Someone once told me I should teach a course on how to “do” Vegas and I’m not sure if I should be flattered or embarrassed. Either way, I’ll take it and run with it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to make the trek from southern California across the Mojave to Las Vegas, Nevada many times. It’s a glittering city full of excess (and sometimes poor life choices) but, if you come prepared and know how to hack it, it can be one of the most fun places you’ll go. Kind of like an adult Disneyland.
From my frequent jaunts into town, I’ve compiled a seven-step guide for all my gal pals out there on how to make the most of your Sin City soiree. Read on and before you know it, you’ll be partying like a true Vegas connoisseur.
LESSON ONE: SAVE THE DATE
Let’s face it, Las Vegas is an overwhelming place – particularly for first-timers. The city is unlike anywhere else on earth – a loud, unapologetic, over-the-top haven of shimmering casino floors, luxury hotel rooms, world-class restaurants, and top-notch entertainment. How do you know where to begin? A simple way to start is gathering up your group of girlfriends, coming up with an excuse to go, and hitting the web. First things first: picking some dates.
From my experience, you can’t really go wrong with a Vegas trip no matter what time of the year you go. But depending on who you are and what you’re looking for out of the trip, there are plenty of things to take into consideration when it comes to choosing when you visit.
-The towels are just starting to get unrolled on the daybeds, which can only mean one thing: pool season is coming. The summer crowds haven’t arrived yet, but neither have the A-lister DJs (that is, until you hit Memorial Day), which means more room to dance and less price hikes.
-The weather is mild for Vegas standards, making this arguably the most pleasant time of the year to visit. Spring deals are aplenty and possibility is in the air.
-Pool season is in full swing, meaning nonstop dayclub action (a Vegas specialty) and endless opportunities to cool off. But with pool season comes mega crowds and hiked-up prices, particularly around the holidays (though weekday rates often plummet).
-With summertime months comes summertime HEAT. Daytime temperatures consistently hit triple-digits, and nightfall brings little relief. If you’re planning to brave a Vegas summer, make sure to stock up on sunscreen and hydration.
-Dayclubs are winding down for the season, and there’s progressively less and less happening around town. But don’t think that means you’ll be bored – that’s a state that (for anyone over 21), is nearly impossible in a place like Vegas. And similar to spring, this means the summertime crowds have gone home and weekend rates have started to drop – as have temperatures.
-Though daytime temps can still hit the 90s at the beginning of the season, the closer it gets to winter, the more pleasant the daily average will be – think 80-degree Octobers and sweater-weather November nights.
-Excluding New Year’s Eve, it’s likely the cheapest time to come to town. Including New Year’s Eve, it’s the most exciting. NYE brings some of the best musicians and DJs in the world to perform in Vegas, as well as one of the most spectacular fireworks shows on the globe – with a price tag to match.
-Outside of December 31st, deals are aplenty, likely due to the “off-season” nature of a Las Vegas winter. The pool clubs have closed their doors for the season (with the exception of Marquee Dayclub Dome), and temperatures are fickle; expect warm-ish weather during the day, and coat-worthy degrees at night.
So, you’ve gathered your girls and chosen your dates. Now on to the next challenge: where to stay?
LESSON TWO: FIND YOUR CRIB
Some might consider hotel hunting one of the biggest headaches involved in the booking process. And with dozens of options to choose from, how do you narrow it down? Have no fear, I’ve got you covered.
When it comes to a Vegas vacay, some of the best activities include wandering from one themed mega-hotel to another, sipping on a frozen drink and thinking about that massage you’ll have later before you hit the town for a spree at the nightclubs or a visit to a Cirque du Soleil show. As such, there’s really no better option (particularly if you’re a first-timer) than to stay in the heart of all the glittery action: on the Las Vegas Strip itself!
That being said, every hotel on the Strip is different and each suite holds the possibility to inspire different kinds of visitors. See my list here for recommendations based on what you may be looking for on your next Sin City getaway.
Vegas Hack #1: No matter how many people you’re cramming into a room, never state you have more than 2 occupants during the booking process. If you do, hotels will charge you bogus “extra-person” fees (oftentimes $50 or more) each NIGHT that you’re staying, which results in superfluous expenses that are easily avoided. (And besides, Vegas hotels already get you enough with their added resort fees and hiked-up rates!)
LESSON THREE: HOW ARE YOU GETTING THERE?
For most people, the obvious option will be to fly. If you live in southern California like me (or other places geographically convenient to Vegas), you may also have the option to drive. For those of you lucky enough to have this option, both means of transportation have their perks – and limitations. See below.
