Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

On Our Way to the Big City

Travel There – Gee Thanks WAYZ

Gotta Love Rush Hour – NOT

Going to New York City has been on my bucket list for a long time and going with my bestie was a dream come true. I love to travel with Bill, too, but it just wasn’t going to be his kind of trip. We planned to get up early, stay up late, spend the day in museums and our evenings at shows, but we were never, ever going to take a nap. That just isn’t his idea of a vacation.

Even though Bill wasn’t thrilled about a week without me, he agreed to chauffeur us to the airport. I had put us on a mid-morning flight to keep him from having to do it at the crack of dawn, so instead we were in the middle of rush hour traffic. OOPS, being self employed, my commute is from the bed to my office upstairs. Should I need to be somewhere in the morning, I live in a little, teeny tiny community almost in the boonies and I know all the backroads.

So, I was a little surprised when we we rolled to a stop in the vicinity of I-30 at Jim Miller. Deb and I both pulled out our phones and checked the traffic. It looked OK for a few moments and suddenly both of our phones demanded we get off I-30 and strike out across Dallas. But as we maneuvered across the city, they didn’t always agree.

Google Maps or WAYZ

One of my current theories about life today is that we have too many choices. It’s hard to find commonality when you have nothing in common. I grew up in a world with only 3 or 4 TV channels and virtually everyone watched the same thing. There were more radio stations, but in Dallas, we all listened to KVIL. No matter who you met, you were going to have something in common to talk about.

There could be fewer people in this world who are as close as the three people in that car on its way to Love Field, but we couldn’t even get our phones to agree on how to get there. No wonder the world is in such a mess.

Bill and Deb are WAYZ people. They swear by the reliability of the app. They turn it on even when they know where they are going for the traffic updates.

I’m old school. If I know the way, I’m going to drive the way I know. If I need help getting there, I will pull out my GPS and use that, because I don’t want to be messing with a phone as I try to drive. If I do need to look something up on the fly, I’m going to Google Maps. However, if Bill’s driving, he hates Google Maps, so I have to keep WAYZ on my phone for his benefit.

What we discovered on the way to Love Field is that our WAYZ apps couldn’t even agree on which way to go. Traffic really was awful, no matter where we turned. The apps were taking us through neighborhoods and down backstreets we’d never been on. Bill was driving, but I had his phone on WAYZ, mine on Google Maps and Deb was clicking back and forth between both. Sometimes each app on each phone was telling a different story.

Then Deb said, “Turn left at the next street.” Bill said, “Are you sure it’s left.” Deb hands me her phone and that’s when we got in trouble.

In case you didn’t know, these apps with their AI get to know us and give us different instructions based on what they learn about us. They also have their own internal algorithms. So, we poor humans are actually at their mercy.

Come to find out, Deb sets her WAYZ app to always point north. We set ours to point in the direction the car is headed. When Deb handed me her phone, I interpreted according to my settings and we were soon making U turns.

We Did Arrive in Time

In spite of dueling map apps, we did manage to arrive on time, but we were happy to see the curbside check-in. I hate waiting in line to do battle with a kiosk, so it was nice to be able to tip a human to take care of us and I tipped him well.

The flight was uneventful, our luggage arrived intact and Lyft was waiting for us as scheduled. We checked into the hotel, which had our reservations, and moved into our room for the week.

Come back next week and we’ll head out on the streets of the Big Apple. What fun we’ll have!

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Bad Phone

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Travel There – If You Can

So, as I faced the slings and arrows of rebooking the NYC trip, I was also trying to book a trip for Bill and I. We had Southwest Airlines credit which would expire in June. After much discussion, we decided to try out the American Club Med in Florida. We’d had an amazing time at their Punta Canta resort and wanted to repeat it, but in the Post Covid World, we didn’t want to stray too far from home.

I had done all my homework for both NYC and Club Med. Since I was going to NYC first, I got that booked, then I went to work on the Florida trip. Club Med’s site told me to get their booking confirmed before I booked the airfare. Once I had the confirmation, I started booking the air, but something was horribly wrong. Almost all of my Southwest Airlines credit was gone!

I was on the site, had the perfect flight reserved and was trying to pay when I realized the cupboard was bare. Had I had any way to anticipate the ramifications of letting those two seats go, I would have paid for the seats and then chased down my credit, but at the time I was more worried about what happened to my credit. I thought if I went ahead and paid, it would be a case of too-bad-so-sad and I’d end up with more credits I needed to use up.

