Tips for Vegas From Someone a Step Up From Clueless
I recently got back from 5 days in Vegas, and it's taken me 3 weeks to unpack my brain from the trip. I'm exhausted! Now I've been there once before, but that was back when I was 17 (so like, 3 years ago). So I had this sense memory of going, but because I wasn't an adult, wasn't paying for anything, and wasn't in charge of what I was doing or where I was going... it didn't count. This time around I was overwhelmed before I even got off the plane. But that could have been due to the fact that my sister had gotten into a verbal altercation with the woman behind her and was almost kicked off the plane. Couple that with fact that I'm also wrapping up my second trimester of pregnancy, and you can understand why I was not unlike Alice in Wonderland, trying to figure out this crazy backwards place.
1. Have a reusable water container.
Water is a monopoly out there, because it can be, because it is typically 100 degrees or hotter at all times. I spent the first two days buying water at $4 a pop. There is cheaper water out there, dirty looking people sell you water bottles on the street out of coolers and trash cans for $1. Take your chances if you will, but I happen to enjoy health. I figured out how to get free water. I got myself a BPA Free water container and filled it with ice from the ice machine in the morning before I'd venture out. Also, I inspected said ice machine with a white towel to make sure it was clean. Making sure things are clean out there is also important.
2. If you need cash from your ATM find a Walgreens.
You can't use your ATM card at the roulette table, to tip service people, or to get your picture taken with street performers. And contrary to rap videos, strippers don't like it when you run your card down their ass crack. It's scary to carry cash around, but it's very expensive to get cash out of ATM machines located everywhere. My sister Michelle wanted to take out something like $5, and the machine's fee was $20. So, your best bet is to find a place like Walgreens that will let you take cash out with a purchase. But good luck finding a Walgreens. I was able to locate two: one downtown on Freemont St., and one on the other side of the Venetian on the strip. Also Walgreens has the cheapest souvenirs. All the trinket shops carry the same stuff, mostly, and prices for the very same item varies. Walgreens has the most popular items for the cheapest prices.
3. Bring sanitizer.
I swear there are more slots doling out $100's than there are sanitizing stations. Las Vegas is one of the germiest places on th planet. When you get on that escalator, think of how many hands have already been on that hand rail in the last 10 minutes. So don't touch things like hand rails, doors, and elevator buttons with your hands and fingers unless you have antibacterial gel in your pocket. Also, you might want to carry a few baby wipes with you, particularly if you'll be walking outside because it's wicked dusty. But midday, you'll look down at your feet and not recognize them. So if you're going someplace awesome for dinner, you might want to give your feet a quick cleansing.
4. Buffets get you more bang for your buck, but you will get sick of them.
While I was out there, groups of young people would be chanting, "Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!" and I would be there saying, "Lunch! Lunch! Lunch! Lunch!" There is so much food to be had in Vegas. Unfortunately, I was doing Vegas on the cheap, so I wasn't visiting Tom Colicchio at CraftSteak. So it was the buffet line for me. Not all buffets are created equal. We stayed at the Flamingo, and theirs is nice but a tad pricey. I will tell you, I got crafty with some ziplock bags and grabbed a couple extra items to nibble on. And when I say 'couple extra items' I mean two whole meals. I took my BIG purse with me. (note: be discreet if you don't want to be removed in a huff) Then there are cheap buffets. Michelle and I got very excited when we found a $5 off coupon for a $32 all day buffet pass. That food was reminiscent of my college's dining hall. You kinda get what you pay for. However, if you want an awesome dinner that's reasonably priced, go to Ellis Island's bar and casino just off the strip. Get the Prime Rib! You get a piece of beef that is bigger than your face, two sides, a salad and a pilsner of their homemade rootbeer for $13.99. I'd say go there everyday, but that much red meat would literally kill you. But it's so good.
