What happens in Vegas, stay in Vegas, unless of course you’re travelling with me and then I’m going to tell EVERYBODY!
Las Vegas is where adults go to play. In 2014, 40.13 million of us travelled to Sin City, breaking all previous tourism records. A huge fan of the Hangover movies, Vegas has always been in the top five of my bucket list. I googled the heck out of Las Vegas – the best places to go, how to save money, where to stay, what to do, and where to avoid so you don’t end up being bundled into the boot of a car by some gangster drug dealer. But all the reading in the world, can’t really prepared you for the real thing. Here’s my top list of things I wish someone had told me before I travelled with the husband to the heart of the Nevada desert.
1 Avoid the weekends like the black plague
The best time to plan your visit is to coincide with the throngs of party animals leaving town on a Sunday night, and then hitting the road again before Friday evening.
Why? Because if you have hired a car and have decided to drive across the border, you’ll have less traffic to contend with. Weekend traffic can easily add another three hours to your journey. Who wants to spend seven hours in a car, driving on a deadly straight road with desert scenery? Perhaps ditch the car and fly.
Vegas also gets seedier in the weekends. From late Thursday afternoon there is a distinct change in the atmosphere. There are more people roaming The Strip, boozed up to their eyeballs, clutching their plastic yard glasses of alcohol dangling on a lanyard around their necks, staggering all over the footpath, half-cut. More screaming excitable girls who strut around wearing next to nothing and jabbering about how wasted they’re going to get. More scammers, more homeless people with signs saying ‘Why lie? I need weed’ and something I never expected to see – real live gangster hood rats. You can hear them coming before you see them, with their loud V8 engines and their doof doof music. They cruise the strip, their cars lowered, arms slung out windows and their faces concealed wearing hoodies and bandanas over their faces in gang colours. They could be completely lovely people, but it looks like any minute one of them will pull a weapon and boom – drive by shooting. They do exist. It was the first time during our stay, I felt out of my comfortable zone, perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed if only I’d been blind drunk.
2 Stay on The Strip
Vegas is big and when I say big I actually mean gi-flaming-normous. You can’t really comprehend the grand scale of everything unless you see it with your own eyes. No amount of Googling or youtube videos can prepare you for actually being there in the flesh. All the resorts are mind-blowing. To give you some sort of idea as to how big, we stayed in the Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace. To walk from our room, to get outside on to the strip took us exactly 15 minutes. On day one of our holiday in Las Vegas, we decided to explore the Strip, we barely made it out of the hotel and across to the Planet Hollywood‘s Miracle Mile, before we’d clocked up 10,000 steps on our pedometers.
3 Leave the heels at home
Tempting as it is to want to look like you have legs all the way up to your armpits through the use of wearing stripper type heels, leave them back at the hotel room. Your feet will thank you for it later. Opt for comfortable flats and if you absolutely have to wear heels, keep them in your handbag. You will clock up miles on your feet. Don’t count on getting cabs, they are expensive and you’ll spend most of your time sitting in traffic as the metre continues to tick over. Cabbies also try to fleece newbies in town by taking longer routes, so if you insist on using taxis, be sure to tell them you know exactly where you’re going and you’ve been to Vegas so many times you’ve lost count.
Leave your rental car at the resort as parking is hard to find, and while there are lots of people around, you don’t want to be loitering around car parks at night. It is quicker to walk or catch the Monorail.
4 Use the Monorail
One of Las Vegas best kept secrets has to be the Las Vegas Monorail which runs along the back of the resorts from MGM Grand up to the west end of the Strip. It will save you oodles on cab fares or trying to find car parks. Just $36(USD) will get you a four-day unlimited pass.
5 Book your show tickets in advance
No doubt you will have heard people tell you “Don’t book your show tickets at full price when you can get them really cheap on the day”. Do not listen to these people. They are obviously not fussy about what shows they want to see, nor where they want to sit or even sit with. The popular shows like Cirque are sold out well in advance, so if you are on a short staycation in Vegas or have a particular show in mind, then I can’t stress enough you need to book. Your hotel concierge can organise this for you when you arrive, but you may not get front row tickets. The early you book the better.
Also before you travel, check to make sure it’s not a blackout week or month. This simply means all shows are taking a break from their nightly performances. The times of the blackout dates can vary from just a weekend to a couple of months. The husband had his heart set on seeing Brittney Spears in concert, but of course she was having a break, along with quite a few of the major show headliners we’d hoped to see. We were lucky enough to get tickets to Cirque ‘O’, but it was a full house and the last show before a six week break.
6 Dress for all seasons
During summer time Las Vegas gets hot with the average temperature reaching around 41 degrees C. A little hot for a girl who hails from New Zealand, where it hits 21 and we rush for the beach. It’s shorts and sandals weather, until you get inside the casino where the aircon is pumping out an arctic-feeling 15 degrees, so even though it’s a scorcher of a day outside, be sure to take some extra layers when you head indoors to shop or have a few rounds of blackjack.
7 Bring an inhaler
Smoking is permitted in all casinos, quite a shock to the system when you are used to most public venues being smoke-free. If you’re an asthmatic, you may want to try and avoid the casino floors, the smell of cigars reeks to high heavens and there’s nothing pleasant about being stuck next to a smoker who is puffing in your general direction.
- You won’t ever win big
Surely you’ve seen the movies where the female puts a coin in the slot machine pulls the handle and all the bells and whistles start going bananas. Rest assured, this will not happen to you. Don’t expect to win big playing the slot machines. They are computer programmed to favour the casino. If you are going to win anything at all, try your luck at a table, plus if you’re placing a few bets, it’s a great way to get a few free drinks. Don’t forget to set a budget for gambling and stick to it.
Hidden resort fees
Before you book based on the hotel’s published prices be sure to read the fine print. Most hotels, and it’s very rare this days to find one that doesn’t in Las Vegas, charge a resort fee. This can vary from $20 to $32 dollars a night extra. It doesn’t matter if you promise not to swim in the pools, use the hotels facilities or keep your eyes closed when you walk through the lobby, you still have to pay the extra charges. Don’t forget you need to tip housekeeping and other hotel staff along the way.
10 Don’t be afraid to ask
If you really want a hotel room upgrade for free or tickets to a show that might be “sold out”, don’t be afraid to ask. Chances are you won’t get a flat out no if there’s rooms available especially if you tell them it’s your honeymoon or wedding anniversary and your first time in Vegas. It can help if you discreetly slip a $20, but be prepared to forfeit the money if there are no fancier rooms available.