and things to look out for to get the most benefit. Examples include:
- How to spot no resort fee offers from Mlife
- How to maximize a coupon run
- Tier matching to gain benefits
But how does this all come together in practice? I recently started planning a trip to Las Vegas for December 2019, to spend time there with my friend Gabor and his wife. As I began to work everything out, I realized sharing my process may help others see in practice how you can make the most of your casino comps and offers to piece together a trip, as well as leverage some of the offers I’ve spoken about here already.
(A quick note: Gabor is the founder and manager of Utazas Okosan, which ferrets out strong travel deals. It’s in Hungarian, but Facebook can helpfully translate posts for you. Along with being a good friend, he’s taught me some of the tricks you see here.)
Setting the Trip Parameters
We had a few things that would prove to be the sandbox from which I would ultimately work. First off, Gabor was flying out Thanksgiving day and returning home December 13. So those would be the original guardrails for my trip. We have a shared mutual friend who will be out for a portion of the visit, and we planned to all get together December 7.
We were game for a visit to Laughlin the night of December 8, so that night would be stayed away from Las Vegas, and so any other hotel reservations would need to factor that reality in. Otherwise, there was quite a bit of flexibility. I normally don’t plan this far out, but I had specific reasons for doing so, which we’ll get to in a bit.
I plan on working remotely, as I did on my May/June trip (I have a job that allows me to work remotely). To do so, I planned on overlapping bookings by a day to ensure I wouldn’t have to be changing hotel rooms while needing to work. I could check into the new hotel the night before and check out of the previous one remotely in the morning.
Gabor’s flying in on Thanksgiving meant that would be the earliest I would want to fly out there. Flights tend to be elevated around holiday weekends, and this was no exception, but they dipped solidly on December 3. He’s leaving December 13 so a 13th or 14th departure would be ideal. A number of options existed for a December 3-13 window that were affordable from a flight perspective, so that became the window I chose.
My previous Vegas trip, which was in May/June, was eight days and nine nights. Part of this was because of one trick Gabor taught me, which is while you can only book one Mlife offer in a given month (although that rule may be changing with their new offer structure rolling out), you can book multiple month’s offers and use them on the same trip, as long as you have a few days of separation between them.
In that trip I was able to do two Mlife stays (both at Luxor, in my case), each of which gave me resort credit and freeplay. Both also had waived resort fees in the case of the offers they were extending to me. So my plan was to have a similar length or longer stay, since I wanted to do the same for the December trip. Mlife was extending me the stronger of the offers (up to 4 nights complimentary, with $100 in resort credit and $75 in freeplay, consistent with the May/June trip offers). I also found the renovated rooms at Luxor quite comfortable – basic, yet they served their purpose well.
So I would bookend my trip at mLife if the offers held and the rooms were available. In between my plan was to fill with a Caesars reservation and a booking at Wynn which I was accumulating in the Wynn Slots app. Because Wynn slots had some blackout days early in my trip’s schedule, I planned on going to a Caesars property first, then Laughlin, then Wynn.
Booking the Offers, Part I: A Suite Arrangement
I caught an early break as Mlife was in the process of rolling out a new offer structure as I was gearing up for my May/June trip. Normally new offers load around the 15th and you can book one per offer cycle. But they loaded my new format offer in the middle of the May offer cycle, and I was able to book a room with it, even though I had used my older format May offer already. (One way you can tell if you’re getting the new format offers is they have a 12 month window to make a reservation vs. the 6 month window in the old offers.)
Since all of the perks that I normally would get were in the offer, I was willing to get the process started as I didn’t know if my offers would improve, shrink or stay the same after my May/June visit – so better to lock in the current as a baseline just in case.
That’s when I caught my second break with the Mlife offer – for the early part of the trip window, which was looking pretty challenging for both Caesars and Wynn to get availability, Luxor had a pretty nice option available for me:
For whatever reason, that window of time they had a one bedroom suite that they were willing to offer me. I’d be a fool not to take it, especially when the comp value displayed compared favorably to what I was given for a much smaller room on the last trip. So that was booked and became the first anchor of my travel.
Comp value matters because they expect a level of play to justify those comps. The higher the number, the more they expect you to gamble to “earn” those comps during the trip. If you play less than expected for such a value, you may get reduced comps on a future trip.
So not only did I have my first portion of the trip booked, but it was a vastly nicer opportunity than I expected when I first began researching the trip. The freeplay and resort credit will also come in handy in terms of padding the trip bankroll with extras.