5. Try not to pay full price for many things.
(A) There are coupon books everywhere you go, collect them all. Ask the hotel's concierge where to get them. Michelle and I paid half price for a meal, my mom and I got buy one get one free to see the top of the Eiffel Tower, and so and and so forth. They have alot of dumb crap in them, but if you look hard, you'll find a few that apply to you. (B) Lots of hotels have deals where you pay a flat fee and get to see two or three attractions or shows for a discount. Michelle paid $52 to go to the CSI Experience, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and the Roller Coaster at New York New York. She probably saved around $30. WARNING: Don't be fooled by people in booths that want to give you something free. Almost nothing in Vegas is free! They either want you to spend 3 hours listening to their timeshare pitch, or they are straight up scamming you. (C) You might be able to haggle some prices (politely). Michelle wanted to go to the wax museum because she found a $5 off coupon, it wasn't something I particularly wanted to spend money on so I walked her there and went to go find something to sit on. The man at the door asked me why I wasn't going in and when I told him, he said, "How about you both get in for $35?" I thought about it, and that still wasn't a price I wanted to split, and so I declined and walked away. He kept talking to my sister, and then yelled to me, "$25!" I said okay to that. The original price for admission was $25, we got a free ticket, basically and it turned out to be the funnest thing I did there. (D) Tix-4-Tonight! There is one located at Bill's Casino on the strip. If you get there early, you can score tickets to unsold-out shows playing that night. (E) Pay attention, at the shows you're at, the talent might partner with another act and be giving out tickets to their show. (F) Players Club Cards. I don't know exactly how they work, that was something my sister had. But there are about 6 to sign up for, and the casinos you can get them in will have special booths for them in visible places. It's worth the 5 minutes or so it takes to complete the sign up process, and all they really need from you is a license and email address. What you get is discounts at their shops and free perks such as, a voucher for a free $5 at a slot machine, or $5 off a food purchase. According to Michelle the best one is from Treasure Island, and the worst one is from the Mirage. Everyone in the group should have their own because they ID you everywhere and if they think you are using someone's that's not a spouse, they will not give you a discount. I used Michelle's card to get a discount on my water container and when the cashier looked at her name (obviously have different first and last names) with my ID she was like, "Who's this!?" Panicked, I told her she was my wife. The cashier looked down and saw the Massachusetts ID and was convinced enough to let me use her Players Club Card.
Don't be that guy passed out on the floor. People will take pictures with you and not leave a tip. I'm glad I was pregnant for this trip because I might have been that guy. If you're playing in the casino, your drinks are free (but you tip the cocktail waitress), jello shots anywhere are a buck, there are no laws against public intoxication so you can literally walk out of one casino with a martini in your hand and finish it at the next one, and you can buy liquor anywhere at any time of the day. Me, coming from Massachusetts with our Puritan Blue Laws, was flabbergasted. Moderation goes a long way, the less you drink the less you spend. Don't drink yourself into an oblivion and don't blow all your money the first night. My cousin got wasted at the pool in the morning, went back up to his room for a nap and wound up losing 5 hours. He was so mad at himself. Speaking of my cousin, even if you are 12 floors up, don't stand in front of your room windows naked. People can see you.
7. Don't be pregnant.
I couldn't help this one, the trip was planned the pregnancy was not. But seriously, avoid going to Vegas pregnant. Because people are not nice. It is the most selfish place on earth, so don't expect seats to be offered to you. People push to get to the front of lines, they don't hold elevators or doors for you, and they stop short in front of you always, and don't move when you say excuse me. It's like you're invisible. The few people who did have plain old common courtsey, I happened to ask where they were from... The East Coast thank you very much. Another reason to not be pregnant in Vegas is that casinos are filled with cigarette smoke. I barely gambled for that reason, and tried to spend as less time as possible there. I used to smoke a long time ago, I did not smoke inside buildings. I would rather smoke outside my house in freezing temperatures than inside. It's just gross. But everyone smokes in casinos in Vegas... chain smokes even. People who don't smoke, smoke, because you can. Smoking indoors is like anal sex. The act itself certainly doesn't enhance the pleasantness of the situation any more, but you'll do it when it is allowed every time, simply because you can and no one will say to you, "Hey! You can't do that here, mutherfucker!"
8. Don't take children to Vegas.
At least I got this one right. I was saying, while I was out there, "If I was in the business of kidnapping children, this is the place I'd go." Lot's of children, of varying ages, are just unattended. What happens is one parent will be the designated adult to watch over the kids that day, while the other parent gets to have all the fun doing whatever. The watchers start off with good intentions, but throughout their shift, they start resenting the other parent who is having all of the fun. The watcher gets consumed with this jealousy, and their children disperse. As the watcher tries to retrieve the errant children, they stop and get distracted by something shiny, and now they are down one child. The watcher dumps the remaining children off with the fun having parent, claiming to have a headache, then proceeds to lose $45 at the roulette table on their way up to the room to take a nap. Now both parents hate each other and their remaining children. Now there are attractions for children in Vegas, but it's not Disneyworld. I see kids getting bored fast and then get cranky. It's just not worth the stress. And even if you did have a Nanny and disposable income to have your kids go and do fun things, Vegas isn't really a place for kids. There's so much walking to do, there's smoke, there's drunk people, rude people, and every 3 feet outside on the strip there are card flappers. Card flappers are the people who hand out cards for escort services. The pictures on the cards are of really haggard looking hookers, naked and spread all out, with little stars on their naughty bits. And these people all have their own distinct series of flapping noises they make with their stacks to attract you attention. It looks like some sort of tribal ritual. It's just not good. So if you're going out to Vegas to play and have no choice but to bring your children, you'll be miserable, so wait until they are older; and if you are bringing your kids to Vegas for them to go and play, wait until they are old enough to understand that the smelly stumbling guy in the red furry costume is not really Elmo, so don't try to hug him.
That's all I got. I'm not good at gambling, I don't have any awesome restaurant reviews, I don't know how to get the best seats at Criss Angel, but hopefully my advice will at least keep you hydrated.