Like so many suckers before me, part of me actually thinks I will go to Las Vegas for the weekend and win huge sums of money. High rollers from Texas wearing big cowboy hats will wrap their arms around me at the craps table and say things like, "Hee-ya! This kid's on fire!" I will flip $100 (U.S.) chips to doormen and cocktail waitresses just because I can. Everyone will want to be in my wolf pack.
The sensible part of me expects to lose everything I bring to the blackjack table.
Luckily, that same part of me knows that there are a few easy ways to save a considerable chunk of change when travelling to offset my losses. I'm not just talking about finding hotel and flights deals online - that's standard practice. These are smaller things that can help big time with savings, whether it's $8 or $15. As Richard Ingersoll, who runs the blog Frugal Travel Guy, puts it, "It's the little pieces that add up."
Thanks to readers who e-mailed their advice, I've got plenty of those little pieces to keep me from losing my shirt on vacation.
Apparently, my time in Vegas should begin with a little friendly bribery. Not one but two readers suggested that when I get to my hotel I should slip the person at the check-in desk a $20 and ask about getting a complimentary upgrade. Bingo! This is the kind of wheeling and dealing I'm looking for in a town like Vegas. But I draw the line at out and out fraud, so I won't be taking the suggestion one reader offered of trying to pass off Canadian Tire money as genuine currency. (Has that ever actually worked? Seriously, I want to know).
When it comes to eating, Mr. Ingersoll says I should check out the deals on Restaurant.com, where I should find "huge savings," he says. "Certain days of the month you buy a coupon for $2 which gets you $25 off a meal."
Some readers offered the common-sense strategy of skipping eating out altogether, at least for some meals. "If you're interested in saving $$ then you won't go to restaurants, you'll go to a grocery store and store things in your hotel room in the icebox," one wrote.
I also liked the suggestion of eating at restaurants on side streets away from the Strip, since they'll be less expensive and also offer a more out-of-the-way glimpse of the city.
As for getting around, several readers recommended public transit. I'm totally on board with this one. Besides being much more expensive than a bus ride, cab rides are isolating. You can maybe have an interesting chat with the driver, but in terms of getting to know a city and the people who live there, there's nothing like the bus or subway, as the case may be. It's also way cheaper.
I've already been assured there are buses that go to Las Vegas's two outlet malls, which my wife wants to check out. And before all the whiners pipe up at the apparent contradiction of trying to save money on vacation and going shopping at the same time, please let me point out that a) these two things are not mutually exclusive and b) it's not like she's looking for a mink coat or the suit Dustin Hoffman wore in Rain Man (although it would be pretty cool if she got that suit and we just rode up and down elevators for a few hours wearing it).
Some people like to go shopping on vacation. That doesn't mean you can't save money doing so. For instance, going online to look for sales or other discounts is an easy way of knowing which stores to target. Some stores may even have VIP clubs or store credit cards thatwill offer you additional deals for signing up. One reader got in touch to say that he and his wife just went to Vegas in October and got 15-per-cent off their purchases at Macy's because they opened a Macy's credit card account and were offered a 10-per-cent discount for being visitors from outside the United States. They paid off their card before leaving the store.
One company that runs two outlet centres in Las Vegas has a VIP program that I've already signed up for. It's got deals galore. Now I just have to print off the coupons after a little consult with my wife to see what grabs her eye. See? Shopping and saving. Good times.
Going on vacation doesn't have to mean leaving your desire to save cash at home. A few little things can add up to big money. Which I'm going to need if I hope to walk out of the casino a gold-minted high roller. Come on, seven!