Trip Report: Los Angeles/Las Vegas

The Friday I left for the Bourbon Trail, my buddy, Jason, called me up to see if I could come to Vegas the next weekend; he was going for a conference and had a room at LVH (the old Las Vegas Hilton).

As opposed to some of my fellow travel friends, I’m much more of a planner; I like to book things well in advance. Not because I don’t like traveling on the spur of the moment (I do!), but because I despise overpaying for flights and hotels. If I’m going to spend a lot to get somewhere, I want plenty of value from it. I looked at my options for Vegas; most round trip flights were going for over $1000 at terrible times with terrible layovers. I was about to call Jason and let him know I couldn’t make it, when I realized the Cardinals were playing the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series the week before.

I quickly scanned my options and realized I could pay far less than $1000 if I went IAD (Washington Dulles) to LAX to LAS to DCA (Washington National). I’m not much of a first class person, but if I can get good value, I’ll fly it. United was running super saver direct flights from IAD to LAX, first class for 25,000 miles and I booked it immediately. The short jump from LAX to LAS could be had on Southwest for under $100 (or 4000 Southwest miles). But the problem child, as usual, was the flight from Vegas back to DC; nothing under $500 was available.

I’ll fully admit it: part of the reason I like to travel is because I enjoy the process of cheaply collecting miles and spending them frugally. Since sometimes the destination isn’t as important as how good of a deal I’m getting, I frequently make it this far in travel planning, only to scrap the whole trip. If I can’t get a deal on every aspect of travel, I’ll often just go somewhere I can. It’s at these decision points, you really learn what’s important you. Most of the time for me, it’s traveling cheaply. This time, it was spending some time with three friends, two of which I don’t get to see that often. I bit the bullet and booked the flight. (Don’t feel too bad for me, I’ve got a pool of Citi ThankYou Points that I reserve for just this situation; I only paid $10 out of pocket.)

I arrived back to DCA on Monday evening from the Bourbon Trail and quickly hurried home to see the Cardinals lose terribly and to pack for an early Tuesday morning flight to Los Angeles. This was my first time in LA and between working in the morning and the games at night, I wouldn’t have much time to see the city. My buddy Mike, who was also coming to Vegas, caught wind of my trip and flew out to LA to meet me.

While I’m not quite the scalper my uncle Bruce is (he never buys a ticket before going to the venue), I’ve gotten pretty good at playing chicken with Stubhub. If you’ve ever sold tickets on the erstwhile site, you’ll know that there’s an option to gradually decrease the price of the ticket as it gets closer to the start time. If you’re willing to wait until the last possible second (sometimes less than an hour before the game), you can get great tickets at pretty good prices. We ended up getting tickets to games four and five of the NLCS for about $80 per ticket, only a couple of rows behind home plate.

Mike and I hit a couple of other tourist spots in LA, including seeing The Nightmare Before Christmas at El Capitan, but with work and the games, Friday and Vegas quickly came upon us.

I’ve been to Vegas four times and now that I’ve left as a winner and a loser, the feeling is always the same: never again until next time. I enjoy blackjack and craps and that’s what I do. Jason wanted to see shows and that’s what he did. Mike and Bluwin wanted to roam the strip all night and that’s what they did. It’s a city that is what you make it.

After your first mistake of staying for five days, you’ll never do it again; there’s only so much artifice and sin that one can stand. I stayed for just at 36 hours and it seemed like the perfect amount of time; everyone stays up the first night and crashes the second, so why not schedule that crash during a flight home?

Final Thoughts

I’ll be back to Vegas, likely sooner rather than later. Someone is always planning a trip and I’m always game to go. LA is a different story. I’m glad I went and I’m glad I saw Dodger Stadium, but the combination of traffic and tourist traps aren’t really my speed. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point, but I can’t imagine it would be for anything other than a specifically planned event.

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