Las Vegas is an exciting city, but it can be intimidating for first-timers. These tips will help tourists get the most out of their first trip to Sin City.
Visiting Las Vegas is like living in a big cartoon; everything is bigger, more overblown, and more artificial than the world that most of us inhabit. It is also fantastic, a place where you can have breakfast in a replica of an Egyptian pyramid, lunch in a replica of the Eiffel Tower, and dinner in a replica of New York City.
Las Vegas offers something for everyone, and a trip to Sin City is what you make it. The city’s foundation is built on gambling but that doesn’t mean that you need to bet the family farm to have a good time there. Fine dining, golf, spa retreats, conventions, poolside entertainment, and great nightlife are all excellent reasons to enjoy this oasis in the desert.
The City of Las Vegas reports that more than 36 million people visited the city. It is a fast-paced, busy place that can be intimidating for first-timers.
With this in mind, here are six tips for first-time visitors to Las Vegas:
Research your Las Vegas hotel choices, then choose wisely
The New York Times reported in the article, “In Las Vegas, Too Many Hotels Are Never Enough”, that Las Vegas has more than 151,000 rooms. This means a remarkable amount of choice for tourists, and rates have been extremely competitive. Sales on room rates, even for many of the city’s top resorts, are frequent.
Research Las Vegas hotels by going to their websites, comparing rates and locations, and signing up for their e-mail specials and social media promotions. Once you see a deal that you like, check out the hotel on a site such as TripAdvisor and read user reviews. Generally speaking, all of the big properties on the Strip offer excellent accommodations, and if you decide to visit during an off-peak time you can usually find some very affordable offers.
Some Vegas veterans prefer to find a hotel when they land, bargaining with hotels to get the best rate. Others have a property they go back to all the time, while others enjoy comparing rates online and choosing the best deal well ahead of time. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you research the property you are considering ahead of time as they all offer different benefits (and drawbacks); do be careful of the bargain basement $29.95 properties as they tend to be cheap for good reason.
When gambling, set a budget – and stick to it
If you are not a seasoned gambler, it pays to set a budget before you start gambling. For example, you might set aside $250 a day for gambling, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you win, great – keep going or put the winnings in your pocket.
If the opposite is true, and you lose your $250, avoid the temptation to go back to the ATM and pull more money out. Consider your $250 entertainment money and let it go. This practice will allow you to have fun while avoiding the negativity that goes along with losing more than you can afford; even worse is having to explain huge losses to your significant other!
Remember that every game you play in a casino is weighted in the casino’s favor; expect to lose, and if you win, consider it a bonus. Your odds of winning are increased in off-Strip casinos, but most visitors usually choose to play at the megaresorts on the Strip, and as such are fighting against the toughest odds in town. Even so, gambling in a big Vegas casino is fun and the energy is electric – just make sure you know what you are doing with your money management.
Join player programs for free offers
All of the big properties in Las Vegas have a players club that offers rewards for play as well as introductory offers for signing up. In the past, most casinos had their own programs, but in the last decade, many of the resorts have partnered to offer programs that work at a number of different affiliated properties.
For example, the MGM Mirage Players Club card can be used at MGM Grand and eight other Vegas resorts and casinos: Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island, New York-New York, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, and Monte Carlo. The card can be used to “earn valuable rewards based on slot and table games play, such as cash, complimentary rooms and show tickets, and invitations to exciting promotions and special events” (information from mgmgrand.com). Most other Vegas properties offer similar programs.
Enter the player programs wherever you play, as most Las Vegas casinos make it worth your while.
Budget accordingly for meals and entertainment
The days of the $2.99 steak on the Strip are over. You can still get very affordable meals off-Strip, but the megaresorts are not a cheap place to eat; bargain pricing has been replaced by celebrity chefs and expensive eateries, so plan accordingly.
Unless you can afford to eat an expensive meal at every sitting, plan to splurge only occasionally while eating frugally the rest of the time. Take advantage of buffet offers and lunch specials at casual dining spots, and choose spots that offer a good bang for the buck, such as Carnegie’s Delicatessen at The Mirage. Carnegie’s offers outstanding sandwiches that will keep you fed for hours – they’re likely the biggest sandwiches you’ve ever seen. A single sandwich is easily big enough for two, so be forewarned if you do decide to give it a try.
Las Vegas shows are also something to budget for. The fantastic Cirque de Soleil show “Love” at The Mirage charges from $93.50 to $150.00 per ticket; this price range is the norm for big Vegas shows. Most resorts offer packages that include room and show tickets, providing good value, so this may be an option for you to help take the sting out of inflated ticket prices.
If you aren’t focused on big Las Vegas spectacles but do want to see some excellent entertainment, consider smaller shows such as the excellent Mac King Comedy Magic Show at Harrah’s. Mac’s show is consistently rated as one of the top magic shows in Vegas and tickets cost a fraction of the bigger shows.
In addition to magic and production shows, a great deal of the Vegas entertainment experience takes place in the nightclubs. From Pure at Caesar’s Palace to Ghostbar at the Palms, Vegas clubs are places to see and be seen. Prepare for an expensive night out if you plan to go clubbing.
Don’t be afraid to ask for upgrades – Las Vegas hotels provide them all the time
When checking in to your hotel, don’t be afraid to ask for an upgraded room. Unless they are sold out, many Vegas megaresorts will try to accommodate you if you handle the check-in procedure properly. Be polite, smile, and don’t be afraid to offer the front desk representative a healthy tip (minimum $20). When you hand over your identification and credit card, also include your tip for the clerk and ask them for the upgrade then. Tipping hotel employees is a regular practice, and in many cases, it will result in a much nicer room for a fraction of the cost.
Take a trip off-Strip
Hoover Dam is a massive achievement of engineering and is an easy day tour from Las Vegas. The Grand Canyon is also within reach, as is Red Rock Canyon and some of the most amazing, unique terrain in the country. Nevada offers a world of opportunities for those willing to go off-Strip, so don’t be afraid to leave the comfort zone of the megaresorts and try something different.