Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vegas for Mummies...and others

View from our room
I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas. I have been there a number of times before. It is affordable and entertaining. I took my daughter for a graduation/birthday gift.

It seems that with every trip, I see and learn something new. Then, each time I return, I only remember half of what I had previously discovered. Sometimes, it's because of the many changes that take place in this ever expanding city. Other times, it's just because I forgot.

It occurred to me that by writing down my collective thoughts, impressions, ideas and discoveries, that I might recall some things for my next visit. That is, if I can actually remember to re-read this blog.

My main Las Vegas helpful hints are...NEVER pay full price for anything. Be aware. There are always deals, vouchers, coupons, 2 for 1 tickets and so on. They require only a bit of research to locate. Also, it never hurts to ask. I inquired at the hotel upon check in whether there were any discounts for food, drinks etc. and was given two bar vouchers worth $30.

Lesson #1 -  Hotel Selection
If you can afford a bit more, try to avoid the old and that is. I have stayed at several such locales which were imploded soon afterward (Aladdin, New Frontier), a few that haven't been (Circus,Circus, Imperial Palace, Caesar's Palace...great historic hotel with many upgrades and new tower additions) and at least one that should have been (see Tripadvisor link below). For single moms, with minimal funds they were fine. No expectations, no complaints.

Last year, I was upset about our hotel. I not only complained, but wrote a tripadvisor review to warn others. The hotel in question sent me an offer of an upgraded room if I returned. My philosophy is that an upgraded room in a dump, makes it no less of a dump. See for details.

This trip, I selected the MGM Grand. It has 6.6 acres of property around the pools, a monorail station and a lion compound. I thought the lions would be a big hit with my daughter. They were. The MGM is not a super exclusive hotel, but it was nice, clean, had a friendly, efficient, helpful staff who quickly checked us in, providing us with a non smoking room on a non smoking floor. The view was good too. As was previously mentioned, I inquired about coupon books and discounts and was handed two $15 drink vouchers.


One thing to keep in mind. Some hotels charge a "resort fee". I'm not too clear on what this is, but it can range from $10-$25 a person per day. This is tacked onto your credit card when checking out. Be aware when selecting a hotel. Travel books usually specify if the hotel has such a fee. There are many that specifically advertise "No resort fee".

Lesson #2 - Transportation
Airport Shuttles
There is a stand near the luggage carousel when exiting the airport. It offers return shuttle fare because hotel transfers are not included. This is ok except that it brings you back to the aiport very early prior to flight time. We opted to sleep an extra hour, and take a taxi both ways to and from the airport. Since we left at 7:45 a.m., taxis were readily available at the front of the hotel. It cost us $10 one way by cab from the MGM Grand, one of the closer hotels to the airport.

These can be found everywhere. People line up in a designated area outside hotels where the bellman will whistle for a taxi. These are plentiful and are just waiting at the end of the driveway. Evenings are busier times for taxis. They can get costly if used exclusively.

Rental Cars
I have not rented a car. I noted a long lineup for rentals at the airport. I think renting is fine if you plan to leave town and tour the vicinity eg. Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead etc. For transportation along the strip, I would not rent a car. Traffic seems chaotic, congested and confusing. I don't know much else except that I have no idea where one parks.

This is a fast way to travel and we used it one time to get from one hotel to another where we went to see a show. For one ride it cost $5. A three day pass is $30. I don't think it's value for the money. The monorails connect a few hotels.

The Deuce
There are two kinds of buses. One is long and looks like two buses connected by an accordian in the middle. It is the express bus and makes fewer stops than the double decker deuce. The double decker makes frequent stops and is often crowded. We found that upstairs almost always had seats so we would get on and head through the crowd and upstairs. There are ticket machines along Las Vegas Blvd. Often, there are transit personnel to help tourists. Two hours on the bus costs $7 and I really don't see a use for such a ticket. We got a 3 day pass for $20 and it was well worth it.

Everything on Las Vegas Blvd. (the strip) is farther than expected and because of the flat land, distances are deceiving. Some hotels are blocks and blocks long. Many people walk on concrete sidewalk areas to get to shopping, attractions and other hotels. It is usually not possible to simply cross the multi lane, heavily trafficked street. Rather, there are bridges, escalators and some moving sidewalks which need to be sought out and negotiated in order to arrive at one's destination. For example, last year, my friend and I took a bus to a shopping area just past the airport. When we were finished, we decided not to wait for the bus since we clearly saw the hotels not far away. We thought we'd walk back. We walked and walked, stopped for drinks, walked some more. It was hot. It was February. On the bright side, we saw the famous diamond shaped "Las Vegas" sign. Our feet were aching and blistered by the time we got to the first of the hotels. I checked the distance on mapquest and learned that the direct route to our hotel (there is no direct route in Vegas) was almost 10 kilometers.

Lesson #3 - Shows, Meal Deals and Drinks
At first glance, it looks costly to survive in Vegas. There was a time when there were signs offering 99 cent breakfasts and $3.99 steak dinners. Things have changed somewhat, although there are still bargains to be found. Be aware, the minute you get off the airplane or set foot in a taxi, there are entertainment type booklets available. Take them. I picked up a 24/7 magazine in our first cab. Inside, I found many coupons. We were able to pick up a pair of front row seats for one of the more expensive shows at a total cost of $100. There are visitors' guides and "What's On" magazines, all containing discounts for food and shows. There are even free shows available, usually comedians and magicians, fine if you're not too selective. More types of coupon books and deals can be found in hotels and downtown Freemont St.
Food is generally less expensive late at night, although there are always deals for hot dogs and beer $3, shrimp cocktails 99 cents, buffets, and free meals with a show ticket. At some hotels, you can get food and gift shop discounts just by registering for a priority card. It costs nothing. While waiting for a cafeteria style breakfast one morning, I found a placemat covered in coupons on my food tray. I tore off the 50% off coupon and used it immediately.

Drinks can be acquired for the price of a tip. If you sit at a slot machine for 30 seconds, a hostess will come and offer a drink. In fact, I sat near a machine to check the contents of my purse one morning and was immediately offered a drink, soda or coffee. 

Lesson #4 - Miscellaneous Shopping
There are a number of ABC convenience stores along the strip. ABC stores sell everything from water to beer, snacks, souvenirs and essential drug items. Souvenir stores abound. There are also a few Walgreens and CVS drugstores. There are also several shopping malls. We visited the "Fashion Show Mall" and "Miracle Mile Shops". For exclusive designer clothing, shoes, purses and the like, look toward the stores in the fancier hotels.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great travelogue...thanks. Been thinking of a long weekend there and you've surely saved me some grief.