Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gambling for fun and profit

Haven't posted on here for a while but decided to share my insights on gambling.  Let's be honest.  Most of you can gamble at the local convenience store and most of you probably have a casino within an hours drive, so going to Las Vegas just because you can gamble is not the attraction it was 30 years ago.  Now, you do have a lot more places to do it and a lot of different games that you can play, but, if you haven't at least bought a lottery ticket lately, you are in the minority.

That being said, there are more ways to lose money in Vegas than almost any other place you can visit. And most of those "smart gambling" websites aren't going to do you much good if you aren't a pro or semi-pro gambler.  So I'm just going to tell you the truth and the truth is that you are a degenerate drunken tourist.  The only reason you are gambling is to get free drinks and to hit it big.  And, sadly, you are probably going to crawl (or hopefully fly) home when it's all over.  So...think it through.

First of all, you probably aren't going to win a damned thing.  Repeat that over and over until you believe it because you should.  I have probably won money gambling 3 times in 25 trips.  Now maybe you're luckier than I am but I'd be willing to bet (I've got problems) that most people's experiences are closer to mine.  But, you definitely won't win any money if you don't have a goal in mine.  At some point, an awful lot of people are at least a little bit ahead, whether they are playing the table games or the slots but they keep playing.   Why?  Because they haven't won enough to stop.

So here's the first thing you need to decide:  how much is enough?  However unrealistic your goal may be, you need to know what it is.  Now, I'm not going to lie:  if your goal is to win a $1 Million, you aren't going to have very many good days.  But that is the most important thing you need to know when you sit down:  What do I have to win to walk away and get a hooker or something?

If you want to win a thousand dollars, then you need to find a game that could conceivably pay you a thousand dollars.  Quarter video poker is not a bad choice because, if you hit the Royal Flush, you've hit your goal.  You could also look for a slot machine that has a reasonable chance to hit that spot.  If you think are going to win that much playing most table games, you had better be prepared to be wagering black chips.  ($100 chips if you are scoring at home)

So, find the right game and have a goal.  You probably won't reach that goal but at least you'll know what it is.  Decide how many $$$ you are willing to spend before you give up and call it a day.  If you want to have a realistic chance to post that Facebook picture of your winning ticket, set you goals at a more reasonable level.  Find a machine with a fairly low jackpot or one that gives you multiple chances to reach your goal.

The title of this post is "Gambling for fun and profit" but, at the very least, I hope that you will do the former.  Las Vegas is the best place I know of to lose money, so, if you do, just make sure that you can afford what you are losing.  Besides, you can always enjoy your time just walking around, watching people and taking in the many sites that the city has to offer.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Staying Safe

Vegas has a reputation for being some sort of scary place where you will get mugged and you have to watch your back 24/7 but that's not really true.  Why?  Because the Las Vegas Strip just might be the most heavily patrolled stretch of real estate in the world.  It is very unlikely that someone will hold you up and take all your money as long as you are careful.  So...you rarely have to worry about being safe in Las Vegas.  But....if you want to be super careful, follow this advice.

The Las Vegas Strip, day or night, between at least the Wynn and the Mandalay Bay is arguably the safest street in the world.  Not only are there LVPD wandering around everywhere, not only are their casino security guys looking for trouble at all hours of the day and night, but there are just so many people walking around that it is just a terrible place to try and commit a violent crime.  That doesn't mean that someone couldn't pick your pocket while you are staring out on some casino or attraction but there are ways to deal with that.  For one, stay aware.  If you are going to get "wasted drunk," don't do it in the middle of the Strip.  Just do it at your hotel or at a club and then take a cab "home."  If you are carrying a fair amount of cash, maybe keep it in a money belt or in your front pocket or just keep one hand on your wallet at all times.

Downtown Las Vegas is also pretty safe, as long as you stay on Fremont Street under the canopy.  But just don't be wandering off more than a block or two off the tourist areas.   And, for God's sake, don't be trying to find hookers or drugs....that's how people end up arrested or dead.  

Now, I'm a bit of a thrillseeker and I've probably wandered around to places I shouldn't over the years.  But that doesn't mean that you should.  If you want to be really careful, don't walk the Strip between the Stratosphere and downtown.  You might be tempted but the people you will encounter are not usually tourists.  You also might think that wandering up and down streets close the the Strip like Paradise or Industrial is OK.  You will likely be fine but you are taking a bit of a risk.  Most anywhere on Tropicana is sketchy and once you get east of Bally's on Flamingo, you might feel a little uncomfortable.  Honestly, you should be just fine but, if you feel funny, it won't matter.