Booking the Offers, Part II: Diamond in the Rough
I held off on booking the next part of my trip until I returned from my May/June visit. I knew by that point I would have matched my Mlife Gold status to Caesars Diamond level, which means guaranteed no resort fees when booking. While I had heard repeatedly that they should take them off the bill once you’ve matched it, and had no trouble with this on my May/June trip, I felt it’d be less hassle to wait until returning.
I had two Caesars-based bookings planned. I wanted one for a few nights prior to Laughlin on the 8th, and then book at Harrah’s Laughlin for the 8th itself. Like Mlife, you have to have a gap between reservations, but only when it comes to the same market. So you can have a Caesars reservation in Las Vegas one night, and in another market the next, which is what I planned in this situation.
As far as my offers with Caesars is concerned, they weren’t great, and like the Wynn calendar showed the first week of December looked pretty challenging. Part of this is my own fault – I had been given a Caesars Palace room comp in 2018 (amazing trip) and didn’t get to put in nearly enough play to justify it, so I was downgraded comp-wise to more of their budget properties for the June trip. (Fine by me; if the room is clean, modern and comfortable, I’m OK with it.)
Still, the calendar was also seemingly working against me – likely something was happening that week. Most rooms before December 8 showed costs, but I did show a ray of hope with Planet Hollywood. Unfortunately they were only offering smoking rooms, but they did have a comp king bed room for December 5-8 so I opted to take it and will roll my dice at the Diamond lounge check-in to see if they can find me a non-smoking option. Like Luxor, I stayed at PH during my May/June trip and loved the room – the $20 trick also worked when checking in there and I got an amazing strip-view room to boot.
Laughlin was a much simpler matter – they had a number of room options, and I relied on Gabor’s recommendations, as I’ve never been there. It was also one night on a Sunday night, which I presume isn’t their busiest period.
Booking the Offers, Part III: Living the Mlife
I was able to book the next piece with Mlife when the new offers hit in June. The offers didn’t give me rooms at the level they were with the previous booking, but I still got a King size bed. So far I’ve been pleased with that aspect of this; most of the time I get stuck in a two-bed room at least once during a trip because of what is available (sometimes even being swapped into a two-bed scenario at check-in, which is never necessary as I almost always travel solo), but so far, so good.
In this case I got a Premium King; I had stayed in a Premium two bed room in my May/June visit and so I was totally happy with this choice.
Booking the Offers, Part IV: Aiming for a Wynn-Wynn
I haven’t stayed at the Wynn in over two years, a consequence of my travel shifting from primarily work to primarily pleasure. My very first stay in my very first trip to Vegas started at the Wynn, and it was a stellar experience, which I got to enjoy a couple of more times after that. But my budget normally doesn’t allow such splurging, and my play there hasn’t warranted room offers, so I moved on to other pastures for awhile.
Earlier this year, I got into the Wynn Slots app, and decided I would aim for a few nights given how the gem earning was going. The room costs for those nights in terms of the gems you had to earn were a bit elevated, again indicating demand at that time of year, but not impossible. Unfortunately as I was building towards it the gem costs went up not once, but twice, most recently a few days before I was ready to book the room (I was within 300 gems, and suddenly each night went up 200 gems, meaning I now needed 900 gems).
Lucky for me I caught an insanely lucky streak in the app and within a few days of the gem cost increase, I had earned 7200 gems, enough to book my three nights. With this booking my hotels were complete.
The Wynn Slots app is the only place where I spent any money that could accurately be attributed to the rooms. I bought about $30 in coins over the time of attempting to get the 7,200 gems – about $10/night. Given you can opt out of the resort fees with Wynn, that would be all I’d need to spend, unless I opt to pay for Wi-Fi (which would be included with the resort fee payment but can also be purchased separately). I can decide once I get there and see how the service is whether that will be necessary.
As you can see, it took some research, and some navigation of what was available to me, but I now have an 11-night stretch booked that costs me no room costs, no resort fees, and in the case of Mlife unlocks $350 in freeplay and resort credit. The likely flight itinerary will bring me in late on December 3 and have me on a red-eye home the 13th into the 14th, so I booked the night of the 13th to be safe; I have had a red-eye cancelled on me before, requiring me to stay an extra night, and it’s nice to have a room to go back to all day.
With the room and some incidentals covered thanks to this setup, this will help maximize budget for any activities and gambling while out there.
How do you maximize your Vegas travel budgeting? Share your tips in the comments below!