Spring Break in Vegas, Family Style 2015

Another adventure that has happened in the past year was a Spring Break vacation with the kids to Las Vegas.  The last time they were there was back in 2009 so this time around it was a bit different but still a lot of fun.  My parents were supposed to go with us but my mother took on a new job right before and had to travel to MD for training that week.  Bad timing.  But I still urged my dad to come with us.

We had 4 nights comped at MGM and one night at Excalibur…also had 4 nights + one paid night at Flamingo – which is where my dad stayed. This was great for a mid-strip resting point most days.

This is the longest we have ever been in Vegas at one time. Did a lot of walking and mainly played slots at night after the kids were tuckered out. My husband had a few good wins on the 2nd and 3rd nights which let us go home with one day’s full budget still in the bank. That has never happened before!

Unfortunately I was the only one recording slot bonuses and I wasn’t winning anything big. We missed out on recording some nice big wins by my husband which would’ve been good to add to our slot channel. Isn’t that the way it always happens?!

The trip was too long for me to post the daily details so I will just post the highs and lows.

Highs:
– Limo transport both ways via Presidential Limo. I booked this as a surprise for everyone. We got in from Dallas really late so it was nice to just get in a vehicle and go without making a gazillion stops and without having to worry about the tunnel. The cost included gratuity but I tipped extra there and back. The way in we had a stretch limo with champagne for us adults and on the way back it was one of the SUV stretch cars. Complete with mood lighting and an awesome sound system – everything was perfect. Hubby and I have decided we will spring for this every trip now that we are spoiled!

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– Freeplay at MGM through MLife and MyVegas turned into a profit. Not much but $75 freeplay at MGM turned into $95 cash and $20 freeplay at Excalibur turned into $35 cash. It was nice not to lose it for once.

– MGM breakfast buffet was great. We ate here twice and normally I don’t like breakfast buffets but going around 10am gets you breakfast and lunch so there was a wide variety of food.

– Sprinkles cupcakes in the Linq area. My daughter is Vegan so we got two Vegan red velvet cupcakes there. They were so good and I think we inhaled them in under 4 minutes!

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– Diablo’s Cantina @ Monte Carlo. We had the $50 food credit from MyVegas to use there and our bill came to about $100. The waitress came back and said that their cashier wasn’t there and the bartender said he didn’t know how to apply it so the entire lunch was FREE! We were floored and I gave her a big tip that she was very appreciative of.

– Ka @ MGM. Of course it is always a good show. Hubby and I saw it about 6 years ago. The pre-show entertainers (the ushers) were really fun. Dad dozed off in the beginning but midway through it grabbed his attention and he stayed awake. One of the ushers playing with “George”, my daughters stuffed whatever it is

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– Dad’s room at Famingo. It was a CET comp and I think it may have been a Go room. Hardwood floors and a nice view of the pool area. I was actually impressed.

– Slots at NYNY and MGM – for my husband at least. He had a nice $310 win on a new Azure progressive slot at MGM we had never played before (picture below) and the whole bank of them were playing out nicely for a few hours hitting progressive amounts every now and then. I was able to catch the very end of it on video. He also had a nice $260 bonus win at NYNY on some WMS slot we don’t know the name of and another $150 line hit on 50 cent Wicked Winnings there. His best hit of the trip was at MGM on a Monopoly game. Not sure the name but the bonus win was $38 and then he hit a 10x multiplier for a $380 total win. He also had a $188 bonus on Goldfish 3. My one good win came from the Reel Em In slot at MGM for a catch of about $160. I did manage to get that one on video. One night we went back to the room with that entire day’s budget, including what we had spent during the day on non-gaming activities and food.

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– Monorail transportation. All I can say is thank God for it. With Dad mid strip and us on the South end, it made meeting up each day and going back much easier!

– The weather. After being in the Dallas area with nothing but rain and recent ice – it was so nice to walk around in 80 degree weather for a few days.

– Lucky Cat @ Cosmo. Even though my fortune said “By the time you turn around the person in front of you will have disappeared” it was pretty cute and they let the kids come in and take a pic.

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– Hash House a Go Go. Man the pancakes are huge! Nobody could finish theirs. The biscuit that came with my veggie hash was the best I’ve ever had.

