Hurricane Sandy pounded down on New York City last night. Thankfully the place where I am staying at is high in the sky and away from any flood waters. We also had a new house guest join us for the storm, so basically hours of free entertainment. Video below.
Even though directly from our windows we could see power going out across entire Lower Manhattan, we were thankfully spared. I was rebooked to fly out tomorrow evening on AA from Newark but that flight has been canceled so now I am booked out of Newark for Friday. There was major flooding at all New York City Airports as you can see from the pictures below at LaGuardia, so who knows what is going to happen.
Also the Subway system is closed indefinitely as it is also completely flooded, so trying to get to Newark Airport should be an adventure.
The Problem With Hotels In Las Vegas
As I said last week, I am going to Las Vegas in January for my 25th birthday.
I booked 2 tickets to Vegas for 40,000 Points on Southwest by transferring Ultimate Rewards to Southwest. This was a great deal considering the flights are non-stop, fully refundable, and have a face value of around $800.
Typically the bigger the city, the more Hotel Chains (Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, etc) you will find. The weird thing about Las Vegas is that there are some huge hotels on the Strip but none of them are owned by any of the large Hotel Chains (I could be wrong on this because Hotels in Vegas are always switching hands).
For people that exclusively travel on Miles and Hotel Points, it is quite a predicament because any of the “cool” Hotels in Vegas that you want to stay at, you are going to have to pay for it out of pocket.
Thankfully, as I talked about last week, if you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase INK Card, you can book via the Ultimate Rewards Travel Engine and get a 20% off discount if you redeem Ultimate Rewards Points. Those Cards also offer the ability to get reimbursed for ANY Travel Purchases at a 1 Cent per 1 Point you redeem, so you could book any Hotel in Vegas, pay for it with your Ultimate Rewards Credit Card, and then get reimbursed by paying with Points. So even though you can’t transfer your Ultimate Rewards Points directly to a Vegas Hotel for a free night, there are definitely some other options that you can use.
Unfortunately I just burned about 65,000 Ultimate Rewards Points on 4 Southwest Flights in the last week, so I am basically out of UR Points until my INK Bold Office Depot purchases post. Also since I’ll be splitting the cost of the Vegas rooms with a couple of people, it probably just makes more sense to pay out of pocket than use Points.
That being said, since paying for the Hotels is going to come all out of pocket, my natural intuition is to try to get the best deal. Again though, that typically involves me doing some kind of Best Rate Guarantee with a major chain like Marriott or Hyatt. Since there aren’t any of those properties on the Strip, the BRG idea is a dead end.
There are always other options like Priceline or Hotwire, but since we are going with a big group and those rates are non-refundable, I don’t want anything to go wrong and end up having to stay at Circus Circus because I was trying to save $25.
A while ago, I put a post by Lucky in the Frequently Accessed Articled (FAA Archive). His post was about the Virtuoso Program and American Express Fine Hotels Program. I don’t have a American Express Platinum Card, so I can’t access American Express Fine Hotels Program, but the Virtuoso Program is certainly very intriguing.
For those of you not familiar with Virtuoso, they are basically a network of luxury travel agents. If you want to go on a safari in Africa or follow the steps of your ancestors in Ireland, Virtuoso Agents will help you plan your trip. Normally, none of that would appeal to me because it is way out of my budget, however the neat thing about Virtuoso is that because they are such a trusted brand and have such wealthy clients, they have special Virtuoso Rates negotiated with many luxury hotels. Additionally there are some Hotel Chains like Hyatt that participate in Virtuoso, so if you don’t have Elite Status, this is an easy way to get some free perks.
Since luxury hotels don’t normally have loyalty programs and you can’t book them with points, if you ever find yourself in the situation where you have to make a booking at a luxury hotel, I’d suggest checking out the Virtuoso program because they have some great deals as you will see below.
You can only book Virtuoso Rates through an accredited Virtuoso Travel Agent. I don’t really like dealing with Travel Agents because I already know where I want to go and don’t need any help booking it because I am using Miles. Thankfully I read the comments on Lucky’s post, and someone pointed out that you can book Virtuoso Rates online at ClassicTravel.com. So that is the site I now use because you can book it online as well as see all the prices and amenities included in the Virtuoso Rate.
Virtuoso Rates typically includes Breakfast, a Resort Credit, and Room Upgrade. The ironic thing about Virtuoso Rate is that many times it is actually cheaper than the normal hotel rate.
