Are you planning your first trip to Las Vegas, hoping to avoid common rookie mistakes? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA), nearly 25% of Las Vegas’ 42 million visitors in 2019 were first-timers. While Las Vegas is a tough destination to “do wrong”, there are a few tips, tricks, and mistakes to avoid we wanted to share that should aid you in avoiding some of the pain or wasted money we experienced on our inaugural visit.
Below, are some of the most common rookie mistakes people make when traveling to Vegas for the first time.
Common Mistakes Made By Las Vegas First-Timers
Misjudging distance: Looks are deceiving. Every Vegas newbie makes the mistake of thinking resorts are closer to each other than they are in reality. Plan accordingly, and don’t be afraid to take quick a Uber or Lyft from resort to resort on the Strip. The cost will usually be around $10 or less and is worth it when you’re tired.
Renting a car: There are obviously exceptions, but a rental car is usually not necessary. Although resorts on the Strip look closer than they are in actuality, Uber and Lyft are cheap and effective. Plus, if you are anything like me, you’ll be drinking. Cars and intoxicants don’t mix. If you don’t have any day trips planned, a rental car is unnecessary.
Taking a taxi cab: Every Vegas veteran has made the rookie mistake of taking a cab. Taxi cabs in Vegas are 25% – 35% more expensive than rideshare options. Additionally, cabs are notorious for taking a longer route than necessary to “earn” an increased fare, a practice known as “long hauling”.
Although mandatory flat rates to and from the airport now prevent long hauling on that specific route, rideshare options are still significantly cheaper.
Staying too long: Look, Vegas isn’t exactly a relaxing beach trip to Fort Meyers, Florida. All the day drinking, walking, and gambling takes a toll. Perhaps the wife and I are more abusive to our bodies than others who may disagree with this “rookie mistake” but our initial 8-night trip necessitated a sober day in the middle to re-charge. Our sweet spot now tends to be 3-4 nights.
Not bringing comfortable shoes: On the all too long 8-night trip mentioned above, we made the mistake of only bringing flip flops. After walking miles per day, our feet were in rough shape. Bring whatever cutsie shoes you want, but ensure you have something comfortable for when you plan to cover some ground! If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone walking the Strip barefoot, holding high heels in their hands, I’d be rich. You don’t want your bare feet touching the Strip, trust me.
Not escaping the city: If you enjoy the outdoors, not exploring popular national parks and natural sites outside of Las Vegas could be a huge misstep. With numerous outdoor options within day-trip range from Vegas to include the Hoover Dam, escaping the hustle and bustle of the city could be a welcome reprieve.
Paying sky-high ATM fees: Casino ATM fees are absurdly high, often around $10 to access your own money. You don’t have to pay that, however. Instead, stop into one of the numerous CVS, Walgreens, or Target locations on the Strip where you’ll be charged a more palatable $3ish fee. Here is a full rundown of ATM fees on the Las Vegas Strip so you can find a cheap option near you.
Not Seeking Activity Deals: Deals on Groupon are wide-ranging and include buy one get one offers, discounted activity tickets, or even cash off dining. We keep an updated list of the most attractive deals on Groupon applicable to Las Vegas here.
Not booking direct: One of the most common Las Vegas rookie mistakes is booking through 3rd party vs. directly with the property. Simply put, booking directly with resorts in Las Vegas tends to be cheaper than booking with 3rd party Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Orbitz, Travelocity, etc. If possible sign up for that casino’s loyalty program before booking to score a modest discount. Rooms booked directly can almost always be canceled and refunded if the need arises, which allows you to continue to check rates, cancel, and re-book if prices become more advantageous. Booking directly properties in Las Vegas also makes a complimentary, or inexpensive room update a more likely occurrence.
Booking a hotel away from the action: While many off-Strip hotel options like Palace Station, Trump tower, Circus Circus, Sahara, and STRAT boast their proximity to tourist centers, it’s a rookie mistake to stay at one of them on your first trip. Instead, we recommend booking a room on the Strip or on Fremont Street for your first time in town and branch out to new properties from there. You deserve to experience Vegas from the center of the action.
Not signing up for, and using a player’s card: Your first stop in Vegas after checking into your hotel should be the loyalty program desk to sign up for a player’s card. This should happen before you place your first bet. Casinos use that player’s card to track your play and will offer discounts and even complimentary stays in the future based on your spend. Even low rollers can score deep discounts and free rooms on subsequent trips.
Play games with poor odds: Stay away from games like 6:5 blackjack and triple zero roulette which dilute your odds of winning and are common at Strip casinos. Friendlier 3:2 blackjack can be found on the Strip at a higher minimum bet or at resorts downtown or off the Strip. We usually walk a few blocks behind Bally’s to Ellis Island, a small casino that deals a cheap 3:2 blackjack game. For the best roulette games, check out the single zero wheel at Cromwell on the Strip, or Plaza on Fremont Street.
Check that slot denomination before playing: I swear, every first-timer makes this mistake at least once. You plug cash into a slot machine thinking it’s a penny denomination, select how many credits you want to play, and hit spin only to realize it’s a dollar machine and you are playing $20 or more per spin. I made this rookie mistake and fortunately hit for a $100 win. Whew.
