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Macau Hotel Booking Complete!

After a dizzying couple of days trying to jigsaw the best rates for the best dates, all of my Macau travel plans - with the exception of hotels in Hong Kong - have been reserved. After spending numerous days bouncing around Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and the like, I remembered the great Kayak.com travel aggregator and pretty much sailed through the rest of the process. I did continually cross check rates found on Kayak to the rates offered on Macau casinos' websites. More often than not, Kayak found better rates, one exception being The Venetian Macao.

Granted, most of the folks who are going to make a casino centric trip to Macau are probably not going to stay at 5 hotels in 7 days so the lessons learned probably won't apply, but I'll just in case, I'll tell you what I did to jigsaw this together:

1) Grab a calendar - I used Google calendar so I could share it online with interested parties.

2) Block out travel days
Arrival: Flight from LAX to Hong Kong, Ferry from HK to Macau.
Departure: Ferry from Macau to HK, flight from HK to LAX.

3) Make a Currency Conversion Chart
Figure out what denominations the local currency comes in, then do conversions to USD and try to memorize it. Most hotel and travel websites will have have currency conversion options on them, but you'll need to know this anyways. As of August 31, 2007, HK$1000 = US$128... roughly an 8-1 exchange.

4) List and Prioritize Destinations - I made a list of the hotels I wanted to stay at and annotated their price, quality, and how important it is for me to stay there. This is more about setting priorities than anything else.

Galaxy Starworld ($$$$ | **** | !!!!!)
Starworld opened in August 2006 in downtown Macau. I was surprised how expensive Starworld is, prices for the weekend shot up to nearly US$500. I got a weekday rate for about US$180.

Hotel Lisboa ($$$ | *** | !!!)
Hotel Lisboa is known as "Macau's landmark", a Las Vegas analogue might be the Flamingo - it's been there forever and is incredibly (in)famous. Hotel Lisboa's owner, Dr. Stanley Ho, is an 85 year old billionaire polygamist who may or may not be laundering money for North Korea, and may or may not be involved with gangsters. He held a government sanctioned monopoly over Macau's casinos for thirty years which ended when Macau was returned to China in 2001. Originally I was not planning on staying here, but the incredibly high weekend rates at all the other joints required that I add a "5th" joint to the mix to keep the costs down. I'm still very jazzed to check this joint out though, it's a classic!

Crown Macau ($$$$$ | ****** | !!!)
Crown Macau is a brand new casino that just opened a few months ago. It is the only 6 star hotel/casino resort in Macau. Crown Macau is located in Taipa, which, before the sea that is now Cotai was reclaimed, was an island unto itself- now it is a Venezuela-like area of the larger amalgamation of Taipa Island, Cotai Strip and Coloane islands . Crown Macau caters to high rollers and charges insane room rates. I really wanted to spend one night here to see what Crown Las Vegas might be all about when it arrives in 2011. Kayak found a mid-week rate of US$318 for one night. Yikes.

Venetian Macao ($$$ | **** | !!!!)
As most VegasTripping readers know, I've never been a big fan of the Venetian and a recent visit to the Venezia towers confirmed it once again. However, with the joint being open for only three weeks by the time I get there, I'm pretty jazzed to be staying here. The Venetian's reservations are still hard to come by on travel websites - Orbitz had a room but it was unbelievably expensive. Fortunately, I had noticed an "introductory rate" on the Venetian Macao's website while doing research a few months ago - they're offering their standard sunken living room suites for HK$1388 (US$180). Discount? Sold!

Wynn Macau ($$$$ | ***** | !!!!!)
Being a huge fan of Wynn Las Vegas, I'm really looking forward to visiting the Macau outpost. I got a weekday rate of about US$200 for the Deluxe Room (pretty much a standard). Wynn Macau's website quoted prices about US$60 more than found through Kayak.

Sands Macao
Sands Macau only has VIP suites for high rollers. Schlubs like me don't have a chance. Removed from list.

As you can see, I've got a list of five hotels and seven days to visit them. If you're scratching your head thinking... "this guy is an idiot!" you'd be correct. I am well aware that hotel hopping is sacrificing sight seeing for packing and moving - but this trip is about bringing back some killer reviews, photos and video, not lounging around the pool drinking whatever it is that people in Macau drink while lounging around the pool.

5) Search for Hotel Rates
Kayak.com is my preference, you can also use Sidestep.com, but Kayak's returns were better and the simple, yet incredibly slick, interface was a pleasure to use.

Tip: To help cut down on costs, stay at the less expensive hotels on days when there is higher demand. Hotels inflate their prices by percentage on higher demand days... 30% of US$120 is way less than 30% of US$360. Conversely, stay at higher ticket hotels on non-holiday weekdays.

6) Post-It Note Calendar
Sometimes a pen and paper just can't be topped. I grabbed a bunch of Post-Its and wrote the dates on the top corner and stuck them to the wall. When I got a basic mental idea of how the rates were going to shake out, I wrote on the notes which joint I was "possibly" going to stay at on those days. Other than the last minute Hotel Lisboa weekend substitution, my predictions were mostly correct. When you've made your final updates, update the Post-Its too, stand back and admire your hard work as they slowly fall on the floor.

7) Start Booking!
Fire up the coffee pot, hop in the Kayak and load up all of the resort websites. You'll be checking rates, doing final bits of research and room comparisons as well as looking at some maps too. When you find a good rate, be sure to read the cancellation policies before you confirm, then make it happen. I saved all the travel reciept confirmation pages as PDF instead of using paper since I'm bringing my laptop with me. I'll probably print out a copy just in case.

8) Rejoice!
After juggling thirty browser windows in Safari and Firefox (some sites don't work in Safari) on two different computers I managed to get all the reservations completed in about three hours. Here is my final hotel itinerary for Macau:

Tu 9/11: Flight from LAX
We 9/12: Arrive HK, check into HK hotel (TBD)
Th 9/13: Ferry to Macau
Th 9/13: Check in Starworld
Fr 9/14: Check in Hotel Lisboa (right across the street)
Sa 9/15: 2nd night at Lisboa
Su 9/16: Check in Wynn Macau
Mo 9/17: 2nd night at Wynn Macau
Tu 9/18: Check in Crown Macau
We 9/19: Check in Venetian Macao
Th 9/20: Ferry to HK, check in to HK hotel (TBD)
Fr 9/21: Flight from HK
Fr 9/21: Arrive LAX
Fr 9/21: Kiss the wife, pet the dog, collapse.

All i've got left now is to reserve two nights in Hong Kong and begin making preparations for the actual trip itself. Ten days and counting! Woo hoo!

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