Getting to Las Vegas on points and miles
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Las Vegas is one of the few cities that has consistent, year-round demand from both leisure and business travelers alike. With more and more companies and conventions choosing to set up shop in Vegas, there’s a chance you’ll head to Sin City — even if you don’t plan to partake in any of its well-known vices. Today, we’re going to take a look at the top ways to get to Las Vegas on points and miles, and even discuss a few of the best hotels in the city where you can redeem points.
Airlines that fly to Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS) is located just a few miles away from “The Strip” of iconic casinos that comprise the heart of the city. With just one major airport for the city, you’ll find that almost every major domestic airline serves Las Vegas in one way or another.
Southwest has a major presence at McCarran, flying longer flights to cities such as Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Atlanta (ATL) and Baltimore (BWI), as well as shorter hops around the West Coast and Midwest, to cities like Seattle (SEA), San Jose (SJC) and San Francisco (SFO).
The legacy carriers — American, Delta and United — primarily fly from Vegas to their hub cities as well as a few secondary destinations. This means that American flies to Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Charlotte (CLT) and more; Delta flies to Detroit (DTW), Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis (MSP) and some West Coast destinations (to name a few); and United flies to a handful of destinations, including Newark (EWR), Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH) and Washington, D.C. (IAD). Obviously these are not complete lists, but are rather intended to give you an idea of the types of routes you might find flying out of Vegas.
In addition to the four largest airlines in the U.S., you’ll also find plenty of service from smaller and midsize carriers as well. Alaska Airlines flies to a number of West Coast destinations, JetBlue flies a few transcontinental routes, and low-cost carriers such as Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant round out the equation. Las Vegas also gets a number of international flights, including a few from Air Canada and WestJet and daily flights to London courtesy of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Best mileage options
Of course, your best mileage options will depend on where your trip originates, but given how close Vegas is to a number of major West Coast cities, let’s start by looking at how to redeem for short flights.
American Airlines is moving closer and closer to a dynamic pricing model (like its rivals Delta and United have already adopted), but if you’re following the published award chart, flights under 500 miles in distance should be bookable for 7,500 AAdvantage miles each way in economy (or possibly less). However, if we look at the award calendar for February for flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas, we see that all but one day of the month has flights available at a cheaper rate. Flights over 500 miles should cost 12,500 AAdvantage miles each way, but again that’s rapidly changing as AA experiments with dynamic pricing.
If you’re looking for a slightly longer flight, you might want to focus instead on American’s Oneworld partner British Airways. Even after a slight devaluation to its partner award chart, you can still book American Airlines flights up to 1,151 miles in distance for only 9,000 Avios. This is great for slightly longer trips like Las Vegas to Dallas (DFW), a flight that covers just under 1,100 miles.
Passengers looking to travel on United have a similar option, where they can book through a partner program (in this case Avianca LifeMiles) for consistently cheap award rates on short flights or take a gamble with United’s dynamic award pricing. In this case, you’ll find short hops like this Las Vegas to San Francisco flight for only 6,500 LifeMiles.
United might be charging fewer miles, or it might be charging more than twice as much depending on the day and departure time.
On longer flights, booking directly through United MileagePlus is likely to be the better deal. Avianca LifeMiles charges 13,500 miles for the transcontinental flight to Newark, while United usually only charges 12,500.
Delta was the first U.S. airline to adopt dynamic award pricing and has the most advanced system at this point, making it difficult (and, frankly, useless) to try and talk about award pricing in general terms. You can see this by looking at the prices for one-way economy awards between Las Vegas and Atlanta (ATL) in February 2020, with the prices fluctuating by almost three times the amount from one day to the next.
Southwest is different from the major carriers in that it uses a revenue-based award chart, meaning that the cost of a ticket in points will always be directly tied to its cash price. When you combine this with Southwest’s historically low fares and general lack of ancillary fees, this produces some really great deals, such as these nonstop flights from Chicago (MDW) to Las Vegas for only 6,290 points or $101.
Given how cheap cash fares can get to Las Vegas, you might want to consider taking advantage of a pay-with-points bonus on your favorite credit card instead of transferring your points to an airline partner to book. You’ll find these bonuses on a number of popular Chase and Amex cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers a 50% bonus when redeeming points for flights through the Chase travel portal.
This means I can take a $108 cash fare and book it for only 7,220 Ultimate Rewards points. Because these bookings are treated as cash tickets, I’d even earn redeemable and elite qualifying miles on this flight (assuming I was in an eligible fare class). So make sure to watch out for cheap basic economy fares!
Las Vegas points hotels
Some of the best-known names in Las Vegas casinos and hotels are bookable through popular hotel loyalty programs, but watch out for those pesky “resort fees” that get tacked on to many stays. Some hotel programs waive these on award stays, but unfortunately Marriott requires guests to pay the full price.
Now, you might decide that 60,000 Marriott points (and $39) a night are worth it to stay at the iconic Cosmopolitan, an Autograph Collection property.
If you’re on a tighter budget, you might instead opt for the Courtyard Las Vegas Convention Center, which doesn’t charge any resort or destination fees.
Hyatt loyalists have a plethora of good options to choose from, including The Mirage, the Bellagio, and The Signature at MGM Grand. Hyatt waives resort fees on award stays for all members, regardless of elite status.
While Hilton has a large Vegas portfolio, it caters more to budget-conscious travelers, with a number of properties routinely available for between 30,000 and 40,000 points per night. That’s an absolute steal in the world of Hilton.
Las Vegas is an energetic city, and whether you’re going there to close a business deal or blow off some steam (or maybe both), you have plenty of flight and hotel options to consider. You’ll find nonstop flights from nearly every major American airport to Vegas, and points hotels that run the gamut from affordable and ideally located to just downright luxurious or ostentatious. Just make sure to watch out for those annoying resort fees, which can really eat away at the value of your redemption.
Featured image by Dennis Hohl / EyeEm / Getty Images
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