LegitimateCasino.com has a lot of helpful Las Vegas information including advice for choosing a rewards program, money saving tips and much more. The one area we haven’t covered yet is the most basic topic, booking a Las Vegas trip. In this article I’ll cover that topic from many angles before concluding with additional money saving advice. To get started let’s discuss booking a Las Vegas flight.
Booking a Las Vegas Flight
No matter if you’re flying domestic or international, the best website I know of for comparing flight prices is www.farecompare.com. Here all the major travel networks are compared; with the click of a mouse you can compare prices at Priceline, Orbitz, Hotwire, Vayama and dozens of others all from the Fare Compare website. One major airline not covered by farecompare.com is Southwest Airlines; so, you’ll also want to check southwest.com.
Once you find the best price, always check the airline’s website direct to see if the same price is available. The benefit of booking direct is lower change fees. In the unlikely event you need to change your flight this will save for you money. For example, orbitz.com charges an extra $35.00 fee on top of what the airline charges, to make a change. Of course, if Orbitz is selling the tickets for less, and you’re fairly certain you won’t change the flight, booking with Orbitz is advised.
If you need to use a special payment method, checking the airline site can help as well. For example, offhand I know United Airlines, Southwest, and China Airlines all accept PayPal payments, where major networks such as Orbitz and Travelocity do not. Generally speaking you use Fare Compare to find the best price, and then if possible book direct with the airline for the same price.
Another concern might be airline miles. If you travel often or even occasionally and know you’ll travel again in the future, signing up for a flight miles reward scheme makes complete sense. It is completely free to sign up for an air miles account. Perhaps the best miles plan is United Airlines. With them you can earn miles on flights with Continental Airlines, US Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Asiana, Singapore, Thai and dozens of airlines across the global Star Alliance network. If a ticket cost slightly more on another mileage plan going the Star Alliance route and using your awards number from United’s www.mileageplus.com might be wise.
Booking a Las Vegas Hotel
Booking a flight is easy, booking a Las Vegas hotel not so much the case. The first thing you need to decide is what area you’re looking to stay in Las Vegas.
1) Center Strip – This is the area many who love the strip choose to stay. The budget hotels in this area are Imperial Palace and Bills Gambling Hall, where the semi budget but overall nice hotels are Harrah’s, Flamingo and Bally’s. From these hotels several big name properties are all in walking distance including Bellagio, Venetian, Caesars Palace and Mirage. The Wynn and Encore are also in walking distance, although most would choose to upset a taxi driver and take a $5.00 cab ride to Wynn.
2) Downtown Las Vegas – This is a $20.00 or so cab ride away from the Strip. This is old Las Vegas where Binions, Golden Nugget, Freemont, 4Queens, Las Vegas Club etc all meet. The costs for Downtown hotels on Freemont Street Experience are far less than the strip. What’s nice about this area is all the casinos are small and in walking distance from each other. The drink prices are awesome; $2.00 for Corona, Budweiser, etc. at Las Vegas Club, compared to $5.00 – $9.50 on the strip. A potential area of concern is that downtown is not a great place for a family. While you can somewhat avoid it, this is where there are far more prostitutes soliciting, there are strip clubs next to the casino (can’t be avoided), and the entire area has kind of a 1969 Woodstock type feel to it. Don’t get us wrong, hookers are not my thing and I still very much prefer Downtown Las Vegas over the much more commercialized/corporate Las Vegas strip.
3) Off Strip – If you’re looking for a nice experience just off the strip, your top choices are Rio Suites, Gold Coast, The Palms, and Hard Rock Hotel. If you’re looking for a more local flavor while still being relatively close to the strip consider The Orleans, South Point or Tuscany. For very budget hotels only slightly off the strip there is Hooters, Super 8 and the likes. While a distance from the strip but still in the vicinity, our favorite casinos which is a world in itself, is M Resort. The buffet at M is second to none, they have great sports betting odds and features, tons of slots, table games and their own VIP rewards program. This is the pinnacle of local casinos and many tourists are now catching on to its greatness.
You might choose a location outside of these areas such as North Strip at Circus Circus, the Riveria or Stratosphere, or head the other direction to Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo or MGM grand. Or you could head slightly north of center strip and stay in the City Center confines. There are so many options but what we covered here should give you a general idea of where everything is.
Once you’ve decide where you want to stay it’s time to hit up hotel booking websites. The first place to start is vegas.com, although we rarely book direct with them, this will give you a good idea of discount prices to expect. Next compare the prices to Hotels.com – What’s nice about hotels.com is every hotel you book gives you a rewards credit. After ten nights stay over any period, you can redeem these credits for a free night stay.
After getting the prices for vegas.com and hotels.com (with 10% off factored in), before booking the hotel you’ve decided on, shop further. Check the hotel’s website direct. If you’re a gambler call and ask for a special rate based on your plans to gamble in their casino during your stay. Finally the biggest tip, which comes in handy when you have several hotels in mind, is to use hotwire.com. Here some absolutely amazing deals can be found, but the catch… you don’t get see the name of the hotel until after you’ve booked. They do however list by area, show a Google map, tell you what amenities and features are included, and the hotel’s star rating. This is generally enough to get a good idea of what you’re booking. In some cases it is really easy such as booking a 4* hotel downtown, well the only 4* hotel downtown is Golden Nugget, so there’s no secret there. Also for 5* smoke free properties, there are only two or three of these in Vegas so that helps. Finally sites like betterbidding.com are dedicated to helping people decipher which hotels hotwire.com is offering them.