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– The Secret Garden at Mirage! After watching the dolphins play, we walked through to the tiger area and who was there? Seigfried!! Probably the highlight of my trip, it was an honor to meet such a Vegas legend. Totally unexpected and worth the price to get in. I’m so glad my daughter talked me into it! They say he just shows up sometimes to meet people and hang out. We caught him before he left for the day.

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– Pink’s hot dogs. The boys really enjoyed theirs and I was able to get a veggie dog. It was the cheapest meal we had the whole week.

$8.99 Prime Rib dinner at Tony Roma’s downtown. The boys loved this meal.

– The Bellagio Conservatory. It’s so much prettier at night!

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– Adventure dome @ Circus Circus. It’s pricey to get in but my husband and the kids said the rides were great and they liked that there wasn’t a wait for any of them unlike most amusement parks. I bowed out of that one and lost some $$ in the casino while waiting with my dad.

20150312_141909– The dude impersonating Dr Evil in front of Planet Hollywood. Spot on!

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-Gold and Silver Pawn Shop…aka. Pawn Stars.  We took the bus towards downtown and walked to visit the shop.  It’s a tiny little place but fun to see, especially since my dad and my husband are fans of the show.

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Lows:
– Our room debacle at MGM. I opted for the $34 upgrade from the offer I got via email before our trip to the tower spa suite so we would have more room. Upon arrival very late that night, she said they were all out of them but we could do a 1 bedroom instead. The catch – it was their last one on the 1st floor – but she said she put an 8th floor room on hold for us that we could move to the next day. I hate those first floor rooms. Right off of the casino floor, you feel like you are in a dungeon. The couch and couch pillows had what appeared to be crusty food – or vomit on them. It was a large room and would’ve been great on a different floor and minus the unidentifiable substance on the couch. The next day I went to check on the 8th floor room and the lady said come back around 2 and it should be ready. 3pm I go to the desk and the agent is talking forever – talking to a manager back and forth a hundred times. She tells me that the room that was on hold had a maintenance issue and we were being upgraded to a different room on the 20th floor. I didn’t mind that because I heard the word upgrade. Getting to the room, it wasn’t an upgrade – it was the tower spa suite I originally reserved. That room is actually smaller than the one on the first floor. But on a good note – there was no vomit on the couch. On the 2nd night around 915pm, the shower backed up and flooded the bathroom. We waited an hour and a half for maintenance to come up and plunge it and for housekeeping to replenish our towels and take away the soaked ones. They did give us 4 free buffets but in hindsight I think I may still write them a note. They charged me $40 per night for the upgrade instead of $34 because we were supposed to keep the 1 bedroom – which we weren’t able to.

– The crowds. The college basketball tournament was going on at MGM and by Wednesday there were fans and players everywhere. When the games let out you could barely walk without stepping on someone.

– Chasing progressives. I need to make a mental note here. Chasing progressives only make you frustrated and depressed. There was one hanging on at over $460 on a must pay by $500 WMS Queen of Africa at Flamingo. I played it for a long time and hit about 7 bonuses. That damn thing never dropped. I gave up. The next day of course I just had to go check it. Yup…someone won it and it was back at $250. Dammit.

– Flamingo slots in general. We lost our butts there and couldn’t hit a damn thing. They don’t seem to have many new slots, just a bunch of old ones.

– The smoke. I’m an ex-smoker. I vape now. Maybe I’m just more sensitive now but the smoke at the casinos – especially NYNY – was so heavy I could literally taste it. Made me wonder why the hell I ever smoked those things. Our clothes went straight into the washer when we got home.

– The line at Carlo’s Bakery! Insane!

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– The Walking Dead slot machine. OMG. $200 gone in no time on max bet without one bonus and only one good hit for $90. Unbelievable. Never again!

– The Excalibur room – oh…the Excalibur room. What can I say? Motel 6 downgraded a few categories with 1970’s décor, little plastic cups in the restroom and hallways that smell like an old gym sock. Yuck. I’ll never stay there again. I added the night as an afterthought when we bought our airline tickets and had to extend a night to get the cheap fare. One good thing, they did not charge the resort fee so it was completely free. I will never stay there again and I made it clear on my survey that they are in dire need of a renovation!