Chasing an Answer

It took a six page letter to Southwest Airlines to explain everything that happened next and eventually I did get some “Gee we’re sorry” credits from both Southwest Airlines and Southwest Vacations, but none of that helped me when it mattered.

Along the way, I was treated worse than I had ever been treated by any customer service rep, anywhere, at any time. The bottom line was that Renee had lied, but I was the one who was going to have to pay money for airline tickets that according to him, I would have the credit to cover. The very worst part was, the flight I wanted had filled up and I was going to have to pay a now outrageous amount of money for a flight that left at the crack of dawn. Who wants to end their time at a luxurious resort by getting up at 4 AM?

Thanks, but No Thanks

I have a $150 credit from Southwest Airlines, but I am in no hurry to use it. I went to St. Louis in September, but we drove. I couldn’t face the headache of trying to use the credit. They will probably expire someday, but I don’t care. Travel is my joy and I’m not letting them buy it with their paltry credit, which will involve me having to book with them again. I think they should have given me a refund, not a credit. They do not deserve for me to spend more money with them. I probably will, because the drive to DFW from Heat is brutal, but for now, I am pouting.

Southwest Vacations tried to play the same game with me, but I erupted on them in a less than pleasant way. I figured venting my spleen in such an aggressive way wouldn’t actually get me anywhere, but I’d been through hell with them. When the pain continued after I got home from the trip, that was too much. I’d paid for everything in advance and came home to over $600 in charges. Southwest Vacations got me back to even, but they thought we were even when they let me know I had a $100+ credit with them. I told them just how unhappy I was about the whole thing and said the least they could do was to return the value of that $100, since it had come about from their mistake in the first place. No promises were made, but I did get a refund on my credit card.

Things have gotten out of control in the customer service world. Companies hide behind their computer screens and phone trees. Consumers are left hanging out to dry and there’s really nothing we can do about it. If we’re lucky, perhaps we get some token credit, but it is never on par with what we’ve suffered.

Companies should have to answer phones in a reasonable amount of time. If a customer waits more than 10 minutes for a representative, then a clock should start ticking and the customer should earn money (not a credit) for the time they are forced to wait. If that were the case, you can bet a whole lot more customer service jobs would be created and the companies would find a way to be sure they answered calls on a timely basis. Go ahead, record my call, but also be sure you’re timing my wait!

Also, there should be a way to seek resolution besides suing the company. Once a company sticks it to you, the only thing you can do is take them to court, but we all know what will happen then. It will be Joe Blow versus Corporate America and you know Joe Blow is going to lose.

The only thing we Joe Blows have left after a bad encounter of the commercial kind is to resort to social media and what good, I ask you, does that actually do. Corporate America keeps counting their money on the other side of their phone tree and laughing all the way to the bank. I think this explains, in part, why people are so ugly on social media. It’s the court of last appeals, but they have already lost.

OK, I’ve gotten that off my chest, but I have to mention that when I got home from NYC the hotel charged me a bogus $600+. As happened with Renee, I will never know whether it was an honest mistake, stupidity or just standard operations for milking more money out of tourists. Through more wasted time, on the phone and on websites, I got it resolved, but I almost spent as much time on the phone dealing with all these issues as I did on my vacation!!

I’m through complaining. Come back next week and we’ll board our Southwest Airlines flight to NYC!

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Gee Thanks Covid

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Travel There – Booking Nightmares in a Post-Covid World

When we returned from Vegas, the trip we hadn’t planned for or anticipated, I had loose travel ends I needed to decide what to do with. My bestie and I had credit with Southwest Vacations for the NYC trip Covid had obliterated and with Hubby I had credit with Southwest Airlines leftover from the resort deal we decided to abandon.

Plans for the Big Apple

The trip we’d planned to NYC for May of 2020 is not one that could easily be replaced. My bestie’s son, a young man I’d watch grow up, was graduating from Pratt and was scheduled to receive his MFA at Radio City Music Hall. That’s one of those events you can’t rewind. However, I’d never really been to NYC and I wanted very much to enjoy that orgy of entertainment.

Though Deb and I talked about using up our travel credits every time we got together there was always the lingering masks and Covid surges discouraging us from planning anything definite. Then she was invited to a christening by her family in New Jersey and that proved the impetus for us to go. We selected the week before the christening as our travel dates and I took on the responsibility for getting it booked.