The other safety tip is to follow the same rules that you would follow anywhere else.  Wandering around at 2 or 3 in the morning is going to increase your risk, whether it's in Las Vegas or Lawrence, KS.  Honestly, if you keep your wits about you, you don't have much to worry about.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Quick tip on flying out of Las Vegas

Las Vegas has a pretty nice airport.  And it's one of the busiest in the country.  Overall, though, it is usually not a place that you are going to get stuck with long lines at check-in or at the TSA checkpoints.  Even if it looks like a long line, it will likely move pretty quickly.  That being said, I would generally take the advice of most experts and try to arrive at least 2 hours before your flight leaves.  That will be doubly important if you are flying out at a particularly busy time like Sunday afternoon or evening as that is when the weekend crowd will be heading home.  Even if you've heard that your flight might be delayed, unless the weather conditions are pretty dire, you might still want to arrive a few hours before your scheduled departure, as a predicted delay may not come to pass.

Of course, there are plenty of distractions to keep you amused should you find yourself waiting on your departure.  Yes...you can actually play slots at the airport.  They are everywhere.  Now, I've heard that these particular machines don't pay off so well and I'm inclined to believe it, but it is something to do.  I usually plan to eat something before I leave and there are quite a few places to do that too.  And, if you promised someone a souvenir but totally forgot to actually get it, you can still do so before you leave.

There is actually a a pretty good little exhibit of sorts on the history of air travel to Las Vegas on display in Terminal 1 and you can easily kill 10 or 15 minutes looking at the displays.  If your portable electronic device is starting to die on you, there are charging stations everywhere so you can plug in and recharge while you entertain yourself on your iPhone or Kindle as well.

I'll just say one more thing about the fabulous McCarran International Airport.  The people watching can be spectacular.  Just wander around and watch the different expressions on people's faces who are arriving and those that are departing.  And, if you're really lucky, you'll be able to catch all the strippers flying into town Friday night.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What To See

This isn't really "rocket science" because pretty much any guidebook can tell you what you should try and see on your "first" trip to Las Vegas (or maybe your second) but I'll just share some of my favorite places and experiences.  OK...I'm going to try to make this into a Top 10, but in no particular order.

The Fountains at the Bellagio:  You simply must go.  I have shed more tears watching this amazing display than anywhere else in the last decade.  On a weekday, they usually start at 3PM.  It begins with Whitney Houston singing the National Anthem and goes directly to Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing "Time To Say Goodbye."  I won't rat anyone out but I've seen some pretty hard-core dudes get choked up watching this so it isn't just my sensitive self.  Even if you miss that, most any show is amazing.  Maybe it is just because I love water....waterfalls, water shows, whatever.  But I'll bet you will love it too.  While you are there, have lunch or dinner at the Bellagio buffet, check out the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures in the lobby and the latest exhibit in the Conservatory.

At some point, you'll want to go "downtown" and that's cool because the Fremont Street Experience is pretty amazing.  It's better after a couple of drinks (or maybe just one "yard" from the Bayou) but it is even impressive sober.  I believe it is the largest video screen in the world, spanning a good 4 or 5 city blocks, and it will impress you.  They do it on the hour in the evening and they have several shows.  I always say that "downtown Vegas" is great for one night and this is part of the reason why.  At some point, there will probably be a show that just kind of blows you away.  So...dance, drink, even lay down on the pavement and bond with total strangers.  It's a helluva lot of fun.

The "Volcano" at the Mirage is still a good time, even after almost 25 years.  They've actually updated it recently.  When it started, it was one of the few free attractions in town but now it is just one of many.  I still like it.  There is something about standing outside and watching a "fake volcano" spewing out fire.  On a cool evening, you can definitely feel the flames and it feels good.

NY NY is one of the few casinos that is still true to their theme.  It's not my favorite place to gamble or hang out but it is well-executed.  If you are a thrill-seeker, check out the roller coaster.  It is crazy.  Wander the fake cobblestone streets, grab a Nathan's hot dog, walk across the "Brooklyn Bridge."  One  place where you can really feel transported, for a time, to another place.