– Downtown. Not really a low for me and my husband but my dad hated it this time around. I think the 70 year old man wearing a diaper up his ass and the naked large ladies with nothing on but duct taped nipples did him in this time. I found it hilarious and didn’t mind our teens seeing it, it made for some funny conversation. I mean, it is Vegas!

And finally, Chief Two Cheeks:

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The trip was fun overall but I think 5 nights is a little much in Vegas!  My daughter had a blast.  My son, well he’d rather be home playing video games or on a beach vacation. At least I don’t have to worry that he’ll slip off to Vegas when he turns 21 and become a degenerate gambler like his mom and dad!

Travel Tip Tuesday: Vegas Dos and Don’ts

Last week I had a really good idea for Travel Tip Tuesday but I should’ve written it down when it came to me because I cannot for the life of me remember what it was about.  So I decided to go with what I know.

Aaaah Vegas!

My husband and I have been to Las Vegas approximately 15 times in the last 12 or so years.  Our first trip was in 2001 for our 2nd wedding anniversary.  Having only been there once in 1994 with my mom when I was 16, I knew nothing about what to do, where to stay, how to book etc… I booked a package through Vegas.com with airfare on Sun Country airlines and a room at the legendary Stardust Hotel and Casino.

I think this is from 2002…boy does time fly!

Before booking the trip, I had to talk my husband into going.  He told me “Vegas is just for gambling and drinking — neither of which I do.”  I begged him to just give it a chance.  Upon walking out of the plane, it was love at first sight.  We had an excellent trip, learned how to play blackjack, ate some good food, did all the touristy things and vowed that we would be back.  And, we did go back….14 more times!

Another visit

And….another

Over the years we’ve learned a lot of things about Sin City.  What to do, what not to do etc… If you are going for the first time, it helps to know some of these things in advance so that you can be sure to get the most of your money while in town.

DO:

  • Check the Las Vegas convention schedule prior to your trip.   Huge groups flocking to the area will cause airfare and hotel prices to be higher than normal.
  • Try to go during the week, Sun-Th.  Hotel/Casinos offer their best rates on these days.  Weekend rates can be nearly triple and if it is over a holiday weekend…even higher.  Off peak times are good (don’t go during spring break, Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend etc…).
  • Sign up for players cards at every hotel/casino even if you don’t play much there.  You will get future offers for discounts, show tickets, food etc..
  • Learn how to play.  If you are new to the world of casino gaming, look into lessons.  many of the casinos will offer free lessons during off-peak hours and allow you to practice with “play money” before taking a chance on the real thing!
  • Try the $20 trick at check in.  Many of the hotel front desk agents would be happy to upgrade you for a little extra cash in their pockets if it’s possible.  Stick a $20 bill between your ID and your credit card to where it is noticeable to the clerk.  Be nice and say “I’d really appreciate any upgrade you might be able to do for me…” If they can, they will.  If they can’t, they will look disappointed and turn you down.  No harm done.

    $20 trick at the Bellagio got us this view

  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Las Vegas is a busy, busy place at all hours of the day.  Keep your purse close to your body (I wear mine across) and gentlemen, don’t keep money in your back pockets.  Thieves are everywhere and you might not even notice until you are already a victim.

DON’T

  • Let your cabbie take the tunnel to the strip.  This is called “long hauling” and it is not allowed.  Tell your can driver to take you to your hotel “no tunnel”.  If they argue with you or do it anyway, then tell them you will be contacting the Las Vegas Taxi Cab Authority to report them.  They will shape up right away.
  • Think you can smoke everywhere.  A lot of places now are non-smoking even in Vegas.  Obey the signs and only smoke in designated areas.
  • Try to hail a cab in Vegas.  It is illegal, you are not in New York City. Cabs cannot stop in the streets to pick you up.  Find the nearest hotel and wait in the taxi line for one to pull up.
  • Think she is THAT into you…for the guys.  Women of the night are prevalent in Las Vegas.  They are like vultures waiting for their next meal.  If she seems too good to be true, she probably is.  And hold onto your wallet!
  • #1 don’t in Las Vegas: Don’t go to Vegas expecting to go home a winner!  Those ginormous, glittering monstrosities weren’t built on winners.  You are there to have fun.  If you win, then even better but if you expect to win you will be disappointed and ruin your experience.  We’ve been close to 16 times and are still waiting to win THE BIG ONE.

