Between the gambling, the celebrity chefs, taxis, nightlife and tee times at the great golf courses, Las Vegas will burn a hole in your pocket. Here are some travel tips for avoiding scams on your Sin City vacation, and saving your dough to splurge on yourself.
LAS VEGAS - The way those Andrew Jacksons fly out of your wallet in this playground of good-time vices, you might think your money has sprouted wings.
You're going to want to gamble. And play some great golf. And splurge on a showcase meal. And hit one of those clubs Paris Hilton frequents. And gamble some more.
Get a little carried away - and who doesn't get a little carried away in Vegas? - and you'll wonder if you've signed up for a vacation or a second mortgage.
But even in Sin City, where everyone from the doorman on up has a hand out to grab your cash, rip-offs are avoidable and a good deal is just a few smart travel moves away. You just need to have a good head on your shoulders, and maybe a little insider knowledge.
TravelGolf.com has been up and down the Strip, and here are our lucky seven rules to keep Vegas from burning too big a hole in your pocket.
1) Rent, don't cab: "I took taxis on a Vegas golf work trip once," recalls Dave Berner, host of the TravelGolf.com This Week podcast. "That was dumb."
If you want to play more than one or two Las Vegas golf courses, renting a car is as essential as air conditioning in the desert. Vegas taxis are notoriously expensive, and most of the golf courses are a good 20 minutes from the Strip.
That's a $35 one-way fare, easy - if the cabbie doesn't fix you for a sucker and take the long way. Even with today's higher gas prices, a rental will pay off with serious savings.
2) Negotiate green fees: Green fees are green fees, you say. Wanna bet?
This is Vegas, where you can buy the fancy kitchen sink out of your Venetian suite if you're smooth enough. And many times of year here there are simply more open tee-sheet spots than there are golfers clamoring to fill them.
Okay, you can't expect to show up mid-morning and get a discount. And forget working it at a high-roller retreat where they want that tee sheet Sahara-sparse.
But come in the afternoon to a mid-range Vegas club (or even many of the better ones), ask for the fee and pull a face, and there's a good chance that twilight rate will suddenly drop another $10 or so.
It doesn't work every time, but it works enough to add up to some nice change.
3) Sign up for the casinos' player cards: Yes, the paperwork's annoying, and yes, you might feel sheepish handing over the card to the dealer if there's a hottie at the table.
Do it anyway - in every casino you frequent. It's the fastest, easiest path to free stuff in Vegas. Even if it's usually just a meal at the buffet, it's one less thing you to have to buy.
4) Skip the "celebrity" parties: A Britney or Paris can rake in six figures just to lend her name to a hot Vegas nightclub's party. You'll pay $100 to get in and often at least that much in drinks (being required to buy a bottle of wine is not uncommon).
Your chances of actually mingling with the celeb that drew you in? Nil. She'll make an appearance - probably no more than a token one - across the room in the roped-off VIP area. You'll get a cramp in your neck trying to spot her.
5) Remember that the bartender is not your friend: Gabbing it up with the interesting young guy serving $15 drinks at the bar rather than downing the free ones brought to the gaming tables is a quick path to needless expense. Vegas bartenders' job is to get you to spend money, and they're good at it.
6) Get out in Vegas nature: Believe it or not, there are great Vegas experiences that will not cost you a dime (and we're not talking about admiring the giant M&M statues on the Strip).
There is nature beyond the neon. The red rocks less than a half-hour from town make a serene setting for hikes. It's a different kind of Vegas - one that gives your bank account a rest.
7) Don't even think of going plastic with a stripper: No, this isn't a fake-breast rant. It's about nitwits who use their credit cards at Vegas strip clubs.
Sure, some clubs are on the up-and-up. But there are just too many stories about unsuspecting tourists who handed over credit cards to club managers and left with a bill that would make Charlie Sheen blush. When there's a good chance you're going to be drunk around naked women, it's best to stick to cash.
July 24, 2007