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Top-10 Las Vegas trip tips

22 September 2008

Whomever it was that said, "He who fails to plan, plans to fail" was probably a frequent visitor to Las Vegas. Sure, it's tough to screw up a trip to Sin City, but there are plenty of ways you can make your trip more enjoyable and more cost efficient, simply by planning ahead.

With that said, Casino City presents 10 things to consider before, during and after your next trip to Las Vegas:

10. Free Wi-Fi is hard to find
Cozy coffee shops with free Wi-Fi seem to be multiplying all over the U.S., but one spot that this trend has yet to hit is Las Vegas. While McCarran National Airport does offer free Wi-Fi, once you leave the premises you can pretty much expect to pay for any Internet use for the rest of your trip. (The Palazzo and Venetian are on the very short list of hotels that offer free WiFi in the lobby). Many of the hotels have Internet kiosks set up in the lobby where you can log on, pay by the minute and quickly check your e-mail for a relatively low price. They even have printers so you can print out your boarding pass or travel itinerary. But you'll need a credit card. For a complete list of Wi-Fi spots visit Las Vegas Free Wi-Fi Hotspots.

9. Shopping for necessities
You can save yourself a lot of extra cash by avoiding the hotel gift shop when you need a bottle of water or a tube of toothpaste. There are drug stores on the Strip that you can use for any incidentals that you forgot at home. Trust us, that bag of nuts sitting inside the mini bar in your room at Caesars is going to cost you about three times more than what you'll pay if you simply cross the street and buy the same bag at Walgreens.

8. Plan your meals
Las Vegas is known for its buffets and there's no doubt that there are some great ones out there. But remember that they can get pricey. Unless you have the appetite of an All-Pro offensive lineman, the buffet may not be your most prudent choice on a daily basis. For breakfast there are plenty of specials around town where you can get a basic two egg, toast and home fries dish for under $10 and for lunch nearly every hotel has a decent deli where you can get a reasonably priced turkey sandwich or slice of pizza. For dinner, make sure you go ahead and make reservations. You never know what the crowd is going to be like, even mid-week. And for those of you that get the late-night munchies, plan accordingly. Yes, Las Vegas is open for business 24 hours a day, but it's not unusual for the restaurants or food courts to be closed by midnight. Also, upon check-in at your hotel ask if being a guest entitles you to any special discounts at certain restaurants or nightclubs. It can't hurt to ask.

7. Dress for success
O.K., you realize that Las Vegas is in the desert. But do you really know just how hot it actually gets during the summer months? There's hot and then there's a 108-degree day on a July afternoon in Las Vegas. So if you're going to Vegas during that time make sure you wear cool and comfortable clothing during the day. But keep in mind that the hotels are not afraid to crank the air conditioning so you may actually be cold while sitting at the tables if you don't bring a light jacket or sweater. As hot as it gets in the summer, Las Vegas can get rather chilly at night during the winter months. In fact, it's not unusual to see a temperature drop of more than 30 degrees from day time to the evening. Finally, be sure to bring dressy clothes if you plan on eating at a nice restaurant or hitting the night clubs. And, above all, wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking.

6. Taxi tips
Taxis are the most common means of transportation in Las Vegas, but keep a few things in mind if you're going to be using them on a daily basis. First of all, despite that Statue of Liberty you see at the South end of the Strip, this is not New York City. Cabs are only allowed to pick up and drop off at hotel and casino entrances so don't expect to hail a cab ride while standing in the middle of the Strip. Secondly, traffic on the Strip is brutal. When you get in the cab, ask the driver to take you on side streets to maneuver around the traffic or else you'll be sitting in the back seat watching that meter run while the cab sits still. Oh, and if you're on a business trip, ask the cabbie for a bunch of blank receipts. That way you can fill them out later and have some extra ones in case you forget to ask for one each time you ride.

5. Other public transportation
Taxis are not the lone source of public transportation. Harrah's offers a FREE shuttle that goes back and forth between its properties (The Rio, Bally's, Paris, Caesars Palace) with drop offs and pick ups taking place nearly every 30 minutes. There is also a Tram that costs $5 per ride (or unlimited rides for 24 hours for $13) and goes from the Las Vegas Hilton on the North end of the Strip to Mandalay Bay, which is all the way at the other end of the Strip. But keep in mind that the Tram runs on the backside of all the hotels it goes by. This is not a scenic way to see the Strip. Secondly, the stations where you pick up the Tram are located at the very back end of the hotels, meaning if you're already out on the Strip and you're only going a mile or so, it might be just as easy to walk since it will take you a good 10 minutes or so just to walk through the hotel/casino to get to the Tram station. One more thing: For those who tend to frequent Gentlemen Clubs, call the club before you go and ask for their limo service. It may get you a free ride and help you avoid a cover charge of as much as $30.

4. The Strip is longer than you think
If you're a first-time visitor to Las Vegas, don't be fooled by the maps of the Strip that you'll see online. While it may look like everything is bunched together, the Strip is actually about four miles long. It would likely take you more than two hours to walk from the Sahara to the Mandalay Bay – and that's if you can resist the urge to stop and try your luck at one of the casinos or grab a quick pop at a street side beer cart. So if you're planning on walking somewhere, find out from someone ahead of time how long it's going to take you. You may end up deciding that a cab -- or a shuttle -- is a better option.

3. Checking in and out of hotels
Many Las Vegas hotels – Bally's, Caesars, Flamingo, MGM Grand, New York, New York and Paris, to name a few – allow you to check in at the airport while you're waiting for your bags, which will save you time once you get to the hotel and get you to the tables faster. If you do end up checking in at your hotel the traditional way, be sure to take a shot and ask for a room upgrade. Most hotels will accommodate you, especially if you happen to have a $20 or $50 bill in your hand when you make your request. If you get a decent upgrade this will be money well spent. When it's time to depart, remember that you can use your player's card as a way to get a late check-out comp. And if you're taking a red-eye that night, keep in mind that you can store your bags at ANY hotel in Las Vegas for a fee. You do NOT have to be a guest at the hotel to do this so if you're going to be spending your last day at a hotel other than the one you stayed at, bring your bags and leave them there.

2. Hotels off the Strip
Where are you staying? It's the first question people will ask you when you tell them that you're going to Vegas. As great as it would be to tell this person that you've got a suite on the top floor of the Bellagio for a week, for most people that simply isn't in the budget. We're all for splurging from time to time. And by all means, if you have the dough, stay at a top of the line resort. But if you're heading out to Las Vegas for a three-day trip with the guys, do you really need to spend $400 per night on a room you are barely going to see? The point is, don't be afraid to stay at a hotel just off the Strip. There are decent options where you can spend half the money and still be within a short cab ride or five minute walk to where all the action is.

1. Travel mid-week
It's a foregone conclusion that no matter where you spend your vacation you're going to pay a lot less if you travel mid-week. But in Vegas this is more true than anywhere else. Just take a quick look at a site like Priceline.com, Hotels.com or Expedia.com. You can find a room at an average hotel like the Sahara or the Excalibur for as little as $30 per night if you stay there on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Even a high-end hotel like Paris will have room rates for around $120 per night mid-week and then on Saturday that same exact room will be close to $300. The savings are even greater if you travel during the summer or between holidays in December and January. Sure, if you travel mid-week you won't be able to see a major event like a championship fight or big concert, but remember, this is Vegas baby!. It's a city that is alive 24/7 and if you avoid the weekends you'll have more money in your wallet for hitting the casinos, going to shows and eating a 5-star restaurants.

Recent Articles
Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT