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When to go
Hotel occupancy is typically more than 90 percent on weekends, so those looking for low rates or wishing to avoid crowds should not book weekends, holidays or when major conventions are in town (see below). Expect warm days and cool nights most of the year, and virtually no rain. Daily highs average about 60 degrees in winter, a scorching 100 or more in summer.
Ways to save: Consult the convention calendar to avoid high-priced convention periods. Vegas hotel websites typically show lowest daily rates for each month, facilitating a trip when the price is right.
Where to stay
With more than 149,000 hotel rooms — more than any other U.S. city — you’re spoiled for choice. Depending on timing and promotions, pay less than $50 a night (including dreaded “resort fees”) for decent budget Strip casino resorts such as Excalibur, Flamingo and Luxor. More upscale lodgings, such as MGM Grand, start at about $100. Luxe favorites include Wynn Las Vegas and sister resort Encore. You can get courtesy airport limo, VIP check-in and special pool area at ARIA’s sleek-contemporary Sky Suites. But you’ll shell out at least $400 a night for the privilege. Want to really high-roll it? The rooftop three-bedroom Nobu Villa at Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace will set you back a cool $35,000 a night for 10,300 square feet of unfettered extravagance (private sundeck included). The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s site lets you filter by location and type. Just be prepared for resort fees that can add as much as $39 daily.
A Vegas fact of life: Checking into a 4,000-room resort at peak times can mean an hour standing in line, unless you’re a high roller; hold an elite players club card, available for free at every casino; or can use mobile phone check-in or a room-key kiosk. If you’re desperate, visit the VIP check-in area with a big smile or a $20 bill for the clerk. Or choose a smaller hotel, such as the 188-room Cromwell.
In addition to wheelchair-accessible rooms, resorts have pools with lifts, and some have installed flashing lights in certain rooms to alert deaf guests to emergencies.
Though hotels are eliminating or cutting back on smoking in rooms, often you must walk through smoky casinos to access guest floors. If fumes bother you, consider nonsmoking properties without gaming, such as the Mandarin Oriental or all-suite Vdara and Trump International hotels. Or check LasVegasAdvisor.com, which lets you filter by smoke-free and special needs.
Ways to save: Sleep downtown or off-Strip or seek air/hotel packages. Downtown is spiffing up, and rates are lower. Four Queens Hotel and Casino (no resort fee) and El Cortez Hotel & Casino are among many value options that can cost less than $45 nightly. Off-Strip, M Resort Spa Casino caters to those who seek luxury for less, plus free airport shuttle. South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa, a locals’ favorite, offers an airport shuttle and rooms that can cost less than $60. Players club cards can win room discounts. But good luck getting your stay comped. Casino resort freebies are going the way of the 99-cent shrimp cocktail.
How to get there
In 2017 a record 48 million travelers passed through McCarran International Airport (LAS), a dice throw from the Strip. Be prepared for backups at security checkpoints during busy times — Sundays, after big events and when a large convention ends. Hungover revelers slow down lines. Hotel concierges advise getting to the airport at least two hours before flights, sooner if you’re checking a bag, require assistance or on a crazy travel day. If you’re early, slot machines by boarding gates give you one last crack at a win.
With the introduction of parking fees — you can pay $9 or more an hour for self-parking — driving is expensive. Unless you want to take a day trip or explore, forget about a car.
Ways to save: Book a SuperShuttle in advance, or take public buses to some hotels. Both can carry wheelchair users. Buses offer those 60 and over reduced fares. Lines for taxis can be long; avoid them by summoning a lower-cost ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft. Taxis accommodating wheelchairs are available via dispatchers. The local transportation commission offers $3 shared-ride paratransit service.
Activities to arrange before you go
Foodies determined to dine at a celebrated chef’s restaurant should book when making their travel plans. Spa-goers should book ahead, too. To secure a seat with a stellar view at popular shows, reserve weeks or months ahead. If you can’t or don’t care to wait in line at other attractions (such as the Mob Museum, High Roller Observation Wheel or Eiffel Tower), buy tickets in advance.
Ways to save: Scores of websites offer discounts for shows and attractions, so comparison shop. Try VEGAS.com, LasVegas.com and the show’s box office. Last-minute buyers score deals via Tix4tonight or by visiting one of its booths in resorts or on the Strip. Being a Las Vegas Advisor member (starting at $37 a year) gets you special offers and a coupon book for hotels, shows, bars and restaurants.
What to pack
Racking up your 10,000 daily steps in Vegas is as easy as watching bills vanish in a slot machine. Two words of advice: comfy shoes. You’ll easily log three miles or more each day walking on the Strip or traversing the vast premises of 4,000- to 6,000-room casino hotels to gamble, eat, spa or shop. Fashionistas who simply can’t give up their stilettos go barefoot and carry them from place to place.
Otherwise, check your inhibitions at your closet door. Even if they don’t have it, visitors flaunt it in tight dresses, sequined tops and other flashy duds. But casual wear such as T-shirts and shorts works most everywhere except fancy restaurants and clubs. Men don’t need a blazer or tie — just a long-sleeved shirt and nice pants for formal places. A common mistake: not bringing a jacket in winter when it gets chilly. Pack sunscreen if you’ll be trolling the Strip or lolling poolside in the strong sun.
Rule No. 1: If you overdrink, stay tethered to a responsible companion. Tourist areas are well patrolled. Even in the wee hours, you’ll likely feel comfortable on the Strip or in crowded areas downtown. Watch your wallet or purse, and don’t be tempted by sidewalk hustlers.