The Stratosphere is actually one of my favorite places to hang out and gamble but, for most people, the reason to visit is to go to the top of the tower (the highest observation deck West of the Mississsippi) and get a view you'll get nowhere else.  If you are a thrill seeker, they actually have rides way up there over a thousand feet.  I've heard they are pretty scary but you'll never get me on one.  There is also a bar and a restaurant up top and it is a great place to have a drink and watch the sun go down.

Caesars Palace is one of the original "themed" casino-hotels.  You have to visit and just soak it in.  There is a great hotel, expansive casino and enormous mall attached.  It is one of the few places in Vegas that you could visit for a few days and never leave.  There have been championship fights, death-defying motorcycle jumps and amazing shows there for years.  If one hotel epitomizes Las Vegas, Caesars is it!

OK...I'm going to send you downtown again.  You're already there watching the Fremont Street Experience so you might as well wander down to the Main Street Station.  It isn't the most amazing hotel in town but the casino is awesome.  If you chill at the bar and play some video poker, they'll comp you some freshly brewed beer.  And, when you've had a few of them, you can wander down to the men's room (well...if you are a man) and literally pee on a piece of the Berlin Wall.  The buffet is also really good and the decor has kind of a 19th century feel to it.  Fun place.

One fun thing to do is to visit the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign and have your picture taken in front of it.  You've seen it hundreds of times so you might as well become part of the legend and lore.  The easiest of the two signs to get to is the one a few blocks south of Mandalay Bay.  Make it there if you can and you'll feel like you've really been to Las Vegas, particularly when you look at the pictures.

You'll have to rent a car or find a friend to do this but a trip through Red Rock Canyon is totally worth it.  Beautiful desert scenery, lots of scenic overlooks and a great way to "get away" from the madness of the city.  On your way there or on your way back, stop at the Red Rock Casino.  Very classy place away from the Strip.  Maybe the best part of the driving out that way is that, at a certain point, Las Vegas just kind of disappears and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.  After dropping a few hundred $$$ that might be a welcome feeling.

Sam's Town Hotel and Casino is a long ways from the Strip.  It was one of the first "locals casinos" and still one of the biggest and the best.  If you can make it out there, it can be one of the most relaxing places in town.  They have an outdoor atrium between the casino and hotel proper.  It is great place to get a drink and relax.  They have an extremely underrated show with waterfalls and howling coyotes and bears.  Like Red Rock Canyon, it is a great place to get away from it all for a while.  I think you might like it too.

So that's my choice of 10 of the best places to check out while you are in town.  Of course, just wandering up and down the Strip might be enough for you on your first visit but these suggestions will give you an idea of some great places to spend a little time.  As always, hope that this post helps you plan a better trip.  Much more to come.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Airport and Transportation

Just a few brief thoughts on McCarran International Airport (LAS) and how to best navigate the place and how best to get out of there.  In all likelihood, you will likely arrive at Terminal 1 unless your flight is a charter or you are coming from overseas.  When you arrive, you want to look for the tram that will take you to baggage claim.  Even if you don't have any bags to claim, the baggage claim area is also where you will find all the transportation options, whether you are renting a car, taking the bus, finding a cab or shuttle or even meeting your limousine.

If you are renting a car, you need to look for Doors 10 and 11 as that is where the Rental Car shuttle is located.  The shuttle will take you to the Rent-A-Car center which is located several miles from the airport.  It is actually a very well organized place and you should have no problem finding your particular agency.

If you are staying downtown or just have a spirit of adventure and are taking the bus to your hotel, you will find it outside Level Zero.  There is an escalator right in the middle of the baggage claim area that you will need to take.  Then just exit through the doors and walk to your right until you see the stop for the RTC.  There are three routes that will take you downtown, the 108, the 109 or the Westcliff Airport Express.  The 108 is preferable to the 109 as it takes Paradise road instead of Maryland Parkway, which is a longer route.  I am not that familiar with the Westcliff Airport Express but it makes stops at Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd and downtown at 4th and Carson.  Honestly, unless you are really poor or just want to have an adventure, I wouldn't go that way.

