I’ve met some very nice people on twitter and found some cool websites. Earlier this year I met the brains behind solo friendly – A travel blog that focuses on traveling alone. I was planning my first solo adventure to Las Vegas but I decided to go to Atlantic City. The thought of the guest blog was spawned, in part, because I’m jealous that I’m not going to Las Vegas.
I thought it would be a nice time to look into how other people plan travel to my favorite city. I tend to travel where comps and/or my need for luxury take me. I learned about a few new sites from this and hopefully you do too. Here is how solo friendly prepares for a trip to Las Vegas. If we’re lucky we’ll see a recap after the trip!
I’m about a week out from my annual solo trip to my personal Mecca, Las Vegas. I’ve been visiting Vegas since 2001, so you would think by now I wouldn’t actually need to plan my trips; I could just book a hotel room and a plane ticket, throw some clothes in a suitcase and go, right? Wrong. I’m just not the “winging it” type. I get almost as much fun out of planning my trips as I do taking them.
Since Vegas is a repeat destination, I don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time. I have about 10 pages of notes on hotels, shows, restaurants and activities that I update on an ongoing basis, since I regularly read Vegas websites and news sources. As my trip gets closer and I start finalizing my plans, I whittle it down to the essentials so I can bring it with me.
I’ve had my flights booked since June. I like to start planning a trip 3 months out to monitor airfares and jump on a good one as soon as I see it. I fly out of Vermont, which is not a hub airport, so I consider myself lucky if I can book Vegas flights for under $400. This trip cost me $366, flying Continental one way and Jetblue the other. In the past, I’ve had good luck getting the cost lowered after booking by tracking my flights via Yapta. If the fare goes down before my trip, I get an email alert from Yapta and can get a refund. Unfortunately, the price hasn’t come down this time.
I’ve also been keeping an eye on hotel prices since June. I don’t really have to research hotels any more. I know which ones I’m willing to stay at and which ones I’m not. All I need to do is figure out my budget and see which hotels are offering the best bang for my buck. Although I’m not enough of a gambler to warrant fully comped rooms, I belong to all the hotel website guestbooks and have many players’ club cards, so I regularly receive discount hotel room offers via email. But I also check for deals on i4vegas, smartervegas, and other sites at least once a week. Because of some other expenses in my life, I’m trying to keep my budget for this trip below $1800, which is pretty tough, since I’m staying for a whole week. (So while my heart said Encore or Venetian, my wallet said “Hell no.”)
I like to split my stay at two hotels, so if I hate the first one, at least I know I’m not stuck with it for the whole trip. This time out, I booked my first 3 nights at the Flamingo using a great email deal from Harrahs: 2 free nights during the week or reduced rates on the weekend at any of their hotels (except Caesars). Since Labor Day week rates are pretty low at most hotels, but Labor Day Weekend is not, I went with the reduced weekend rate and am paying a total of $274 for a GO room. (The calendar rate right now for that room is $725!) My last 4 nights are booked at Treasure Island for $59/night, a rate I found on i4vegas.
The next thing to book was a show. I wanted to see something new so I can blog about it. Ka was dark that week, so that really only left one major contender for me: Phantom, the Vegas Spectacular at the Venetian. I was able to book a ticket for $61.90. As I’m sure you know, that’s a bargain for a big show on the Strip.
My third biggest budget item is food, and it’s also the most flexible. Here’s where I can lower the cost of my trip. I got some leads on meal deals on the VegasWatch message board and other forums I frequent, like the TripAdvisor Vegas forum and Open Vegas. I also have $75 in MGM Mirage rewards certificates I need to use up, so I can use those to offset the price of three meals. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent poring over restaurant menus online. (Like I said, planning is fun!) I still haven’t completely finalized my dining plans, but the meals I’m most looking forward to so far are: Il Fornaio at New York, New York, Todd English’s Olives, and the Spice Market Buffet (which, despite my many trips to Vegas, I have yet to try).
You thought I forgot about gambling, didn’t you? I kind of did, actually. Gambling is pretty much an afterthought for me. I only budget $60 a day for gambling, so I have to make it last. My game of choice is video poker–preferably at a bar, but only if there are quarter games available. I tried roulette once and loved it for its very social nature, but found that I blew through my money too quickly playing it. I’d love to try blackjack, but I’m terrified that I’ll end up at a table with gamblers who would snarl at me for not playing perfect strategy. I’m also thinking about taking a free craps lesson during my trip to see if that might be a fun game for me, though I suspect I’d need a bigger bankroll than $60 a day.
Last year, I managed to squeeze in two meet-and-greets held by two different Vegas message forums I belong to, and they were both so much fun, I wanted to do that this year, too. I may only make it to one, as I have a pretty full plate as it is. As a travel blogger, this is sort of a “working” vacation: I’ve got a lot of things I need to check out so I can blog about them when I get back. I’ll be reviewing hotels, pools, restaurants, and activities–all from the point of view of a solo traveler. In the months to come, look for a comparison of the dueling piano shows on the Strip and reviews of the Summer of ’69 Downtown, some live bands, and as many other venues and activities as I can manage to cram in, all at my blog, SoloFriendly.com.