Have I Reached the Party to Whom I am Speaking?

Perhaps you remember Lily Tomlin and her operator skirts or maybe you’ve just seen clips of her on You Tube. If you have then you’ve heard the question above. As I called around trying to figure out exactly how to use the credits we held from Southwest Vacations, I felt Lily’s question was appropriate.

My travel agent had been one of the early victims in the massive layoffs experienced by the travel industry. When NYC shutdown, I went through several different representatives with the company she’d worked for and eventually ended up having to contact the president of the company to get the credits we were due.

Two years later, I had no desire to reconnect with a company who had not only fired my favorite travel agent ever, but they’d done an awful job of helping me in the aftermath. So, I asked my old travel agent if she knew anyone still in the business which could help me. She gave me a name, but that name had no interest in helping me if there was no money on the table for the trip she’d be helping me with.

I anticipated what a nightmare the rebooking would be and did not want that headache. In the world before Covid, a travel agent would be happy to help you rebook travel, even if they didn’t make anything from it, because they wanted your business for the future. The travel industry is in such dire straits, courtesies like that no longer exist. That meant it was up to me.

The Nightmare Begins

I made the call to Southwest Vacations and I honestly thought the hour and a half I waited on hold would be the extent of my nightmare. When Renee finally got on the phone with me, he was so nice, I thought all of my troubles were over. I had no idea they had just begun. See, I don’t know whether he was stupid or he just lied, and after months of dealing with the aftermath of the conversation it’s still not clear.

The easy part was getting booked in the wrong hotel. I wanted the Sheraton New York Times Square. He put me in a Four Points by Sheraton in Times Square. During the call he always said Sheraton Times Square, so I thought we were good. It wasn’t until later I realized the gap between what I wanted and what I got. However, except for the LONG wait on hold, waiting for a representative, changing to the right was relatively easy or at least seemed that way at the time.

The hard part was what happened to my Southwest Airlines account. Renee said he was taking some credit from that account to cover my airfare for NYC. As we were talking he told me it would be about $25-30. I blissfully can’t remember at this moment, but at the time I had written down in my notes and it was in that range. I asked, “And that will leave me with XXX amount of credit with Southwest Air?” His answer was, “Absolutely,” but he was absolutely wrong.

The nightmare continues, so come back next week and let’s find out how badly Renee’s wrong answer messed me up!

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Big Bus Bombed Out

Travel There – Warning Tourist Trap

Now I am no stranger to Hop On/Hop Off tours. I’ve enjoyed them in other towns. I know it’s a little touristy, but the concept has worked for me many times. This time it did not. In fact, it was the biggest mistake I made on this vacation. It wasted my time, it wasted my money and it used up good will with my husband. Three strikes and you are out!!

Perhaps I look perky in the photo, because I was asleep by 9:45 the night before and stayed in bed until 8 AM. That’s not my usual routine, but I wasn’t quite over a nasty cold. The early wake-up call in the wee hours of the morning resulted in early to-bed. We had a Mickey D’s breakfast and were waiting at the stop at the appointed time.

Someone else was at the stop, too and who gave us a glimpse at the dark side of Sin City. A very drunk lady perched herself at the Big Bus stop and began to inventory the empty bottles in her shopping bag. The Big Bus attendant, there to collect our tickets, gently suggested she had to go elsewhere. She put her bottles back in her bag and careened down the sidewalk. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, about a block away, she had fallen in a heap. As our bus arrived we noticed a flurry of activity up the street as an ambulance pulled up. Driving by on the bus, we realized it was the lady with all the empty bottles in her bag.

Touring at Its Worst

I like the Hop On/Hop Off concept, because you get both a form of transportation and a guided tour in one purchase. I had visions of riding up top with scads of excited tourists, taking in the sights of the Strip while a well-informed guide filled me in on all the secrets. Not exactly what happened.

Looking at the sunny picture above, you’d think it was a perfect day for a double decker bus tour, but there’s a reason I have on so much gear. It was cold! As we waited for the bus to arrive, the sun went behind some clouds and was not seen again that day. Before we’d gotten to the next stop, the weather had deteriorated further and it began to sprinkle.

As I said, it was damned cold, there was precipitation and we were the only people on the bus, but our idiot guide insisted that we would be making the most of our travel investment by riding in the open air. Nope, that’s wasn’t going to happen.

