Instagram Posts: Doing More With Less

Have you ever looked at someone’s Instagram post and thought to yourself “I wonder how much money they spent to make this post?” I find myself thinking this a lot lately as I see so many people have new merchandise, insane decorations, brand new shopping bags, or go to these crazy beautiful locations on a vacation. I follow a number of people who always seem to have that newest thing or that best location on their page and I wonder what they are working on outside of Instagram to make it happen.

Then there’s lil ol’ me.

I don’t really have the newest things, I tend to be an outfit repeater, I don’t go on many vacations, and I feel as if I might be doing my page a disservice because I can’t offer those cool experiences and things to my followers. It just so happens that I can’t pay for all of that to bring my posts to the next level! I have so many things in my life that I want to do like buy a house and have a nice wedding, so if that means I can’t spend $40 to make one single photoshoot look really cool for that one day, then it’s because my priorities lie elsewhere!

Christmas at Disneyland Paris
– edited with Lightroom, Photoshop, and PicsArt

For example, during the Christmas season, I would have loved to buy all the cute seasonal merch and get a nice tree to decorate, but damn, trees cost a grip! Seasonal merch costs a grip! And I am just not the type of person to want to spend that money on things that won’t be relevant anymore after a month has gone by. Which is why I am finding that it is so much cheaper for me to just edit my posts to look like I had all of those really nice things! Take my Disneyland Paris inspired post for example. This was a picture I took back in summer at a hotel in San Diego where there was literally nothing else to the picture except me looking out a window with my book. But I was inspired by someone else’s post to turn into a Christmas wonderland. This edit got me more eyes to my page than any of my other Christmas posts that year!

There is no doubt in my mind that there is an attractive element to “new”, and I can’t blame my followers for seeking that out in other creator’s content. So I wanted to get savvy with how I offer that with my posts. How can I make it seem like I have these things without actually have them?

Well the biggest tool in my belt – a subscription to Adobe.

Um… didn’t you JUST say that you can’t pay for things to make a nice post??

Yes. I can’t pay for things for ONE single post. That’s literally the biggest waste of money for any content creating that I do. Can you imagine the bill behind spending $20-40 for every possible post to put props, merchandise, or decorations in it? Even some awesome and trending Disney merch can get to be upwards of $75 per item! (I’m looking at you, Spirit Jerseys…) Instead I pay for one subscription to Adobe to get ALL of their apps for a total of $53 a month to give my posts that extra razzle dazzle that my followers and I crave! I use Lightroom to edit the photos to the lighting and color that I want; I use Photoshop to add in cool things to my photos that I either don’t own or just to give my photos a fun edit; I use Illustrator to make any graphics that I want to put on to my pictures; and lastly I use Premiere Pro to make amazing videos that my followers love! I’m sure this goes without saying that I can’t just edit myself a new Spirit Jersey, but these apps do me enough good for background décor or general aesthetic that I can still get the same effect of “new” that I know people love to see online.

27th Birthday post
– edited with Lightroom and PicsArt

For me posting around 15 posts a month, even if I just use one of those apps on every picture (which is guaranteed to happen because every picture I take goes through Lightroom at least), that means each post really only costs me around $3.50. But obviously if I use multiple apps for one picture, like I did for any one of my Tron Disney Bounds where I use both Lightroom and Photoshop, then that costs goes down.

This is not to say that I put “edited” things in my pictures every single time, but for a post like my birthday post where I want a lot of decorations, then yea it calls for some editing magic! And I sure as heck am not about to spend $30 on décor and balloons for a one-time picture.

Onward Disney Bound
– edited with Lightroom, Illustrator, and PicsArt

Now if you are just starting out then let me give you an even bigger tip – you don’t even need a subscription to get started on adding some flare to your photos! You might even be shocked to learn that my birthday picture was edited in Lightroom for the lighting and color, but then after that I used a free app called PicsArt to add everything else in. No subscription required! And one of the first pictures I ever tried to edit into something insanely fun was my Onward Disney Bound where I used Lightroom, Illustrator to add the moons and unicorn, and lastly PicsArt to add the sky effect and the glow on the end of my wizard’s wand!