    They are fun but dangerous!

    I read a blog recently where someone absolutely loathed and hated their time in Sin City.  To each his own I guess.  My husband and I really enjoy going there.  We enjoy the lights, the sounds, the crowds…even the smells of Las Vegas. There is just something about it that keeps us coming back.  Yes, we even took our kids….once.

Say what you like about me taking them, but they had a blast! (2009)

If you have any specific questions about LV, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’d be happy to help where I can!

Explore the Strip for FREE (or almost)

For today’s Travel Tip Tuesday I wanted to share some insight on the many, many things you can do in Vegas without spending too much of  your hard-earned cash — better to save that for the slot machines right?

A little background:  After much deliberation and trying to “convince” my husband that there was more to Vegas than degeneracy and debauchery, we decided to spend our 2nd wedding anniversary in Las Vegas.  I had been there once before, when I was 15 and I went with my mother, her friend and her friend’s German high school foreign exchange student.  We ate, saw the sights and went to a few shows….It was 1994 and Vegas was a totally different place then.  Our first trip as husband and wife in 2001 sparked an addiction that we would be feeding for the next 11 years and more.

I think I will save the details of our first visit for another blog post some time and today,  list a compilation of the things we have experienced over the years in Vegas for free or close to free.  A weekend in Las Vegas does not have to break the bank, wipe out your kid’s college fund or blow the family nest egg.  There is plenty to keep you entertained on a small budget.  Here’s some of our favorites as we :

Luxor & Mandalay Bay

  • Mandalay Place – Shops and restaurants
  • Free tram and indoor walkway between the two and to Excalibur
  • Shark Reef – Open daily, 10am-8pm; $16.95 adults, $10.95 children 5-12 (pricey) Mandalay Bay
  • Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition – daily, 10am-10pm; $28 (pricey) Luxor
  • Bodies… The Exhibition – daily, 10am-10pm; $32 (pricey) Luxor

Excalibur

  • Motion Rides 11am-10pm daily, from $9.95

MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

  • CBS Television City Research Center – 10am-8:30pm
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5

New York New York Hotel and Casino

  • Manhattan Express Rollercoaster – daily, 11am-11pm; $14

    Manhattan Express

Cosmopolitan

  • Art scattered all around the property
  • Live music at several bars

City Center

  • Fine Art Collection – Free, open daily 24/7
  • The Gallery – 10am-midnight, daily; free
  • Water features – at Aria’s porte-cochère

 

Mirage

  • Volcano – Daily, every hour dusk to 11pm.
  • Aquarium behind the check-in desk in hotel lobby.
  • Free tram to Treasure Island
  • Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat – Hours vary, $15 for adults, $10 for children

Treasure Island

  • Sirens of TI – Open daily, 5:30, 7, 8:30 and 10pm
  • Free Tram to Mirage

Venetian/Palazzo

  • Gondola – daily 10am-11pm, $16.
  • Grand Canal Shoppes – Shopping, restaurants, street performers and more.
  • Madame Tussauds – (702) 862-7800 times vary, $25 (a little pricey, but fun)
  • Painted ceilings, 2nd floor balcony and hotel lobby.
  • Giant waterfall and flower display, changed seasonally

    Venetian Singers

Bellagio

  • Fountains – every 30 minutes from 3pm-7pm, then every 15 minutes until 12am.
  • Gallery of Fine Art: 10am-6pm daily, Admission $15
  • Conservatory – Displays change with Seasons.
  • Fiori Di Como – Artwork by Dale Chihuly on ceiling of hotel lobby.
  • Chocolate Fountain – Jean-Philippe Patisserie
  • The Art of Richard MacDonald – 10am-11pm daily, free.
  • Free tram to Monte Carlo and CityCenter

    Bellagio Fountains

Wynn/Encore

  • Penske/Wynn Ferrari-Maserati showroom – 10am-9pm, $10 per person.
  • Lake of Dreams – nightly on the hour beginning at 8pm. Outside the Parasol Down Bar, 2 drink minimum for balcony seating.
  • Gardens near the lobby.

