It's been a bizarre and busy week. Las Vegas will do that to you.
We've visited Las Vegas countless times and for a variety of reasons over the years. This time, we were there for some work and some fun. No matter the reason for our visit, our time in Las Vegas is always frenetic and often full of surprises. This time was no exception. To an odd extreme.
As is the case in any city that can easily de-bulk your wallet, it's helpful to have some experience-maximizing parameters from the get-go. Here are some of our top tips for capturing the best deals and optimizing your Las Vegas experience.
1. Splash Out.
Generally speaking, Vegas is a budget-maximizer's paradise. Some of our favorite hotels – including our very favorite hotel – are in Vegas. In few other places around the world is the quality-of-experience to cost ratio so favorable. Live well in Vegas. But wait, there's more...
2. Be a Player.
Most hotels/casinos offer loyalty cards – player's club cards. If you gamble, the cards are used to track your play (and they can lead to some significant comps and rewards). Sign up even if you aren't a gambler. We collect the cards because they open the door to some of the best Vegas hotel offers we've seen. Thanks to these cards, we've stayed at several of our favorite hotels in the world – including Wynn/Encore, Aria, Bellagio and Venetian/Palazzo – for under $100 a night (via e-mail offers). Sign up for loyalty programs. But wait, there's still more...
3. Tell Them You're There.
We're not big gamblers; we use the cards for the deals. Here's our secret. If, as was the case with this most recent trip, we're staying at Bellagio (part of the MGM M Life loyalty program), we'll always gamble – at least a bit – at both Wynn/Encore (the Red Card loyalty program) and Venetian/Palazzo (the Grazie loyalty program). It tells those hotels/casinos that you were in Vegas. Better yet, their systems can easily determine that you didn't stay there. This is, oftentimes, when the real deals will start rolling in. We find that when we don't stay with a particular hotel, we'll then start getting better offers. In one instance, Wynn/Encore "won" our next visit's reservation by offering us enough of a resort credit to cover our stay. Similarly, another hotel offered us a entirely comped weekend at their property. Use all of your loyalty program cards during each visit. Okay, that's it for hotel tips.
4. Know Your Game.
Again, we don't gamble much. It's typically a budget wrecker, so it doesn't jive with propelling our NVR lifestyle. However, we enjoy playing a bit and we love the payoff in terms of #2 and #3. Many people who gamble do so without knowing what the hell they are doing. Why lose your money even faster? If you're playing blackjack, use a proven strategy. Playing a slot machine? Read the rules. On this visit, we had $60 invested in a slot machine. We hit a bonus that gave us 30x our future winnings for 20 seconds. Knowing that (because we read the rules), we frantically hit the "Max Bet" button for 20 seconds and walked away with over a 1000% return on our play. Many people around us didn't pay any attention to the multiplier bonus (thinking it was a "throw away") and let the 20 seconds of bliss slip away. Read and understand the rules before playing any casino game.
5. Eat Strategically.
Many of the world's best dining opportunities await you in Vegas. Here again, you can really maximize your cost/benefit advantage. Many of the top Vegas restaurants offer – especially during these years of economic woe - enticing prix fixe menu opportunities. Watch for them. Also, not all all-you-can-eat offerings are low quality. Check out Vegas's most delicious buffets at, for instance, Wynn/Encore and Bellagio. Also, keep an eye out for other incredible deals for foodies. Our current favorite is Border Grill's "Border Brunch" on Saturdays and Sundays. For about $35, you can revel in bottomless mimosas and unlimited served plates. It's Mexican food nirvana, and it keeps us from having to eat much for the rest of the day. Find high-quality, well-priced dining deals.
6. Get Your Culture On.
On Friday, we saw a media showing of Rock of Ages. Sitting in the showroom, we were reminded of how great it is to catch an event in vegas. Why? In most cases, the venues are small – more intimate than we are accustomed to in other cities. That means that there really aren't any bad seats. If you're on a budget, don't hesitate to buy the lowest priced tickets in Vegas. A few visits ago, we got 35% off the cheapest tickets to Ka. Just before the show started, ushers invited attendees to fill the closer seats. Buy the cheap seats.
7. Watch your driver.
Unfortunately, Vegas has scores of taxi drivers who like to take the long way. It's probably one of the worst 5 cities we've been to in this regard. Know the basic bones of the city before arriving. Don't hesitate to tell your driver how you want him to go or to call him out if he's bloating the route to your destination. For crying out loud, don't lose your money in the cab.
Oh, and the 2013 confusion we were talking about earlier in the week. It's disappearing. Fast. 2013 is about to officially start.