Since I have started making fun edits, even if it’s just to add a small accent of sparkle to my posts, I have seen an increase in my engagement and post-likes! I even love showing my followers a behind the scenes look for my before-and-afters of my work because it allows them to see just how crazy some of the things I create are! It also allows them to see just how easy it is for anyone to expand their imaginative powers and use these creative tools to make a post go from “Oh cool post” to “Oh wow did you see what Donna posted today?! INSANE!”

If you want to take your post game to the next level, I definitely suggest making sure that you have the proper tools to edit your photos. Instagram’s algorithm rewards hard work by showcasing your posts to more people, and further more, the more time your followers spend on your posts specifically, the more engagement you will see!

Radiator Springs
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
Wall-E Joll-E Christmas
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
Tron Legacy
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop
Nightmare Before Christmas
– edited with Lightroom and Photoshop

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Everyone Wants to Be an Influencer But No One Wants to Work for Free

Lately I have been reading some new material to try to better myself as a content creator. With over fifteen thousand followers on Instagram, most people would usually say I have reached micro-influencer success and that “you have it all figured out so why learn something new?” Well the simple answer being, just because my follower count says one thing, does not say anything about me as a creator, and so I have to go to influencer school on occasion. I have to track trends, find new spots to take pictures that aren’t cliché or overdone or always a tourist spot. I have to plan my feed and work through when I post what and on which platform. I toss out content that I work hard on because it doesn’t fit with my theme or I just can’t edit it right. I have to research and read up on my niche’s news so I can be the one to put a foot forward before others. I do a lot of work, and guess how much I get paid? Next to nothing.

One of my biggest accomplishments of 2020 was this sponsorship! I got paid a rate that I did not think possible.

Come off it, with that many followers you must get paid something. You probably just don’t think it’s a lot. Ok fine, let’s get in to it. In 2020, I made a total of around $700 as a content creator.

EXCUSE ME?!?

Absolutely. I am the biggest abuser of my time. I work myself very hard and I can’t pay myself anything. (No, this is not my full-time job, but I work hard so that it can maybe be a part-time job for me in the next year or so).

The reason I want to talk about this is because the influencer market is extremely saturated – everyone and their dog thinks they can be a content creator or influencer and the reality is that they can’t. Nowadays the word “influencer” is kind of a dirty word. The type of word that if you go into a job interview and they ask what you do for a living and you say “Oh I’m an influencer”, you might be met with an eye roll, a face scrunch of disapproval, or a very insincere “oh that’s nice..”. The fact is EVERYONE THINKS THEY ARE AN INFLUENCER which then makes the word itself into something that isn’t “a real job”. And what’s worse is that everyone who thinks that becoming an influencer is as easy as posting about what they had for breakfast that morning or a candid picture of them on a street corner, thinks that earning money as an influencer comes even easier than that.

Don’t get me wrong, some people truly have the intrepid spirit of successfully making it as an influencer, but others simply do not. Because what people do not understand is how long it takes to make this in to a full time job, and more importantly how much you will have to spend upfront to form a loyal following.

I spent three hours editing this picture. Did I get paid? No, because I just wanted to make something cool. You have to put in time for your non-sponsored content to keep your following engaged with your page!

Well how much does it cost to get a following? Honestly, there’s no number and it really could depend on the niche you want to work in. And to be clear I don’t mean that you ‘ll be spending money on actually buying your following (that’s cheating and it will mean you are a fake). You will end up spending money on answering these kinds of things: Do you need to buy the hottest look, a nice camera for pictures, go on the fanciest trip, wear the newest clothes, drive to that cool location, purchase the most popular new Disney collectible? Now whatever you have to tangibly buy to keep your audience excited to see something new from you, it will be nothing compared to your most valuable resource – your time. And trust me, you will spend a lot of your time trying to curate the best page for yourself.

For me, I don’t even have an account with every social media platform because it’s just me doing this and I can’t afford to spend all my time doing work for free, which is why I have another job. At this point in time, I am active on this blog, my Instagram, Facebook, and my Pinterest, but Instagram is where I focus on. Per day working on all of those aspects of what makes Donna Gail Blog a reality is probably around six hours a day, but if I have a big project I am working on like a video or one of my insane edits, then I could be looking around ten hours out of the day. This is not time just actively creating content, mind you. It could be me learning something new, researching for a blog, engaging with my followers or with other pages on Instagram, or just brainstorming possible ideas for content. Thankfully I have had a lot of time on my hands with being furloughed and transitioning in to a new job role elsewhere, but for now this is what I have and this is what I am trying to make better for myself.

