Planning Your First Trip to Las Vegas

Las Vegas can be intimidating for first-timers, but it
doesn’t have to be. This page offers an overview of all the
topics that will concern most people visiting Las Vegas for the
first time. This advice will help you to save money, and also
make your trip a much more enjoyable one.

We’ve included information on getting to the city, where to
stay once you’ve gotten there, and how to get around. There’s
also information about what to do for entertainment while you’re
there, including both gambling and non-gambling activities.

Vegas is one of the most exciting destinations in the world,
so you won’t lack for stuff to do or see. The hardest part is
deciding upon the best of the many options, and finding the time
to fit it all in.

Travelling to Vegas

If you’re flying into Vegas, it’s usually cheaper to book your flight and hotel separately.

When you travel has a lot to do with how much you will need
to spend on your flights. You should try to fly into the city
Sunday through Thursday, as this will work out cheaper. Sunday
is the cheapest day to fly to Vegas. Fridays and Saturdays are
the most expensive days to buy tickets to fly to Las Vegas,
because those are the days when demand is highest.

You should also plan your return flight on a Sunday through
Thursday, for the same reasons. Tuesday is the cheapest day to
fly back. The best months to travel to Las Vegas, in terms of
cheap airfare, are August and October.

You should book your airfare at least two weeks prior to your trip to get the best price.

Of course, if you live nearby, you can just drive there. If
you’ve seen the movie Swingers, you probably already know that
Las Vegas is driving distance from Los Angeles, for example. In
fact, it’s only a four hour drive.

When you’re planning your trip, don’t just look at the cost
of your airfare. Do some shopping for hotel rates, too. Your
overall budget is what’s important—not just the cost of your

Accommodation in Las Vegas

You can get the best lodging prices by scheduling your trip at the right times.

Hotels cost less during the week (Sunday through Thursday)
and cost more on Friday and Saturday nights. Prices can triple
or even quadruple on Friday and Saturday nights. Hotels in Las
Vegas are masters of “revenue management”- they analyze supply
and demand carefully in order to maximize the amount of revenue
they make per room per night.

Conventions also make hotel prices skyrocket. Avoid visiting
Las Vegas during a major convention. Even in the middle of the
week, conventions can cause room rates to soar.

Any kind of holiday or special event, like New Year’s Eve or
the 4th of July, will be reflected in your hotel room’s price
too. People love to visit Vegas for special occasions. If you
want to spend a holiday in Vegas, get ready to pay for the

The cheapest time to go to Las Vegas is after Thanksgiving
and before Christmas. Some hotels offer comp rooms just in hopes
of picking up extra gambling revenue– demand is just that low.
Las Vegas is fun, but people enjoy spending their holidays with
family doing traditional stuff.

Traditional stuff isn’t what Vegas is all about. If you’re
flexible and can travel during those time periods, you can save
a lot of money on your airfare and your hotel stay.

Choosing A Location

Most people stay on the Strip, but Downtown has its charms.
The Strip is where the newer, more luxurious properties can be
found. Downtown features older hotels, but the prices are much
lower. The atmosphere in Downtown is entirely different.

Spend a couple of days on the Strip and also a couple of days
at one of the Downtown hotels. Experiencing both atmospheres
will add nuance to your visit. And you’ll have some interesting
stories to share about your experiences in both spots, I

If you’re on a budget, The Boulder Strip hotels are
affordable, too. You’re far from some of the action, but you can
find plenty of low roller gambling at these properties. We’ve
spent many an entertaining evening playing low stakes Texas
hold’em at Boulder Station.

Choosing A Hotel

When you’re shopping for hotels, they’ll be categorized as
economy, first class, or luxury. They’ll be subcategorized, too.
You have low end economy hotels and slightly higher end economy
hotels. Luxury hotels can be divided into luxury and
super-luxury. Even mid-range hotels can vary in terms of quality
and amenities.