If you choose to fly…
-PERK: It’s quick and (relatively) pain-free. Flights from LA last less than an hour,
which means you’ll be on the ground before you even realize you’ve left – this is doubly nice when you’re on your way OUT of town.
-PERK: It’s convenient. McCarran Airport is literally right next to the Strip, which means you won’t have to add a 2-hour taxi transfer into your ETA like in a lot of major cities. Plus, many hotels offer shuttle services to and from the airport.
-CON: It can be expensive. Book your airfare early to avoid paying a hefty premium.
If you choose to drive…
-PERK: ROAD TRIP. There are lots of weird landmarks and remarkably Wild West sights to see on the drive up the freeway, and it’s one of the easiest routes you’ll tackle – just get to the 15 and it’s literally a straight shot into town.
-PERK: It’s cheap. Whereas a round-trip flight might range between $150-$500, the drive to Vegas and back will cost you two tanks of gas, tops – and split amongst your entire party? It’s a no-brainer.
-PERK: It’s convenient – but in a different way than flying. You get to choose when you depart for Vegas, how many times you stop, and what you see along the way, not to mention the time you come home.
-CON: There’s no denying the bane of road trips’ existence: traffic. It took me nearly 7 hours to make the 4-hour trek to Vegas one time, and such is often the case for the drive home on Sundays. Holiday weekend? FORGET ABOUT IT. You’ll find yourself in the gridlock just barely past city limits, staring numbly at the plane flying past Whiskey Pete’s and wondering where it all went wrong. (Moral of the story: if you decide to drive, be strategic about it.)
Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to delve further into the planning process. Let’s make a deal.
LESSON FOUR: DIG FOR DEALS
If there’s anything the city has no shortage of, it’s deals, and – if you know where to look – you can stay at some of the swankiest hotels in town on a penny-pinching budget (because let’s be honest, that money is better spent on drinks and day club lounges).
So where do you find them? Start here. You can compare rates from multiple hotels at once, and also receive my exclusive discounts up to 30%!
Always try to book in advance if you can – rooms fill up FAST and rates skyrocket the closer you get to your trip – particularly if a convention or major entertainment event is in town (which basically happens every weekend in Vegas).
Alright, you’ve decided on your mode of transportation, you have hotel options on the table, and you’re ready to make it official. So let’s do this: get booking!
LESSON FIVE: PRE-DEPARTURE
Booking is sorted and you’re about a week out from your trip. If there’s anything that will help you in a place like Vegas, it’s a plan. Arriving with one reduces stress and maximizes time spent in the city – and isn’t that half the point of vacations?
First things first, figure out what activities you’ll be doing.
If you’re interested in seeing a show (particularly a popular one on a weekend night), I’d recommend buying tickets as far in advance as you can. I’ve sadly only experienced one show in Vegas, “Beatles LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil, but it was MIND-BLOWING (as expected) and worth every penny. Other shows that have been recommended to me include “Britney Spears: Piece of Me”, “O” by Cirque du Soleil, and “Michael Jackson One” by Cirque du Soleil. It’s worth noting, however, that shows are one of Vegas’ specialty and they’re known around the world for them, so really – there’s no wrong choice.
Vegas Hack #2: You can get cheap show tickets day of at Tix4Tonight kiosks located around the Strip – sometimes up to half off! Granted, these often aren’t for the really popular shows (like O, Britney, J-Lo, etcetera), but still worth checking out.
Another big attraction in Vegas is its clubbing scene: a world-famous circuit of lavish social spaces, each one more outrageous than the next (much like the hotels they call home). If you’re new to the club circuit in Vegas, or curious to explore new spots, check out my guide here for the lowdown on the best places to party.
When it comes to your clubbing plan, connecting with a promoter is key. (The only exception is if you’re buying bottle service.) For the average clubgoer, you’ll have two options on how to enter the big clubs: General Admission or Guest List. General Admission means you’re paying to get in (starting at $20 for ladies and spiking as high as $75, depending on what night it is and who’s playing – and about double that for men). Guest List means you’re getting in free; how? With a promoter!
Each club has its own task force of them, and their goal is to get as many people through the club doors as possible – which means they lure you in with free entry and often free drinks. If you find yourself wandering the Strip during the day, it’s likely you’ll be approached by an assortment of promoters trying to get you into X club at Y time. You can also check Vegas hashtags on Twitter and Instagram and you’ll have no trouble running across a few.
Vegas Hack #3: Contact promoters a day or two in advance – there’s usually no need to text them weeks before you arrive (with the exception of really big weekends, like Memorial Day or Labor Day, in which case, all bets are off and sooner is most definitely better), but I always like to have my plans sorted prior to check-in.