    Water feature outside the Wynn

Imperial Palace

  • Auto Collection – Located on the 5th floor of parking garage. Daily 10am-6pm. Admission $8.95.
  • Dealertainers – Celebrity impersonating blackjack dealers
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Harrah’s

  • Carnaval Court Live Entertainment
  • Dueling Piano Bar
  • Ghiradelli Ice Cream Shoppe
  • Free shuttle to Rio, Bally’s/Paris
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.
  • Hash House – Order one meal and share, the portions are HUGE

Flamingo

  • Wildlife Habitat – 8am-dusk, free.
  • Bugsy Segal Memorial – Plaque located in a small grotto behind the hotel.
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Casino Royale

  • $1 beer specials and $1 margaritas
  • Free promotional slot play with player card sign up

Fashion Show Mall

  • Fashion Shows – Fri-Sun every hour noon-6pm

Paris

  • Indoor walkway to Bally’s with shopping and eateries
  • Eiffel Tower Experience – Open daily, 9:30-12:30am weather permitting. $10 for adults; $7 for children. From 7:30 p.m. – close: Admission is $15 for adults.

    See Vegas from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Planet Hollywood

  • Miracle Mile Shops
  • Pleasure Pit – Sexy dealers
  • Indoor rainstorm at timed intervals

Bally’s

  • Jubilee! – All Access Backstage Walking Tour: Mon, Wed, Sat at 11am. Admission is $10 purchased with Jubilee! show ticket or $15 without.
  • Indoor walkway to Paris.
  • Free shuttle to Harrahsand Rio
  • LV Monorail Stop – Daily 7am-2am. 3 ticket types starting at $5.

Bill’s Gamblin Hall and Saloon

  • Big Elvis – M, Tu, Th, F @ 3pm & 7:15pm

Caesars Palace

  • Forum Shops – Don’t miss the great statues or the spiral escalator.
  • Fall of Atlantis and Festival Fountain Shows – Forum Shops. Every hour 10am-midnight.
  • Large aquarium near Cheesecake Factory

Showcase Mall

  • Gameworks
  • M & M World
  • Movie Theater

Stratosphere

  • Tower – Tower rides Sun-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri-Sat and holidays 10am-2am. $15.95 for adults, $10 children
  • Big Shot – $13
  • Insanity the Ride – $12
  • X Scream – $12

This extensive list was put together with help from my friends at the Vegas Message Board

Dockfam’s Money Saving Travel Tips

When we go on vacation, everyone always wants to have a good time but with today’s economy it is always good to know how to stretch those hard earned dollars. without sacrificing the experience.  I have been called the crazy coupon lady by my friends and family because of my bargain hunting ways. We have been blessed to be able to travel as much as we do but we couldn’t do it if I didn’t utilize some of my “tricks”.  I thought I would share some of them with you!

  • DRIVE don’t fly.  While I understand that some people cannot do this due to their location and their destination location, if you are at all able to do it then it will save you money.   We have driven from Dallas to Orlando about 6 times and we would do it again.  With the outrageous prices of airfare nowadays, it’s a no brainier.  Even with the high gas prices we were looking at a comparison of $520 in gas money vs. over $1200 for 4 airline tickets.  We do not normally stop along the way but even if you stay at a low-cost hotel for the night it is still saving you over 50%.  Look for fun places around where you live that you can handle the drive to.  Try places you have never been before.  You never know, it could end up being your best vacation yet?

  • Catch deals BEFORE your trip.  Sign up on Facebook,websites and coupon blogs such as www.couponingtodisney.com , www.discountdivas.com , etc..  There are hundreds of great savings blogs out there that post the most up to date offers and deals.  For example, last time we went to Disney one of the blogs posted an offer from Kroger in which if you bought so many $$ in gift cards you got extra points to save on gas.  Because we drove, this was a win-win situation.  I bought Disney gift cards to use on our trip and racked up the gas points which saved us $$ on gas for the road trip.  If there are items that you are looking to purchase for your trip, look for sales and free shipping offers.  One of my favorite websites for online shopping (and real-world shopping too!) is www.retailmenot.com

  • Travel with other family members or friends.  Who doesn’t love a big family vacation?  Combine your trip with that of your parents, siblings, cousins etc…  Share a rental car and hotel…therefore sharing the cost too and cutting your expenses at least 50%.  Is someone in the group an airline or hotel employee…senior or member of AAA?  Take advantage of their travel discounts (if they let you!).