The simplest thing to do is to just take a cab.  Of course, everybody and their mama and daddy are going to do the same thing so there can be some pretty long cab lines.  Don't get discouraged.  They move pretty fast.  Just look for door exits 1-4 and you can join the line.  Now a cab is usually the fastest way to get to your hotel.  If you have more than a couple of people in tow, it is also likely as cheap as a shuttle.  Now, Vegas cab drivers are notorious for "tunneling" people which, for your purposes, means they are taking a longer route to get you to your destination.  Occasionally, that may actually save you money, but, if you are staying on the Strip, you are probably getting ripped off.  When you get in the cab, tell the driver your destination and ask him to take the "surface streets" instead of the tunnel and you will likely save $5 or $10.  Expect to pay anywhere from $15-$35, depending on your location.  A reasonable tip is always to round your fare up to the nearest $5 increment and then tip $1 for each such increment.  In other words, if you have a $18 fare, round it up to $20 and give the driver $23.  I'll cover more details in my upcoming "tipping" tips.

So you are feeling special or maybe you are arriving with a fairly large group and you want to engage the services of a limousine?  Not difficult.  From the baggage claim area, you are looking for door exits 7-13.  Now a limo may cost you anywhere from $40-$100, depending on what you are looking for.  Most will just take you directly to your hotel and, let's be honest, it is pretty cool for you and your party to step out of a limo as you arrive at your destination.  Again, approximately a 20% tip is reasonable.  If you want the limo driver to stop anywhere or give you a short tour up the Strip, you should let he or she know in advance and find out what that will cost you.  I've done it.  It's fun.  But....unless you are a high roller, it probably isn't worth it.

The final way to exit the airport (unless you plan to walk....don't laugh, I've heard of people doing it, but you shouldn't) is to take one of the Airport shuttles.  Whenever you book a vacation package, they try to sell you transportation on one of these things.  I'm just going to say that I'm not a fan.  The shuttles are also located outside door exits 7-13.  There are at least 3 or 4 companies that do this and they are a reasonable option if you are travelling solo.  Depending on where you are staying, you will likely pay $8-$12 per person (that's just a current guess as I'm not certain) so it will be less expensive than a cab if you are alone.  But....you may have to wait 15-20 minutes just for the shuttle to fill up and depart.  You might also be the last stop on the shuttle route so you might wait another 15-20 minutes longer than necessary just to get to your destination.  I mean it's OK.  The shuttles are nice enough, the drivers are nice enough and it isn't terrible.  But you've just spent all that time on the airplane, you've finally landed and you are ready to roll, aren't you?  Yeah...just grab a cab.  You'll thank me.

Well...that was a longer posting than I expected.  I guess, when I start talking about Las Vegas, I just can't shut up.  If you have any questions you'd like to see answered, just leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you out.  As always, would love to see some folks following this blog so please do so!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How to get "free" drinks

So...another question I get all the time is how to get "free" drinks when you are in Vegas.  I always like to put that word in quotes because there ain't nothin' free in this world, particularly in Las Vegas.   Here's my advice.

First of all, casinos aren't giving out drinks because they think you are a stand-up dude or lady.  They are giving them to you because they want you stick around, get tipsy and lose money.  Now some of the really nice casinos are going to expect you to lose more money than the middle-of-the-road places, so they are going to be a hard sell on the free drinks.  So don't expect to get drunk at the Wynn playing nickel slots.  That cute waitress is not going to be making the rounds in your little corner of the casino very often and that friendly bartender isn't going to be too impressed with that quarter bet you're making on Caveman Keno.  Now if you're the kind of person betting $100 a hand at Blackjack or playing $5 a pop at the Video Poker machine, you aren't going to have that problem, but, if you are reading this, that probably isn't you.

So, if you want to get drunk for "free," you need to find a casino that isn't too snooty and you need to be there when it isn't too busy.  Of course, most of the cocktail waitresses are just going to assume you are some cheap-ass loser until you "make friends" with them.   And how do you make friends with them?   You give them money.  Now if you want to make friends fast, you can start out with a ridiculous tip.  And, honestly, throwing $5 at them the first time they drop off your Coors Light will definitely encourage them to come by early and often.  I've never done that but it should work.  Otherwise, you'll have to be patient.  Order a drink every single time they come by and always be polite and give them a dollar.  You'll be surprised how often they find their way back if they realize that you are an alcoholic and are going to give them a dollar every 15-20 minutes.  This can even work in really nice casinos because you would be surprised how many of the so-called high rollers are actually cheapskates.  Unfortunately, not only does this take a bit of patience, but it requires you stay on the same machine or, at least, in the same area so that the waitress can get to "know" you.  And, if you are unlucky, just about the time you've become her new favorite drunk, she gets off work and you have to start all over again.

