ABTA’s Vegas veteran, Darren Hewitt, gives his top tips on going solo in Las Vegas
Going on holiday alone isn’t for everyone but it sure has its advantages – being able to do what you want when you want and not having to worry about anyone else is my number one reason for travelling solo, you also get to meet far more people and a week in the bright lights of Las Vegas couldn’t be a better choice of destination.
Having just returned from my 15th trip to Las Vegas here are some of my top ten tips for an unforgettable holiday.
A trip to Vegas doesn’t have to break the bank in terms of flights and accommodation, but don’t even consider going unless you’ve got enough spending money to enjoy yourself when you get there. Luckily this year I took advantage of a great exchange rate, which really helped.
2/ Where to stay
The Strip is four miles long and has six of the world’s top ten largest hotels on it so there’s plenty of choice. If you want to be in the heart of everything it’s worth staying centre Strip. If you stay down one end you’ll find yourself walking much further each day but there are some amazing hotels all along the Strip so be sure to check out a map before you book.
If you like a balcony, with a view to die for, there’s only one hotel currently on the Strip itself which has one, and that’s The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas where I stayed on my recent trip.
I wouldn’t put a pound coin in a fruit machine here in the UK, but when you’re in Vegas you’ll happily be feeding in those $20 bills, trust me!
3/ Resort fees
Almost all Vegas hotels charge what they call a ‘Resort fee’ – these will cost you anything up to around $30/room/night, depending on where you stay (that’s an extra $210 for a week’s holiday). Each hotel is different but as a rule the resort fee will cover you for free Wi-Fi, fitness centre, daily newspaper and local telephone calls.
If you do what I did and book your holiday as a package through an ABTA Member, you will find that the cost of your holiday may already include your resort fee – mine also included credit for free drinks, a free buffet breakfast each day and a free room upgrade upon check-in so it’s worth shopping around. Find an ABTA Member.
If you’re going to gamble, make sure you take a separate gambling fund with you on top of your daily budget – think of it as ‘entertainment money’ which you’re prepared to lose (and you probably will) and split it out between however many nights you’re there. Whatever you do DON’T go over it and DON’T be tempted to draw out more at the ATM! You can make it last longer by using my number one rule: no gambling during the daytime. The first time I went to Vegas I spent (and lost) $200 on the way to breakfast, and another $100 on the way back to my room – I’d only nipped downstairs for a coffee and a croissant! I wouldn’t put a pound coin in a fruit machine here in the UK, but when you’re in Vegas you’ll happily be feeding in those $20 bills, trust me!
If you’re new to playing roulette, blackjack, craps etc, you’ll find most hotel casinos give free lessons, usually in the morning when the casinos are a bit quieter, so you can have a play without losing (or winning) any money.
If you’re lucky enough to win on the slots you’ll get a printed ticket which you can cash-in at one of the many ticket redemption machines found around the casino – these machines are also very useful for breaking up those $50 bills into smaller denominations. If you’re gambling in just your hotel, or those near, do what I did and save all your tickets until the last day, and then cash them in at each hotel – this trip I was lucky and came home with $1,000 but that was definitely a one-off!
5/ Free drinks
As long as you’re gambling in the casino, a cocktail waitress will come over offering you drinks/cocktails – these are absolutely free but make sure you leave a dollar tip and they’ll be back offering you another in no time. But remember alcohol and gambling can be a lethal combination so don’t forget about your daily gambling budget!
6/ Being 21
21 isn’t just about blackjack, it’s the age you need to be to check into a hotel, drink and gamble, so I wouldn’t recommend going unless you’re over the age of 21. Also, if you’re planning a family holiday, be warned that under-21s aren’t even allowed to be anywhere near you if you’re gambling in the casino.
For the thrill seekers out there Vegas has some great rides and attractions; three of which are found over 1000 feet on top of the Stratosphere Tower – not to be missed!
8/ Buying show tickets
No trip to Vegas would be complete without seeing a show or three; whether you want to see a headline act by one of the many residences – Britney, Celine Dion, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Rod Stewart, Jennifer Lopez, Donny & Marie and Matt Goss (from 80’s pop group Bros!) – there’s also eight Cirque du Soleil shows, many Broadway shows and lots more currently appearing all along the Strip. Most of these shows are dark (i.e. not on) at least twice a week so if there’s something in particular you want to see, make sure it’s going to be on before booking your trip.
One thing about travelling solo is you can get some great single seats by leaving it until you arrive in Vegas. I managed to get a top price ticket for Celine four rows from the stage, three days prior to the show but the best seats come at a price and it’s best to book as early as possible if seeing Celine and co is the sole reason for your trip. Your tour operator and travel agent will be able to do this for you.
For any die hard Britney fans, who last week extended her residency at Planet Hollywood for another two years, you can get a VIP table at the front of the stage however you’ll need to buy all six seats at around $500 each – or you can do what I did… about a month before the show, if the VIP seats haven’t sold out, they become available as single seats at $200 each – you’ll even find yourself sitting closer than those who have paid $2,500 for a meet and greet ticket!
9/ Getting from A to B
There’s no getting away from the fact that you’ll end up walking miles so take your comfiest shoes with you. (Talking of shoes, for guys if you’re planning on going clubbing make sure you’ve got a good polished pair of formal shoes too, and a collared shirt – the majority of clubs won’t even let you through the door without both of these).
Make use of the free monorails which run between the Mandalay Bay at the far south of the Strip and the Excalibur via Luxor. There’s another free monorail running mid-Strip between the Monte Carlo and The Bellagio via the City Centre complex. Another chargeable monorail runs all along the Strip between the MGM Grand and the SLS and is useful if you want to get quickly from one end to the other. That said if you’re only travelling a few stops it’s quicker to walk – by the time you’ve walked all the way through the MGM Grand to the monorail station, waited for the monorail, then walked back through the hotel at your destination, you could have walked the distance in less time!
There’s also a great bus called The Deuce which runs along the Strip 24-hours a day – there are various ticket options but I found the 24-hour pass best value at $8.
10/ Get out of Vegas for the day
With so much sight-seeing to do such as Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, don’t miss the chance to see some of these awesome sights while they’re on your doorstep, it can often be cheaper to book these in advance especially for popular excursions.