Ahhh Fabulous Las Vegas! Few can say they REALLY don’t want to visit at least once. Fewer admit that they didn’t like it once they did visit! But many, many visitors approach a trip to Las Vegas as they would a trip to Oklahoma City, and that’s simply not the correct way to go about it!

Hopefully the following post will help you in planning your first, or next trip to Las Vegas!

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign. 2009
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign. 2009

Travel:

Whether you swear by one of the many online travel sites, or choose to go through your own personal travel agent, you will need to shop around for the best price. If it is your first time to Vegas and you are not going with a veteran Vegas visitor, I very highly recommend a package deal that include hotel and airfare. The savings can be huge, but you must shop around to get the best deal.

You should try to book your airline as soon as you decide on the dates you will be in Vegas. The further out you can book, the cheaper the flights will be. You can also gamble and hope to get cheap seats a few weeks prior to going, but the risk there isn’t worth the reward, in my opinion.

Accommodations:

This is where there is a huge difference between a first timer and a veteran Vegas visitor. If you are new to Vegas and don’t have someone who is a Vegas veteran to travel with, then you should choose to stay at a resort on the Strip.  Being that it will be your first time in Vegas, being right in the heart of the action is the best way to go. You will be able to choose from a wide range of resorts/casinos, from ultra cheap to out of this world expensive. That all depends on what your budget is and what you like to do, other than gambling that is.

The NASCAR Cafe on Las Vegas Blvd. and Sahara Blvd. The Cafe is inside the Sahara Casino 2009
The NASCAR Cafe on Las Vegas Blvd. and Sahara Blvd. The Cafe is inside the Sahara Casino. Also in photo is the Sahara rollercoaster and one of the hotel towers. 2009.

Visit Googlemaps or Google Earth, dial down to Las Vegas Blvd.(the Strip), and you’ll be able to tell what casinos are at the end, the middle, semi-isolated and totally isolated. Well, when you talk about the Strip, there really is no totally isolated resort/casino anymore. The last was the Sahara and that has since closed it’s doors. The Stratosphere is the only “stand alone” resort/casino now on the Strip. It’s at the very North end of the strip with no other casino close. In a few years a new casino or two will pop up between the Stratosphere and Encore. But until then, you need transportation to get around if you stay at the Stratosphere.

Now that you’ve chosen your resort to stay at, you can begin seeking out good package deals. Most all resorts now offer deals when booking air and hotel at the same time, together. One bright side to the economy, I guess.

You’re In Vegas Baby! :

Some people say take an early flight, some say late flight to see the Strip at night, others say the best sight in the world is coming into Vegas by car and seeing the brilliant city lights just burst through the desert emptiness. I say yes to all the above! Any way into Vegas is a great way, the important thing is you are in Vegas!

Keeping in theme as this being your first trip to Vegas, after you grab your luggage and make your way from the airport to your hotel, check in, and then drool over the view from your room, what’s next? What else, hit the casino!

The single most important rule to any first time visitor or gambler, is sing up for a players card at each and every casino you play at! Even if you think you’ll only stay a few minutes, get the card! That quick stop to spin a few reels could turn into a half day at the casino because you are doing really well winning or you find it so much fun you decided to stay a bit longer. You need the players card, but why?

The entrance to the Aria Hotel at the MGM City Center in Las Vegas
The entrance to the Aria Hotel at the MGM City Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. January 2010.

Well, do you really want to pay for hotel rooms every time to Vegas? Wouldn’t you like to receive some cash back for your play? What about a free buffet? A free buffet a day? Two buffets a day? The list goes on and on and on as to what the resorts/casinos will give to their loyal players. Again, you have to be playing with the card in order to get anything from the casino. They need to know you are there!

Also when you sign up for the players cards, ask if that property has any current coupons or offer sheets. Many do, but you have to ask at the players club booth!

So, you now are ready to go do Vegas! It’s huge, very huge and it’s only one street! No tips here for you. I’ve done trips where it was 100% full throttle all the time and trips where it was a bit more relaxed. It depends on you, what you feel is a good speed to discover and play in Vegas.

Being this is your first trip to Vegas, you should try to visit as many of the casinos on the strip as you can. Stay a bit, play a bit, find one that you really feel comfortable with. Once you do, go back a few times to that property, always playing with your card! You want to zero in on a location and let them know you like what they have. Doing this means you will spend more cash in their slots or on their tables hence, you will get better offers than the locations you only visit once for an hour during your trip.

Here comes the largest smoke and mirrors discussion in gaming and Vegas. How much do you need to spend to get free “anything”. Well, each property is different in that regards. The Strip casinos aren’t as giving as the off-strip ones. Then there are also “locals” casinos that more or less cater or are favorites of the local residents. These casinos generally give hotel rooms more frequently than the Strip casinos. Person “A” blows $3,000 a night and person “B” blows $100 a night. The variables are too immense to try to figure out why or how a casino rewards it’s patrons. The most important thing as a first time visitor to remember is, they all give you comps, you need to use your players card to get these comps and all casinos give free stays as a comp. So, next trip to Vegas you could spend $0 on a hotel! $0 on food and more for gaming or whatever you deem as fun.

Bellagio Hotel at night
Bellagio Hotel at night, 2010.

These comps aren’t just for the “whales” or big time gamblers. Sure, those guys get far more than most of us can even imagine, but the casinos like to thank all their players. Why? Because there is a casino 1/2 a mile away or closer that will do so if the other stops! In a future post I will try to explain further the comp system, but really it changes far too often and has far too many variables to ever understand fully each casinos methods of attracting customers.

Transportation:

This being your first trip to Las Vegas, it’s a wise move to let public transportation move you about, after all they know where they are going. From double-decker The Duece buses to Vegas cabs to limos, shuttles, the Vegas monorail to your feet, there is never a shortage of ways to get from one casino to the other in Vegas. When you call the hotel, or when you are researching your hotel, be sure to ask if they have a shuttle from the airport. Most all do and are free (tip the driver of course).

If you decide to visit Fremont Street, downtown Las Vegas, a cab is the best method to do this. Along the Strip, the Vegas Monorail or The Deuce is the way to go.  The monorail will get you close enough to the entire Strip, it does not stop at every casino though. The Deuce is like your home city’s bus line, only bigger and much more used.

In Closing:

Your first trip to Vegas is really the foundation for all other trips to Las Vegas. You want to pick a hotel, gamble in it enough to get those room offers, buffets and other nice little gifts for your next trip. You also want to get a feel for the Strip. The next trip you’ll surely want to stretch your legs out a bit and rent a car and explore the off-strip casinos you’ve heard so much about! Don’t try to set a schedule of to-do’s on the trip, it’s almost totally useless. Vegas has it’s own itinerary for you, just roll with it!

Hope this helps, and remember –

What Happens in Vegas, ends up on Facebook and Twitter!