Considering that I’m first and foremost a metalhead who gives a damn about the environment, the last place I expected to fall in love with (or fall in love, for that matter — I met my partner, Jon, in Vegas 2 years ago!), was Las Vegas. I don’t gamble, I hate clubs and crowds, and I freak out when people leave the sink on while they brush their teeth because it’s wasting water. And yet there is something about the extravagance of Sin City that I am just obsessed with. Tonight, I head back for my fifth time in 2 years. At this point, I consider myself something of an expert and I would love to share what I’ve learned with you guys!
Here’s how I prep for a bitchin’ Vegas vacay.
1. Save Some Cash Money
I try to live pretty low key throughout the year so that when I go on vacations I can splurge. And Vegas for me is the ultimate indulgence, so I like to set aside some extra cash to enjoy myself guilt-free for the 3 days I’m there. For this most recent trip, my partner (also a bartender/server) and I have been setting aside $5 per shift into our “Vegas Fund” for the past 2 months leading up to our trip. $5/day is a pretty marginal amount that I don’t necessarily miss going into my bank account, but at the end of two months adds up to be a lot! If you’re not in an industry where you’re paid primarily in cash, there’s always the option to save for Vegas by skipping out on unnecessary small costs everyday. People always like to give the example of foregoing your morning Starbucks (holy shit have fancy coffee drinks gotten expensive!), but maybe for you it’s one less cocktail at dinner or not buying a new shirt that week. Little things that won’t impact your life too significantly for a few weeks, but will add up big time once you’re on your trip!
Another way we added to our Vegas fund was by cashing in on our all of the change we had lying around. I’m not big into saving change to pay for things; it’s never worked too well for me but I’d had so many friends pay for trips that way I thought I’d give it a shot. After reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo (which truly has been life changing), I decided to go back to my change-free ways. Marie Kondo suggests that money just sitting around in a jar in the house is neither being used nor respected: money should either go into the wallet or into the bank. So, on our tidying up spree, we cashed in all of our change to put towards our 2 year anniversary Vegas trip — a worthy cause!
2. Pack Properly
The first time I went to Vegas, I went for a 3 day trip and flew Spirit Airlines. As y’all know from reading my blog, Spirit charges for all bags except a personal item. I travel pretty minimally, and Vegas is hot as fuck, so getting by with just a little backpack (shorts and swimsuits take up, like, no room at all!) was pretty much no problem. HOWEVER. I only brought the shoes on my feet…which happened to be chunky heels. Huge mistake. The strip doesn’t look that big, but with wandering through hotels and having to cross back and forth over bridges because the sidewalks don’t always run on both sides of the street, something that looks only a couple blocks away might be a 20 minute journey. For fuck’s sake pack a pair of flats or other shoes that are decently cute (c’mon, it’s Vegas…you want to look good!) and very comfortable. Also a little pair of flats slides right into a backpack and doesn’t sacrifice much space. After 3 days of walking in heels, I returned home with no feeling in my big toe for several months — and that’s no exaggeration. Learn from my mistakes.
There’s no heat quite like a Vegas summer. It’s like stepping outside into a sauna that’s so hot it takes your breath away…and yet there’s not even a drop of humidity. And the sun is blazing. As someone who’s always cold, I love it, but it’s almost even too hot for me. A wardrobe of shorts and tanks is perfect…until you step inside the casinos. Coldest A/C in the freaking world. Despite the 120 degree heat outside, it really doesn’t hurt to have a light jacket with you for every time you step inside a casino, especially if you’re a freeze baby like me.
If you’re not flying Spirit airlines or you are flying Spirit and are traveling with a friend or significant other, it’s worth checking a bag. Since Spirit charges per bag, and it costs more to carry on a bag than check it, I like to combine forces with my companion and split the fee for a checked bag and then pack together. You don’t need a whole lot in Vegas, so one bag between 2 people for a weekend trip (and I don’t know how anyone could do more than 3 days in Vegas if they’re doing it right) should do the trick! And probably still leave you room to bring home a few souvenirs.
When you’re packing: Don’t forget the essentials! Sunscreen, sunglasses, ibuprofen for the inevitable hangover, a pair of comfy shoes for walking and sandals for the pool, a phone charger, your tooth brush. Some of that sounds obvious but I forgot to pack a toothbrush for all 3 trips I went on in April and at this point in my life I have left a phone charge in at least 5 different states. Nobody’s perfect. Picking up convenience items at your hotel will be expensive as fuck. Most of the convenience stores (CVS, ABC, Walgreens) are about average price, but it’s still better to just have it all with you and not have to waste your precious time or money buying all the shit you forgot.
Lastly, if you’re going to go clubbing in Vegas, make sure you’ve packed attire to meet the dress code. I’ve never been clubbing (in Vegas or really anywhere) because it’s not my scene. Again, if you read my blog that should be obvious to you: I’m a dive bars and rock shows kinda chick who just happens to love nice hotels. I like what I like. I had a friend who went to Vegas recently and before she left she’d asked if the dress code for the clubs was still the same: dressy and no jeans. I told her I had no clue. I figured it was worth mentioning in this blog though, because if that is your scene, make sure you do your research and pack accordingly!