My favorite strategy (and it pains me to say this) is to bypass that really cute cocktail waitress and just head straight to one of the casino bars.  Usually the bartenders are not really cute and, most of the time, they are guys, but they are usually less than 20 feet away from you at all times and they know they aren't cute, so they are more than happy to take care of your drinking needs, as long as you are betting enough to satisfy their bosses.  You will rarely, if ever, find a nickel machine at a casino bar but, if you are willing to drop a twenty or two in the video poker machine, they will notice you pretty quickly and offer you a cold beverage.  They will also notice when your beverage is gone and offer you another one as long as you "make friends" with them and, by now, you know what that means.  Now, if you are going to be staying or playing in the same casino for several days, you might even introduce yourself to your server and banter with them.  That isn't necessary but it might help them remember you and, once they remember you and your money, it won't take long for them to set you up with your favorite beverage and keep them coming.

Another strategy that can be a good one is to sit in the fabulous Keno lounge and plant yourself there for a while.  Most casinos that have a Keno lounge are pretty good about sending a waitress around frequently.  Now Keno is a terrible game in terms of odds but it is also a game that goes very slowly and that you can play for a dollar or two.  Trust me...you'll lose a lot less playing a dollar every 5 minutes than you will pumping 3 quarters into that Wheel of Fortune machine every 5 seconds.   Either way, therein lies the rub.  If today isn't your day at the casino, those 6 Bud Lights could end up costing you a few hundred dollars and that sure as hell isn't free.  So try to find a game where, even if you end up losing, you can do it slowly instead of quickly.  Video Poker is usually a good choice but $5 Blackjack can be good too.

Well...I hope that helped all of you out.  If you are enjoying these posts, please keep checking back or follow me to stay up to date.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hotels Hotels Hotels (or where should I stay?)

OK...so after that whole "great airfare" question, the next one is always "Where should I stay?"  As important as that question seems, it really isn't all that important.  Or maybe it is.  Because "where" you stay is probably far more important than what hotel you choose.  Las Vegas has so many hotel rooms, it is ridiculous.  What is even more ridiculous is that a very large percentage of them are filled almost every single day.  That being said, you probably aren't going to spend much time hanging around your hotel room.  As nice as some of them are, you didn't come to town to watch reruns of Law & Order SVU and order room service.

In my humble opinion, if you are visiting Las Vegas for the first time, you need to stay on the Strip somewhere between the Monte Carlo and the Mirage.  That leaves off a lot of really nice hotels, both on and off the Strip but you can always try them out when you return...and you probably will return.  Because everything is new to you, you are going to want to try to see as much as humanly possible.  And, while I am not a huge fan of hanging out on the Strip, it is arguably the single most amazing man-made spectacle in the free world so, trust me, you will want to be there.  And you will want to just walk around and gaze in awe at all the people, the lights and the insanity going on around you.  The best way to see as much as possible is to be in the middle of things.  Hence, my advice.

The Las Vegas Strip is about a 5 mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, marked on both the north and south limits by a sign in the median, the famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" signs you've all seen a few thousand times.  As far as hotels go, it stretches from the Mandalay Bay on the south end all the way north to the Stratosphere.  But, if you stay at either one of these fine hotels (and I happen to really like both of them,) you are going to be hoofing it one hell of a long way to see all the sights.  That's why I've narrowed down your best choices to places where you will be able to see as much as you can without wearing out your shoes.  Which specific hotel will be best for you is only something you'll be able to answer after you've stayed there.  But, keep in mind that even the "budget options," the smaller or older Strip hotels are likely to "wow" you.  You will almost certainly visit somewhere on your journey and think to yourself that this place is just awesome and that, when you come back, you'll just have to stay there.  But if you've never visited, that is part of the fun of it all.

OK...you say, but you still haven't told me where to stay!  I want a name.  I'm poor...I want a great deal.  What can I do?  I'm going to have to ask you to have another sip of whatever beverage you are drinking tonight, relax, and just trust me here because I'm going to help you.  You're poor...I get it.  I'm relatively poor too.  But, if you weren't, I'd just tell you to lock up a suite at the Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, Caesars Palace or the Mirage.  Your chance of getting a "great deal" is going to be much greater if you visit at a time that fewer people want to be there.  Go around Christmas-time or in the scorching heat of July and August.  Just be prepared for either some chilly temperatures and some closed-down shows or for the possibility that your shoes might melt....seriously.

