We just got back from Las Vegas, a fun and exciting city designed entirely to suck money out of suckers’ pockets. So here are my top tips for coming home from with at least enough cash to get your car out of the airport parking lot:
1. Time it right. Las Vegas room rates are less predictable than airfares, owing not only to seasonal fluctuations but to the schedules of major conventions and other events. When choosing travel dates, plan well ahead, go directly to the hotel websites, check the rate calendars for the best prices and book those dates. In general, Fridays and Saturday nights cost more. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a particular bargain.
2. Don’t gamble. If it weren’t a losing proposition for the gambler, casinos wouldn’t exist. If you must gamble, pick a low-stakes game with decent odds so you will lose less money and it will take longer. There’s a single-zero penny video roulette game at The Four Queens downtown where I swear it could take me all day to lose the price of a latte. At that rate, it’s cheap entertainment, not real gambling.
3. Take an airport shuttle to your hotel. The cost of $6 or $7 a person is usually lower than the cost of a taxi, unless there are more than two of you.
4. Bring enough cash. The casino ATMs typically charge $4.95 per transaction, on top of what your bank may charge you. So if you withdraw money to gamble, you’ve already lost before you start playing.
5. Tip the casino cocktail waitresses. Yes, they’ll bring you free drinks but if you don’t tip, they’ll go elsewhere. And if you give them a few bucks in advance and ask them to keep coming, they’ll do that.
If you haven’t been to Las Vegas lately, have a look at the latest additions to the skyline, as seen from my room at the MGM Grand. It may change again soon — there’s talk of demolishing the unfinished Harmon Hotel because of structural deficiencies.
View at dinner. (Kate Symmonds)
Al fresco dining in Las Vegas? It’s not only possible, it can be tons of fun.
Last night, my daughter, her fiance and I got lucky and scored an outside table at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris hotel on the Strip. It was around 9 p.m., the temperature somewhere in the 80s and we were right up against the railing with a splendid view of the Bellagio fountains.
While Mon Ami Gabi counts as a bit of splurge in my book, it’s a moderately priced restaurant by Las Vegas standards. The steak frites is a house specialty at about $22 and it’s very good.
And with the view we had, I wouldn’t trade it for a $65 entree at the Strip’s really expensive places.
It has become a pernicious habit of Las Vegas hotels to charge guests to print boarding passes for their return flights, but there’s no need to pay for that.
Sure, it’s a good idea to check in online well in advance of your flight, as a means to protect your seat. If you’re flying on a standard fare on Southwest, it’s critical to check in early if you want to get a good seat. The good news is that if you don’t have access to a printer, you can check in without printing the pass.
Traveling to Las Vegas? Be sure to pack wisely. The top priorities: 1) Cash. 2) More cash.
The slot machines are designed to beat visitors, but they’re not the most flagrantly rigged device in the casino. Instead, that title goes to the ATMs.