I’d recommend getting on at least two clubs’ guest lists per night; a backup plan is a great idea, because you never know when your group will run later than expected. That being said, avoid getting on multiple guest lists for the same club on the same night. Promoters get paid based on how many people enter the club on their list, so stay loyal to them. After all, they’re your partying ally!
Time to pack? Don’t forget to bring the essentials:
Comfortable walking shoes
The Strip looks quite compact, but your eyes are deceiving you. Everything is much further away than you might think, and going from hotel to hotel – while a blast and definitely something I recommend – is time-consuming and exhausting. You’ll be walking several miles a day, so come prepared.
Las Vegas is a desert after all…
Water – lots of it
I like to go to the grocery store prior to departure and load up on 3-gallon water jugs to stash in the hotel room. In a place like Vegas, it’s vital to stay hydrated.
Despite the varying themes on the Strip, one thing remains unfailingly consistent: it’s expensive. Stock up on snacks to avoid excessive spending.
Talk about utility for most vacations, but especially in a place like Vegas! Some dayclubs actually require that you wear a swimsuit to get inside, even if you’re not planning on swimming. Always best to have one around just in case!
Seems like an obvious one, but it’s happened to the best of us. If you have an extra copy of your ID, it might be worth it to bring that along. I’ve heard many a tale of people losing their IDs whilst in Vegas, and if that happens – well, let’s just say you won’t be seeing much outside of your hotel room.
Remember that pretty much anything goes in Vegas; dress to impress, and don’t be afraid to get a little sassy.
Vegas Hack #4: Invest in a pair of wedges or flatform heels for your trip. I have two pairs of flatforms that I bring every time I’m in Vegas and they are an absolute lifesaver. Sure, stilettos LOOK cute, but you’ll be thinking otherwise after having walked a mile in them and stayed out dancing until 6am…
SO. You’ve got your essentials in tow, your group’s on the guest list, and you’re ready for departure: it’s time to party!
LESSON SIX: YOU’VE ARRIVED
Goodbye real world, helloooo Vegas! This is it; the city of glittery dreams, where people around the globe come to play, and anything seems possible. One of the greatest anomalies to Vegas is the feeling that time doesn’t exist. You could be roaming a casino floor at 4AM and it won’t look any different than it does at 4PM. Forget New York; Las Vegas is a city that never sleeps – and it’s unlike anywhere else.
Vegas has one of the best culinary scenes in the world, and its mixology offerings are second-to-none. If you’re looking for some restaurants or bars to hit up whilst in town, check out my recommendations here.
At this point, you’ve likely got your itinerary planned and you’re ready to make the most of this incredible city. But before you hit the town, I have just a few more hacks for you:
Keep set times in mind when planning your night.
The headlining DJs come on around 1AM at the nightclubs, and 3PM at the dayclubs.
Be strategic with your clubbing plan.
Club-hopping, while a great way to explore the nightlife scene, is more difficult than you might think. As mentioned, the Strip is a lot bigger than it seems and getting from Point A to Point B can take a long time, especially with traffic. If you want to club-hop, make sure the places you visit are relatively close to one another (i.e., hopping from Intrigue to XS, or Hyde Bellagio to Marquee – NOT Surrender to Hakkasan); you don’t want to leave one club only to get to another and find out the guest list is closed.
Try to get to places earlier rather than later.
Guest lists typically close at midnight or 1AM and they won’t let you in without cover after that – even if you’re using a promoter.
The bigger the headliner, the more packed it will be at the club.
Obvious, but important. I tend to like to go to clubs for the headliners (I mean, tickets to see these DJs anywhere outside of Vegas will easily run you upwards of $50-$100, so it’s pretty sweet to see them FOR FREE in Sin City), but there are certainly perks to going to clubs with lesser-known acts running the show. Lines will be shorter, you might get more freebies, and it’ll be less crowded. That being said, there’s something about getting to witness Calvin Harris hold court amidst strobe lights and glittering confetti that makes you think, ‘Yeah, this IS what I came for!’.
Keeping all of these hacks in mind, you’re set to have the time of your life in a city unlike any other. With that, my friend, have a blast – I’ll see you out there!
LESSON SEVEN: START PLANNING…FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
Level: Sin City Connoisseur
You came, you danced, you conquered. The first few days post-Vegas are always the toughest and the withdrawals are definitely real. But hey – you’ve survived, and you’re likely already thinking about your next trip. Where will you stay next? What shows will you see? What clubs will you dance the night away at? The possibilities are endless. So my word of advice? Get planning!
Oh, and congratulations. You’ve officially aced Sin City 101!