This was our second trip to Las Vegas and it did not disappoint. There were more hotels than last time and more being built. A visit to downtown is a must to see the light show in the roof area. A technological marvel. We heard it cost $400 million. To say we wandered around hotels every day seems a strange thing to do but anyone who has visited Las Vegas will understand how fascinating that is. Even in February the sun shines and we were able to sunbath around one of the MGM swimming pools.
Five things you should do. Walk into and around every hotel. Take a roller coaster ride at New York New York. Visit the lions and dolphins at the Mirage hotel. Take a helicopter trip over the Grand Canon. And finally take an elevator ride to the top of the Stratosphere hotel to see the fabulous night time view of the Las Vegas strip and surrounding city.
I was not sure if anyone would read an article on money saving tips when visiting Las Vegas. This is the city for gamblers so who is looking to save money? But then I though that, I am not a gambler and I have now visited Las Vegas twice.
Back in 2000 my daughter and I bought my wife a surprise 50th birthday present of a four day trip to Las Vegas. The bonus being it was for four people, which included my wife, myself, my daughter and her husband.
You can fly direct to Las Vegas but this four day visit was an indirect flight stopping at Chicago for four hours then flying on to Las Vegas after four hours stop over. The return flight was the same. So our actual stay in Las Vegas was two full days and three nights. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience especially as I arrange a room upgrade to a suite which looked out over the ‘Strip’. We did not gamble much as there was too much to see and do.
Our second visit to Las Vegas was a complete surprise. This Christmas we as a family decided to keep our present buying to a small token gift as we had started two new businesses and money was tight.
Our son who had not come on our first visit to Las Vegas has since had two holidays in Las Vegas with his wife and in-laws. He told us a few months before Christmas that he was taking another holiday to Las Vegas in February with the in-laws and did we want to go as well. Unfortunately we had booked our summer holiday and another holiday before that was not in our budget.
Anyway on Christmas day after all the small gifts were opened our son and his wife gave us a final gift. When my wife opened it we found a ‘not new’ roulette game, which we thought was a joke gift. He insisted we open the box and we found inside a picture of the MGM hotel in Las Vegas and a lovely short note inviting my wife and I to join them on the visit to Las Vegas, at their expense. We only had to find our spending money. How could we refuse? We had always wanted to go to Las Vegas with him and knew that this year they wanted to start a family and if they did we probably would never get to go to Las Vega with him for many years to come, if ever.
This time we flew direct with Virgin. I must tell you that I have flown with Virgin in the early days and thought them one of the best. But over the years I found the service from Virgin had dropped. This time the service from Virgin was top rate and I would recommend them to anyone.
On this visit to Las Vegas we were staying for a whole week, flying out on an 11am flight from Gatwick on a Friday, which meant leaving home at 5.30am, and returning a week later on a 4pm flight from Las Vegas, landing Saturday morning. Las Vegas airport is a five minute drive from the MGM Hotel.
When we arrived in Las Vegas it was decided to catch a bus to the MGM hotel. They charge $7 per person one way. On our trip back to the Airport at the end of our holiday we caught a taxi. Taxi’s charge $9 per trip from the MGM hotel.
Tip 1. If you are staying at the MGM, Luxor, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, New York New York hotels, it is cheaper to use a taxi than the shuttle bus if there is more than one of you. But if you are staying further down the ‘Strip’ then the taxi fare goes up and the shuttle bus may be more cost effective.
On this one week trip my wife and I took to Las Vegas 1000, which converted to $1360 at Feb 09 exchange rates. We converted a further 180 towards the end of the week and paid to see a show on a credit card $160. We returned from Las Vegas with $180.
With an eight hour time difference it was mid afternoon on the Friday even though we had left the UK at 11am and had a 10 hour flight. It’s really UK bedtime especially for people of my age.