The scintillating secrets shared by our guide sounded something like this, “Ok, there’s Harrah’s and across the street is The Mirage. Now we’re coming up on the Venetian with the Palazzo Towers. Over there is Treasure Island and now we’re coming up on the Wynn…” And no it didn’t get any better.

At the Convention Center we picked up a lady, but I’m convinced she was the bus driver’s wife. She rode for a few stops and then got off at one of the hotels, where I think she worked. She had on a uniform and she certainly wasn’t a tourist.

We passed the Strat and the Bonneville Transit Center. So far we hadn’t seen or learned anything new. Up around Fremont a few people got on, but they were soon getting off again. It continued to be me, Bill, the bus driver and the guide. I was beginning to believe the guide was operating in an altered state and I don’t think it was alcohol.

As we made the loop near Fremont and headed back toward the Strip, we started to get the same dialog he’d given us before, but in reverse, “The tall building on the side of the bus is the Strat. Now we’re coming up to the Sahara and over there is Circus, Circus…”

We Escape the Big Bus Tour

At Treasure Island, Bill had reached his limit. We got off and attempted a walking tour led by ourselves. I’ve got to hand it to my husband. Bill really was trying to be cooperative, but I was just pissed off, damp and hungry. We wandered around the Grand Canal and visited galleries and shops – a few of which I’ve included for your viewing pleasure.

We were both hungry, but nothing we saw looked the least bit interesting. So ,we went into the Venetian and ate at The Grand Lux – a restaurant we have in Dallas. I opted for Chicken Alfredo and drowned my sorrows in one of my favorite comfort foods.

Waiting for the Deuce

Refreshed we went over to the bus stop at the Mirage to return to our part of the Strip. The Deuce was obviously not on schedule, but once we boarded the bus we got a taste of just how off schedule it was. We could have easily gotten to Paris faster if we’d walked, but the rain was pouring outside. Eventually, we discovered a car had turned over in front of the Bellagio and the entire Strip was in chaos.

It was still early evening with all of Las Vegas waiting for us. I’d planned for us to take the nighttime Big Bus, a part of the package we’d purchased and supposedly a real neon treat, but you could not have paid either of us enough money to get back on a bus, especially not a Big Bus. We went back to the room and I went directly to bed – again. I found out the next morning Bill did a little exploring on his own while I slept, but none of it sounded very exciting. There’s a reason Vegas was not at the top of my vacation wish list.

Day 3 was a lot better, so it’s safe to come back and check in with me next week!

Accommodations, Architecture, Attractions, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

The Aria & Lemongrass

Travel There – The Cool Kids

Given the opportunity to do this whole trip again, instead of suggesting we stay at Paris, I would have suggested one of the newer, cooler places, like Aria. Like Paris, it’s right in the middle of The Strip, but unlike Paris it has a hip, edgy feel. Had Paris had the romantic Montmartre vibe it had when visited before, I would have been happier, instead it had become a sort of warehouse for slot machines with little to no atmosphere whatsoever in the lobby or our room for that matter.

Aria, Vdara and other newer hotels were where the cool kids were staying, but I’ve got to tell you, even there, where Rolex watches and flashy diamonds were the moda, everybody was still so casual I wanted to scream. I get it if you don’t want to be required to wear haute couture gowns every time you walk out of the room, but I’d like it if you’d look like you were out of your room on purpose, instead of being caught out in your pajamas, lingerie or jeans you were about to give to Goodwill.

Even though Las Vegas ain’t what it used to be, I refused to succumb to the general atmosphere of uber-dressing-down. It was as if the worse you looked the more points you got. Keep your points. While I wore jeans during the day, at night I dressed up and I had more fun that way. I’ll be so glad when sloppy becomes so yesterday.

Going Through the M Life Motions

All we really had to do to get to Aria is cross the street. The signs took us through the Crystals Shopping Opportunity, which was OK with us, because we wanted to see everything. This was our first real encounter with a plethora of exclusive high end designer shops, but by the end of the trip, they didn’t feel quite so exclusive, because they are virtually everywhere you look in Vegas. However, the high end prices remained the same.

Once inside Aria we were as awestruck as the next guy. They have got some amazing architectural touches throughout the public areas. We walked around with our mouths opened as we searched around for the M Life desk. The Aria M-Life personnel were ever so much more accommodating than the surly bunch down at The Mirage. I was allowed to feel more like the smart traveler I thought I was, instead of being the cheapskate the other guys’ behavior suggested.

