Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Coupons

A good discussion of free coupons as well as a list of links.  Watch out for the Rio buffet for locals as you need local ID.
The 24/7 magazine on line is a very good deal.  Solo tip is that the V show coupon gives 50% on the Vegas Review rather than just 2 for 1.  Always in the V give plenty of time for purchase and for finding the theater.  It is a long and confusing walk.
Currently I also like the Divinci exhibit coupon but I think it will be gone before I have a chance at booking a trip.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cancellation Fees

In general, when booking hotels we expect free cancellation up until a few days before arrival and even late cancellation usually only forfeits one night's fee. However, taking that for granted without seeing it in writing may bring a surprise. Take the Easyclick travel site. Here is their policy:
Q. What is your
hotel cancellation policy?
Change or cancellation requests received by our
Customer Support 3 days prior to check in time (noon local hotel time)?
will be subject to 1 night's fee

Change or cancellation requests received by our
Customer Support 1 day prior to check in time (noon local hotel time) will
receive no refund

No-shows will not be refunded

I don't quite see the difference between telling them a couple days ahead or just not showing up, but they must want to spell out both scenarios, at least in the fine print. They probably know that their policies are rare.

Also, if looking at good deals at Terribles, even on the site which has no regular cancellation fee policy itself, I see that the best deals in price come with no refunds on cancellation. This is new to me. I saw these no refund options on the Super 8 Koval site, but did not encounter them before when pricing Terribles.

Many of us get last minute free rooms from places like the Four Queens. And all of us might have an emergency and need cancellation or make an initial mistake in a booking. It is always best to book directly with hotels, but even most discount bookings have come with generous cancellation (although rigid modification) policies.
Keep reading that fine print.


I think this is more a marketing tool of the discounter EasyClick and the cancellation fees are paid to them, not to the hotels in question. I see the same pattern in offers for El Cortez, cheap deals secured with cancellation fees.
If that is the case, it may just be a case of boilerplate posting where both possibilities are offered by the software they use to post deals.
So Easyclick might be a good deal a few days before we take possession of the rooms, maybe a good last minute deal once we are already in Vegas and cancellation fees are less of an issue because cancellation is less likely. Until then, when booking in Vegas, flexibility is essential as deals emerge all the time.
I'd be glad to hear from folks of other details on cancellation fees that apply even with early changes. Anyone know of any others?
The other downside of using discounters is they don't allow easy modification. So if you want to drop a day in a reservation, you need to cancel the entire reservation and rebook, usually at a higher rate than you found months before. Some casinos offer to match the price of the discounter, so it is good to call and do that whenever possible. That way you pick up the modification advantages.
Gold Spike on line bookings at their site that need to be modified can be, but the clerk won't always be willing to do it. If told no, wait and call again. Also stress that you would like to go there, but if you have to rebook, you can find cheaper deals. They can drop a day and still keep other days at the rate you booked.
I did hear from one clerk that the hotel will match other discount booking rates. I have not tried that yet.
Generally, I book in sets of 3 or 4 days even if I am going to stay six or seven. Two overlapping reservations can be blended usually very easily at hotels, but also one can be cancelled easily, leaving the other completely in tact. I have to plan flexibility because at the last minute I'll get the Four Queen mailings for 3 free nights, but I won't wait that long to book my backups. I leave the weekends as 3 day weekends and hope the Four Queens deals will match those. If not, wherever I book the Friday and Saturday I can add the third day usually cheaply as well. I don't like staying shorter than three days at any one place. Too much check in and check out.

Lately, I am feeling quite supportive of the way that Eastside Cannery is marketing and renting rooms. As well as all the free amenities: pool, wifi in the room, 202 bus service to the edge of the parking lot, no fee Bank of America ATM across the street, Claudine Castro Latin music late Monday night with Cannery beer at about a buck and a half so that sitting in the lounge is not an expensive night out, the most friendly live poker room management and an easy 4 hour play for free buffet, a $10 senior discount on rack room rates, I see that for the most part the rates over time change less than they do at other casinos, especially the Tues-Wed-Thurs $30 senior rates. So I am appreciative of their offers, although I wish the few full pay VP machines they have ( in the coin dropper room) would also disburse some points.

