Episodes Travel Tips

Episode #61: Let Me Upgrade Ya

For many people, a trip to the motherland may not happen very often. I know there are several Vegas obsessives, like me, who try to get into town multiple times a year. But for a lot of people, it’s maybe only a once a year or once every couple years luxury. So, occasionally, it’s fun to splurge on an upgrade or two, perhaps on an experience or amenity we might not normally spend much money on. Let’s talk about upgrade spending:

Before the trip

  • Travel credit cards? Worth the extra APR?
  • Rewarded for travel spending, rewarded with travel spending?
  • Instead, look for cards that reward you with regular spending, so you can reward yourself with travel spending. – AMEX grocery/gas cash back card is a favorite of mine. I get tons of cash back for what I do on a daily basis, then save it up and use it for fun stuff like travel. 

Flights

  • Some really value the flight upgrade. My dad used to swear by paying the few extra bucks for the big front seat on Spirit. Spirit is a good example of a downgrade I won’t take. Further, paying a ton for a first class domestic ticket on other carriers doesn’t seem worth it to me.
  • Delta offers Comfort + seating for an extra charge. For flights from DTW to LAS, it can cost around $20 – $30. Here’s what you get:
    • Priority boarding
    • A little extra legroom
    • Guaranteed overhead space for luggage
    • Free alcoholic beverages
  • Southwest really doesn’t offer an upgrade opportunity. An extra I always take is the early bird check in option for my trip back home. For $15 you are automatically checked in.
  • Ideally, you’ll be towards the front of the boarding queue, but the extra $15 is a nice piece of mind for me, one less thing I have to worry about doing while I’m in Vegas.

Transportation

  • Private limo service is the most common transportation upgrade, but you’ll pay for it.
  • A public bus: $2 – $6
  • Uber/Lyft to downtown: $17 – 25
    • Only upgraded experience that’s actually cheaper? (vs cabs)
  • Limo transfer: $70 min (round trip with Presidential Limo)

Hotel

  • Most men said they would book a better room if they were traveling with a significant other.
  • I’ll certainly downgrade if I’m traveling solo.
    • For my Oct trip, I dropped TI to stay at Harrah’s.
  • A relatively inexpensive upgrade worth opting for is a room with a Strip view. If you like to gamble, you could always try the $20 trick.
  • Loyalty costs low rollers extra money. If you’re not getting rooms comped, there’s no need for loyalty. Search for the best rate at a star level you desire.
  • The non-refundable fare may not always be worth the discount.
    • Discount sites will sometimes offer two prices. The non-refundable fare is usually around 10% cheaper. This locks you into that hotel and that price, limiting your flexibility.

Amenities

  • A cabana or daybed is a must have if you’re planning significant pool time. Service is quicker and some even come with a F&B credit.
  • You’re not limited to your host hotel pool if you choose to rent a cabana, which offers really nice flexibility.
  • Basic spa access can be had for $30 – $50. A full on message, although worth it, can be several hundred bucks. However, for a fraction, you’ll be access to the steam rooms, saunas, and whirlpools. Thanks to @vegasography, it’s become a vacation routine for my wife and I. It’s a great way to start the morning.
    • Spas worth checking out:
      • Strip: Aria, Caesars
      • Downtown: Golden Nugget

Food and Beverage

  • This is where my wife and I really like to enhance our vacations. We’re not ones for activities when we travel. We like to save our money for great dining experiences and good drinks.
  • While you may not mind eating at some budget diners on your trip, planning one nice meal is definitely worth it. Vegas has no shortage of quality restaurants, so finding one that suits your palate shouldn’t be hard.
  • Cocktails with a view have become a staple for me on my recent trips. Prices tend to go up with the elevation, but there’s something neat about relaxing above the Strip. The city seems less busy when you’re that high up. Both Mandarin Bar and Skyfall are good choices.
  • Frankly, just buying a decent cocktail instead of “playing for drinks”. As a red chipper, I’m not getting top shelf choices for my play. So, if I just want to drink, I won’t hesitate to walk away from a table and buy a drink somewhere. Given that I’ll be close to the Container Park in October, I may stop at Oak and Ivy at some point.  

Gambling

  • I tend to think more people should downgrade at times. Many people may be playing at a limit that higher than the value they get. Not having luck at a $100 or $50 minimum table? Drop down and relax at a lower denomination.
  • Want to upgrade and play with the big boys? Find a slow game. The fewer the hands per hour, the easier it is on your bankroll.
  • Upgrade your drinks by playing bartop VP instead of on the floor. For the most part, you’ll get expedited service and, depending on the bar, potentially better options as well.

These are just my opinions, though. What upgrades can you not go without? Do you ever downgrade? I’d love to hear it!

About the author

Travel Fanboy

Adam is the host of the Travel Fanboy Podcast, editor of TravelFanboy.com, and a super famous travel influencer. He's no expert, just an enthusiast who enjoys having a top-shelf trip at a happy hour price. Formerly of Vegas Fanboy fame.