I can’t think of a more appropriate blog topic for me to write about at the moment than “how to plan a trip to Las Vegas.”
Why is that, you might ask?
As it turns out, I am planning a trip to Las Vegas in November for myself. It’s not my 1st trip to Vegas, by any means, but it’s been a few years, so it’s almost like starting all over again. I won’t lie, though, I’m excited about it.
I’ve been buying and reading travel guides. I’ve been putting in some overtime to make sure I have enough money for the trip. I’ve already bought the airline tickets (1st class) and booked my hotel room (a suite at the Golden Nugget).
I’m working on a list of things I want to do with the special lady friend that I’m bringing along, too. We know 2 things for certain—we’re going to play craps, and she’s going to try this Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
I’m more interested in experiencing some of the old-school Las Vegas sights and sounds, personally. I’m probably more excited about seeing this “The Rate Pack Is Back” live show than anything else.
Regardless, I’m in the perfect mindset right now to help you figure out how to plan your trip to Las Vegas.
1- Buy Some Travel Guides
The 1st thing you should do is buy some travel guides. I’m partial to Frommers, of course, because I always have been.
But that’s not the only travel guide to Las Vegas on the market at all. Some would say it’s not even the best.
I’ve been spending some time reading The Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas 2018, and I must say I’m impressed with the depth and breadth of their coverage. They’re definitely giving Frommers a run for their money.
Of course, you can also get a free travel guide from the TravelNevada.com website, which might also be worth doing. The problem with those free travel guides is that much of their content consists more of advertising materials than any actual editorial, insightful thoughts on what to see and do while you’re visiting.
You might want to spend some time gambling while you’re in Las Vegas. (Imagine that.) If that’s the case, I recommend reading a good gambling guide, too. My suggestion is to find a used copy of American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling: Winning Ways by Andrew Brisman. It provides the best overview of casino games and gambling that I’ve read, and it’s almost comprehensive. Some of the new-ish games aren’t represented in his book, but that’s okay. You should probably stick with the classic games anyway.
You can also find more specific guides to Las Vegas. For example, if you’re a big foodie, the best guide book for you might be Eating Las Vegas 2018, which lists the 52 most essential dining experiences in the city.
2- Save Up Enough Money for the Trip
The prices for a trip to Vegas vary widely based on how you’re getting there, where you’re staying, and what you’re planning to do when you’re there. One thing’s for sure, though. Las Vegas ain’t free.
That being the case, you need to budget some money for your trip. The biggest expenses are going to be your airfare and your hotel stay, so spend some time on the major travel sites looking at the prices for those.
You can save a lot of money traveling to and staying in Las Vegas if you travel on dates other than busy dates. Friday and Saturday are the busiest nights in Vegas, so try not to fly in on a Friday just so you can fly back on Sunday. That’s the most expensive way to go to Vegas.
Instead, plan some time off from work and focus your dates around Sunday through Thursday. Travel is a supply and demand business, so if you plan to go when there’s less demand, you’ll save money.
Planning your trip for slower months is even better. December is usually the cheapest time to go, but you need to plan to visit after the big rodeo and before New Years.
Then you need to plan how much money you’re going to gamble with each day, how much you’ll need for food and dining purposes, and plan additional expenses like entertainment. Some of this you’ll buy in advance.
I’m going to eat out 3 meals a day, obviously. But we’re also going to try to go to at least one show every night. I also plan to spend at least 4 hours a day gambling. These are all things to take into account when budgeting for your trip.
Once you have a ballpark estimate of what your trip will cost, decide how far in the future you’re going to plan your trip. Divide that by the number of paydays between now and then, and you’ll know how much money to set aside each time you get paid for your trip.
3- Plan How to Get to Las Vegas
Most people are going to fly into Las Vegas. The airport there is McCarran. You can get cheap flights to Vegas on most dates from anywhere in the United States. I’m a big man, and my special lady friend is also really tall, so we’re flying 1st class. That’s ridiculously expensive, but why not?
You can expect to spend 4X to 5X as much on a flight in 1st class as you would if you traveled in economy.
Of course, if you live driving distance, you can always drive to Las Vegas, too. Get your car thoroughly checked out before driving to Vegas, though. The city’s in the middle of a desert. You don’t want to get stranded on the side of the road in the desert.
You should also pack plenty of water and make sure your gas tank never gets below half a tank. Sometimes you’ll travel far between gas stations.
Those are far and away the most common ways to get to Las Vegas. If you really want the best deal on airfare, I suggest Priceline.
4- Decide Where You Want to Stay
My philosophy is to start with the big picture and start narrowing down your choices from there. Do you want to stay on The Strip? My buddy wants to stay on The Strip because he thinks that’s where all the action is. Depending on what kind of action you’re talking about, he’s probably right.
I, on the other hand, want to stay Downtown. I’ve stayed on The Strip every other time I’ve been to Vegas. My understanding is that consolidation has made the Las Vegas Strip pretty plastic, and there’s little difference from one hotel and casino to another. I think 75% of the hotels on The Strip are owned by 1 of only 4 companies now.
Your budget’s going to make a big difference, too. I don’t judge anyone for their travel budget. If the only way you can afford to go to Vegas is to stay somewhere cheap like Circus Circus, I say more power to you. On the other hand, if you have the money to stay in some of the super luxury properties in the city, that’s great, too.
This is one area where those travel guides I suggested you buy can come in handy. All of them provide detailed reviews of the hotels and casinos available throughout the city.
