When my husband, Don, agreed to speak at the Staff Development for Educators (SDE) 2016 National Conference held at the Venetian in Las Vegas, I strolled into my closet and pulled out suitcases for me and the kids. “We’re coming with you,” I told him.
As a speaker, Don was told by an SDE event planner we would receive two of our three-night reservations, complimentary.
Upon entering the room I expected to see two double beds, a fridge and microwave. Nope. What I got was an eye of wonder. A luxurious suite, with Egyptian linens, separate living and dining area, a marble bath accented with gold fixtures, a fireplace, whirlpool tub and a fully stocked refrigerator with drinks and boxed snacks. I only learned after my daughter, Donae, drank a $6 bottle of FUJI water that there’s a weighted sensor on those items and once you pick them up, your credit card is automatically billed.
“Soooo, this isn’t complimentary,” I inquired. I took my tail straight to the local Walmart after that.
The entire hotel is stunning and apparently a magnet for celebrity guests. LeBron James was staying there while we stayed there. A constant conversation atop the pool deck was who had seen him walking through the casino and, of them, who had been lucky enough to score a selfie. I wasn’t one of either.
We were basking in the life of being high rollers, that is until the front desk called. We presume there was a miscommunication between the Venetian and SDE event planners. Our third night was never booked in their system. We were told they were completely full and asked to kindly vacate the room.
Yep, we were homeless in Vegas, for about four hours.
Our saving grace was being timeshare owners. After explaining our desperate situation to the Holiday Inn Vacation Club they were able to accommodate us with a room using vacation points at the Jockey Club Resort through RCI, which is a resort exchange company. It was only a mile from the Venetian and also located on the Vegas strip. A downgrade in décor but top-notch service.
Guests of the Jockey Club get to access some of the amenities of the adjoined Cosmopolitan. Their lobby is incredible. The varying contrasts of metallic silver and glass with columns of moving photo graphics makes you feel like you’re on the set of a science fiction movie. We spent the entire morning on their swanky 14th floor rooftop pool deck. A large portion of the pool is just one foot deep. Sunbathers stay cool in their sophisticated submerged lawn chairs. With a bar and grill on opposite ends of the pool, we could've easily stayed all day. It was like a beach party in the sky without sand. My kids loved the music pumping their latest pop chart hits.
Before we arrived they had just eaten a Burger King breakfast and still had their beverages in hand. The Cosmo staff didn’t give us a spiel about bringing in outside food or beverages. They discretely requested we transfer our drinks into their glasses and discarded the evidence of not having purchased theirs.
Tastefully done Cosmopolitan. Way to keep the clientele happy, especially the ones who don’t know the lay of the land.
We left the Jockey Club grateful for an experience we wouldn’t have had had we stayed at the Venetian. Then, we went home. Not Chicago, but our vacation club home at the Holiday Inn where we’re owners. Our reservation with them was always for the weekend. When they learned of our homeless mishap they upgraded our villa siting. “Maybe this will help you forget the trauma of being uprooted.”
Sure did help. It was a newly renovated villa with all of the luxuries of being in a full residence. Yet, we didn’t spend much time in the unit. We explored the Vegas shows, shopping and dining. Don and I were also celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. We spared no expense to indulge in having a great time. If only I’d read our return flight reservation properly, perhaps then we would’ve remained in our happy place.
“You’ve missed your flight. The next one out is Monday at 5:45 p.m.,” said Susan, a Southwest Airline attendant.”
“Oh my God. Oh my God…” I just kept repeating that over and over. It was 10 a.m. on Sunday and she was telling me we’d be there for another day and a half. An attendant named Faye stepped over, “We’re going to see what we can do.” There were obstacles on every side. Every flight to Chicago was sold out. Having a child with special needs can be difficult in an unpredictable environment. Once they learned that, they worked some kind of magic and got Rhonda-Rene and I confirmed on a Sunday flight at 5:45 p.m.
However, immediately after two standby seats opened up for an 11:30 a.m. flight. It was 11:07 a.m., not enough time to change our tickets, get us through security and to the gate before departure. But, Don and Donae didn’t have confirmed tickets so they were able to make that flight. Faye, whose shift was ending, was on her way to church. She stayed to help expedite Don and Donae through security and to their gate. They only had 23 minutes. They made it.
Southwest Airlines has a policy. You can’t check luggage more than four hours prior to your flight. At that moment, Rhonda-Rene and I had seven hours to go. To accommodate me, they checked my bags on an earlier standby flight so I didn’t have to haul them around while tending to Rhonda-Rene. Luckily, she and I made it as standby passengers on that flight as well. Typically, standby passengers board last.
However, we were allowed to board first because of her disability. I hugged those Southwest attendants before I left. I was so grateful.
Our entire Vegas experience taught me to be more sensitive about meeting the needs of others. The seeds we plant are what will grow. If you want to be accommodated, look for ways to accommodate.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.