So let that sink in for a second. In one whole year, I made $700 creating sponsored content – just sponsored content. Not even the stuff I post on the regular. Around six hours a day with maybe one or two days off a week to do very minimal work and relax for $700 in the entire year.

This is what I and many other trying influencers are doing every single day to make this in to a livable wage for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people grow quickly and make those bank rolls and kudos for them for finding that right secret sauce to cause massive success!! But the majority of people that will try will not be so successful. And that’s not because I think the worst of their content, it’s because I know realistically a lot of people don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they say that influencing is not a real job and that any one can do it.

So before you jump in to this job role, you will need to understand that:

  • A paycheck is not guaranteed. You will be working for free far more than you will be working for that pay day.
  • You get out what you put in to it, and what you put in to it in the beginning (and quite possibly for a few years) will most likely be a lot of time and money to curate your content.
  • People will grow faster than you and it’s going to sting. I haven’t figured everything out, but sometimes it can feel as though others figure it out from the get-go and land all the deals I wish I could have had! It’s just how this job goes.
  • You are not entitled to free stuff or paid campaigns because you have X amount of followers. Work hard to make connections and good content and the sponsorships will come eventually.

Please take this entire blog with a grain of salt because it is not my intention to scare any prospects away from coming in to the world of influencing or content creating. Instead accept this challenge, understand the obstacles that you may have to overcome, and make this job role your own. By having an insight like this, my hope is that you will be better prepared for what you may encounter and hopefully you can have a leg up in making sure that you aren’t getting discouraged when things aren’t working as quickly as you may have thought they would.

And my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to become an influencer or content creator is to always keep pushing yourself. Keep learning something new, keep trying your very hardest, and always believe in yourself! I know that sounds extremely cheesy, but if you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to?


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A 5 Step Guide for Becoming a Content Creator or Influencer

The term “influencer” seems to always be met with a roll of the eyes, but the fact is, influencing is an actual job! Now more than ever, people are learning what influencers are, what they do to earn money, and just how much work and effort they put into what they post. But I think there is a difference between content creators and influencers, whether or not other people think so haha.

Although, they both hold relatively the same job basics, I personally believe that “influencers” are people who, more often than not, post-and-run. What I mean by that is that they write a simple one-line caption for a picture that they took in a rather neutral setting, and post a link to their outfit on LikeToKnow.It or have a call to action to click the link in their bio. Overall, from the outside, it doesn’t look like they really “work” on their content, but they still hold a high influence over others enough to make sales on their commissionable links, have great engagement on their social media platforms, and work regularly with companies with sponsored content.

But “content creators” are literally just that – they create content! I believe that content creators spend lots of time on what they post, make beautiful edits of their pictures that are fun and creative, continuously write helpful or insightful blogs or captions, and frequently engage with their followers through comments and DMs. Even though, it might be clear to you based on who you follow who is an influencer and who is a content creator, both jobs are very sought after!

Many people believe that influencers and content creators have a cushy lifestyle and make tons of money doing nothing. As a content creator myself, I can guarantee that is not the case (well at least for me it’s not!). But I am always striving to do more, work with other companies, and turn this side hustle of mine into something that makes me viable money for my future.

And if you are curious about starting your own journey into content creating or influencing, keep reading for five easy tips!

1} Take good quality pictures

I cannot stress this enough – good pictures are EVERYTHING! That being said, do not take your pictures or edit your pictures on Instagram. Don’t use the camera on Instragram and don’t use the editing options there either. Most every content creator/influencer uses Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos. This is the app that allows them to use editing presets that other people sell – you’re probably seen it before. But if you become acquainted enough with this app, then you won’t need to pay for presets because you will know how to edit them yourself – but sometimes they can be fun to use!

By having great pictures, it entices people to want to see more! Lots of people say that your feed needs to have a certain theme in terms of the editing technique that you use (ie, that you use the same way of editing for every single picture so your feed all looks the same). But that’s not necessarily a “need” for me and my content, or for the content that makes me want to follow someone else. I would say, just edit how you want to edit and the people will follow!

