Tips For Your First Trip To Vegas
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Age! You must be 21 to gamble in Las Vegas! If you’re 18-20 you can enjoy SOME of the clubs, but I’d recommend just waiting until you turn 21 to visit.
Airport! McCarran International Airport (LAS) is at the south end of the strip. To get to your hotel you can take a bus, taxi, Uber, Lyft, or even a private limo (which I suggest booking in advance if that’s your choice). Recently, Taxis were given a flat fee to charge when delivering people from the airport to their hotel, so they won’t price gouge you like they used to and specifically try to go the long way to get you to your hotel. The cheapest option is obviously going to be the bus, but it’s going to take the most time as well. I read somewhere that hotels are not allowed to run their own shuttles to the strip, so you won’t be able to just book a hotel with an airport shuttle for ease.
Arrival! If you're arriving in the morning you can still "check in" to your hotel even though your room will not yet be available. You can leave your bags with the hotel concierge and they will look after them for you until you can get them back and get into your room. This way you're not wasting precious Vegas time weighed down with luggage.
Avoid! Stay away from people on the Strip that are trying to make conversation, "Is it your first time in Vegas?" "How long are you in town for?" "Are you going to be here tonight?" They're usually trying to sell you a timeshare and that presentation will literally take over your day. You don't want to lose a day in Vegas, I mean, especially since your itinerary has potentially been planned out for you here.
Budget! Something every Vegas Veteran will tell you is to Budget, Budget, Budget! Allocate a certain amount of funds for each day and don’t go over it! For instance, on my last trip we were super cheap and allocated $250 per day: $100 to gamble & $150 for food AND shows. Some days we ate better and saw cheaper museums and shows, and at the beginning of the trip we ate cheaper and saw more expensive shows (and checked out the free stuff of course). Something that really helped us a lot on that trip, is we got tons of Groupons in advance so those activities, including museums, spas, and even food were already pre-paid for. If I schedule any advance trips again, I will definitely be repeating the Groupon route, however, I’m a spur-of -the-moment person and frequently like to decide to visit next week which makes advance purchases a little more complicated.
Cash! It’s kinda crazy to think about, but it’s a good idea to take all the cash you plan to need with you. Plan to gamble $200 per day? Take at the very least that much money with you plus about $20-50 per day for tips, depending on if you’ll be visiting spas, dining expensively or inexpensively, taking photos with Showgirls along the strip, taking cabs, etc. I’m told that the hotel where you are staying will cash a personal check, but sometimes there is a convenience fee so be careful. That being said, don’t “flash your cash”. Keep it separated by days and make sure you’re only pulling out as much as you need at any given time. The strip is super safe, which is awesome, but you’ve still gotta be smart. If you see a dark area with no other people, avoid it. Use your head. ATM convenience fees in the casinos are STEEP. Push come to shove, you can always head to CVS or Walgreens and push that cash back button. Sometimes they will have signs up that state “No Cash Back” which usually happens on weekends. Be prepared just in case!
Clubs! The vast majority of night clubs have promoters on the Strip and potentially at the pool parties. Happen to be in the right place at the right time and you could get VIP entrance or free tickets into some of the hottest clubs… especially if you’re female.
Drinks! While yes, it is Vegas and you can take your libations with you, you probably want to save the most money doing so. Consider getting your beverages from the local CVS or Walgreens to save money. And if you're looking to avoid steep cocktail fees, keep away from the casino bars. Those prices are sky high.
Food! Truth is, if you want to eat at one of the many celebrity chef’s eateries, your best bet is to make reservations. Nobody wants to waste precious Vegas time waiting in line. OpenTable is great for reservations so you can just click and show up on time! Check out the many buffets along the strip as well, especially for brunch which may or may not include alcohol. For an amazing buffet experience, check out the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace or the Buffet at the Wynn. Make sure you hand over your Players Club Card every time you eat at a casino/hotel restaurant so you get tier credits for your purchase! (Credits toward future stays, accommodations, and even attractions!)
Getting Around! I do not recommend renting a car unless you’re planning to drive on a day trip or not planning to stick to the Strip and Downtown. Each casino “block” is a lot farther away than it looks, so wear good walking shoes and expect to get in 2-5 miles per day depending on how motivated you are to see how much. Ubers and Lyfts are typically cheaper than Taxis, however, they have designated pick up points that are typically going to be the same areas as Taxis. There are a couple busses to choose from. I personally recommend the Deuce. If you’re going to be traveling from the Strip to Downtown, and even just traveling along the strip, the Deuce is $6 for 2 hours, $8 for a day or $20 for 3 days. How you get around is completely up to you. The monorail is another option of getting back and forth between a few of the casinos. Another bus option is the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off Vegas. I prefer to walk during the day, Uber to a show and take the Deuce to get downtown. Some people will not like walking so much, especially in the dry desert heat, so be prepared to drop some dough on some rides. There are a few free trams that attach a few hotels as well but they are a little tough to find for first timers. Find out more about these trams here.