Tip 2. If it’s your first visit you are probably very excited and want to hit the town or hit the gambling but what ever you do try not to go to bed until it’s late evening. If you go to bed too early your body clock will take longer to adjust to the time difference.
Our first impressions when we ‘hit the town’ after we had unpacked was that the place seemed busy as if the ‘credit crunch’ had not affected Las Vegas. The second thing we noticed was it was not cheap. Having had a number of ‘all inclusive holidays’ over the last few years we found having to pay for everything quite difficult. For people that are used to spending time in hotels the prices are probably quite normal but for us the prices such as a bottle of Budwisser at $6 seemed expensive.
We visited the New York New York hotel the first evening and the first round of drinks at a bar in the hotel was $35 for 4 bottle beers, one coke and one glass of wine. We decided to have a meal in the same hotel and five had steaks and one had pizza. Very good food. The bill came to $153 + $27 (18% tip) + $11 (15% tax) = $191. we understand from past visits to the US that it is expected to tip 12-15%, which is normally a voluntary option. To find it on the bill at 18% is a bit much, we believe.
Tip 3. We found that the 18% tip included on the bill was normally for groups of 6 or more. Therefore if you ask for your bill in groups of two the 18% tip is omitted from the bill and left to your discretion. We found that ‘Dennys’ do not add a tip to any bill no matter what size your group is.
The major disappointment we found on this second visit to Las Vegas was that all the ‘slot’ machines in all the Hotels do not dispense coins as winnings anymore. You feed in dollar bills and if you are lucky to win you will get a slip of paper dispensed as your winning. The tinkering of coins when you win was sadly missing. This slip of paper can be fed into any other slot machine in the same hotel to continue gambling.
Tip 4. If you want to hear the sound of coins dropping with your winning the only place that still uses coins is next to the hotel Circus Circus.
Not being much of a gambler I tended to watch the others but found I wanted a beer while I watched. My son had found on past visits that if you gambled, either on the slots or on the tables, you will be offered complementary drinks from waitresses or barmen at the bar. These drinks are free of charge other than a tip of a couple of dollars to the waitress or barman. The more you gamble the more drinks you are offered.
Every chair in the gambling halls is in front of a slot machine. Even at the bar each seat is in front of a gambling machine embedded in the bar.
Tip 5. It was recommended to me at a number of bars by the barmen that so long as I feed the slot machine with $20 he could feed me complementary drinks. If you win you could be drinking for free all night.
On the first evening of our stay we were advised by my son to join the ‘Players’ club, which meant queuing with passports to receive individual swipe cards. These cards gave you points when you inserted them in the slot machines before you gambled. If you achieved 1500 points during your stay then you may receive complementary gifts like free buffet meals etc.
Just by signing up to get a ‘Players’ club card mean we were entitled to a two for one deal on any of the MGM shows. This option only allowed you to buy the expensive seats at $160, not the cheaper seats at $80. We choose to go to see the Circus du Soliel which was great and cost $160 for two of the bests seats.
Tip 6. Join the ‘Players’ club at any hotel, as soon as you arrive, to ensure you get any complementary deals or freebies going. You can also use your ‘Player’ card in any other hotel in the MGM group which are:
MGM Grand, Bellagio, City Center, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Treasure Island, Cirus Circus and Railroad Pass.
There are plenty of places to eat within the hotels and along the ‘strip’. A good steak will cost you $17 upwards and a bottle of wine start around $28. There are always deals around and the MGM hotel was offering their buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner for $29 + tax, which taken individually would cost $60.
Tip 7. Before you go to Las Vegas search the books and guides that are in the shops and online for any deals and discounts that are on offer. You could save enough for your gambling.
If you live north of London as we do, then getting to Gatwick in the early hours of the morning is not some thing you can get a friend to do, especially when there is six of you. There are three options, drive down and leave your car in a long stay car park. Stay over night at a local to Gatwick hotel, which provide long stay parking, within the price of the over night stay price. Or get a taxi to take you and pick you up on your return.