If you’re on a budget and want to stay on the Strip, consider
the Tropicana or the Stratosphere. The prices are higher than at
some of the Downtown and Boulder Highway properties, but you’ll
be more central to the action, especially at the Tropicana.
Unless you love circus arts, avoid Circus Circus. It’s on the
lower end of the economy scale. Depending on when you travel,
you can stay at either property for between $40 and $80 per

If you’re not tied to the Strip, consider Golden Gate or the
Plaza, both located Downtown. You can usually get clean
comfortable rooms at either of those properties for between $30
and $40 per night. If you’re willing to go a little higher end,
good choices on the Strip include the Monte Carlo, the Luxor,
and Excalibur. These are all first class properties with prices
nearer the $100 per night range, although you can often find
deals at any of these properties.

Even luxury hotels in Las Vegas can be had for less than $200
per night—again, it all depends on when you’re traveling.
Properties to consider in this price range include the Bellagio
and the Wynn. If you’re a poker fan, the poker room at the
Bellagio is one of the more famous in town. We saw David
Sklansky playing there once, but we have friends who’ve seen
more famous poker celebs than Sklansky playing in the high limit
rooms there.

Gambling in Las Vegas

If you’re going to gamble, you MUST set aside a bankroll strictly for gambling.

Don’t get into your transportation, sight-seeing,
entertainment, or food budget in order to get more action.
You’ll always have future trips to the casino. We knew a man who
gambled away all the money he had and wasn’t able to afford
transportation to the airport to return home. You don’t want to
be that guy.

You can gamble on almost anything in Vegas. The following
gaming and betting activities are all available.

  • Bingo
  • Casino Games
  • Poker
  • Sports Betting


Most people don’t go to Vegas to play bingo, but it’s there
if you want it. You’ll find over 20 different bingo halls to
choose from, and they’re available in every size. Most of the
bingo halls offer free donuts during their morning games, so if
you want to combine your gambling with a free breakfast, this is
one way to do it. Bingo is cheap, too. The minimum buy-in at
almost all of the parlors is $4 or $5.

Do you like being part of a crowd? Try the bingo hall at the
Gold Coast, which seats over 800 players at once.

Do you prefer a more intimate bingo experience? Try Jerry’s
Nugget or Silver Sevens. Both have fewer than 200 seats.

Casino Games

These are games you play against the house, as opposed to
games where you play against the other players. Casino games can
be categorized by type—table games or gaming machines.

The most popular table games are blackjack, craps, and
roulette. Various house-banked poker games are also popular in
Vegas, too. A good general rule to remember is that the easier
the game is to play, the more the math favors the house.

For example, roulette requires no skill at all. You pick a
number, a color, or one of the other betting options. Then you
collect your winnings (or watch your losses get taken off the
table) after the ball drops into its slot on the wheel. The
house edge on this game is 5.26%.

Blackjack, on the other hand, is a game where you make
decisions on every hand. The quality of those decisions affects
how likely you are to win or lose. Someone with no skill–who’s
just playing her hunches–faces a house edge of about 4%. But if
you take the time to learn basic strategy, you can cut the house
edge to between 0.5% and 1%.

Craps also features some of the lowest house edge bets in the
casino. It has some of the worst bets, too. Knowing the
difference between the good bets and the bad bets is the extent
of legitimate craps strategy. The pass/don’t pass bets and the
come/don’t come bets offer the best odds on the table. Stick
with them, and the optional odds bet, and you’ll have a lot of
fun without risking much of your bankroll.

You can learn the basics of any of these table games at the
free classes held at most casinos during the day. Or practice
online to get an idea of how the betting and action work.

The most popular gaming machines are the slots, but video
is also popular. Slot machines require no skill. You
insert your money, spin the reels, and hope for the best. A
bewildering number of choices are available, but the slot
machines with the best odds are the ones with the simplest
layouts. Casinos know that players are attracted to the new
fancy games with lots of bells and whistles, so they attract
players to the more basic 3 reel games by offering a higher
payout percentage.

Video poker, like blackjack, is a game where your decisions
matter. Since the games have a well-defined payout table and
fixed odds of getting certain hands based on a 52 card deck, you
can calculate the house edge and the correct strategy for each
game. Some Jacks or Better games have a house edge of less than
1%, as do some Deuces Wild games. You can find a wealth of
information about video poker online with a simple Bing or
Google search, or visit the tutorial on our site.


Most varieties of poker in most limits can be found in Las
Vegas. In fact, it’s one of the premier poker destinations in
the world. There’s a reason the World Series of Poker is held
here every year.