Gambling! Not sure where to start? Start with the knowledge that you'll lose every dime you spend, then if you don't you'll have a nice surprise. Slots have a higher house edge, so you're destined to lose on them but that doesn't make them any less fun to play. Penny slots are not always what they seem. Check out how many lines and how many credits you are playing. You'd be surprised but I've actually spent over $5 in one spin on a penny machine. If you want to win that max payout, you'll have to be betting the max. If you're playing one of the millions of slots with extra games included, you'll have to at least be betting on all lines with one tier credit per line to be able to play the extra games. Like Goldfish, it's my favorite slots game. You can trigger an additional opportunity to win some cash at random, which only works if you're clicking the "+ feature" button before spinning. Fremont St. and off-the-Strip casinos are known to have more "loose" slots. Make sure you cash out your ticket voucher that you receive from the slots before you leave the casino, the tickets are different for each casino and you don't want to have to go back tomorrow to just to get your money. If you're not sure how to play table games, I recommend asking the staff at the Craps table to help you out. They'll tell you where to bid for the pass line and you won't be losing as much money. I still don't understand Craps, and Lord knows I've tried. Make sure to hand your Players Club Card to one of the employees at the table so you get credits while playing.
Hotels! Lots of people will tell you to save money by staying off the strip or in hostels. Do NOT listen to them!! You will spend the majority of your time on the strip, so why need to take a cab everywhere you go? Also, if you can’t sleep, you can always just go downstairs and gamble for a bit. A perk they don’t have at the Holiday Inn or other hotels off the strip. Be aware of high resort fees. In addition to the already high price per night, you will be required to pay a resort fee of $5-45 per night depending on the hotel in question. I keep reading there are resort fees as low as $5 but I’ve not come across any on the strip so far that were less than $25 per night. Resort fees are said to include gym access, Wi-Fi, and other amenities.
Hotel Discounts! Caesar's Rewards formerly known as Total Rewards by Harrah's offers discounts for the following: military, first responders, nurses, teachers, veterans, seniors (50+), government employees and students who verify their status through ID.me. Find a list of these discounts here.
ID! Make sure you have it on you! When I was 25 I was stopped while gambling by 2 security guards. They asked for my ID. I handed it over and one proceeded to get a machine that he brought back with him. They ran my ID through the machine to ensure it was real. (This was 14 years ago, so there's no telling what kind of technology they have now!) They both looked surprise when my ID came back as real but I wasn't LOL. Expect to have your ID checked again and again if you're under 30, hazard of the "job".
Keep An Eye On Your Beverages! This goes for girls and guys alike! I have a male friend who was drugged on his most recent Vegas vacation by a call girl that he couldn’t convinced wasn’t just a regular chick that was interested in him… Yeah, he became very dehydrated and had to have a doctor called to his hotel room to administer IV fluids. That’s a story for another time. Just remember to watch those drinks! Especially while you’re at a bar or the pool or anywhere you might sit it down to go dance or whatnot. Better yet, don’t sit it down. Better safe than sorry!
Kids! To bring the kids, or not to bring the kids, that is the question. There are actually tons of stuff for kids to do in Las Vegas, but there are even more things you can do without them. Remember, anyone under 21 isn’t allowed on the gaming floor, so if you were planning to gamble and let your kid play on their iPad for a bit, that’s not gonna happen. I’ve been with people that brough their kids, and I’ve been a lot more without kids. I love my nieces and nephews, but if I’m going to Vegas, they can wait til they turn 21 to go too. [JMO]
Objects Are NOT Closer Than They Appear! In fact, it’s just the opposite! Each “block” is the full distance of a hotel & casino, and sometimes a mall as well! Expect to do a lot of walking.
Packing! For your everyday “daytime wear” you will want to pack a basic top and jeans or shorts, depending on if you’re traveling in December or July. I prefer t-shirts and leggings, but I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you want to be fashionable, you can always wear a nice top with shorts or jeans (or skirts for ladies) with walking shoes; you will be doing a ridiculous amount of walking, so make sure you’re not one of those lovely ladies walking barefoot down the strip holding your shoes in their hand... We see them every day. Don’t be her. If you will be spending any time by the pool, don’t forget the sunscreen, a hat if you’re into that, and sunglasses along with your swimwear and a cover up. You do not want to break casino rules and walk through the casino in your swimsuit. Not only will you see the staff sneering, you’ll feel a little uncomfortable as well. If you plan to go to clubs then appropriate club-wear is a must. Make sure you have backs to your shoes because a lot of clubs have rules against backless sandals. (Be slick and put some flip flops in your bag so you can flip flop it back to the hotel after the club. After a long night of dancing, you’ll want out of those heels at the first chance you get.) Don’t forget some Downy Wrinkle Releaser so you won’t have to iron! One of my personal favorite packing hacks is to wear the bulkiest items on the plane. If you’re taking knee-high boots with you, save space in your luggage and wear them on day one. Do the same with sweatshirts, coats, etc. Don’t forget a sweatshirt or jacket since the desert does get cool at night. A random packing hack I use is that I make sure I leave room in my suitcase on my initial trip, because I know I’m going to be buying souvenirs and will need room in my suitcase for them on the return trip!
