Sin City 101: Vegas Travel Tips for First-Timers

Las Vegas: An oasis nestled in the vast desert of Nevada, offering a taste of every savory and unsavory indulgence under the sun. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, and sometimes just completely lost, in this entertainment mecca – it spans miles of massive resorts, each one featuring its own theme, casino, resort-style pool, showrooms, ballrooms, clubs, bars, restaurants, and hotel rooms.

Las Vegas 101_Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

Here are a few Vegas travel tips for navigating your first visit to Sin City (and getting out alive).

Las Vegas 101_Strip

It’s How Far?

When you first arrive in Vegas, and gaze down the Strip, it appears grand, certainly, but everything looks much closer together than it actually is. Just walking from one casino to the next can be up to half a mile. Your feet may be ready to fall off if you try to walk even half the Strip in one go. Use the elevated walkways to move more quickly from place to place, and do yourself a favor and grab the monorail or a cab (factor at least 30 minutes to wait for a cab if you’re going during peak times) if you need to go from one end of the Strip to the other.

Dollar Dollar Bills

It’s no surprise that this is a town ruled by tourism and cash. Everyone has a hand out, so be ready to oblige – it’s customary here.

You can also use tips to get just about anything you want, even if you’re initially told something “isn’t possible.” (Hint: Nothing is impossible in Vegas). Here are a few ways to use tips for upgrades:

  • If you want a room with a nice view, slide a $20 USD bill onto the counter when you’re checking in to your hotel. Then, make your request. If they have a better view available, you’ll get it.
  • Similarly, if you’re interested in a room type upgrade (i.e. moving from a standard room to a mini-suite) follow the same procedure as above, although you’ll likely have to “up the ante” ($40 to $200 tip depending on the caliber of your hotel and cost of the rooms). This is usually still cheaper than actually booking the next level up room, and if the check-in clerk isn’t able to make the upgrade (usually due to availability), simply remove your bills from the counter.
  • If you’ve driven to Vegas, the hotel staff will usually park your car in a garage behind the resort. Since these resorts are so massive, this means you can be waiting about twenty minutes or more for them to retrieve your car when it’s time to leave. Slip the valet a $20 and your car will be parked in the front of the hotel instead, ready and waiting for you upon departure.

Will Gamble for Liquor

When you’re gambling in the casinos, cocktail waitresses will approach you and ask if you’d like a drink. Always say yes – these are FREE. (I got really excited when I found this out on my first trip to Vegas at 21). It is customary to tip the cocktail waitress $1 – $2 per drink, but you can usually order anything you’d like (wine, beer, mixed drinks, etc.). The logic is the more you drink, the more you’ll gamble, so it’s a win/win for both you and the casino. (If you’re planning to go to a club later, this is also a fantastic way to pre-game…for nearly free!)

Las Vegas_Paris Hotel_Bellagio

Learn to Play the Game

My first trip to Vegas, I had no stinkin’ clue how to play Blackjack, Poker, Craps, or even Roulette. If you’re making a trip, read up on the game basics. Even if you don’t intend to gamble much, it will make watching others gamble more fun! If you don’t have time to learn independently, many casinos offer daytime tutorial sessions for table games, so check on those when you arrive.

Player’s Clubs

Upon arrival at your hotel, sign up for the player’s club. It is basically a loyalty rewards card, and nearly every resort has one — some you can even use at multiple resorts (such as MLife, which works at MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and more). Swipe your club card all over Vegas to accumulate points for things you’re going to do anyway, like gambling and eating in restaurants. Your points qualify you for rewards tiers, which translate to freebies and discounts later.

Las Vegas_Wine

Drink Deals at Restaurants

A lot of mid-tier restaurants on the Strip will offer drink deals to entice people to come inside. If you’ve spotted a restaurant you’d like to eat at, scope out the area of the sidewalk right in front of it. Employees will stand there handing out cards to passersby offering 2-for-1 drinks, or sometimes a completely free round of cocktails with your dinner.

Las Vegas_O by Cirque du Soleil

Don’t Write Off the Shows

When planning Vegas trips with my 20-something friends, they usually scoff at the idea of seeing shows on the Strip. While the drinking and gambling make Vegas fun enough, don’t pass up the opportunity to see some of the world-famous shows here just to up your cool-factor. O by Cirque du Soleil is one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen in my life, and I’m glad I didn’t pass that one up! (Save $33 per ticket on KA by Cirque du Soleil with this affiliate link*).

Las Vegas_Bellagio

Bring a Sweater

Las Vegas is a desert climate, making the weather somewhat moderate in the winter, but scorching hot in the summer. Shorts and tank tops are the Vegas summer uniform (you’ll die in anything else), but be sure to bring a sweater. Resorts crank the AC inside the casinos and restaurants in the name of comfort, so if you get cold easily, bring a light jacket with you every time you leave your hotel.

Kids or No Kids

I was surprised by the number of kids I saw on the Strip. While there are certainly things for kids to do (arcades, swimming pools, and kid-friendly restaurants are everywhere), tipsy people saying uncensored things are also all around you, not to mention half-dressed club-goers, and provocative advertisements for strip clubs, etc. If you’re on the conservative side, I’d recommend leaving the kiddies at home and indulging in Sin City on your own!

Have to been to Sin City? Share your #1 tip for getting out alive in the comments below!