2} Build a following

This is a tough one nowadays, but it’s doable. Along with posting great pictures, you need to make sure your captions contain keywords (words that describe the picture, what you’re doing, what you’re wearing, or a conversation starter) and hashtags. This will be how people on the app find your content. Follow up your caption by asking questions because you will want people to comment! That starts the conversation and allows you to comment back and get to know your followers – and better yet, for them to get to know you!

Use Instagram Stories frequently for your followers to see you in action in your normal day-to-day or to take them on fun journeys during your vacations! Make sure to use engaging functions on your stories like Polls, Quizzes, Questions, etc.

3} Download an influencer app

I have downloaded and uninstalled a few of these kinds of apps. Some of them I even passed up just because there was an overwhelming amount of reviews that said the payouts were minimal, their app support was lacking, or that they weren’t paid at all! Either way, I can at least help a little bit to put you in the right direction.

Collabor8 – This was a nice app for a while. You can do one campaign at any given time for free, but as soon as I got an email that a company (they didn’t tell me who) wanted to work with me but that I had already gotten accepted for one already, I had to upgrade to a $4.99 monthly subscription to see it. Only to find out that the company that wanted to work with me is one that I didn’t want to work with. Lots of companies on this app also want you to work for free or cheap. I got accepted for a few campaigns through this app, probably made a total of $40, and got about 3 free items. It’s a great app if you’re just looking to get a foot in the door in places, but overall I would not recommend it. There’s lots of companies on there, but a lot of them were spam, scam (seriously, check their social media legitimacy first), or companies that I didn’t want to work with (like maternity or baby stuff).

Tribe – I downloaded this app maybe a month ago and already I can tell you, it’s a waste of time. This app is different in that it wants you to submit content upfront. What does that mean? Well they put up a very small amount of campaigns on this app and IF you happen to have the item from that company, then you would create content for them. Mind you, you haven’t been accepted yet! After you make your picture perfect to what you think they will like and once you set your posting rate, then you submit your content proposal to the company. Now here’s the kicker – IF this company decides that they like your content, THEN and ONLY then will you get accepted in to their campaign. Once you are accepted, then you will be given instructions on when to post and the payment you will receive. All I’m saying is that it seems like a big waste of my time to make content that might not even be accepted by the company.

Heartbeat – Now this is the app that I use most often for frequent campaigns. I will say this now though – their payouts are VERY minimal. They say your rate is based on your engagement and reach, but I have worked long enough in this business to know that my normal pay rate is about 4 times more than what Heartbeat pays me per campaign. But since I am relatively new to the game and because I am not getting many companies knocking on my door to work with me, I will take whatever side cash I can get. I also really like them because they are constantly posting new campaigns. Use my referral code and you will get $5: http://hrbt.io/join/1128865.

4} Get started on Reward Style and start posting on LikeToKnow.It

Next step – getting commission from items you post about! Reward Style is probably the most popular commission-based influencer program. They make it super easy to convert regular website links into your personal commissionable link. Also what’s great about this program is that you don’t have to own the item to post your commissionable link!

Reward Style is also hooked up to the app called LikeToKnow.It. You might be familiar with it already with some of your favorite content creators or influencers putting something in their Instagram caption like “Shop my style on LikeToKnow.It: www.(whatever-their-link-is).com. LikeToKnow.It is pretty much an app that influencers (and ONLY the influencers that get accepted into the Reward Style program) can post on. That’s right, that means that for anyone else, it’s just an app to look at what popular influencers and content creators are posting. Their posts are pictures of their style with linked, pictured products that consumers can easily click on and buy. It’s a one -stop shop to browse and shop your favorite influencer’s style.

The commission for Reward Style links depends on which retailer you are posting about – I’ve seen rates anywhere between 5-20% for what I normally post about. Each retailer has a different commission rate and obviously the higher the commission rate, the more enticing it will be for you to post about. But obviously don’t go posting about Chanel bags if that’s not what your style is – it will look super unauthentic to your personal brand.