Not taking public transportation: Among the easiest ways to save money in Las Vegas is utilizing the bus to get from place to place. The two most common uses for the bus are from the Strip to Fremont Street, and from the airport to Downtown Las Vegas. Both can save you a fistful of cash when compared to other transportation options.
Not gambling away from the Strip: This isn’t a hard and fast rule for Vegas rookies, just a suggestion. Even we gamble on the Strip… because it’s fun, BUT, it’s a fact that the slots are looser, and table games are more player-friendly the further you get from the Strip. While casinos downtown offer slightly better odds, casinos in Boulder like Sam’s Town, Green Valley Ranch, or M Resort have been shown to have the loosest slots in Vegas.
Eating at the wrong buffets: Las Vegas is the buffet capital of the world and they run the gambit from terrible to high-end. A rookie mistake we commonly made was eating at mid-tier options on the Strip which typically fall in the $30-$40 range. Instead, spend the extra $15-$20 to enjoy an enhanced experience at Wynn, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan, or Aria. Buffets that specialize in high quality, single-serving food options feel more like a high-end restaurant that allows you to try a number of different dishes. You won’t feel the need to overindulge to get your money’s worth.
Agreeing to a timeshare presentation: If you are a couple, you are likely to be approached by timeshare salespeople. Their goal is to entice you to attend a high-pressure sales pitch and property tour in exchange for show tickets, or other carrots. Not only are timeshares in Vegas a ripoff to begin with, but these presentations are also a waste of time. Just buy the show tickets and skip the dog and pony show.
Engaging with salespeople: You’re bound to be approached by salespeople for various products and services including timeshares as you walk the Strip. They usually lead with a question like “How long are you in town for?”, or “How long have you been married?”. For the Vegas rookie, ignoring such an inquiry can feel rude, but trust us, you don’t want to waste your vacation hearing a pitch. While first-timers may take the bait, you’ll learn to blow right past them on subsequent trips.
Getting scammed: Vegas rookies are susceptible to scams that regulars are conditioned to watch for. Keep your slot TITO tickets and cell phones within your view, avoid “long hauling” cab drivers, and don’t grab CD’s or bracelets from peddlers on the street as their intent is to shake you down for cash. Speaking of shakedowns, don’t feel obligated to overtip street performers on the Strip. While tips are their only compensation, they are not legally able to set a price but commonly insist on a $20 tip per photo when a few bucks will do.
Not being prepared to tip: Don’t make the mistake of showing up in Vegas without the right denominations to tip property. Everyone from the driver who delivers you to your hotel, to the bellman that stores your bags will expect you to pony up. Here is more info on who to tip in Vegas and how much is expected.
Not having a plan for valuables by the pool: Cell phones specifically are something most people bring out to the pool, but what do you do with it when you want to go into the water? Leave it behind and risk it being stolen? Bring it with you and risk getting it wet? As a Vegas rookie, I forgot my iPhone was in my pocket and hopped in the pool realizing mid-air my mistake. Ever since, I have brought a simple waterproof case like (on Amazon) this for my phone.
Skipping Fremont Street: Every Vegas rookie would be making an enormous mistake if they didn’t visit Downtown Las Vegas at least once during their stay. While the Strip boasts shiny, new, mega-resorts, downtown Las Vegas exhibits that historic neon charm you have seen in the movies.
Staying on Fremont Street if you need sleep: First timers to Vegas may not be aware that the party on Fremont Street comes with live music on 3 stages, extending until the wee hours of the morning. The vast majority of rooms downtown are exposed to a noise level that will be viewed as unacceptable by light sleepers or those in town for work purposes. If staying on Fremont, ensure you book one of these rooms that are quieter!
Thinking she’s into you: This one is for the guys. Gentlemen, if you are approached by a member of the opposite sex while sitting at the bar or at a slot machine, it’s not safe to assume she is speaking to you due to your good looks, charm, and intellect. In fact, it’s safe to assume she is a lady of the night.
Taking the early flight home: Unless you are a serious early-bird, skip the early flight out of Vegas. For one, getting up at an ungodly hour in Vegas is painful. Secondly, I can’t tell you how many people have slept through their alarm, missing their flight. Shoot for a late morning/early afternoon flight.
Shopping at the hotel gift shop: Forget your toothbrush or deodorant? Now, a Vegas rookie would pop down the elevator and pick up those items at the hotel gift shop. Unfortunately, those shops are an absolute ripoff, many using surge pricing to jack prices higher when demand is elevated. Instead, stop in at one of the numerous CVS or Walgreens sprinkled across the Strip to grab the essentials. While you’re there, stock up on snacks, drinks, and anything else you need.
Overpaying for shows: Unless you are attending a popular show that commonly sells out, you can typically score discounted same-day deals at outlets like “Tix4Tonite” sprinkled about the Strip. If you prefer planning ahead, we recommend prices at 3rd party sites like Vegas.com, which are usually a few bucks cheaper than buying with the box office directly.
Don’t overdrink on night one: For me, this is less of a “rookie mistake”, and one I still commonly fall into. There is nothing like the excitement of arriving in Vegas. That excitement usually drives me, and others like me, to stay up too late, drinking too much, and regretting it dearly the next day.
Hopefully, we were able to help steer you away from some of the most common rookie mistakes made by Vegas first-timers. Have a great trip, and win big! Even if a mistake or two is made, we trust you’ll have a great time in Sin City!
Feature Image: ©Kameleon007 via canva.com