Thinking of planning a trip to Vegas? As someone who has been so much that the mention of returning to sunny Nevada has friends and family replying “Again?!” – I got you.
This is going to be a long one so you can save/bookmark for later or jump to the section you need here:
When To Go
Where To Stay
What To Do
If You’re Bringing Children
First Time At The Casino? Games To Play
Places To Go
Where To Eat
Know Before You Go
I’m starting with this one because it was a weird one to me – I didn’t know what to pack. Sure, I’d seen Vegas on TV but I just wasn’t sure what everyone would be wearing. The answer? EVERYTHING. Vegas is the only place you’ll walk into a room and see one person in a suit, another in a bikini, another in a tracksuit, someone else in a nightclub mini dress and heels, another in what looks like pyjamas sat next to someone in a chicken costume… you get the picture. The list goes on. Vegas is sort of – anything goes… but I got some top tips as a regular in Vegas…
Bring flat, comfortable shoes. Vegas is a lot of walking along the strip to various casinos, stores, and hotels. You may be there just for the clubbing so you want to wear heels – and you can find roll-a-sole vending machines if your feet get tired. But for the most part, I barely wear heels in Vegas anymore – keep your feet happy and comfy.
Outside hot, inside cold. The casinos themselves are ALWAYS cold. It’s sweltering outside but the AC is fired up inside. Bring a light jacket if you plan to sit inside casinos for a while.
And if you’re heading to a fancy restaurant, check their site for their specific dress code to make sure you pack the right stuff. Mostly, those nice places prefer you don’t wear slides, beachwear, caps, and anything transparent. But take a look before you pack if you’ve already made a reservation.
When To Go
If you’re hoping for things to be a little quieter and cheaper than usual, avoid Friday-Monday. The weekends are wild and chaotic and as soon as you start to smell Friday, all of the casino games go up in price (for minimum bets). If the chaos is your vibe, then the weekend is your friend. And for the nice weather? Just avoid December-February and you should be fine.
Where To Stay
Stay on the Strip. Unless you’re renting a car for your time there, you want to be within walking distance of all the casinos/hotels. Every hotel is basically also a casino. If you’re not the one paying, stay at The Cosmopolitan (super fancy and by far serves the best drinks). Otherwise, you can’t really go too far wrong but some of my favourites are: Planet Hollywood, Caesars Palace, and The Flamingo.
Get a rewards card if you gamble a lot – your status will get you comped rooms and good deals.
What To Do
Gambling is the obvious one, of course. And there’s no shortage of options – we’ll chat about the games further down.
Shopping at the outlets is fun if you’re renting a car; otherwise, there’s no end to the luxurious stores in the hotel malls… but I love a deal so you know I’m at the outlets.
Eating delicious food – more on that in a hot second.
See a show. With plenty of fabulous residencies you can see singers, comedians, magicians, dancers – and everything is a spectacle. Except for Potted Potter. That’s time I’ll never get back in my life; glad it was a free ticket. Highly recommend Anthony Cools but I hope I’m not just saying that because he hypnotised the audience. Penn & Teller is definitely on my list but I haven’t gotten to see them just yet.
You can also head to something a bit more interactive like Omega Mart, or grab a bay at Top Golf. Omega Mart, for me, was a little overpriced for what it was (it’s an interactive art exhibit where you walk around in an alien supermarket type place). $55 for an adult ticket and an extra $50 if you want to add a 2-hour game to your time there. Mostly for kids and anyone who wants to take a weird photo for the gram. Activities like Top Golf, I will always recommend.
If You’re Bringing Children
You need to know that no-one under 21 is allowed to even stand on the casino floor; someone will come and tell you to leave. They can go to shows, restaurants, and fun activities but just none of the adult stuff.
You can also enjoy free things like the fountain show at The Bellagio (very frequently) or the volcano eruption at The Mirage (on the hour every hour 7pm-11pm), or buy tickets for the High Roller wheel. Fair warning: there are scantily clad (read: v naked) women dressed up in showgirl costumes walking The Strip for tips (you can take a picture with them and you’re expected to tip – you might want to ask them how much before taking the photo; I’ve heard of some awkward interactions)… so your kids will see some stuff.
The gondola ride at the Venetian looks cool but it’s like – pay a chunk, wait a long time, and it’s over in a flash. (I didn’t mean to make that sound like something else you can probably pay for in Vegas.)
First Time At The Casino
Table games might feel intimidating if you’re new to the casino setting – I get it. It’s much easier to bet $5 on black at roulette than sit down and work out how to play baccarat. And even easier to sit alone at a slot machine without a dealer watching you as you spin the wheels trying to make a profit. Obvs bet responsibly and I’m not responsible for you donating your money to the economy of Nevada, but I’m here to chat about what’s fun to play…
Craps is fun and it’s supposed to be the game where the house has the least advantage… because it’s dice. You’re betting on the roll of a dice so they can’t really have much of an advantage. Put simply, you want to keep rolling lots of sevens in a row and bet on the ‘pass line’ (aka yes I’m going to roll a seven). If you don’t roll a seven or craps – say, you roll a five, you are now aiming to roll a five again. There’s lots more to it than that but it’s fun and fairly easy to pick up.