But here’s the big catch! This program is getting to be so big now that the only way to apply to the Reward Style program now is to be referred by someone who is already in it! Dun dun dun… Lucky for you, I can help with that! If you would like to get started getting paid a commission for the links that you are already posting, email me at d.g.faaborg@gmail.com with the subject heading “Reward Style Referral” and tell me your legal name as it will show on your tax forms (they will need this information for me to refer you and for them to also send you a tax form at the end of the year). I will send you an email back once I have put the referral in and shortly after that you should receive a form to fill out!

However, not everyone will be accepted – they are looking for people who post good content, have an engaged following, and who post regularly with original content! There is absolutely NO FOLLOWER MINIMUM! That’s right you DO NOT need to have a certain number of followers to be accepted. I have seen people get accepted for as low as 1,400 followers. All I’m saying is, don’t think you don’t have a big enough following to try to get accepted into this program!

If you do get accepted, email me or DM me! I would love to follow you on LikeToKnow.It to help to build your following up!

5} Email companies that you want to work with!

Last but not least, put yourself out there and email companies that you want to work with and let them know “hey I want to work with you!”. But maybe say it in a much more professional manner haha. I am still trying to get my foot in the door with companies and let me tell you, I have been told “no” or haven’t even received an email back PLENTY of times. But because I feel confident in my page with the great pictures I take, my loyal followership, and the fact that I can go to them and be like “here is what I have done for this company” or “here’s a list of companies that I have worked with in the past”, I put myself out there!

I usually cater all my emails to the company itself, I talk about why we would be a good fit together, and maybe sprinkle in what I love specifically about their products (maybe I even already own something from them that I can send pictures of me wearing or using). I also send along my Media Kit which shows who I am, a brief description of my blog and what I post about on social media, the demographics of my followers, a few key companies that I have worked with in the past, and a photo gallery. This is pretty much the influencer’s version of a resume but made a little more colorful and fun than a regular resume.

It’s also important to make it known that you wish to be paid for your work. Don’t say “Let me know how much you want to pay me, thanks”. But simply state, that if they would like to work with you then you would love to discuss the type of collaboration payment available for posting on your different social media accounts. Sometimes they will respond saying that they will send you something for free (i.e. you will only receive payment in the form of free merchandise), and sometimes they will respond saying that they would like to hear what you offer for certain social media platforms.

Want more information about this tricky subject, read this blog: How to Pitch Yourself as an Influencer to Brands

These steps aren’t hard but they aren’t easy either! They all take constant attention and require you to work hard without seeing a lot of pay in the beginning. Be aware that this will start as a way to get your name out there and more so it will be a side hustle. Don’t expect to make this your full time job for quite some time. But believe in yourself and keep moving forward because it is achievable! You got this!

If you want a referral for the app, Heartbeat, click here. And if you want a referral for Reward Style, email me at d.g.faaborg@gmail.com with the subject heading “Reward Style Referral”, or use the contact form below!


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The Secret to Earning SwagBucks Quickly

SwagBucks is an online platform where you can earn “SB” (or in other words…. SwagBucks) to redeem for gift cards or a cash out to your PayPal account! Since I have had a lot of free time on my hands during quarantine, I thought I would take the opportunity to foster my SB account to start earning a little more side cash. Emphasis on “side” cash.

SwagBucks is not in any way a true, viable source for income. Depending on what activities I do to earn SB, I can make maybe $3-$20 a day. It’s not a lot but I’m not using it as a way to pay for anything huge. In fact, I’m actually using it as a way to make a little more money for my first trip to Walt Disney World next year! Any money I make on it is essentially just a little savings account to use as spending money for Disney. And since I started a year in advance, I have plenty of time to rack up some money before I head over there! Over the lifetime of me using SwagBucks at this point in time, I have earned around $280!

SwagBucks Survey List

You can earn SB in a number of ways. The biggest being by taking surveys, listed under the “Answer” tab on the left hand side! You won’t qualify for every single one, and most of them average 25-75 SB (which comes out to 25 cents and 75 cents respectively). But sometimes you will hit a JACKPOT with a survey that you qualify for and make 1,000 to 4,500 SB (which is $10-45)! I have been qualified for a few of these surveys that required me to do some more in-depth online discussions for the group over a span of three weeks and was able to earn $40 from doing it! They had simply asked me to check in once a week for three weeks to share my opinions on their ad campaigns. The exercises maybe took 15-20 minutes each time I logged in, but the reward was worth it in the end! Now those surveys are hard to find and sometimes even harder to get in to, but they do exist. Don’t bank on them though. Most of the SwagBucks that you will earn from surveys will come from doing the ones that don’t offer a ton of points and don’t take a lot of time.