  • Have a garage sale!  We do this before every summer vacation.  Over the year so much junk accumulates in the house that by the time the next summer rolls around, we are in the position to have a nice profit off of a garage sale.  Go through your kids’ rooms as part of spring cleaning.  Set the items aside until you are ready for the big day. 

  • Share meals at amusement parks.  This is particularly helpful if your kids are younger.  Instead of buying 2 adult meals and 2 kids meals…buy 3 adult meals and have your kids share one of them.  If you aren’t a big eater, then buy a kids meal for yourself!  They are not that much smaller than an adult meal usually (not at Disney anyway!) and after a week in the parks, this can be a huge savings!

  • Stay at a vacation rental, not at a hotel.  If this is at all possible, research rates on vacation rentals via www.vrbo.com .  We do this when visiting anywhere other than Disney.  Because there are so many perks to staying at a Disney property, we always stay on site.  However, other places you will find that you can rent a 2-3 bedroom apartment, loft or house (!) for much less than you can stay in a small, cramped hotel room with just 2 beds and 1 bathroom.  We have rented several properties in the past through this website and they have all been in pristine condition with very friendly owners.  Also, if your rental has a kitchen you can take advantage of making your own breakfast or lunch therefore saving a few bucks there.

  • If you go to Las Vegas and gamble….even if it is just a little….get the players card before you play.  We haven’t paid for a hotel room in Vegas for over 10 years.  This is because from our first visit we have been using our players cards everywhere we go.  We get free room offers, free food, free slot play, discounted show tickets etc.. It keeps us going back because we know that all we have to pay for other than fun money is the travel getting there.

  • Sign up for credit cards or shoppers cards that offer airline miles or cash back.  If you like to fly rather than drive, this can be a huge deal for you.  See if your favorite airline is running any promotions to get extra miles.  I know that AA was doing a promotion that gave you a few thousand miles just for signing up You will save a lot of money and your kids will still have all the fun things that make a vacation special.

  • Don’t buy drinks, bring them!  My favorite thing is to buy boxes of instant drink packets (Crystal Light, Wylers etc.) when they are on sale and stock up for a few months before the trip.  Then instead of buying sodas and bottled waters that can cost anywhere from $2-$5 each…ask for ice water at any of the quick service counters (it’s free!) and make your own drink.  Carbonated drinks are dehydrating in the summer heat anyway so this is also a much healthier option!  I empty the boxes and put the packets into Ziploc bags.  Easy to carry and they don’t take up that much space.

  • Don’t book your travel on 3rd party websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire etc… While these sites seem to be saving you money — you will lose out int he long run.  These companies are 3rd party wholesalers.  This means that they are allowed to have so many hotel rooms or airline tickets at a deeply discounted rate per day.  Then they inflate the cost and sell to consumers on their websites.  Most of the time, you are able to find the exact same or even lower deals just by going directly to the hotel or airlines regular website or your travel agent.  Once you have booked with one of these wholesalers, consider yourself locked in completely.  No changes are allowed, no cancellations and most importantly …. no refunds.  And, if you do run into a problem and need to speak with someone be prepared to be put on infinite death hold until someone picks up — even then be expected to proficiently speak some obsolete foreign language just to get your point across.  Have I made myself perfectly clear?  Don’t do it.

  • Consult with a travel agent.  Along those same lines, I must mention how time-saving and money-saving this option is.  Of course I’m biased but I actually didn’t realize what a lifesaver a travel agent can be until I started doing it for a living.  Most of us live very busy and hectic lives.  You probably don’t have time to scour the Internet for hours each day looking for travel deals and discounts.  You definitely don’t have time to check them every single day, as deals change more than most people change their underwear.  Have a travel agent can help you with this.  We don’t charge you any fees (if  yours does…find another one!) and have all of the resources to always find the best available deals.  If something better comes up before your travel — we will find out about it and change it no problem!  Have a cancellation or change?  It’s ok, don’t panic.  Your TA will take care of it for you and inform you of all of your options.  Most importantly, we provide personalized service and peace of mind.  We get to know you and your family and are here to make your vacation the most memorable one yet.