On another fee note. I've learned two new bits on resort fees. One is that although most of the bookings at the Orleans of comped rooms come with no resort fees, they do have some, usually those first timer promotions, that require a resort fee. And the clerk also told me that resort fees are required after booking on B Connected, although that has not been my experience at Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam's town. My cash bookings on B Connected for those places, while promising a resort fee, did not charge it. I'd appreciate any experience with this as well. (B Connected is the site you join using your player's card number that keeps track of Boyd casino offers and promotions.)

The second bit of news is that there is an "access fee" now for folks who have comped rooms with Station casinos, (or at least at Boulder station,) but want the free internet that usually comes only with a resort fee that is not charged on comped rooms. The access fee is just over $5.
It is this nickle and dime crap that keeps me from Boulder Station, compared with Eastside Cannery. The Eastside Cannery comes out cheaper if I am making a cash reservation, and were I to play enough for a comped room, there would be no wifi access fee to jump up and bite off a bit of my comp. I feel the same about airlines. Southwest is a simple booking and I don't have to worry about how I'll pack. And there is no cancellation fee their either, just a requirement to use the money on another ticket wintin a year.

Rio and Orleans compared

I'd go for the Orleans. My stay at the Rio included the sounds of those drums around the pool, two sets competing with each other. And one night they tested them at 2 AM just loud enough so the base kept me awake. The Orleans is uniformly quiet, especially the upper rooms.

The 202 running along Flamingo leaves from in front of the Palms and will take you to the strip from the Rio after the free shuttle to Harrah's or Bally's is done for the day. Coming back it is a hike to get into the casino, but the 202 drops right off in front of the Rio. You can also ride to Ellis Island, Tuscany or Terribles on the bus and skip the walk to whose places from Bill's after the shuttle. In fact, you can ride all the way to Eastside Cannery if you want. I think there may be a bus stop farther East than the Palms stop, but once I exited Rio and walked East and found that there were none East of the Rio. I walked all the way to the strip that morning.

The 201 running along Tropicana leaves from across the street from the Orleans and will get you to the strip at the NYNY MGM corner. The shuttle will drop you at Bill's on the Flamingo and strip corner. That flexibility is a decent plus as it allows you to access two highly desirable locations on the strip directly with no crowded buses or long walks along the strip itself. That 201 will also go out to the Pinball Hall of Fame, a popular side amusement.

If you just take these or other residential routes, a 24 hour fare is just $5 purchased with exact change from the driver upon boarding and stamped at the time of purchase so it is good for 24 hours. Technically, those passes are not valid on the Deuce or the SDX without a local ID. Some here say that they are never checked for local ID on strip buses. Also, early in the morning the buses might only come along Flamingo or Tropicana once an hour, so a schedule of the two routes printed and taken along is helpful and avoids a long wait at the bus stop. These buses also offer an inexpensive way to get out to the strip earlier than the free shuttles run, and the buses then come about every 15 to 20 minutes.

Also, a cab is very cheap to Orleans if picked up in the NYNY circle as it just has to go down an uncrowded Tropicana so you can't be long hauled. Be certain the cabby uses the meter. It has been a few years since I did that when it was $7, but I can't imagine it being more than $10. The expense of that one cab ride home late each night is usually covered by the savings on the rooms at the Orleans over other prices. If you have a B connected card look at the cost of the Orleans on their site after logging in. Prices are very good.

Parking is much easier at the Orleans than the Rio. My favorite spots are outside and to the left as you face the main entrance. It is a short walk then to the casino. All driving in that area is easy and free of traffic holdups. Using Arville to Flamingo to access Bill's for parking on the strip avoids strip traffic and gives great location and convenience. Bill's is small and access to the strip fast.

