Last year we went on a crazy spring break trip to the Southeast side of the country. I'll fill you in on that more later. This year we decided to tackle the Southwest, but instead of doing all of our driving in our own car like we did last year, we decided to fly to and from Vegas, then explore from there!
What We Did:
DAY ONE:Flew to Las Vegas and rented a car (first time renters!). Drove to the Grand Canyon and stayed in Williams, AZ, a cute little town about an hour outside of the national park. Go eat at Kicks on Route 66! It was so delicious that I wasn't even mad that Gonzaga ruined my bracket by narrowly losing to Duke.
Drove back to LA, and spent the day at Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and in Anaheim. We visited Downtown Disney and saw the edge of Disneyland. Had a great dinner at Cortina's Italian Market . We would definitely recommend it! Then we drove the hour and a half back to Moreno Valley and stayed again for free.
Drove to San Diego, an easy hour and a half drive. Saw the Sea Lions at La Jolla, went to lunch and took a nap on Mission Beach, and then saw Fremont Park. Checked out Old Town. Met up with some great friends and saw the Harbor, Coronado Island, and the Gaslamp Quarter. Stayed in Beaumont for free again!
DAY FIVE, SIX, AND SEVEN:
Drove to Las Vegas. Stayed on the strip at Bally's for two nights. (If you have a Total Rewards card from Harrah's you can get great hotel discounts!) I could seriously watch the Bellagio fountains for hours. Explored Fremont Street and Palace Station. Returned Car. Flew Back. Thank goodness for airplanes.
How We Did It:
Southwest and IHG Points made this a very reasonable trip. Our flights to and from Las Vegas were free on points, and they were running a great special where it was only 5,280 points each way per person. Normally it is about twice as much! The Southwest Rapid Rewards Program is awesome. Check it out at https://www.southwest.com/rapidrewards . Read this post to see how we earned points and used the card for six free flights!
IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) runs a special on Point Break Hotels, which means that you can stay at certain hotels all over the world for only 5,000 points a night. The point break locations change every few months. Click here to see the list of current point break hotels through January 31st! If you get the IHG MasterCard, you get 80,000 points, which means you could use this card for up to 16 free stays at hotels! Not all hotels are available for 5,000 points, but if you are willing to drive out a bit (like we did for Moreno Valley and Beaumont), then you can stay for free and really get the most out of this card promotion (Here's how)! We used this card last spring break as well, and didn't pay for a single hotel room.
Vegas has cheap hotels, so long as you are flexible. We stayed at Bally's on the strip for the Wednesday and Thursday at the end of our trip, so that it was cheaper than the weekend would have been when we first flew in to Vegas. Get a Total Rewards player's card for free at your local Harrah's and you can sign in to online booking for great discounts. You can sign up at https://www.totalrewards.com/Program/ .
We rented a car using Priceline Car Rental Bidding. You can name your own price at http://www.priceline.com/rentalcars/. We ended up getting a Nissan Sentra through Hertz for a week for about $200. We really used it, and put 1,600 miles on it. It gave us the ability to drive to see the other cities, stay at hotels farther out for free, and we could drive off of the strip in Las Vegas so that we could eat for cheaper! We also recommend using Tix4Tonight to get cheaper meals on the strip. You pay $2 per person for a voucher, and end up saving $20-$30 dollars off of buffets at casinos!
Trip Highlights (In No Particular Order):
- Aaron narrowly avoided an accidental speeding ticket leaving the Grand Canyon. The policeman noted that we were in a rental and that he had been pulling foreigners over all day, so he just gave us a warning. Thanks, Officer Thomas.
- We were somehow blessed to constantly find free parking spots on the street in the most random places and at the perfect time, which saved us over $20 in parking.
- While driving from LA to Las Vegas, a truck with a trailer swerved over in front of us and shot a rock into our windshield, making a dime-sized crack. I nearly had a panic attack as we were returning the rental, but it ended up being only $17 to fix it. Thanks, Cesar at Hertz. (Side note: Check with your credit card company when you rent. The card that we used actually offered us full insurance on the car, and it would have covered a replacement windshield if we needed to file an accident report.)
- After sitting in two hours of traffic on I-15 North because of an accident, we pulled over to the next exit in the middle of nowhere only to find a line of about 20 people waiting for the one-holer bathroom at the gas station. When nature called outside, Aaron found a random black box on the back road, which ended up containing a really nice Canon camera. After chats with the gas station owner, people around, Canon, and the police, the owner couldn't be located, and we ended up landing a super nice new camera.
- When we visited Griffith Park to see the night view of LA, we hopped into a shuttle van and ended up narrowly avoiding waiting in line behind 50 people both on the way up and on the way down.
- Palace Station was running a $6.99 lunch buffet for rewards members, along with $3 in free slot play, so Aaron and I joined and got cheap lunch, free play, and a nice man gave me a free candy bar.
- We got to spend an evening with some really great friends who had just happened to move to San Diego!
- We had a great time just exploring together and getting away from the real world for a bit!All in all, it was an amazing trip. It's going to be hard to get back into the swing of the real world, but we had a great time.