I hope you enjoyed my tips; I have many more however I will save them for another time.  If you follow these guidelines, this will save you a ton of $$ and you can save that for other vacation experiences because memories last forever!

Do you have any $$ saving tips to share that I haven’t listed?  I’d love to hear them!  Please Comment.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Opens Summer 2012

Opening in phases beginning in Summer 2012—and now welcoming reservations—Disney’s Art of Animation Resort invites your family to become a part of beloved Walt Disney Pictures and Disney·Pixar animated films. With 1,120 suites designed after Disney·Pixar’s Finding Nemo and Cars and Walt Disney Pictures’ The Lion King, plus 864 standard rooms inspired by Walt Disney Pictures’ The Little Mermaid, your family will be surrounded by some of your favorite stories throughout your entire Walt Disney World Resort vacation. Standard rooms sleep up to 4, while suites sleep up to 6 and provide just the right amount of extra room that many families need to spread out in comfort. From the magically themed family suites and rooms to the spectacular courtyards, this new Walt Disney World Value Resort will immerse families in one of four wonderful “worlds”—for a colorful journey through the story of each film.

I know we would love to stay here — would you?

Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa

We took a quick weekend trip down to San Antonio last August to celebrate my son’s 13th birthday and to have a sort of “last hurrah” before the start of the school year.  I was working for Hyatt at the time so the obvious choice was to stay at a Hyatt brand property.  Spoiled by the numerous Disney resorts we have stayed at in the past, we decided on the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa since it was the closest match we could agree on.

The resort is large.  It has a main building in the middle of the property and is surrounded by lush, tree covered landscaping.  The resort backs up to a golf course.  This is a view from the back of the main house and the community lawn where they host daily family oriented activities.

Inside the main building is where the check-in area is located.  The decor has an old southern theme to it and was very eye pleasing.  Not quite Disney but was reminiscent of the Disney Port Orleans Riverside Resort.

Texas summers feel like we are living on the equator so the main reason we picked this resort was for their pool area.  There are two main pools and a lazy river that circles around the back of the resort.  In the middle of the lazy river route you float through a sandy “beach” area where you can pull up your float and from there, enjoy the nightly movies on the lawn.  I can’t tell you how many times the kids went around in the river, but it had to have been in the hundreds.  I did suffer a few motherly panic attacks as the current would wisk my 4 foot nothing daughter away and it would be a few minutes before we were reunited again.  I’m sure other guests were hearing me yell “Amber!” in their dreams that night.  There are not the best pictures but I didn’t want to bring my camera into the pool area.

Our room was on the first floor and backed up to the wooded trails area of the resort.  The room itself was tiny and with three kids (my son brought his friend along) we had a very interesting sleeping arrangement. A few evening fights broke out but eventually we got it taken care of.  Below is the view from our patio.  Is that a donkey?  Yes, it’s a donkey.  A local farm owner brought her animals there for a visit and pony rides.  My daughter and I spent a while talking to the lady there and enjoyed petting the animals.  My personal favorite was her potbellied pig…Mr. Baron VonSwine.

There are a few dining options at the hotel.  We took advantage of my employee food and beverage discount and enjoyed a really good dinner and breakfast buffet.  The kids ate to their hearts’ intent…as you can see here:

They also have a good pizza place right off of the pool area where we were all able to eat for under $20.

On our second day we braved the Texas heat and went to visit the Alamo since the boys were begging to see it.  Once inside and after 2 minutes they said “Ok, we’re done and ready to go”.  I visited the Alamo years ago however it seems so much smaller to me now.

We took a walk along the Riverwalk and after a couple of hours were nice a sweaty just in time to return to the resort for an evening swim.

It was a nice get away weekend and I think the kids enjoyed it.  They’ve been asking to go back to the lazy river so we’ll see what kind of a travel agent discount I can get next time!