Example of SwagButton in action on the Shop Disney website

Another way to earn is by adding the SwagButton to your home browser. What this does is that any time you come to an online store that is affiliated with SwagBucks, a banner will pop up in the top right corner and ask if you want to activate a cash back offer. The cash back comes in the form of SB! With all the online shopping I have been doing over the last year, this seemed like a very easy way to rack up the points because I was buying stuff from these stores that I was already going to purchase or needed. Using the SwagButton was just an added bonus of making the purchase. And another little perk of it is that the Button will act as a coupon locator! Once you go to the checkout page, it will search the site itself or other sites to find the best coupon for you and apply it to your cart! The Button will then read “Apply [X number it finds] Coupons” – click that and it will run through all of them quickly to find you the best one to apply to your cart! I love this function because 1) it takes out the work of finding a coupon, and 2) it takes out the hassle of going through expired coupons that I find on the internet myself. It’s literally a one-stop-shop kind of Button!

SwagBucks Discover Page with lots of offers!

Third, I have been finding VERY good luck with the SB Discover page. Here they have offers from brands, apps, and stores that can help you gain a little more traction in earning SB. Specifically I have been taking advantage of the app offers because a lot of them offer INSANELY HIGH SB opportunities for downloading and playing a free app. In fact, this is how I found the myVEGAS apps that allowed me to save around $200 on my trip to Las Vegas over the summer! I think with apps alone, I have gained at least $65 in SwagBucks. By playing a free app. Ridiculous! It’s always one download per user and you have to be a first time user of the app to be eligible for the reward. But you will also want to check the Terms of the SB because sometimes it says you have to reach a certain level in the game within a certain time period, and some of those time periods make it impossible to play the game without spending something in their game’s store to give you that boost you need to reach that level in time. If that’s the case, just try your best to complete the level and if you can’t do it in the time allotted, just delete the app and cut your losses! I’ve done this a number of times and I regret nothing because I got to play a fun app and kept myself entertained. But there should be no reason for you to pay into these apps because this is not the point of SwagBucks! You’re there to earn, not to spend money on an app!

SwagBucks Watch Page – watch the uninterrupted loops in the top row!

Lastly, and this one is the least amount earned but it keeps you earning during times that you can’t earn (like when you’re asleep or at work), and that is SB Watch. I pick one of the options from the top row (this is important because these are the ones that play on an uninterrupted loop), and just let it run. However, I do NOT suggest doing this if you are working on your computer because every time it switches between “activities”, then it will pop the page back up in front of your face. So definitely only use this option as a “pull up and leave alone” kind of option otherwise you will be consistently interrupted every 10 seconds. I also highly recommend doing this on a desktop computer and not on your phone or through the SD Watch app. If you do it through your phone, it overheats after a while and if you do it through the app, it doesn’t really play on repeat as easily.

Do you want one last bonus way to earn SwagBucks quickly? Give yourself a head start on earning by signing up with my referral code! Click here! Once you do, you’ll receive an EXTRA 300 SB after you earn 300 SB within the first 30 days of signing up. No time to waste – get to earning now!


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The Perfect 4-Day Itinerary for Las Vegas

Well it’s only been a few months since my trip, but I am now getting around to writing this blog! With Cody and I living in San Diego, a trip to Vegas is close enough for us to drive to but also far enough away to feel like we are stepping out of our norm. Now I know some things look different now due to the ‘rona, but we still had a great time there and were able to do so many things while we were there. So let’s take a look! (If you want to watch the total adventure of this trip on my Instagram Story instead, click here!)

Seven Magic Mountains

We decided to drive there rather early in the morning, mostly because we both woke up around 3am and we couldn’t back to sleep so we just got up and left. Our first unofficial stop was the Seven Magic Mountains which is right outside of Vegas! Because this is such a tourist hotspot, I am glad we got there before the crowds. We arrived around 7am, took a few pictures, and then we kept on driving – there was one other group taking pictures at the same time as us.

