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D'kian

Travel Tips

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Over the years I've learned a few things planning vacations. Here's the latest:

1) It's almost always cheaper to book through the airline's and hotel's own web sites than through a travel agency (including online agencies like Orbitz or Expedia).

2) This doesn't mean you should ignore travel agency sites. They're great for comparing relative rates. So use them first, then go to the hotel's and/or airline's sites and see which is cheaper.

3) Specific to hotels managed by Harrah's (for a list go to: https://www.harrahs.com/MakeReservation.do ): you get better rates if you log in the site with your Total rewards Card number and PIN. Unfortunately you only can get the card number by traveling to a Harrah's property and signing up. I did that last year (BTW don't ever play at any casino until you have their comp/rewards card; they're all free). ON average I'm paying $11 less per night than I would otherwise.

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Good advice!

I always check here -- www.hotelcoupons.com -- before heading out of town. Some savings are only okay, but every now & then you can score big.

One time I was able to get a $100 room for about $40. Even though it was for 3 nights only, and I needed 4, I booked the room anyway, then asked the desk clerk if I could keep the room for a fourth night at the same rate; he said yes, and I saved a bundle.

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You learn something new every day.

I'm planning a trip for April to Las Vegas (third trip in a row, by now I should be calling it an annual pilgrimage :) ). Problem is prices at Mexicana have gone way up. It was never cheap, but it offered better rates and schedules than other airlines. Also I'd learned direct flights are often cheaper than connecting fligths.

Well, not this time.

I found a killer fare to Los Angeles departing from Toluca via Volaris. From there I can catch Southwest to Las Vegas easy as you please (lots of flights LAX to LAS). Long story short I'd save about $150. The downside is the shcedule. Instead of arriving in vegas early in the morning, I'd arrive late in the afternoon. However, $150 is about what I'd pay for 5 nights stay, so it's worth it. Also I may stay an extra day to make up for the late arrival. I amy even use the savings to rent a car for a day or two and get to see parts of vegas too remote to travel by bus and too expensive by cab.

The return trip is fine, though. Leaving Vegas around 7 pm and leaving LAX around 10 pm (you have to build in time for connecting flights, esp. on different airlines). There's a stop in Guadalajara, but that's fine.

So, plus side:

Save $150, which is equivalent to the hotel fee.

Leave from Toluca which is faster to get to and back than Mexico City's airport.

Get to see LAX (big airport fan)

Get to see McCarran's domestic terminal.

Leave later, maybe get an extra day

Downside:

Arrive later.

Mid-afternoon arrival at LAX surely means massive wait at immigration (groan!)

Chance to miss a connection (unlikely, I've never missed a flight in my life).

Longer wait at security in both McCarran and LAX

I think the plus side has it.

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New tip: investigate all alternatives and ask around.

A relative told me I should take US Airways MEX to LAS with a stop in PHoenix (PHX). I checked. The fare was ok, the arriving time perfect (11:15 am) but the return trip is too early (around 4:30pm). So now I get the following:

MEX to LAS via PHX, US Airways all the way arriving at 11:15am.

LAS to Toluca via LAX, US Airways to LAX and Voalris to Toluca, arriving at 8:25 am the next day. This is perfect because I can leave Vegas at 9 pm. So I get a full six days. The fare is a little bit higher, but still lower than going via Mexicana.

On the upside maybe immigration and customs at PHX that early won't be so bad. At any rate there will be fewer flights arriving from Asia or Europe to PHX than to LAX. I also checked, and the luggage can be checked in right at the exit of customs, plus it's on the same airline.

The return trip is more complex. The Volaris flight leaves LA on Saturday 12 am. I'll have to hunt for it, but at least LAS to LAX there's no immigration or customs required.

Oh, I'll ahve to see the LAS Terminal 1 Infamous security. Everyone says the lines are huge.

So there's a tip for that, which I'll post about later.

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I flew out of LAS Terminal 1 this Saturday and I was through security in less than 5 minutes. :)

Airport lines depend on the time and date. According to the airport, they also depend on the terminal used.

At McCarran in Vegas, out of terminal 2, the lines are short for security when I've traveled around 6 pm. IN fact the last time there was no line. I just walked to the scanner directly.

At the Mex City airport early in the morning on a Monday (around 6 am) for international departures, the lines are short, say no more than ten people ahead.

At Toluca nearing 6 am for domestic flights, the lines are quite long, but they move with relative swiftness.

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Tips for security:

1) Carry very little on you or with you. Try not to carry any gels or fluids.

2) Before going to the security line, place all keys, wallet, loose change, pens, cell phone, etc insde your carry-on. Also remove the cell phone clip from your belt. Make sure you leave nothing in your pockets.

3) In line loosen your belt and shoelaces.

4) Do as the security people say. Don't argue with them, it just wastes time and arouses suspicion.

That's it. This gets you through faster.

My carry-on usually holds just the following: a book and two magazines, ear plugs (foam), a small bottle of tylenol, a small tin of sugarless candy, a small bottle of antacid tablets, a toothbrush and a small toothpaste tube, a folder with travel documents (hotel, plane an car reservations/tickets, plus maps coupons, travel guides, receipts and such), passport and visa in a small leather folder, and sometimes small souvenirs. On me I carry a wallet, card wallet, check book, cigarettes, lighter, a pack of tissues, a pen, cell phone and a container of artificial sweetener (I favor jackets with lots of pockets).

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You people give good advise as well as tips for travel. I am a big fan of traveling. I really appreciate the tips for casino. It is really sounds good for saving money. It is really very much helpful tips forever.

Thanks.

If you're looking for more advice on casinos, try Wizard of Vegas. It's run by a mathematician who does analysis for casinos and games manufacturers, among other things. He's a great guy, very approachable and very reasonable. My nick there is Nareed.

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