Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Planning the Perfect Las Vegas Vacation Trip - Part 3 - Wheels, Whoops and Wins



Once you have your flights booked, you can complete the other arrangements at home, like finding a replacement kennel for Chippy because you didn't call ahead to confirm availability.

But that would never happen to you. You're savvy. That's the kind of thing that happens to me. Apparently.

There's a lesson there for you - make a list of all the 'must haves' and confirm as many of them as you can before you pull the trigger on flights.

Next, fill out your calendar with the needed hotel bookings. Don't forget to register for any events or tournaments associated with your hotel offer.
Don't forget to book yourself into any tournaments you have offers for!

Transfers

Unless you are going to spend your Las Vegas vacation at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, stuffing your face with Cinnabons, and counting how many of those identical book 'n snack stores there are, and playing the airport slots, you'll need transportation from the airport to your hotel.

Car Rental - If you plan to rent a car on your trip, you can pick it up at the airport and drive yourself to your destination. Gotcha: you have to take a shuttle to the rental place - about a 10 minute trip. Plus waiting time. Plus, it's a bus. And you want to get to your hotel and get gambling. Also, airport rentals can cost a bit more.

Taxi - yes, you can get a taxi on the fly, as it were. This is my least favorite option by far because of the rampant long-hauling that goes on in Vegas. If you must take a taxi, do some reading ahead of time on the best route to your hotel. Insist on it and tell them "NO TUNNEL". Simply put, the tunnel route is 3 sides of a square compared to one side if they take the right route.

Uber / Lyft - its a new option in Vegas and if you are comfortable with it, go for it. I have no experience with ridesharing as of this writing. Driving with Kenny Blankenship from the Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer plant is about as much adventure as I can handle in an automobile.

Shuttle - yeah, they are cheap, but you have to wait for them to leave, and you might have to stop at as many as 19 other properties before getting to yours. Is that an exaggeration? Perhaps, but it will seem that way, trust me.

Limo - this is Flusher's preferred option. Either book a web special airport deal on the web, or if you play enough, see if your host will set it up for you. If you pay for it you are looking at $100 plus for the return trip. If you are leaving Vegas from a different hotel than you arrive at, phone them - the web forms usually don't allow you to specify this detail.

Shared Limo - the Belltrans Shared VIP Limo service has to be the winner, especially if you are going mid-to north strip, or downtown. It's a limo, but you might have to share with some other folks. It's $28 return on the strip, $38 downtown. A one-way taxi fare downtown can easily run $40 with tip. So this, to me, is a no-brainer.

Bus - yup. The bus. If you are going downtown, aren't worried about taking a bus, have lots of time, and like to save money, you can do the Westcliff Airport Express bus for $2. Two. Bucks. And its fast. If you manage to time it right, you could be downtown in 40 minutes. There are other bus options from the airport, listed here.

Activities

Now's also the time to book your tickets to things. Get that all sorted well before you go.

Want to know what's on in Vegas? There are lots of websites to tell you.

Start with the official Vegas website, www.lasvegas.com. The commercial Vegas.com is a good resource too.

Phone
If you are an international visitor, you'll need to make cell phone plan arrangements for your trip or risk getting dinged with huge roaming charges. There are a few approaches here - you can possibly get a plan through your current provider. You can get a replacement SIM card and a US plan. (This is my solution through Canada's Roam Mobility - I set up the plan ahead of time for $4 a day and pop the Roam SIM into the phone on the plane. You get quite a bit of data with the plan so I can tether my laptop to it to save hotel WIFI charges. Downside - you have a different phone number while in the US. Rogers now has a reasonable roaming plan due to pressure from Roam's pricing - $5 a day. But I stick with Roam because I like sticking it to Rogers for screwing me with exhorbitant roaming charges all those years.

Another solution is to buy a phone for use in the US. Roam sells these, as do a million and one outlets in the US. You can do a cheap pre-paid throwaway phone, such as those from TracFone, or try to find a phone and plan through a first tier provider that makes economic sense.

Money

Here are some things you don't want to learn the hard way. And I don't mean two fours, I mean 'I am drunk and sick in Vegas behind a bush in the middle of the boulevard at 5:30 in the morning, without shoes, in a puddle of my own sick, and I. HAVE. NO. MONEY' hard way.

Make sure, certain, and for reals that you have access to enough funds. You do not want to be low on cash in Vegas.

Learn a money management technique that works for you so that you a) don't blow your bankroll on the first day b) have enough money left for the things you need money for. Like bus far, twinkies, and pregnancy tests.

If you are coming from an international destination, figure out the currency stuff before you show up. Get your US dollars ahead, get traveller's checks ahead, wire money to the cage ahead. You can also set up a line of credit at any casino, but do it ahead.

You can indeed change some currencies at the casino cage, but there is no guarantee you are going to get a decent rate.

Watch out for promotions that target your country, particularly you Canadians. When the loonie is low, Vegas sometimes has Canadian dollars at par promotions, like this one at the Downtown Grand, good until Dec 29, 2015, where you can buy $500 in US slot play with $500 Canadian dollars. In this case, you want to bring CAD bills with you, plus whatever else you need to qualify for the promo.


Pulling it All Together

It's shocking how many details there can be when you plan a Vegas trip. I wish I were the kind of person that could make a flight booking for the coming weekend, throw a pair of underwear and a clean shirt into a grocery bag, and head for the airport.

But I can't. Why? Because I live in reality. And so do you. You have prescriptions to fill. Glasses to find. Grandmothers to finagle into babysitting. 'Splainin to do...

Consider trying a trip itinerary app like TripIt or TripCase. I use TripIt to organize all the stuff in my trip. It's pretty easy - you can email things like flight or rental car reservations and TripIt puts the key info into an easy to use app. You can also add stuff manually of course.

It's free for the basic version and I like how it works.

I'm sure I could write parts 4, 5, 6 and even part 7 on how to plan a trip, but I think I've covered the key points.

The one thing I haven't mentioned is this - when you go to Vegas, just be sure to WIN. That makes everything else a little less important.

Good luck, and savvy travels!

R.F.


2 comments:

  1. Hiya Flusher,
    I have to disagree with the "get your US currency before you go" suggestion. Almost ALWAYS you will get a better spot exchange rate by using a cash machine once you get to Las Vegas (including whatever the ATM fee is) rather than getting it in your home country. It's worth checking rates if peopel gamble any large amount. Oh, and don't do what my drunken husband did and leave the $800 sticking out of the cash machine and walking away.

    Best wishes,
    Joan

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    1. Joan, thanks for your input. It's been a while since I exchanged CAD for US cash or traveler's checks. We set up a US dollar bank account and can take markers on a line of credit down there, and then pay them off in US dollars when we inevitably lose. Thank goodness we exchanged when the CAD was at 96 cents. Maybe it would be better to exchange cash at the cage rather than use an ATM - casino ATM rates are insanely expensive. There's no charge at the cage.

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