3. Tweak Your Tolerance
So I’m not necessarily saying anyone should take this advice…but I figured I’d mention what I call my “Vegas Training.” I’m not a huge drinker most of the year…it’s part of the reason I can afford to do so much cool shit: I don’t go out and drink very often. At this point in my life, I’m the person that if I have more than one mimosa with brunch I’m in bed by noon. Or a “crazy night out” where I got “really drunk” means I had 3 beers, got a tingly feeling in my face, Irish goodbyed, and fell asleep eating a pint of ice cream in bed. Probably woke up with chocolate all over my hair. You know.
So the month leading up to Vegas, I let myself have a few drinks when I normally wouldn’t. It’s been a fun month for me. Like, I’ve actually gone out on the “weekends” (lol, what are those? I’m a bartender…) and had a social life. I FEEL LIKE A HUMAN IN MY MID-20S FOR ONCE. Now I can have more than 2 beers without wanting to fall asleep on the bar!
There are plenty of things to do in Vegas besides drinking, but there are also so many fun bars to check out and have a drink at. It’s nice to not have it be game over by noon after only a couple beers. It’s Sin City, but moderation is still key. I like to be able to check out a bar, have a drink, chug like 5 waters because of the blistering heat, coast for a bit, and then move on to the next place to explore. It keeps things affordable, memorable (because I can actually remember things if I’m not slamming shots), and keeps the hangover manageable!
Leading up to Vegas, I often try to do the opposite with caffeine as I do with alcohol. Normally, I can drink a cup of coffee or two and go right to bed (clearly, sleeping is not something I have trouble with). In Vegas, staying out all night and watching the sun come up the next morning is my favorite thing. Bars are open all night: Vegas is the true “City that Never Sleeps.” You can even order a tequila sunrise at sunrise after staying out all night and feel really cool (though your bartender will not be amused). Leading up to Vegas, I cut back from my multiple cups of coffee per day to only one, then tea, then no caffeine when I can. That way, when I get to Vegas and need the power to stay out all night, I can pound a Red Bull and actually grow wings like they claim in the advertisements, rather than just getting a sugar high and crashing 20 minutes later.
Of course, you might be in the opposite boat as me: one of my bar regulars and I had Vegas trips planned around the same time as each other, but he was preparing for Vegas in the opposite way. A regular drinker, he’d given up booze for the month leading up to Vegas to tank his tolerance and make drinking in Vegas affordable.
Again, this is just how I do Vegas. I like to be able to explore and see a lot of cool things and not waste a day with a hangover. It’s a pretty chill way to visit Sin City. If you want to party freakin’ hard-y, I won’t be the one to try to stop you!
4. Do Your Research
Whether you’ve been to Vegas once or a million times, a little research never hurts. Before I went for the first time, I read so many blog posts. The first time I went, I had no idea why I even wanted to go (aside from seeing Steel Panther, of course) because I wasn’t a gambler and I didn’t like clubbing, and I had no idea what else there was to even do in Vegas! I spent a few hours reading blogs and guides for what to do in Vegas if you don’t drink or gamble, and want to find shit to do for free. I felt like a Vegas expert the first time I went and found some cool places both on and off the strip that there’s no way I would have discovered without prior research. Pinterest was an incredible tool for this. I have some of my favorite resources saved on my Travel Board.
5. Map It Out
I’ll reiterate: the Vegas strip might not look that big, but looks can be deceiving. It almost always takes longer to walk somewhere than you anticipate, and you never know when it’s going to take 20 minutes to get an Uber rather than 5. When I first went to Vegas they didn’t even have Uber and you had to cab everywhere — it was a nightmare. Before I leave, I like to make a list of all the things I want to do while I’m there. Then, I group the things I want to do together and plot them out. I know Vegas pretty well at this point, so I just make lists and group things together by area, but my first couple times I literally drew out a rudimentary map or looked at a picture of one on my computer to get an idea of where things were.
I like to leave some flexibility in my plans because there’s so much random stuff in Vegas that I come across every time and I want to be able to be spontaneous. If you want to see shows or do other activities that have a set time, having a game plan is even more important. Wherever the show is that I’m seeing one night, I plan to spend time exploring that hotel or neighboring hotels to make sure I’m not late to the show if an issue with transportation comes up, and I’m not wasting time traveling from one end of the strip to the other unnecessarily. For example, don’t plan on taking a photo at the Vegas sign (located south of Mandalay Bay, the southernmost hotel on the strip) and then checking out the view from the Stratosphere (one of the northernmost hotels on the strip) in the same day.
And that’s how you Pre-Vegas!
A little bit of research and planning goes a long way in making sure your Vegas vacation (or any vacation honestly) goes smoothly. A loose plan gives a nice framework so that you’re not wasting time trying to decide what to do on vacation, or traveling to destinations that aren’t conveniently located near each other, but it also allows you the flexibility to explore fun opportunities as they come up. Saving some extra money ahead of time will also allow you to have the freedom to do more things with less worry while you’re traveling.
Who else loves Vegas? Let me know your thoughts or other Vegas tips in the comments!