First, I have to ask you if you are already a degenerate gambler.  You are?  That's a good thing...maybe.  Most of the major Las Vegas casinos are owned my mega-conglomerates who have dozens of casinos and maybe one in your area.  Do you already have a Total Rewards card or an MLife card from your local casino?  If you do and if you've gambled even a fair amount of money at that casino, you should be able to get at least a discounted price and maybe even a free room at a Strip casino that falls within my geographic range.  You may really be in luck if you have a Total Rewards casino in your area (typically a Harrahs but possibly a Harvey's, Showboat or Caesars) and if you've dropped a few dollars in one of their casinos recently.  Total Rewards casinos that might be good choices for you include Harrah's, the Flamingo, Bally's, Planet Hollywood, Paris and (if you are really a high roller,) Caesars.  Now, if you are fortunate enough to have an MLife casino near you (not as common,) you will want to investigate the Monte Carlo, Mirage, Aria and the Bellagio.  All of these places are pretty centrally-located which is what you want.  Not all of them are amazing hotels but, remember, that is not your primary concern.

Even if you aren't a degenerate gambler (yet,) several of these hotels offer reasonably priced rooms (particularly between Sunday and Thursday nights) and are good solid choices.  So look at the following places for the best deals:  Monte Carlo, Flamingo, Bally's and Harrah's.  None of these places are the newest or nicest or trendiest places in town but they are all within walking distance of plenty of places that are.  You can also occasionally find a good deal at the Mirage, Paris or Planet Hollywood but you'll pay more staying in a nicer place and I doubt it will be worth it to you.  The Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Aria are going to likely cost you more than are going to want to pay, particularly if you are going to be there at least part of the weekend.

So there you go.  I narrowed it down to basically 4 hotels you should focus in on as places to stay.  I'd really look at the Flamingo.  It probably has the best location and it also has history as the first major Strip resort over 60 years ago.  It is a Total Rewards casino so you might be able to score a good room rate and it isn't a bad place at all.  Oh....and on my first trip to Las Vegas, that's where I stayed.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Well...unless you live there, you've got to get there.

I guess the first real post on this blog would have to be about actually travelling to Vegas.  This is where I will take a moment to reminisce for a moment.  The first time I flew to Vegas, I paid $100 round trip.  OK...that was almost 17 years ago but it really happened.  Within the last few years, I've done it several times for less than $200 but that's been the exception, not the rule.

I will also mention that I've gone to Vegas just about as many different ways as you can imagine.  I've flown (and that's the way to go if you live more than a few hundred miles away,) driven, taken a bus and taken a train (well...not all the way but there was a train involved.)  I've flown on several different airlines, including a charter flight and what might as well have been a charter flight.

But you really don't care about my increasingly fuzzy memories, you just want to know how to score that low airfare so you'll have more money to blow on gambling and just generally having a good time.  OK.  I'll give you my advice.

As with most everything else I will write on here, it all kind of depends.  The first thing it depends on is where you are coming from.  Needless to say, your best bet is to live as close as possible.  Also, it helps to live near an airport that has a lot of flights.  Supply and demand pretty much always apply and that is certainly the case here.  If you in the LA area, you've got a lot of options and most of them are pretty reasonably priced.  Hell...if you live in LA, you could just drive, though that might not be cheaper.  If you live in "Podunk, Alabama," you are much more limited.

As a general rule, your best bet for a cheap flight is to be flying to and from Las Vegas when fewer people want to go there.  That means that your quick trip over the weekend is going to cost you more because, let's be honest, everyone wants to fly out to Vegas for a long weekend, probably because most of you degenerates and your livers couldn't survive more than 3 days.  If that's what you want to do, you're going to pay for it because you aren't the first person to have that idea.  Now, Vegas is busier and more lively on the weekend so you are going to get that experience and maybe it is worth it.  It might be worth it to you if it is your first trip because it will make you want to come back again and again.  But....if you want a relatively inexpensive flight, that is not the way to go.