Lemongrass – The Hidden Restaurant

There used to be a comedy routine about “the booth in the back in the corner in the dark.” That might be a good way to describe Lemongrass, except it wasn’t dark. You had to wander around a bit to find it, but once you did, it was a very attractive space, perhaps a bit crowded, but otherwise quite nice. The waitresses were dressed in Asian-flavored uniforms, which matched their ethnicity. While the menu was big, it was somewhat limited in this American’s opinion.

Along with being required to make a reservation, you were instructed to inform them you were using an M-Life award. Then when you arrived, you were required to remind the hostess about your M-Life status. I really think they should just stamp something across your forehead. That might be less humiliating than some of the hurdles they throw up. Just think, some guy sits in an office somewhere and it’s his job to make using the My Vegas Slots award so inconvenient and humiliating that people won’t use them. Perhaps his title is Discourager in Chief.

I never know what to order in a Thai restaurant. People rave about Thai food and how spicy it is, but every time I go to one I end up with something resembling milk-toast. I did a little better this time, but in truth, it was more like Kung Pao chicken than the spicy dish I hoped for. I think Bill felt much the same way, but at least the bogo meals didn’t break the bank.

And Now for the Really Big Shew

For all my efforts to see and do everything, sometimes the best things are serendipitous. After our meal we wandered around the hotels in the area for a while longer and then headed back to our hotel. Suddenly, people were running across our path and weaving in between cars. The Bellagio Fountain show was just beginning and we got to enjoy every bit of it. We hadn’t planned it that way. It was just the way things worked out.

Except for our thwarted coffee break and the run in with the kiosk, we’d booked a pretty good first day in Vegas. We arranged for reduced fare transportation throughout our stay, gotten our M-Life cards and enjoyed My Vegas Slots awards for lunch, a drink and dinner. So far, so good.

Day two was not quite as successful. Come back next week and find out why.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Lunch & Drinks at The Mirage

Travel There – My Vegas Slots Starts to Pay Out

In the days rolling up to our Vegas vacation, I was so devoted to earning awards on the My Vegas Slots app that I was skating on thin ice. I figured out the rhythm of the whole thing – how long you needed to wait for free chips, how long you could play a game until it got cold, how all the bonus games worked, even how long you could put it on auto-play without losing all your chips. Bill said he didn’t care how much I was winning. He just wanted to see his wife without her being distracted by her phone.

However, as we started to use my awards, my devotion to the games started to make more sense. After tackling the Bonneville Transit Station kiosk, we got on a bus headed back down the Strip and Bill began to freak out just a little bit. He was hungry and wanted to eat, but he was still in shock over his coffee experience.

I said, “I have a bogo deal at the Mirage. We buy a sandwich and get a free beer. I think we could share that and it would hold us over until dinner.”

“Well, what are we doing for dinner?” he asked.

We can make reservations at Lemongrass over at the Aria. I have a bogo deal there, too.”

“What kind of food do they have?”

“Thai.”

“What’s Thai food?”

“Remember the place we went to for Stone’s birthday. It was Thai and you liked that.”

About that time The Deuce pulled up to the Mirage and we hopped out. As we got off the bus, Bill allowed that he had liked the food at that Thai restaurant, so my plan was a good one.

Using My Vegas Slots Awards

Here’s the thing about the My Vegas Slots Awards. You can’t just walk up to the place you have the award for and show them your phone or a coupon. First, you have to go to an M Life Desk, located in the various lobbies where the coupons are good and get an M Life Card.

And here’s the reason the MGM is perfectly happy to give you these awards. It’s at this point that most people think it’s too much of a hassle and never redeem their awards.

Not me. Bill and I marched into The Mirage, found the M Life desk and endured the obvious irritation of the clerk who apparently had more important things to do than issue M Life cards. But that’s just the first thing you have to do.

Once you have your M Life card, you have to redeem your reward. I had visions of redeeming all the rewards at once and using them as I had a need for them. Au Contrare! That’s not how this works. You can only redeem one award at a time and you have a limited period in which to use it. If we thought the lady was irritated about issuing the cards, that was nothing to her near dismay at being forced to give us a bogo coupon for their snack bar.

Scoring Goodies at The Mirage

The clever name of the snack bar at The Mirage is SNACKS. The burger we split was delicious and while it wasn’t free, there was more than enough to share. Washing it down with free beer certainly didn’t hurt. Bill’s liking my awards better all the time.