Las Vegas Family Hotels
If you’re on a moderate budget, Harrah’s is one of our favorite family properties. Their hotel elevators are located in the back, which is outside the casino area and also near the entrance/exit that has the valet and taxi stand just outside. Their location is ideal because no matter if you’re taking a taxi or driving yourself, you’ll appreciate the easy access to Koval Lane which is a far less busy street that runs parallel to the strip (Las Vegas Blvd). The other perks are quick access to a McDonalds, and a 3 restaurant food court that includes a Panda Express, a Burrito Shop and a NYC style pizza shop all at great prices. A near sin to eat this stuff while in Las Vegas, but when the kids are crying for it, what can you do? You also have a free shuttle service to Rio Suites, and a Monorail stop on site. If you want to stay on the strip, yet not expose your children to the sins of the strip this is a great place to stay. Also consider talking to the host or concierge and asking for free entry to the Rio Suites wave pool, which again is a free shuttle ride away.
Alternatively, if you have small children you can’t go wrong with Circus Circus. If you have money to spend Venetian has huge shopping areas, a wax museum just outside and several swimming pools. Or you could stay at Mandalay Bay which has one of the best pools in Las Vegas.
Hotels with Balconies
Most Las Vegas hotels have balconies; it’s slightly rare to find one that does not.
Las Vegas Hotel Comps
If you’re a gambler you’ll want to read our section on Las Vegas Gambling Comps.
Arriving to Las Vegas
When arriving to the airport there are several methods to get to your hotel.
1) Shuttle – this is the most popular method to get to a strip or downtown hotel. The costs range from $6.00-$7.00 per person. If you arrive very late at night when there is no traffic, this might be a decent option to consider as it’s relatively quick. During peak times you could find yourself driving around for up to an hour in a crammed shuttle while wishing you had taken a taxi. The shuttle area can be found right outside baggage claim.
2) Taxi – Unless traveling alone, Taxi is probably the best method. To the strip the cost will run $10.00-$20.00… center strip is only a short ride away from the airport. For downtown, depending on traffic, it might run slightly over $20.00. This is the fastest option and depending how many are in your group might be the cheapest option as well.
3) Bus –This is the cheapest option at $3.00 per person, but you have a bit further walk from the airport needing to cross over to the parking garage to catch the bus. You’ll also need to transfer as well. Crowded and slow, this is option is only desirable to the most aggressive penny pincher.
Checking Into Your Hotel
When arriving to your hotel do not be afraid to ask for a free upgrade. Tipping the man at the desk $20.00 to $50.00 is advised. Simply hand him this money between your license and credit card, look at his name tag and say: “John, could you also check if any free upgrades are available”. While you might be shy about doing it in some other city, please note: Las Vegas is built on tips. The man or woman at the desk has been given a tip and asked this same question hundreds of times; he, as well pretty much any other employee in the casino, is also allowed to accept tips. Many times if he can’t help you he’ll give the tip back, however keep in mind, bribes are breaking the rules and tips are not. If he doesn’t hand it back, don’t make any fuss and perhaps follow by asking if a late checkout is available for the day you depart.
Getting Prepared to Save
Coupon Books – hotel lobbies, Las Vegas taxis, and most the shopping areas, have magazines and booklets that are packed with coupon offers for various Las Vegas properties. If you’re a first time visitor, or someone that hasn’t explored the city yet, you’ll want to look at these magazines and booklets closely. There are casinos that will give you free buffets, match play, and other promotions just for signing up for their rewards comp card program which is free to enroll. Seriously, great free buffets, free gambling and other perks are available on your first few trips.
$3.99 to $4.99 Rib eye Steak and Eggs – This promo is available all over Las Vegas from hours 12AM to 5AM. You can find it at Harrah’s or dozens of other properties. One tip so you’re not caught off guard …coffee, which is free if you put 25 cents in a slot and order a cup, and is probably free in your room, tends to cost a $3.00 per cup in casino restaurants, being aware helps you get the full value. Some of these meals are absolutely delicious and include gourmet steak, eggs prepared to order, fresh fruit, orange juice and 4 pieces of toast. You’re not doing Vegas right unless you’re grabbing late night or early morning steak and egg deals.
Free Buffets – Again, refer to the coupon books we mentioned. Also never be afraid to ask a dealer, floor supervisors or the hotel concierge for comps.
Time Share Pitches – These guys recruit aggressively in hotel and casino lobbies. They’re trying to sell you hotel stay programs, time shares and the like. If you have time to kill, joining them for a tour will often get you free show tickets or even $100.00 in gambling comps.
Great Video Poker – If you’re a video poker fan the best way to save money is to head off the strip. If you’re staying center strip, walk in the direction from Flamingo towards Bally’s, once you reach the intersection where Bally’s is located, take a left and walk to Koval Lane which runs parallel to the strip. Cross Koval Lane and take a right. A very short walk from there you’ll find Ellis Island which has amazing staff, great food, awesome comps, and the highest payout video poker in all Las Vegas.
If you’re a gambler refer to our page on Las Vegas comps for gamblers. If you’re looking for non gambling ideas refer to Wiki Travel’s Las Vegas entry http://wikitravel.org/en/Las_Vegas.