A few weeks back I took a quick weekend road trip down to Las Vegas with a couple of friends. The decision to go was simple because I got free nights! How? Well, that’s an interesting story…
About a year back, I was in Vegas with my family. While waiting for my Dad to finish up playing blackjack at Circus Circus, I decided to put $20 in a nickel slot machine. I’m not much of a gambler at all, but within a couple of minutes I turned that $20 into $100 and was ecstatic. I cashed out and went back to where I was staying at the MGM Grand.
There, I put that $100 back in to another nickel slot (same type of game for good luck) and again that $100 turned into about $500. I was shocked, and started having fun, so I decided to go all out. I did the max bet ($4-$5) on each spin from that point on because I figured that I was playing with free money anyway. A casino employee saw me spinning like a high-roller and said “Hey, you’re playing a lot of money! You should sign up for a players card!” I politely declined, saying “I don’t really care…I’m just messing around” or something to that effect. She REALLY insisted, and actually signed me up for an MGM players club card on the spot.
I did finally stop winning more money and ended up at $300 or so, but that was after a lot of fluctuation up and down (I played for many hours over two days). But over the next 12 months, I started getting all kinds of email offers for free nights, including buffets and all kinds of other discounts.
I took advantage of one offer for two free nights at Aria with two buffet passes, and it was fantastic. I played a little bit of poker and a little bit of slots, but ended up losing a few hundred on that trip.
A few months later I get an offer for free nights at Mandalay Bay…this trip. Okay…now on to the review.
We left after work on Friday, so we didn’t get to the Mandalay Bay until after midnight. Valet parking was full but if you’re staying at the hotel they were happy to valet.
The lobby area was pretty empty and there was no line for check in. I decided to do something I’ve never done before… the so-called “$20 trick.” If you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably not alone. Here’s what it is: when checking in, you hand your credit card and driver’s license/ID with a folded $20 bill in between the cards (the “sandwich”), ask for a “complimentary” upgrade, and then get upgraded to a much better room while the person checking you in pockets your $20. Shady, absolutely, but this website shows that it’s clearly done all the time.
I’m not gonna lie…I was really nervous trying this. It feels slightly unethical, but I figured worst-case scenario is that I lose $20, best case is that I get an awesome room for the weekend. The reviews on the website noted that the later you checked in the lower the chances you had for an upgrade, so I wasn’t expecting much. I handed her the sandwich, asked if any complimentary upgrades were available, and was told that the hotel was booked for the weekend. The entire sandwich was handed back to me, with no mention made of the cash (though we both clearly knew what was going on). It didn’t work, but I’d try it again.
After a long walk to the end of the hallway we finally got to the room.
The room looked great on entry. You can tell it was a little bit worn as we were in the older part of the hotel, but it was definitely good for what we needed.
The room had two queen-size beds as I requested, along with a coffee table and two chairs. Internet is free as part of the resort fee (I HATE these fees), but thankfully was covered as part of my complimentary accommodations. The lighting in the room was pretty good and the temperature control was easy with the thermostat. As I mentioned, this hotel is a little older, so the curtains were showing some age and had to be drawn manually (oh how lazy I’ve become).
The bathroom was great. Very clean, decked out in marble, had a flat panel TV on the wall in the sink area, a huge Roman tub, separate shower, and a the door ahead is for the toilet.
The shower was my favorite. The water pressure was AMAZING, and temperature control was perfectly precise. When it’s 100+ degrees outside, it’s nice to be able to take a shower the exact way you want it (yes, I love showers).
Again, the bathroom was great. The only thing I take issue with, and I’m absolutely nitpicking here, is that the toilet was REALLY loud when flushing. You know the sound a flushing toilet makes on an airplane? A really loud, sucking sound? It was sort of like that. It scared the hell out of me the first time I flushed, and when I woke up to go in the middle of the night it happened again. Be wary of the Mandalay Bay toilet!
Sadly I didn’t realize I took such an awful picture of our view. Still, it’s somewhat useful to give you an idea of where things are. The big, green-ish building towards the left is the MGM Grand. The Mandalay Bay is the first major casino on the Strip, and if you rarely come to Las Vegas, I would NOT recommend this casino (unless it were free, of course). Location-wise, I’d pick a hotel near the middle of the Strip. Aria, Bellagio, The Venetian, The Cosmopolitan, etc. are all great choices. You can walk to nearly anywhere you want from these hotels, but from Mandalay you’ll need to drive to get to where you’re going.
On the plus side, the hotel is right next to the Las Vegas airport (LAS). Honestly though, it doesn’t make a difference. Spend the extra five minutes or $20 to get a room in a hotel with a prime location.
As for activities, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do much because I was sick all of Saturday, the only day I really had there. You can see B.Positive’s post here regarding some awesome food we ate.
Aside from that, we watched the show “KA” at the MGM Grand. I got discounted tickets from my membership with MGM loyalty program (recently renamed M Life) for the three of us that went. The show was great, and everything you’d expect from Cirque du Soleil. I’ve seen several of their shows in Vegas, and this is one of my favorites. This is one of the few (possibly the only) that actually has some semblance of a story line, which is a huge plus for me since I’m not big on art or the abstract.
Sunday afternoon we left a bit early to avoid traffic. Because I didn’t feel well all of Saturday, I ended up not spending a single penny gambling. That was good and bad.
Good because I didn’t lose any money. Bad because the free hotel offers stopped! I actually got an email with another free offer, but when I called to redeem I was told I essentially didn’t spend enough and was not eligible. When I asked how much I needed to spend, I was told “$150 a hand for 4 hours a day.” I seriously doubt that number because I definitely didn’t spend that much EVER, so I’m thinking it’s more like $150/hour.
BUT, I checked my M Life account recently and found some new offers for free and/or discounted nights! I’ll have to call in to see if it’ll work, but my fingers are crossed!
If you take away only one thing from this post, let it be this: SIGN UP FOR A PLAYERS CARD AT EVERY CASINO! It’s free to sign up and could potentially be very valuable (I value my free nights at about $230).
If you enjoyed this post and the others on this blog, feel free to follow us via the link on the right side menu and via Twitter @TravelSummary.