So here you go.  Here is the best advice I can give you and you may not like it.  Fly out on a Tuesday or Wednesday and fly back on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  What you say?  I can't possibly spend 6 or 7 or 8 days in "Sin City" or I will come back broke or dead.  I hear you but you did say you wanted the cheapest airfare, didn't you?  OK...here's an alternative.  Fly out on Wednesday and come back Saturday.  It probably won't give you quite as good an airfare (though it might) but you aren't mortgaging your soul and you won't have to shell out for quite as many trips to the mini-bar.  You will get to experience all the glory of a Friday night and hopefully you will have a day off to recover before you have to go back to work.

OK...here's my second piece of advice.  We are now assuming that you are going to fly out on Wednesday afternoon and come back Saturday morning.  For God's sake, don't go on Orbitz or Expedia or Travelocity and book that "cheap flight" that takes 8 hours, has to connect through Minneapolis or Atlanta and involves changing planes once or twice.  Are you crazy?  You are only going to be in town for a few days.  Why do you want to spend a quarter of your vacation time in airports or on planes?   Also, the more times you have to change planes, the better the opportunity for your luggage to be misplaced.  Do you really want to roll into your palatial suite at the Wynn with just the clothes on your back?  Yeah...I didn't think so.

If at all possible, a direct, nonstop flight is the way to go.  Even if it costs a little more, it will probably be worth it because there are less things that can go wrong.  Even if your flight ends up being delayed, you aren't going to miss your connecting flight because of it.  That may or may not limit your choices.  As I typically fly out of Kansas City (MCI,) that pretty well limits my choice to Southwest.  Now, Southwest is not always the cheapest way to go but it is usually pretty close.  And, when you consider the fact that my flight will take around 3 hours and I'll never have to switch planes, for me it is almost always the way to go.  And, if you are checking a bag or two, it might end up being the cheapest because most other airlines will charge you if you do.  If you are lucky enough to live in a city with more nonstop options, you have more choices and you should investigate them, being sure to figure in the total cost of the flight.  Of course, if you frequently fly for business or pleasure and are already a loyal customer of a particular airline, that may end up working out best for you in the long run.

Keep in mind that you won't find fares for Southwest on any of the big "travel sites" that I've mentioned before.  You will actually have to go to their website.  So be sure you do that before you take that great offer on Expedia because it may or may not be that great.

In some cities, charter flights or what I will call "dedicated flights" might offer you an opportunity to travel for a very low price.  You will have to investigate whether this is an option in your area.  One airline that offers a number of dedicated flights to Las Vegas is Allegiant.  They often fly out of smaller cities and their base price can be very low.  Still, they offer less flexibility as to when you arrive and depart and they tack on extra fees for just about everything so weigh things carefully before you commit.  Also, both charter and dedicated flights can completely gut your vacation.  If something goes wrong, you might get your money back but the next flight might not be scheduled to depart for another 3 or 4 days.  So that exciting trip you've planned  for several months might end up being spent at the local convenience store playing "Kansas Cash Lotto."  Not what you had in mind.

And here is the real "kicker" about inexpensive airfare.  You are going to have to be patient.  Now, if you've decided to fly out to our favorite city a few weeks prior, that won't be an option.  You're stuck.  But if you have the time and patience and flexibility, you will have a chance to keep checking again and again and again (and sometimes again) until you find the right price.  You can sign up on most airline websites to be alerted anytime they have a sale and that is probably worth it if you are willing to spend that much time.  You may never find a great fare but, if you are flexible and patient, you just might.

In conclusion, what constitutes an inexpensive trip to Las Vegas is going to depend a great deal on when you want to go, where you are coming from and how patient and flexible you can afford to be.  There are no "magic bullets" anymore if there ever were.  Hope this helps at least a few people make better decisions and have a better vacation.

I've tried this blogging thing before but I've always failed.  I think that is a product of two factors:  Laziness and lack of focus.  While I can't do a lot about the former, I'm hoping to remedy the latter in this blog.  While I have a lot of interests and they may occasionally rear their (ugly?) head here, most of the posts here will focus on just what the title suggests.  After over two dozen visits to Las Vegas over the past 15 years, I've developed what I think (hope) is a unique and informed perspective on one of America's favorite playgrounds.  People often ask my advice on various Vegas topics and I'm hoping to answer a number of those questions here.  Hopefully, some of those topics will be of interest to you and you'll choose to join me on this journey.