Players Clubs! If you plan on gambling at all in Las Vegas, check out the Players Clubs at the casinos you plan to gamble at the most. You can even get free play with some cards upon signing up. Most especially, make sure you get a Caesar’s and MGM Players Club Card. There are several of these casinos and these points are helpful in getting future rooms, $ off rides and other adventures, and even priority seating at certain buffets or hotel restaurants.
Pool Parties! Daytime pool-side parties are huge in Vegas. Picture an outdoor club with the famous DJs, hot girls, don’t forget the tons of men, and alcohol flows freely… but with skimpy or little to no clothing. The Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay, Drai’s Beach Club at The Cromwell, & Encore Beach Club at The Wynn are just a few of many huge Pool Parties just eager for more bodies!
Renting a car! Unless you are planning a daytrip in which you are expecting to drive for the day, don’t rent a car. It’s just a waste of money. You can walk everywhere on the strip and after taking a bus or Uber downtown, you can walk everywhere you need to get there as well. Save some dough with Pat & Charlie.
Resort Fees! Plan to pay resort fees, which are a nice way of saying "WiFi and gym access" depending on which hotel you're staying in. These fees are anywhere from $25 a night to $60 a night from what I've heard, I paid $45.30 per night at Bally's on my last trip as a resort fee in addition to regular nightly fees. If you plan to stay on the Strip, plan on paying a resort fee.
Show Tickets! Get tickets in advance at Vegas.com or Viator.com if you’re a pre-planner. Get discount tickets the day of at Tix4Vegas locations peppered throughout the Strip. DO NOT buy show tickets from solicitors on the Strip. They’re bound to be fake and if they’re not, it’s not as good a discount as it seems.
Stay Hydrated! Dry desert sunshine along with alcohol make it easy to become dehydrated. Consider asking the cocktail waitress for a bottle of water while you’re gambling instead of another alcoholic beverage. Be forewarned, the bottled water in the casinos are the tiny bottles so you need to get a few per day to keep from having a horrible hangover the next day.
The $20 Tip! I have never tried this, I’m too chicken. But I’ve heard several people say that if you slide a $20 bill to the clerk at check-in, and ask “are there any complimentary room upgrades available?” that magic will occur and you’ll get a much better room, with a better view, on a higher floor. Now, if they don’t have any available, they will simply slide your $20 bill back to you. I have seen this in action one time. My ex-mother-in-law is quite ballsy and did it at Bally’s. We got upgraded to a fountain-view room. How sweet is that?
Tipping! People in Vegas live on tips, so please make sure to tip… everybody! Most especially tip those cocktail waitresses at the gaming tables and slots that are bringing out those free drinks. $1 is the basic tip amount for cocktail waitresses. If you really want good liquor and better service on your next cocktail, give them a whole five bucks. Seriously, that’s all it takes and it works wonders! Anyone you come across that you'd like to take a photo of or with along the strip also expects a tip, so pre-plan to tip those showgirls, mimes, characters, etc.
When To Go! If you’re looking for a deal, go in the winter and during the week. Prices start going up in March and on Thursdays. So, a Monday through Thursday stay in January will cost a ton less than a weekend stay in June. Obviously, holidays are going to cost more and especially times when there are fights scheduled at MGM are pricey as well. I made the mistake of going for Super Bowl Sunday one of my week-long jaunts. Oopsie. There were people EVERYWHERE which means longer wait times for meals and attractions.
Where To Stay! There are definitely a million opinions on this, but here is mine. Don’t waste time and money staying off the strip. Walking to the strip is not fun and getting a taxi to the strip ends up costing you the money you saved by staying off strip. I personally like to stay Mid-Strip so that I’m in the middle of all the action! High-end places to stay Mid-Strip are Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. Mid-range places to stay Mid-Strip are Paris, Bally’s and Planet Hollywood. Budget places to stay on the strip are Luxor and Excalibur, but are not smack dab in the middle of the strip. When booking check out your view as well. If you’re one of those people that likes to wind down by watching tv at night, get a room with a view: pool-view is a little cheaper than strip view, but if you can get a room with a view of the Bellagio fountains then go for it! If you’re like me and only spend bathing and sleeping hours in the room, get the cheapest room and save a little extra for gambling or shows. Most of the rooms are the same size, the view just changes the prices. (Obviously this does not include suites which are super expensive on the strip.)
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