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Liz Benston

For hotel deals, shop around

28 May 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Attention, Vegas tourists: During this economic slump, some hotels are pulling out all the stops on special offers and other promotions.

But some resorts are being coy about advertising their deals, forcing intrepid customers to hunt for the best prices. I joined that hunt, and here's what I found.

I chose to shop for prices for June 13 and 14 — an unremarkable weekend because no big prize fights, huge conventions or other major special events are scheduled. The bottom line: Travelers have to do their homework to find the best deals. Sometimes reps steered me to a better deal than the original offer, sometimes they didn't. Some prices on the hotels' own Web sites were lower than those quoted over the phone — or vice versa. And don't bother haggling beyond the lowest offer — we're still dealing with corporate hotel giants here, not vendors at a flea market.

At the top of the spectrum, a reservations rep at Wynn Las Vegas offered me a rate of $309 per night for a standard room, matching the hotel's Web site price.

Though she pitched pricier rooms with waterfall views, I went in the other direction and asked for her best bargains. She said the only specials were available to selected customers with promotional codes. I begged for them but she didn't budge.

The Venetian's clerk offered a $259 room with a Strip view, $219 without.

Anything cheaper? After a brief pause, she told me about an unadvertised deal, not even on the Web: a bigger, more luxurious room at the sister hotel, the Palazzo, for $199, plus a $25 gaming credit and some other coupons.

On the Venetian's Web site, I found packages that weren't offered over the phone, including several with similar room prices but including discounted show tickets.

A Bellagio rep offered rates starting at $259 per night, and no good deals unless I wanted a midweek rate starting at $149.

The Bellagio's Web site couldn't beat his weekend prices but it did come in cheaper for midweek rooms.

Mirage rates started at $169, but a Mirage rep said I might be able to do better by booking on the hotel's Web site.

Indeed, there I found 10 percent discounts on those rates plus coupons and tickets to Mirage attractions.

Looking for cheaper still, I called Circus Circus. The first words spoken by the automated message: The best deals were online. And indeed, the Circus Circus Web site featured multiple packages that made the rooms practically free, including vouchers for $50 in gas.

I turned my attention from one circus to another and called the Palms. Not only were the rooms much pricier at $359, I would be forced to take a three-day weekend, booking Thursday night at $249 in order to secure the room for Friday and Saturday.

"Some hotel rates are really low right now," I told the rep in my sweetest phone voice. "Aren't you guys running any promotions or special offers?"

She politely suggested I look online through a wholesaler.

On to Caesars Palace, whose Web site offered rooms as low as $265. I called and was told those rates were for some of the newest rooms, with flat-screen TVs and marble floors, and that I could get a standard room for $205.

At Paris Las Vegas, a clerk offered me a nonview room for $170 — cheaper than anything I'd found on the hotel's Web site. The rep ticked off all of the amenities at that hotel and other Harrah's properties nearby, which allowed me to expend as little energy as possible, just listening, as opposed to clicking through a Web site at the end of a workday.

Any packages? I could get the two nights plus two 50-minute massages or facials at the spa for $595, she said.

And by this point, my neck sore from the phone calls, I was ready for a massage.