I’m here to bring you my latest trip report from Las Vegas and Zion National Park. I enjoy creating these trip reports to show how travel is obtainable for everyone – including people who are in debt. I am a big fan of Travel Hacking and have utilized it to travel for the last two years. If you are responsible for paying off credit cards in full each month and have a good credit score I recommend it.
The best part of travel hacking is that it helps you reduce your most significant expenses – which for travel is generally airfare and hotels/lodging. Once these expenses are reduced or cut completely, it makes it way easier to travel for cheap.
Below are some of my recent trips reports.
Let’s see how my Vegas & Zion National park trip compares to the rest.
Thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, my GF and I were able to fly for free to Vegas from San Antonio. If you read my post – How Much I Saved this year Travel Hacking, I mentioned that I was on the journey to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in early 2018.
Obtaining Companion Pass means that I can utilize points to book flights and have another person fly with me for free. The only thing that you pay is the mandatory $11.20 taxes for each ticket.
I earned the pass by signing up for the Southwest Premier and Southwest Plus cards at the same time back in late September. I had 115 days to meet the minimum spend requirements of $2k on each card. Meeting the minimum spend was pretty simple by putting all my spending, buying items to resell on eBay, and putting my Christmas shopping on both cards. I timed to meet both minimum spends in early January, so I would be able to keep the Companion Pass status for all of 2018 and 2019. Once I reached the minimum spends I earned 124k points (60k bonus from Plus, 60k bonus from Premier, and 4k spend). This unlocked Companion Pass (The requirement is 110k southwest points).
Tip: Wait for Southwest to offer a 60k bonus on the Southwest premier and plus cards (or Southwest Business card). It happens once or twice per year for a limited time.
Companion Pass is pretty awesome for domestic travel, especially since Southwest is going to be flying to Hawaii in late 2018.
Total Flight Costs: $11.20 per person
In case you are unaware, the cost to stay in Vegas is super pricey these days. All the best hotels on the strip are super expensive and have resort fees for every night that you stay. Back when I played a lot of Poker (2011 to 2014), I was comped hotel rooms, and there weren’t any resort fees yet. Now I have to pay regular prices like everyone else.
Luckily with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, I can transfer points to Hyatt. Hyatt is one of my favorite hotel chains to stay at while traveling. Mainly due to the cheap reward nights (especially category 1 hotels are only 5k points per night).
In Vegas, you can book MGM properties with Hyatt points. For this trip, we booked our room at the MGM Grand for 15k points per night (Category 3 Hyatt points). There were a few slightly cheaper (in points) hotels, but when I go to Vegas, I like to stay on the strip. It was also my GF’s first time to Vegas, so I wanted to stay on the strip in a decent hotel.
Unfortunately, I could not avoid the dreaded resort fees of $35 per night. Also, I paid for parking at the MGM garage during our stay. Typically I don’t rent a car in Vegas, but we needed it to make our trip to Zion National Park, so paying for parking was something I was ok with (mainly for our convenience).
Total Hotel Cost: $54.68 per person
Our entertainment for this trip was mainly around going to Zion National Park. My girlfriend bought me a National parks pass for Christmas, and we are going to try to visit as many parks as we can this year.
Zion is about a 3hr drive from Vegas in southwest Utah.
At Zion, we went on the Angels Landing hike. It was one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on (one of the most challenging too). I made it to the very top where the views were terrific. I was grateful my GF hiked with me and shared the experience.
After Zion, we made time to do touristy things in Vegas. We spent a lot of time walking around the strip and gambled a little. I taught my GF how to play blackjack for the first time, and she won $100. I played poker and made some profit there as well.
Total Entertainment Costs: $0
Rental Car, Food, Souvenirs & Miscellaneous Costs
I used the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book our rental car for the trip. I always try to book my rental car through Chase due to the ability to use points and most of the time they have better deals than any other marketplace like Expedia or Priceline. In addition, I also always book rental cards with my Sapphire Preferred card due to the rental car insurance perk.
Rental Car Costs – $55.10 + Gas ($15.78) = $70.88 per person
Ever since I started dating my girlfriend, in 2014, we always try to find great food on all of our trips. When we went to San Diego in 2015, we went to a place called “Tacos El Gordo.” During that trip we made two stops because we loved it so much. So when we found out they opened a separate location in Vegas, we had to stop by (and wait in an hour line).
We also made stops at Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood and splurged on the buffet at Aria. Both were very good.
Total Food Costs – $96.22
Souvenirs and Miscellaneous Costs
Noth much to report other than a few Souvenirs bought at Zion. On the miscellaneous front, we got two rail tickets that took us from the Flamingo to MGM for $10.
Total Souvenirs and Miscellaneous: $28.35
Total Spent on Trip $261.33
I had a great time exploring Las Vegas and even a better time hiking at Zion. I would do it again. My only regret is that we didn’t have more time to explore more hikes at Zion and more time to explore other National Parks in the area.
Having only $261 in expenses for the trip seems like its a steal for experiences we had. We could have gone even cheaper if we avoided the resort and parking fees, as well as packed lunches and choose more affordable options for dinner. Overall, we had a great time, and I don’t regret spending on the things we did.
My Automatic Travel Savings Plan
To travel multiple times per year, I put money away 2x per month in my Capital One 360 savings account* for traveling. There are many high-interest savings accounts, but I love Capital One 360 because I can create multiple savings accounts (Travel, Gifts, Emergency, Business, etc.), set multiple savings goals, and set up automatic deposits, which helps put my savings on autopilot – AKA always paying myself first.
After I get back from trips, I transfer the money I spent from Capital One 360 to my checking account, so my monthly cash flow isn’t affected. If you plan on traveling more in the future, I recommend getting a travel savings account and automating the deposits.
Question for You!
What trips have you been on recently?
How do you get the most value when you travel?
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