“What do we do now,” he wondered after we’d had our burger and enjoyed the huge Aquarium behind the registration desk – the Mirage’s free attraction. I pulled out a free drink award for The Still, a whiskey bar that had just opened for the day. I would give you a review of the Aquarium, but while we were in Vegas, they announced the Mirage was going to be torn down, so you couldn’t go see it anyway.

We went back to the M-Life desk, renewed our award for a coupon and headed over to The Still. Going through that rigmarole for every redemption was truly a hassle, but if they wanted to waste their personnel’s time on it, we could play that game with them.

We went to The Still, turned in our coupon for another beer, since our other option was whiskey and began to enjoy our vacation.

Back to Paris

After our free drink, we found the Deuce bus stop and caught the next one that came by. In minutes we were back at our hotel. I made the necessary reservations for Lemongrass. That’s another of the award tricks you have to watch. Some of the awards have very specific instructions about making reservations, including how far in advance you have to make the reservations. Those specifics kept us from ever using the awards for the Wolfgang Bar & Grill over at the MGM, but otherwise we were able to juggle the instructions and our patience with the hassle.

Come back next week and we’ll have some Thai food.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Shades of Amsterdam

Travel There – Jane Faces the Kiosk and Loses

With the RTC discount card firmly in hand, our next hurdle was buying the three day pass we’d need to get around Vegas. The human who issued our senior discount card could not sell us tickets for the buses. We had to go outside and face the human-less kiosk. I am intimidated by kiosks. With humans, you can say oops, but kiosks don’t care.

Sometimes I do fine with the kiosks, like getting food coupons at the State Fair of Texas or when we bought subway tickets in Vienna. I was a total champ, but there will always be Amsterdam. That’s when Bill and I were nearly defeated by a phone with more slots than your average casino. To this day, I am convinced the hand of God reached down and saved us, because after trying our luck with various phones and various slots we were suddenly connected and I’m not sure why.

There have been other kiosks which won the battle – like the day we headed to Portland and ended up in Denver. It was the weather, not the kiosk, but the argument we had in the terminal was all about the kiosk.

And how about the first time I tried to tackle the Southwest kiosk. We ended up with boarding passes, but no luggage tags. An exasperated Southwest employee treated us like a couple of senior citizens who didn’t know the difference in dial-up and broadband. I like Medicare and senior discounts, but I’m not senile, yet. You can call me “ma’am” or even “honey” (which seems to be Millennial for old person) but don’t treat me as if I take my brains out and play with them.

As we trudged out to the RTC kiosk with our senior discount ID’s, I felt as if we were headed to a firing squad playing a game Russian Roulette for bus tickets. Would we get our tickets or be sent back to Dallas?

Pushing the Buttons for Tickets

I still can’t explain what happened, but suddenly, I was holding not one, not two, but three bus passes and each pass was for three days. Drat that kiosk!

I looked at Bill and he was as clueless as I was. He’d stood there coaching me through the transaction and he didn’t know how we’d ended up with three tickets either. We shrugged our shoulders and headed back into the Transit Station.

I reminded the attendant I hadn’t wanted to face down the kiosk in the first place and she was sympathetic, probably because she had those senior citizen prejudices, but there was nothing she could do for us, except give us a telephone number. Isn’t that always the case these days? You’re standing in the bank, looking at one of their employees, who hands you a phone number to call to deal with your issue.

Apparently, I’m the only idiot who’s ever had this problem, because the first few people we talked to didn’t know what to do about us. Eventually, we were transferred to a lady who could help, but even then, we had to read some number off the extra ticket and that was more difficult than you might imagine. The senior citizen thing kicked in, because Bill couldn’t see the number with any of the glasses we had with us.

Now, the extra ticket only cost us $10, but the whole reason we’d gone through this exercise in the first place was to save a little money and that $10 would have rendered our efforts useless, so we stood around in the Transit Station working out our refund.

The Most Fun We Had in Vegas

I told you at the beginning of this trip that Vegas wasn’t my kind of town, but let me illustrate for you just how much it wasn’t my cup of tea. Looking back, this adventure to the Bonneville Transit Center was my favorite part of the trip. There was an element of discovery. Bill and I laughed together about several of our other travel challenges, from evil kiosks to running out of gas coming back from Temple. We were having good old fashioned fun and for the most part, the rest of the trip was tinged with disappointments and Covid-related challenges, not fun.

