I've visited Las Vegas every year for a long time and I've gathered tips for first-time visitors.
Pack comfortable shoes and book your hotel (and room location) carefully.
Set a gambling budget, make dinner reservations in advance, and skip casino ATMs.
I first went in college more than 20 years ago and have been back many times for both fun and work. These days, I visit every summer for a massive professional conference that takes place in early August at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. While I'm there for business, I also take a few extra days to enjoy myself.
Having now seen Vegas as a visiting professional and a tourist, I think I have a good idea of how to maximize a trip to Sin City.
Here are the tips I give to first-timers to make the most of a Las Vegas visit.
Wear comfortable shoes
It's common for people to think everything will be nearby if they stay on the Strip, the famous section of Las Vegas Boulevard known for its hotels, casinos, resorts, restaurants, and attractions.
But Vegas is really big and so is the Strip. That's why the first rule of exploring Las Vegas is to wear comfortable footwear. You'll likely be walking a lot, so make sure your shoes are up to the task to ensure you can fully enjoy all that Vegas has to offer.
Book your hotel carefully — the location can impact your entire trip
Definitely do your research before deciding if you'd rather stay on the Strip or off of it — the choice depends on your priorities.
Although staying on the Strip offers easier access to the city's iconic attractions and vibrant nightlife, choosing an off-Strip hotel can provide a more tranquil and budget-friendly experience with a different kind of energy.
Some Vegas hotels are massive, so find out where your room is before you finalize your booking
Many Las Vegas hotels are massive and finding your way around them can be a challenge — in some cases, your room may be more time-consuming to get to than anticipated.
Prior to finalizing your reservation, inquire about the room's location within the hotel. This can help you decide if you want to stay in a different area or where you should park your car for ease of access.
By working with your hotel, you may also be able to avoid a room that's pretty far from an elevator or staircase.
Ask for a room upgrade when you check in
I always request an upgrade when I check in. I've found that Vegas hotels are usually happy to accommodate if they have the availability.
You may be even more likely to get an upgrade if you've booked directly with the property and are part of the hotel chain's loyalty club.
It never hurts to inquire, and you might be pleasantly surprised when you score a more spacious room or even a better view without any additional cost.
Make dining reservations in advance
Las Vegas boasts a culinary scene that rivals its entertainment offerings. From celebrity-chef restaurants to international cuisine, the options are endless.
But popular dining spots fill up quickly. The wait times at some spots can be hours-long during peak times — and that's if there's even an option to put your name on a list. Many places simply book up for the night.
Be sure to make reservations for any non-fast-food dining experiences you have in mind before your trip.
Set a budget for gambling
In Vegas, it's easy to get caught up in the casino experience and keep spending.
I suggest you set a limit and stick to it to ensure you don't overspend and jeopardize your overall vacation budget. Better yet: If you win big early, cash out.
Try to avoid using the ATMs in casinos
It may be tempting to conveniently withdraw cash from ATMs within the casinos, but keep in mind many of these ATMs have high fees associated with transactions.
Plan ahead and withdraw money from your bank's ATM before arriving or seek out ATMs located outside of the casino areas to try to avoid unnecessary charges.
Make sure you explore beyond the casinos
Vegas is synonymous with casinos, but there's much more to discover beyond the gaming floors.
Explore attractions like the Neon Museum, the High Roller Observation Wheel, and the nearby Red Rock Canyon for a different perspective of the city's beauty.
Vegas is also renowned for its world-class entertainment, from extravagant magic shows to breathtaking live music performances. Definitely check them out.
Be prepared for crowds, especially during peak seasons
The sheer volume of tourists, partygoers, and travelers converging on the city can be overwhelming, especially during peak seasons.
When I recently visited in the summer I saw a 30-minute line just to snap a picture under the iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
During busy seasons, try planning your activities during off-peak hours, like early mornings, and familiarize yourself with alternative routes and shortcuts to avoid congestion, especially along the crowded sections of the Strip.
Make sure you know the difference between pools and day clubs
Your hotel will likely have a pool but be aware that some venues transform into high-energy day clubs during certain hours. With their raucous atmosphere, day clubs or pool parties in Vegas are often frequented by a younger crowd (think: bachelor or bachelorette party vibes).
Patrons can pay a fee to spend the day and these venues often have DJs to add to the party-like atmosphere. If that doesn't sound like your kind of fun, stick to a low-key hotel pool.
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