Most of the casinos have poker rooms, but the sizes and games
vary. The stakes that are available vary, too. For the most
part, luxury hotels offer higher stakes games, and vice-versa.
If you want to play for big money, the Bellagio is a good bet.
But if you’re just playing for fun and don’t have a big
bankroll, check out some of the action at the card rooms on the
Boulder Strip.

Sports Betting

You might be used to betting on sports with a local bookie or
even with an offshore book. But if you’re not, here are the
basics of betting at a Las Vegas sportsbook.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should keep it
simple to start. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people
running the book. That’s why they’re there.

The most important place to start is with the types of bets.

A moneyline bet is one of the best bets for beginners. It’s a
straightforward bet on who’s going to win a game. If you pick
the winning team, you win.

But the sportsbook adjusts how much you have to bet compared
to how much you can win based on who’s the favorite. For
example, you might have to risk $500 to win $100 if you’re
betting on a huge favorite. On the other hand, if you’re betting
a big underdog, you might only risk $50 to win $300.

A point spread bet is an even-money wager where a team has to
win by a certain amount in order for your bet to win. These
point spreads are calculated by the handicappers working for the
book to offer a bettor a roughly 50% chance of winning –
regardless of which team they bet.

The book makes its money by charging a vig. With a point
spread bet, you’ll usually risk $110 to win $100, regardless of
which team you choose.

The team that is favored to win will have a negative number
posted next to their name. For example, if the Dallas Cowboys
are expected to win by 3 points, you’ll see “Dallas Cowboys -3”
posted on the board. If the Cowboys win by exactly 3, the bet is
a “push”. Your bet is returned, but you don’t get any winnings.

An over/under bet is a bet on the total number of points that
are going to be scored by both sides during the game. In fact,
this bet is also sometimes called a “total” bet.

For example, you might place a bet that the combined score
for the Cowboys Redskins game will be over or under 21. If the
total of both teams’ scores at the end of the game is less than
21, and you bet the under, then you win, and vice-versa.

For beginners, those bets are a good place to start. You can
also get involved in parlays, teasers, futures, and proposition
bets, but those aren’t as beginner-friendly as these other bets.

What Else to Do In Vegas

Vegas is obviously best known as a gambling destination, but
there’s plenty more to do here too. The following are just some
of the more popular non-gambling activities.

  • Concerts & Shows
  • People Watching
  • Adult Activities

Concerts & Shows

Las Vegas is known for shows of varying quality and ticket
prices. Comedy, magic, and celebrity impersonators are classic
examples of Vegas shows. You can usually save 50% on the price
of tickets; just ask your concierge at your hotel for help.

David Copperfield is one of the best magic acts to see in Las
Vegas, but Penn and Teller are also terrific. The Blue Man Group
and Cirque du Soleil are also worth seeing.

And concerts are going on constantly—check who’s in town
before your trip if you want to catch a big name act.

One of my favorite shows in Las Vegas is the Legends in
Concert show at the Flamingo. It features dozens of incredible
celebrity impersonators, from Michael Jackson to Elvis to Dolly
Parton. It’s also surprisingly affordable.

People Watching

People-watching is a free, fun activity in Las Vegas. You can
often spot celebrities there. The best places for people
watching in Las Vegas are in the bars or by the swimming pools
at some of the higher-end resort properties.

For example, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas features one of
the best pool experiences in town. There’s almost always live
music going on there, too. And if you love rock and roll, you
never know who you’ll bump into at the Hard Rock Hotel. But Wynn
Las Vegas might have both of those locations beat. Wynn’s
Country Club is well-known as a lunch spot for celebrities,
especially politicians.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money at fine restaurants
and fancy hotels to see plenty of interesting people, though.
Just hang out anywhere on the Strip or Downtown. Las Vegas
attracts all kinds of people who are interesting to look at, not
just celebs.

Adult Activities

Las Vegas has strip clubs aplenty. Cheetah Lounge, the
Palomino Club, Crazy Horse III, and Spearmint Rhino are all
famous and popular. The Palomino Club is the only all-nude club
in town. Spearmint Rhino has some of the best looking
entertainers in town. Crazy Horse III is known as a celebrity
hangout; you might even run into Snoop Dogg. Cheetah Lounge is
cool because Showgirls was filmed there.