Blackjack – the game everyone knows but not everyone knows the strategy. Hit 21 and you’re loving life, but anything less and you’ll need to think about getting another card. The basic principle is (and I’m not an expert) that there are more tens than anything in the deck, so you want to assume that the dealer has a 10 as their face down card. You want to also assume they’re about to draw another one. I know – lots of wild assumptions. But the point is you need to look at the dealer’s hand as well as your own. You are playing against the dealer and with the table. So don’t hit randomly and screw it up for everyone else – they won’t love you for that.
For most card games you’re not allowed to touch the cards, and for games where you are required to touch them, you can’t bring them behind the table. No phones at the table either; I’m not sure how that could be a cheating thing but no phones.
Baccarat looks intense but you’re basically betting on which hand (banker or player) will win and get the closest to the number 9. It’s a bit like red/black on roulette. Tens count for nothing so if a hand is a 5 + 7 = 12… that’s 2. As with most card games, there are always bonuses to play too – which is why it looks like there’s a lot going on.
If you want something chill, Keno is a lot of fun and super easy (and cheap) to play. It’s like the lottery every 5 minutes. Pick some numbers, pick your own price per ticket, and watch the balls bounce around in the machine as you cheer for your lucky numbers to come up. Keno is very customisable to what you want to bet – you can decide how many numbers you want to choose and how much money to bet, and there’s a little booklet to show you how much you could win if your numbers come up.
Places To Go
Head to Old Las Vegas (Fremont Street). Sure, The Strip is fun and fancy, but Old Vegas has it’s charms too. It’s best if you’re renting a car (and you can get your parking validated by playing in the casino) – then you can take a quick drive. Uber is also an option, obviously… and then there’s the bus. If you’re taking the bus, download the RTC app to buy your pass. $8 for a 24hour pass or $20 for a three-day pass. The clientele on the bus is a mixture of folks. You might see some things. But it’s cheap. Once in Old Vegas you’ll see some sights, maybe get a cheaper bet on a game you’d like to try (and the dealers will help you if you’re learning), and there might even be some random fun games you don’t see on The Strip. You can see the Pawn Shop from Pawn Stars, or get married in a chapel.
We took a drive to The Grand Canyon West site from Vegas and it was only around two hours to get there. You drive through some empty places though so take snacks and water for the way. And grab your tickets before you go – see my Grand Canyon guide for our experience so you don’t fall into a tourist trap.
Where To Eat
Fancy occasion for celebrating? Make a reservation at Mastro’s or Joe’s. They are THE places to be fancy. They come with the price tag to match though, so take a look at the menu before rocking up to make sure it’s what you want from your evening. Joe’s also has a bar area – we’ve gone in without a reservation before just to grab a drink and dessert – their banana cream pie is all the things. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse has a similar price range but didn’t feel as worth it so I probably wouldn’t rush to go back there.
Something good for all the family? Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen is great, plus you can be a little more casual.
Need something cheap because you lost all your money on the Little Shop of Horrors slot machine? Head to Miracle Mile Shops in Planet Hollywood for a cheap breakfast. Ocean One Bar & Grille has you covered with a $10 breakfast… maybe even less depending on what you order. The service isn’t amazing but I always go back for that biscuit and gravy side! If you’re British, I don’t recommend you order a tea.
There are also typical chains like Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, The Cheesecake Factory, White Castle, and In-N-Out. Definitely also a great option for something casual, but know that everything on The Strip is generally more expensive than you want it to be.
Know Before You Go
When I say everything is more expensive on The Strip, I mean everything. There is a CVS store but the prices won’t be what you’re used to. So try to buy and pack room snacks before you go, or if you’re renting a car you can head to a store off the Strip for supplies – water, drinks, snacks – whatever you need. And you WILL want water… Vegas is dry AF.
Hotels usually have a pool and a gym, if you want to bring your bikini but pool loungers do cost money to rent – you can’t just rock up at the poolside and sit for free.
Parking at your hotel isn’t free anymore – I KNOW – so if you’re taking/renting a car, keep in mind that you might be paying $15 or more per night… double check at your hotel’s site before you go.
Uber-ing from the airport? Don’t pay more than $20. When we go, the Uber will cost around $14… but there are price surges when everyone is getting off the plane and trying to order at the same time. Keep checking on the prices between Uber and Lyft and wait for it to go back to normal. And if it’s not going down, or you can’t wait? A regular cab will take you for about $20 anyway. Traffic on The Strip always sucks which is why I told you to pack flat shoes – you will get your steps in.
Take cash out before you go as the casinos charge a fee to withdraw money once you’re there. That’s also a good strategy for controlling your spend – take an allowance of money you’re prepared to lose… because, let’s face it – the house wins most of the time. (Bet responsibly and all that.) Go with positive energy but realistic expectations.
Major thing to know – if you’re gambling, you drink for free. Waitresses will come around and take drink orders intermittently, and it’s customary to tip a dollar when you get a drink. (Some people tip every other time if they’re not drinking alcohol.) Sounds free, but it’s less free if you’re losing money in the games/slots. Still feels free.
And the Starbucks line is Disneyland-long every single morning. Consider sitting at Keno for a game and ordering a free coffee.
Whew that was a lot. Can you tell I go to Vegas too much? Do you have any tips or secrets from visiting that I missed? Or any questions I can answer? I love to chat all things Vegas so let’s chat! Or save/bookmark this for later when you’re planning your vacation.