The (travellin’) times, they are a changin’

The title of this post isn’t really news. We have all been
reading about changes in the airline, hotel, rental car and ride service
industries. I want to talk a little bit about how it affects my specialty,
getting to Las Vegas and still having a plus EV trip including all travel
expenses, while playing at low roller levels.

I have been talking and writing about low cost travel to Las
Vegas since 2016. In the last 9 months, the cost for me to travel from Detroit
to Las Vegas has increased. On my most recent trip, 5/28 – 6/2/21, I paid $351
for a rental car. This is the most I have paid for a rental car in Las Vegas in
the 35 years I have been doing this. And $351 was actually a very good rate.
Vehicles were going for about $600 for the same period.

Airline travel cost has gone up significantly, which makes
using frequent flier points even more important. 10 or 15 years ago, you could
find $150 round trip tickets to Las Vegas from Detroit. That same flight is
$500 now. Add on baggage fees (unless you have an airline credit card or fly
Southwest) and it is easy to spend over $1000 for airfare for 2.

Another added cost is resort fees. A major reason resort fees
came to be is the hotels are taxed much less on fees than on room rates. If the
room is $150, the hotel pays more in taxes than if the room is $110 with a $40
resort fee. Another benefit to the hotel is that they can advertise comped rooms,
but those rooms still have a resort fee. I have seen this at Tropicana and the
M in Las Vegas. Also, some of the MyVegas offers are structured that way. A
free room for 3 nights at the M sounds good but adding in $120 or so for resort
fees and it isn’t such a great deal anymore.  We don’t currently pay resort fees, but that
option is getting more difficult to find.

Parking fees are coming back. We stayed at Bally’s and my
wife is Diamond so we could valet for free. If not, the rate was $36 a night.
At Cromwell, it was $40 a night. I don’t know if hotel guests get free valet
parking. So, a free room could still cost you $80 a night for parking and
resort fees. Ouch.

I haven’t seen much change in room offers in Las Vegas,
which is a good sign.

Also, there are signs that the rental car prices may not be
sustainable. When we picked up our car at 5:30 PM on Friday of Memorial Day
weekend, there were very few people in the Rent A Car center and there were a
ton of cars in the lot at Hertz. Given that last minute prices were about $125
per day, people must have made other arrangements, used a ride share or used
public transportation. I can’t remember ever seeing that many cars in the lot.

Las Vegas has eliminated the ban on surge pricing for Uber
and Lyft so hopefully that will encourage more people to return to those jobs.
I saw that Turo (basically Air B and B for cars), is doing record business.

What does this all mean? 
Costs are way up and travel is more work. So far, casino offers are
about the same. Once my companion fare runs out at the end of the year, my
trips for 2022 will decline. For 2021, I will make 6 trips to Las Vegas. For
2022, that number will probably be 2. And once I run out of frequent flier
miles, it will go to 1.  For the past
dozen years, airfare has been free, hotels have been free, food has been mostly
free and rental cars have been reasonable.

My last trip, we had about $2000 in free play to pick up at
various places. My rental car was $350, cost of gambling was about $500 or $600
so the trip had EV of about $1000. If I have to pay more for a rental car and
have to start paying for flights, the EV would be $0 at best. And at that
point, I’ll be finding another activity.

I think rental car prices will get closer to normal in 2022.
Hopefully, there will be enough frequent flier opportunities to still make some
trips to Las Vegas. If not, it has been a lot of fun for the last 35 years.


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