There is a fine laudromat on Arville as well.
I would not walk from the Orleans to the strip, especially after dark. Plenty of hookers and Wild Wild West is a place to avoid after dark. Often characters. In fact, I would not walk that in daylight. That being said I did go to Denny's at the WWW by car at 2 AM for a build your own breakfast. Tables were full of hookers on a break and having a late night snack. They were the more unattractive hookers I have even seen, but cheerful. I was with my grown nephew, however, so I did not have to deal with solicitation as did solo slot players in the Wild Wild West. This Denny's replaced what was once a wonderful diner with the best hamburgers in Vegas.

The walk along Arville to the Gold Coast during the day has always been easy and full of people and businesses. I have rolled my luggage along that route and stayed at the Gold Coast after the Orleans or caught the Flamingo bus to other casinos. There is an Arville bus, the 104, but walking is faster than waiting; I did take it one trip when my luggage was large and the day warm.

I have not tried that walk after dark. Since it is after dark, after midnight, that the shuttles do not run, that is the time you might feel isolated at the Orleans. I would not walk after dark from the Rio to the strip either. I don't like being confined on walkways where there is no escape were someone to accost me. But I go solo and I'm too old to fend off trouble. The same shuttle that takes you to Bill's will continue on to the Gold Coast, so before midnight you have a good bit of flexibility.

The room quality is very dependable at the Orleans. I would not expect to need to be moved for any reason and quiet is uniform. They clean in areas other places skip. When I do my initial bedbug inspections, moving furniture and such, I don't find old socks or Mike and Ike boxes and balled up tissues behind side tables or chairs at the Orleans. They keep the place very clean.
I find it easier to navigate and certainly the machine gambling has better odds there. The poker room deals good games, but difficult games. At the Rio there are only no-limit games. At the Orleans there are limit games and Omaha. But the Orleans competition is tough.

Also, I think the rewards system is more generous at the Orleans and much easier to understand than Total Rewards, although I use both. Orleans, Gold Coast, Sam's Town, Main Street Station and Fremont and Suncoast all share the same card and room offers are generous even on a small amount of play.

There is a $6 resort fee at the Orleans, so figure that in the math.
Seniors particularly like Tuesdays as the Orleans features point multiplication, cheap buffet, cheap movies, and for very little play a drawing for cash. Check on the website for Young at Heart.
I like Big Al's, the comedy club and it is usually not crowded and easy to get tickets even at the last minute. The American Casino Guide has a 2 for 1.
Al's Oyster House will make Oyster chowder if you ask (not on menu) and it is very good. A fine way to use up points. Al is a popular name at the Orleans.
There is free wifi at the coffee place and even plug ins if you get there when there is a spot.

The buffet is basic, but decent. And they did have a full day's pass that included a VIP line pass (bracelet) for very little money

This is especially a good bargain on those days when the buffet prices go up for some special, and since I like to graze rather than overeat at one sitting, having the bracelet meant I could, without lines, nip in for coffee and fruit between poker hands as often as I liked during the hours it is open. It is a great deal if you are going to spend a day at the Orleans and fine insurance for a time when you might get sick and want to just hang around rather than travel all over town.

Across the street from the Orleans is a fine little Irish Pub. Mostly locals The gambling there is not that great, but the potato chips with assorted dips is great as is a pint of Smithwick's. There are happy hour specials. The ambiance includes old fashioned nooks all in nice wood where you can have some sense of privacy. Sometimes has a voucher. Over a dozen of us ate Christmas dinner there one year and had fine food and a room all to ourselves for not much money. At times there is music. The people are all friendly.

I also think the Orleans has one of the best nickle gambling games in Vegas. They are banks of these in two places, one is not far from the buffet, heading right as you exit and on the other side of the casino corridor. They are nickle triple play with progressive royals and a 9/7 Double Bonus pay schedule. Lots of fun. My free room offers come from that play, for the most part. 75 cents a spin, with three hands each time is a great frugal game.

If you buy an American Casino Guide the Orleans coupons will pay for the book
$10 matchplay at Orleans
2-for-1 show tickets at Orleans
2-for-1 tickets to Big Al's Comedy Club at Orleans

Tickets to live events can usually be had even at the last minute with this coupon.