Come back next week and we’ll start using the coupons I’d earned playing the My Vegas Slots app.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

The Transit Adventure

Travel There – Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

Bill and I usually get a rental car when we travel by plane. We like to avoid the hassles and constraints of public transportation, but what the heck are you going to do with a car on The Vegas Strip, except pay very expensive parking fees. So, I did a little research.

There’s a monorail and we’d used it extensively when we’d stayed at the Sahara attending a conference which was in the Venetian. It did a great job of getting us around then, but for the itinerary I’d put together, it wasn’t going to do us much good this time.

I looked into the Big Bus Tours which were so convenient and useful when I’d visited Chicago. More about them later, but for a tourist getting around Vegas, nothing seemed as convenient as the Deuce on the Strip! And guess what else!! I discovered Bill and I qualified for the senior discount. All we had to do was get to the Bonneville Transit Center and get a free Reduced Fare ID.

Once Bill had gotten in his nap and I’d moved into our room, we were ready to go see Vegas. First on our list was our senior discount!

From Paris to the Bonneville Transit Center

I am a timid user of public transportation. I always have visions of missing my stop and being forced to disembark in a ghetto, where I get mugged and perhaps caught in a drive-by shooting. I don’t know if Las Vegas has a ghetto or not, but I had a good map of the the routes in my hand and I was tackling the public transportation system with my handsome husband.

Another of my fears of public transportation is having the right thing to pay for my ride or coming to a point where I have to pay more and I don’t have cash or any form of payment they will accept. Irrational, of course, most fears are, but the ticket we got to take us to the Transit Center was good for two hours, certainly we could find it in that time without paying more – even if I had to get off and try again in another direction. And besides the street-side kiosks took credit cards.

Riding along in the Deuce, we craned our necks to see the sites along the like other tourists. After passing The Strat, we knew we were at the end of The Strip and that our destination was just a few stops away. Thanks to Bill we did get off at the right place. Dodging the busses to get to the building was dicey, but we made it.

Inside the station, they actually knew what we were talking about, which is always a plus. Often in my research I find something that no one but me knows about or they just did away with it a week ago, but not this time. We had our pictures taken and were issued with an ID card which would provide reduced fares until 12/13/2026.

If you are only going to be in Vegas for a couple of days, this is probably not worth the effort, but we used the heck out of the passes, so we thought it was great. If you’re one of those people who go all the time or you are staying for more than a couple of days, why wouldn’t you get it, if you qualify.

Now you’d think this was the end of this story and we’d move on to our next Vegas adventure, but not all my fears of public transportation are unfounded. Come back next week and see what happened next.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

Our $22.50 Coffee Break

Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen on Pexels.com

Travel There – Let the Las Vegas Sticker Shock Begin

Coffee is a very important substance in Bill’s life. I’ve found there are two kinds of coffee drinkers – the ones who just want coffee whatever form it comes in and then there are coffee drinkers like Bill. Of course, there is a particular strength of coffee he prefers and it must be hot, very, very, very hot. At home he actually heats his coffee in the microwave halfway through the cup to keep it hot.

But there’s more. He wants to purchase his coffee with minimal hassle, he wants a good pastry selection, he wants access to a variety of coffee accoutrements to doctor it to his flavor and there should be somewhere nice to sit and enjoy the coffee once he’s got it just like he wanted. Oh and by the way, the coffee should not cost an arm and a leg.

I’ve mentioned the predominance of slot machines and gaming tables in the lobby. There’s a lovely lobby bar, a full service restaurant, a pretty no-frills coffee shop and a stand-up coffee bar. And that’s it. No cozy sofas or easy chairs. No café tables. In fact, unless you want to play the slots, there is nowhere to just sit down and people watch.

Now Bill’s plan was pretty good. He’d scoped out both the coffee shop and the stand-up coffee bar and ascertained that both pastry choices and coffee beans were better at the stand-up option. His plan was to get his coffee and enjoy it in the Lobby Bar. What his plan did not take into consideration was the chains across the entry to the bar with the notice that only bar patrons were welcome there.

Now, I tried to point this out to Bill as we stood in line for our coffee, hot chocolate and brioche, but he wasn’t feeling very chatty. I got it. He’d been up and on the run since 5:30. He deserved to be left alone to enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee without his wife blabbering away about the attractions she wanted to see. Only I wasn’t trying to talk about what’s next. I was trying to keep him from making a tactical mistake.