You can also find a wealth of information about the various lodging options across the internet. I like TripAdvisor for non-biased reviews written by users, although even some of those reviews can possibly be written by shills for the casinos.
Make a list of amenities you need from your hotel before booking. If you must have a smoking room, make sure the hotel offers it before booking it. If you need room service, double-check that it’s available. Go through your list line by line if need be.
5- Make a List of Things You Want to Do in Vegas
It won’t take you long to realize that there are more fun things to do in Las Vegas than almost anywhere else in the world. You don’t have to spend much time online or reading one of the printed guidebooks to start getting ideas about what you want to do there.
Some Vegas visitors only go for the gambling. I think they’re missing out. Not everyone likes magic acts, but surely everyone can get excited about a show of some kind, right?
Definitely lean toward activities you think you’ll enjoy, though. Don’t waste money on concerts if you don’t really enjoy music. Try to avoid letting your wife drag you to an art museum if you get bored at such places.
There’s no limit to the things you can see and do in the city proper, but you can also find stuff to do in the surrounding area. It’s almost a cliché to visit the Boulder Dam, for example, but you should do it if you haven’t.
Don’t know what Vegas has to offer in terms of things to do?
Go back to step #1 on this list and buy some of those guidebooks.
If you’re totally opposed to buying guidebooks, try visiting a couple of websites devoted to Las Vegas events and things to do. TripAdvisor has a list of the best 15 things to do in Las Vegas. LasVegas.com has a great attractions page, too. Either of those 2 pages are a good starting point for your list.
6- Learn How to Gamble
It’s hard for me to imagine going to Las Vegas without gambling. If you’re planning to visit Vegas and not gamble, more power to you. You can just skip this section, and my feelings won’t be hurt.
If you ARE planning to gamble, though, you should learn a little about it beforehand.
The 1st thing to understand is that not all kinds of gambling are the same. Here’s how I categorize gambling activities:
Casino games are the games offered by the casinos. You compete with the casino when you’re placing a bet, so if you win, you’re winning the casino’s money, not the other players. You can divide casino games into 2 categories: table games and gambling machines.
Generally, table games offer better odds, although video poker games can compete if you know which pay tables to look for. Slot machines offer the worst odds in the casino, barring some of the really bad games like keno.
I suggest finding an online casino which offers some of the games you’re hoping to play. These online casinos offer free versions of their games, so you don’t have to deposit or risk any money. You can use these free games to get familiar with how the bets work and how the action at the table goes.
You can also read tutorials about the various casino games right here on this site. You can get an idea of which casino games you might enjoy.
Poker games, unlike casino games, require you to compete with other players for their money. (The casino has house-banked versions of poker, but those aren’t “real” poker games.) Texas holdem and Omaha are the most popular poker games available in casinos now, although a lot of casinos have removed their cardrooms.
I suggest getting your feet wet with some of the free poker apps on the web, too. Casino poker isn’t the same as poker played at home, although it’s similar enough that you’ll probably be fine.
If you’re a skilled poker player, your best odds of winning are probably at the poker tables.
Sports betting is great, and yes, you’re competing with the book. But you generally have a 50/50 chance of winning most of your bets with the book. The casino makes its money from your sports betting activities by asking you to risk $110 to win $100.
You can bet on almost any kind of sport you can imagine. Most of the sports books in Vegas are pretty ritzy, too. You can relax, eat, drink, and watch the game in comfort.
You can bet on horses and play bingo and keno, too. But those aren’t quite as “Vegas” as the other options I’ve listed above.
7- Manage Your Gambling Bankroll Appropriately
The most important thing to know about managing a gambling bankroll is that you should only gamble with money you can afford to lose. This means, among other things, that you never borrow money at a high interest rate to gamble with. You never gamble if you’re behind on your other bills.
When you decide how much you’re going to gamble, you should decide what your goals are. Are you planning to make money by taking advantage of loopholes in the casino games? If so, you should study advantage gambling techniques and have a much larger bankroll than the size of your bets. This way you can avoid a string of bad luck that will break your bank before your long-term edge kicks in.
If you just want to be in action for a certain amount of time on your trip, you should budget your bankroll appropriate to that, too. The house edge, the size of your average bet, and the number of bets you make per hour determine how much money you’re likely to lose. You should size your bankroll and your bets accordingly.
You can find information about calculating your predicted hourly loss at most of the casino games available on the main page for each of those casino games on this site.
Some writers are big on win goals and stop loss limits. I think those are fine, but you need to understand that they do nothing to improve your probability of winning. Casino games and gambling are random. Yes, you’ll see hot and cold streaks, but there’s no way predict when they’ll begin or end. These streaks are examples of retroactive occurrences. They’re not something you can count on.
Planning a trip to Las Vegas can be almost as fun as visiting Vegas. I like to milk every life experience for as much joy as I can. This means I want to look forward to the trip, enjoy the trip, and reminisce about the trip. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a big believer in surprising someone with a trip to Vegas. By doing so, you’re subtracting one method of getting joy from the experience—the anticipation of it.
I do recommend buying actual print copies of some of the Las Vegas guidebooks that are available. Some of them are excellent, and they’ll help you find things to do you might not otherwise think of.
If you’re going to gamble, try not to be completely inexperienced when you get there. You can get a little bit of experience with free games online at some of the online casinos listed on this site, in fact.
Most importantly, don’t lose or spend money you can’t afford to be without.