Booking Las Vegas
So for Las Vegas, I headed to ClassicTravel.com and searched for Las Vegas hotels. My friends want to stay at Aria Hotel, so that it what I was looking for.
Not all properties on ClassicTravel are Virtuoso, so you have to make sure it says Virtuoso if you want the added benefits.
Also the ClassicTravel site is kind of silly in that it only shows 5 properties at a time, so make sure you hit the “Show All On One Page” button at the bottom or you will only get a limited selection of Hotels.
Once you find your property, click on either the name or picture. It will take you to the next page, where you want to click on the “Virtuoso” tab to see what all the Virtuoso Rate includes.
In the case of Aria, it is $179 a night. Included in this Virtuoso Rate:
- $25 Breakfast Credit per a person, per a day
- $25 Resort Credit per a stay (which is good because there is a $25 daily resort fee that is not included in the rate)
- Room Upgrade if available
- 2 Spa Passes
- 4PM Late Check-out
To book the Virtuoso Rate, simply click at the top where it says “Check Availability”, and it will take you to the next page where it shows all the rates. There are some other rates included that are non-Virtuoso but still pretty good like a $100 Resort Credit. To view the added benefits of those other rates, click on “Rate Plan Description”. Also if you scroll down, they also have Virtuoso Rates on Suites, the Penthouse, etc.
The other nice thing about Virtuoso is that rates are fully refundable up to 48 hours before check-in. The only thing you have to do is put down a 1 nights deposit. In my case, this is really useful because I can book a block of rooms, and not have to worry about getting stuck paying for them all if some of my friends decide not to come. To see the cancellation policies of the rate, simply click on “Policies”
Where It Gets Interesting
The most interesting part about Virtuoso is that even with all of those added benefits, many times the Virtuoso Rate is cheaper than what is publicly available.
When I check AriaLasVegas.com or Kayak.com, the lowest rate I can find is $209 a night ($239 after tax) and that doesn’t include any of the above Virtuoso benefits.
Besides being lower than the publicly offered rate, what I like about Virtuoso is that it can help significantly lower the cost of your Hotel stay when you factor in the value of the added benefits.
Although we wouldn’t normally pay $25 per a person for breakfast at the Hotel, we certainly would spend $10 – $15 each if we went out to eat breakfast. Also the $25 Resort Credit is nice because almost every Vegas hotel charges you an additional $25 a day Resort Fee when you check in.
This example is not the best to showcase the added value of the benefits included in the Virtuoso Rates, since we are going during a busy long weekend where the price is higher. However if I pick a different set of days in November, the daily rate drops to only $98 while still showing $119 on AriaLasVegas.com. When you factor in the $25 a day in free breakfast each person is getting, that is worth $50, which isn’t bad since your rate is only $98! Every Hotel Property has a different Virtuoso benefits package, so the food and dining credit can sometimes be $100 or more as Lucky pointed out at the Waldorf Astoria in Phoenix.
Additionally if you did the LATAM Rate shown below the Virtuoso Rate, that Rate comes with a $100 Resort Credit. With your Rate being only $98 while you are getting a $100 Resort Credit, you are obviously coming out ahead. Unfortunately you can only use the $100 Resort Credit on food, booze, or the spa (first world problems) and not the room rate or resort fee. If you were feeling adventurous, you could easily book 1 night under your name and then another night under your Travel Partner’s name, and keep doing that every night so you would get a $100 resort credit every night.
Although it sucks having to pay out of pocket for Hotels and not be able to use Points, in the event that you do find yourself in a situation like that, there are always little tips and tricks to get the most bang for your buck.
With Virtuoso, at a minimum the added benefits will help cover some of the cost of your trip since you obviously have to eat and would be spending money on food anyways. If you go on off-dates or the off-season, many times the Virtuoso Rates pays 100% for themselves with the added Resort Credits. The best part is that the Virtuoso Rates are often even cheaper than what you will find on the Hotels website, so you have no reason not to book them!
Since I have a ton of paid Hotel stays coming up, I have really been diving deep into Best Rate Guarantees and trying to find every loophole to cut the prices on Hotels. Needless to say, it has been EXTREMELY successful. So in addition to this Virtuoso trick, I’ll have some other Hotel tricks that I am going to share later this week to help drop prices.