So, when he got to the bar and encountered the chain across the entrance, he was not happy. Then, depending on his charm to get him what he wants, the way it usually does, he was irate at being turned away. He ended up drinking his very expensive coffee in the very boring coffee shop whose lights were too bright and whose décor was virtually non-existent – just white everything and no reprieve.

That he had paid $22.50 and the coffee was only mediocre didn’t help one bit. To be honest, the brioche wasn’t much either. The hot chocolate was fine, but in truth I would have preferred to have a Diet Dr Pepper. That wasn’t anymore of a choice to me than a seat in the lobby bar was to Bill.

So, trying to make the best of things, we did a little exploring. We found the spa and Bill discovered he could get free bottles of water there, which was the brightest spot we’d had in this vacation, so far. We found the very elegant wedding chapel, with multiple wedding venues. And we discovered the CLOSED pool area. There wasn’t even a hot tub we could access. I wasn’t feeling very good about our Vegas vacation at this point.

Back in our room we had business calls to field. Entrepreneurship has it’s drawbacks. Once everything was settled, I went about unpacking and getting us moved into the room. Bill took a nap. We’d been in Vegas for 3.5 hours when I sat down with my travel journal to record my impressions up to that point, then I took out one of the books I’d brought with me and waited for Bill to wake up.

Come back next week and enjoy the adventure we got into next!

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

My Vegas Slots

Travel There – and Get It for Free

Shortly after I won the trip to Vegas I was getting my hair done and Loree, the goddess of hair, who also happens to be my friend, told me she would also be heading to Vegas soon. So we compared notes.

Her travel secret is Facebook Groups. She travels a lot and wherever she’s going, she finds a FB group or two to follow. I confess to being a FB dinosaur. If doesn’t happen on my Newsfeed, then as far as I’m concerned, it didn’t happen at all.

It’s not that I haven’t tried out groups before, it’s that there was entirely too much useless chatter and I don’t know these people! I don’t know their priorities or their taste or their budget. Why would I follow their advice?

In fact, I don’t pay much attention to all that recommendation/review noise on the internet. Even if I know you, you’re not going to be able to influence me much. For instance a relative told me not to stay at the Mena House in Giza or go to Alexandria. This is someone who has been to Egypt many, many times. They should know right?

Was she ever wrong! My stay at the Mena House was one of my favorites – ever. And Alexandria? She was right that it is past its former glory, but it was still a fascinating place to visit and we had a blast. The Royal Jewelry Museum there is one of best I’ve seen and it’s in a beautiful old mansion. So, rather than take folks’ recommendation, I do a lot of my own research, but chances are I won’t be reading your online review.

However, Loree didn’t give me any reviews, she told me about an app – My Vegas Slots. I shouldn’t get started on apps, but we’re there. You can keep your apps. Give me a good old guide book with maps any day.

Every time I allow myself to depend on an app, it lets me down. I don’t even trust a GPS. Too many times a GPS has sent me in the wrong direction or just flaked out at critical moment or took me to a place that moved or closed. And that’s just the GPS. Almost every time I try to use a travel app to get around a destination, it’s a disaster. I don’t know if that’s the app’s fault or mine, but it doesn’t work for me.

However, the app Loree was talking about wasn’t really a travel app. It was a game that paid out in free Las Vegas stuff. We downloaded it while I was in the chair and I had hundreds of thousands of points before I left her shop.

A New Obsession

The next morning I sat at my desk and took inventory of the free stuff I could supposedly win on the app. It was good stuff! Free meals, free drinks and even rides on the monorail.

The next trick was redeeming my points. While you can start playing My Vegas Slots without giving them any information, if you want to redeem anything, you have to give them all the usual stuff that helps hackers get into your life. The app is sponsored by MGM Resorts and all you’re actually doing is signing up for their Rewards Program and you do it on their site, so I did it.

I redeemed some of my points and I was hooked. Because I am me, I went through the entire catalog of prizes and listed them on a sheet paper, in order of my interest in them along with the number of points they’d take. After that, every free moment of my time my face was glued to my phone, playing the stupid slots games.

And when I got to Vegas, I used the coupons I earned. A free drink here, a bogo buffet there and a free gelato at the Bellagio. Yes, My Vegas Slots is legit and if you get serious about collecting and using them, you can certainly be a winner in Las Vegas without even going to the tables.

Come back next week and lets head out!