Plenty more strip clubs are available. You can find detailed
guides online to which clubs are best for which preferences.

Prostitution is illegal in the city limits. You can still
find plenty of solicitation going on, especially on the Strip,
but it’s not legal. If you’re looking for the legalized
brothels, get ready for a short trip outside the city. The
closest legal cathouses are located about 60 miles north of the
city. The Chicken Ranch and Sheri’s Ranch are the two most
famous of these.

Eating Out In Vegas

Las Vegas is famous for its sumptuous buffets. Like most
everything else in Las Vegas, you can find buffets on either end
of the spectrum—cheap and barely adequate, or expensive and
gourmet. Most hotel casinos have buffets.

You can also find lots of famously cheap meals in Sin City.
Gamble a lot, and you can get comped meals. But even if you
don’t, you can find lots of famous meals perfect for a diner on
a budget. One of your best options for eating on a budget is to
look for graveyard deals. These are meals you can eat during the
off hours at huge discounts.

For example, you can get biscuits and gravy at the Orleans
hotel for less than $3. You can even get ham and eggs or steak
and eggs for $5, but you have to eat there in the middle of the
night. Multiple other restaurants offer meals for less than $5
if you eat there after midnight.

Tipping Guide

No one wants to be boorish. So tip. Here’s a guide to whom
you should tip and how much:

  • If you’re playing table games in the casino, tip the dealer $5 or so per
    hour. If you’re getting lucky, you might be more generous, but
    don’t get carried away. It’s still your money.
  • Tip the
    cocktail waitresses at least a dollar every time she brings you
    a drink. The surest way to get ignored by the cocktail
    waitresses while you’re gambling is to stiff her.
  • servers at the buffets a dollar or two per person at your table.

  • They’re not providing full service, so you’re not obligated to
    tip them 15% or 20% like you would at another restaurant.
    Waiters and
  • waitresses at other restaurants get the same 15% or 20% that you
    would tip in any major city. I always tip at least 20%. These
    people work hard for a living. If you’re not happy with your
    food, talk to the manager. Don’t take it out on the server by
    tipping less.

Getting Around In Vegas

Taking the bus isn’t glamorous, but it’s cheap and efficient.
You can get a 24 hour pass for just $7. If you just want to go
to and from the airport on the bus, you can do that for just $2.

You can’t catch a cab from the Strip unless you’re in the
taxi cab area of a hotel or casino. You’ll often have to wait in
line to catch a cab, but you can’t flag one down from the street
like you could in New York City, so don’t even try.

Renting a car might be an option. So much of Vegas is
available within walking distance that it almost seems like more
of a hassle than it’s worth, though—especially since you’re
going to have to pay to park it.

The Vegas Strip is only 4 miles long. Most people in good
shape can get where they need to go on foot. Even if you’re
planning to visit some of Las Vegas’s other hot spots, like
Downtown, you can catch a cab there for next to nothing. The
tourist part of Vegas just isn’t that big.


Las Vegas is a town built on the tourism industry, so
newcomers needn’t feel intimidated. Quite the opposite in fact,
as there will always be plenty of people willing to help you
figure out what to do and where to go.

This page has covered all the basics we feel you really
should know before you visit Vegas for the first time, but to be
honest we’ve barely scratched the surface of everything there is
to see and to do. Part of the fun of Vegas, though, is in
exploring the place for yourself. You may also find the
following pages useful.

Recommended Hotels in Vegas

We can help you to find the best places to stay regardless of
your budget. We’ve recommended a number of hotels in a variety
of different categories, and provided detailed information about
each one.

Las Vegas Casino Directory

There are obviously plenty of places to gamble in Las Vegas,
and this directory will help you find the best ones. We’ve
listed some of our favorite venues, and included details about
what they have to offer.

Non-Gambling Activities in Las Vegas

Here you will find a list of activities in Las Vegas that
don’t involve gambling. There’s plenty to do outside of the
casinos, and even if you love gambling you’ll probably want to
spend some time doing other things.

I should finish this article with a final word of warning for
you. Once you’ve experienced Vegas, you’ll want to experience it
again and again for the rest of your life. It truly is a
fabulous destination, with so very much to offer.