Vacation Planning

This July El Granto has the great honor of being best man in the wedding of some very close friends. The wedding also happens to be in Las Vegas. Cool right? (well actually HOT, it will be July in Vegas!) We have just started planning our trip, and I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for trip planning. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a bit anal retentive… I know, shocking. I am also well, frugal. I am not cheap. I like good things, I just don’t like paying more than I have to. This is especially so when it comes to travel.

The Royal Service Pool at The Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa
The Royal Service Pool at The Paradisus Rio de Oro Resort & Spa

Usually what we do is estimate the month we want to go on vacation, and the country we’d like to go to, then I search for deals (often last minute deals) and book the best deal as soon as it comes up. This has netted us a week all inclusive vacation in Cuba at a 4 star resort for $450 a person.  We also had an amazing trip at the Paradisus Rio De Oro Royal Service, 5 star luxury resort with butler service last year for half of what it normally costs.

One of the Cabanas at the Royal Service Pool at Paradisus Rio de Oro
One of the Cabanas at the Royal Service Pool at Paradisus Rio de Oro

With our Vegas trip we’re not able to be so flexible, as we know when we have to be there and we know we’d like to stay at the hotel where the wedding is happening. However, I knew I could still find a way to knock a few bucks off the trip. (More money saved on the travel means more money to spend in Vegas!)

So whats my trick? Research!

I like to use websites like to view when the cheapest dates to travel are. For example, Tuesday & Wednesday flights in the US are much less expensive than Monday, Friday & Weekend flights. Traveling when kids are out of school is also more expensive (i.e. Christmas & March Break and Summer Vacation). El Granto & I usually plan vacations in late April, May & early June, or September, October & November. We try to avoid the Christmas holidays at all costs, March & Spring break times, and the summer. Summers are for cottages anyway!

So here are some more of my tips/tricks:

  • Check deals sites like Groupon and Travelzoo. If you’re flexible on your destination and dates you can grab some great deals.
  • Search for promo codes before buying online.
  • Look for rewards programs. Often you can save up for free items, or get a discounted rate.
  • Call the business directly and see if there are any deals they can offer (it never hurts to ask nicely!)
  • Sign up for newsletters from the companies you want to purchase things from (i.e. airlines & hotel chains). This often gives inside deals, and lets you know when seat sales or anything like that start.
  • Seat Sales! The best way to purchase flights is when they’re on sale.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of what the prices are for different companies/dates. This is helpful when you spot a deal to know if you’re really getting the best price. It’s like going to Costco; just cause the peanut butter comes in a 20L jar, it doesn’t mean its cheaper than the sale price PB at your local grocery store. Know your prices, and know when a deal is truly a deal.
  • Buy from a reputable company. (In Ontario make sure your travel agent is a TICO member!)
  • Book your trip on a Gold Card (if possible). Gold Card’s offer extra insurance.  i.e. we don’t have to buy the extra rental car insurance as our Gold Card covers it.
  • Make sure you have travel medical insurance! The last thing you want is to have an accident or get sick while on vacation, and be stuck in another country only to be handed huge medical bills. Better safe than sorry kids.

So what is my plan for our Las Vegas trip? We have booked 4 days in a suite at Mandalay Bay for FREE from playing a game called MyVegas. This is a Facebook game made by MGM featuring a variety of slot games where you win loyalty points that can be redeemed for actual stuff in Vegas! (through the MGM MLife rewards program.) I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s real. El Granto & I have been playing this game at home in the evenings & weekends for about 5 months now, and have saved up enough points for our hotel stay at Mandalay Bay as well as a Cirque show for us and the Bride & Groom and a couple food & beverage credits.
(*There are restrictions, so make sure you always read the fine print. For instance, most of the free hotel stays are for Sunday – Thursday’s only, and you have a limited amount of rewards you can redeem, and a specific time frame you have to redeem them in.)

A screen grab of some of the MyVegas rewards
A screen grab of some of the MyVegas rewards

For our flights: Toronto can be a very expensive place to fly out of. The airport fees alone are astronomical. We are close enough to Hamilton & Buffalo so I always check those departures for price comparisons. This trip I think we will be flying out of Buffalo. The flights are almost half of what they are in Toronto, and this means we can hit up some cross border outlet shopping while we’re at it.

Now that we’re booking tickets and hotel stays, I am starting to get excited for our trip. A bonus is that I turn the big 30 a few days after we get back from Vegas, so it’s another thing we can celebrate while we’re out there.

Any good spots I must visit while in Vegas?

Author: Kristen

Kristen & her husband El Granto & their Vizsla Odin live in a converted Storefront in downtown Toronto.

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