We booked our stay with the Bellagio which is a MGM Grand Resort. Our room rate per night was around $140, but with each day we received a $75 food and beverage credit that we could use at any MGM Grand Resort on the Strip! I feel like I don’t have to tell you how insane of a deal that is. Online said check in wasn’t until 3pm, but we took a chance that it being kind of slow in Vegas with travel that we could check in early, and by 8:30am we were in our room!

Most of what we did during our stay was driven by the rewards we received by playing the various myVEGAS apps. If you want a full detailed blog about all of those apps and how it works, click here to read that blog! By playing the games on these apps, we were able to save a total of $200 on our trip!

That being said, once we got changed, we went out to redeem our first reward! To redeem your rewards from the app, you have to first stop by a M-Life Reward Desk (located in MOST MGM Grand Resorts) to pick up your membership card (don’t worry, it’s free) and then depending on the resort, you then have to redeem your rewards for that specific location at each desk in the resort. I think the only resort that didn’t have a desk was Vdara. So we stopped by the Aria to redeem our free cocktail from Aria and our free breakfast at Vdara! However, it being as early as it was, we did have to wait like 30 minutes before the bar opened, but in that time we were able to walk across the courtyard to Vdara and have our breakfast. It was a super easy process, we picked up our vouchers from the M-Like desk and took it to the little restaurant in Vdara and then back to the bar at Aria that we could redeem the reward from. The only downside, and it was kind of the running theme with redeeming all of our alcoholic rewards, was that you HAVE to buy some sort of food with it. But because a lot of places know that people just want alcohol, they have very small, cheap options to choose from – like fries, or a bag of nuts. So overall, that investment is like $3 but then you get your drink.

Conservatory and Botanical Garden at Bellagio

After that, we came back to the Bellagio to explore a little bit more! It was our first time at a fancy-schmancy hotel anyway. They have a beautiful indoor garden with some of the most incredible flower arrangements. It’s free to walk through, but it can get crowded from other visitors wanting to take a look. Most of our Day 1 was just walking around to the casinos closest to us like Caesar’s Palace, which neither of us was impressed with – they were kind of old style and dirty..

Exploring Caesar’s Palace

To begin our Day 2, we stopped by New York New York because, surprise surprise, we had a reward to redeem for a free beer. We bought a basket of fries for the both of us and then we were both able to grab a beer. Me being a responsible human being in Vegas, I realized that if I started my morning without food first then it wouldn’t be a pleasant day, so I decided to get a Starbucks breakfast sandwich beforehand. And because New York New York is a MGM Grand Resort, we were able to use part of our food and beverage credit at the Starbucks inside of the casino and they just charged it to our room at the Bellagio!

After downing our ginormous beers, we walked to Mandalay Bay, which I don’t recommend in the heat of Vegas. It looked closer than it was. But we were heading there to redeem our reward for the Shark Reef Aquarium they had! But unlucky for us, we didn’t know we had to make a reservation for a specific time slot. So we just made the reservation for the next day. Since we were already in that neck of the woods, we stopped by Luxor to redeem our free shot. I cannot take shots but hey it’s Vegas – so I sipped it out of a cocktail straw. On our walk back to the Bellagio, we just decided to casino hop our way there. I really recommend casino hopping just because it’s something to do and it’s fun to see the different themes of all of these hotels and casinos! Plus the rewards really helped motivate us to see them all.

Walkways to Pools at Bellagio
PRIME Steakhouse at Bellagio

After getting back to the Bellagio, we lounged by the pool for a little bit but we got over it really quickly because we had to wear a masks even if we were sitting down in a lounge chair away from everyone else. We just didn’t understand why it was ok to not wear a mask sitting at a restaurant but not while sitting outside. But if we were in the pool with everyone else, then it was ok to not wear a mask. It just didn’t make sense to us, so we soaked in a few rays, got way too hot with dealing with that, and then left. Our rest of the day was spent trying to get lucky on some slots because again I had a reward for $150 in free play on slots, but also Cody wanted to teach me how to play Craps! Later that night we used another reward at the Bellagio restaurant, PRIME Steakhouse, for two free glasses of champagne with a purchase of an appetizer. So we dressed up all fancy to get our appetizer and left – we saw the other prices on the menu and that was way more than we wanted to spend. The two free glasses of champagne alone were regularly priced at $54!! We did however get McDonald’s afterwards.

Poolside at the MGM Grand Lazy River

Day 3 – boy oh boy did Cody have a struggle getting up. You remember how I got food the morning of Day 2 because the day would be spent drinking? Yea well Coy decided that his 28 year old body could still party-hardy. And he suffered the consequences. But moving right along, we used a reward to get a free room at the MGM Grand because I wanted to experience their epic lazy river! Pre-COVID, if you stayed at the Bellagio, you could have free access to the MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay pools, and if you weren’t a guests at the Bellagio, you could still buy a guest day pass to use the pool. But since they wanted to limit the number of people entering and leaving their hotels and pools, it was only available to guests. So using that reward to get a free room allowed us to have a nice pool day and experience a new hotel! The other downside was that you couldn’t rent the inner-tubes they had – you had to buy them. So $20 later, I was living my best life and floating down the river. We stayed there for a few hours but we couldn’t stay long because I had purchased tickets for use to go the Minus 5 Ice Bar at the Venetian!

There are multiple locations in Vegas but I bought the tickets the week prior knowing that the Venetian was farther down the strip from what we would normally be doing and I wanted us to be able to see all the hotels. I did call in advance to make sure that they weren’t doing any maintenance for the day I purchased because the site made it clear that they would have days for sanitization and obviously I didn’t want to book for that day. So after the pool, we got dressed in our MGM Grand room and made our way over to the Venetian! Upon arriving, we found out that the Ice Bar was closed… You could say I was a little disappointed because I had called in advance for exactly this reason and the tickets said no refunds. But an hour later, I saw some employees in there setting up, told them the situation and how now we wouldn’t be able to go because we had our Mandalay Bay Shark Reef reservation that day and we were able to get a refund. If you decide to go, make sure you call.

Mandalay Bay Shark Reef

By that time, we had to make our way to Mandalay Bay Shark Reef for our reservation! We were both really excited for the aquarium, but in full honesty, do not pay for this experience. Regularly, tickets would have been $29 a person, but we walked through the whole thing in 20 minutes. This place is TINY. Do not expect a lot. It was cool seeing the shark room, and really there was only one room with sharks, but other than that we got to the end and we both looked at each other like “that was it..?” Knowing that now, I probably won’t spend my reward points to go again either.

The Top of the Paris Eiffel Tower Las Vegas

Later that day, we walked around the strip some more to do some more exploring, gambled a little bit here and there, but I told Cody that I really wanted to see the fountain show that takes place in front of the Bellagio. We saw it around dusk time and it would go off around every 15-30 minutes but there is a schedule online so you don’t have to guess when the next show is! After that we went and got dinner at the Tilted Kilt because they had a great happy hour deal, but as we were walking back, we saw the Paris Eiffel Tower all aglow so we decided to go check the casino out. Once we arrived, we saw that you could take an elevator up to the top of it and we were sold! I believe tickets were around $30 a person but the view from the top was gorgeous! My favorite part was that you can watch the fountain show from the top too! You can’t really hear the music but you can see the fountains from a different angle and you can see just how high the water gets!

Avengers STATION

Day 4 was our final day and they only thing we had planned was something that Cody found for us to do a few days before we left for the vacation – going to the Avengers STATION! Me being a Marvel nerd, I was all too quick to say yes to it! This amazing exhibit can be found at Treasure Island and honestly it was pretty freaking badass seeing all the props from the movie and getting to interact with the exhibit itself. We were one of three groups there but we never really saw the other two groups, I only heard them in the other rooms. The website that we bought the tickets from was holding a sale and we got a deal and we were both able to go for $60 (usually tickets are $41 per adult). Also we both got an exclusive pin from the exhibit for free when we checked in! I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this experience! It was a blast and my little Avengers heart was so full.

Overall, we got a lot done! Every group’s itinerary will be different, but we couldn’t have asked for a better schedule! If you plan on going to Vegas any time soon or even in the future, definitely check out my other blog to help you save some money and give you some motivation to try some new things! They are always adding new experiences and I can’t wait to rack up some more point and head back there ASAP!


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