Las Vegas Vacation – A Guide to Planning Your Trip

So you want to come to Vegas! There’s a reason this is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World and over 40 million people visit each year.

To really make the most of your Vegas vacation, it helps to do a little planning and to be aware of some helpful “best practices.”

We’ve got you covered!

Read on for some tips, tricks, and need-to-knows to help you book and plan your Vegas trip.

And for a comprehensive guide to everything else you need to know, check out our 74 Las Vegas travel tips!

14 vegas vacation planning tips

Planning Your Vegas Trip

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1. How Long Should Your Vegas Trip Be

Three days, two nights. No more, no less.

Three days is a LONG time in Vegas, trust us, and you can do a lot (of damage and otherwise) in three days.

number of nights to stay in Vegas

LVCVA 2018 Visitor Profile – Average number of nights stayed in Las Vegas.

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority 2018 Visitor Profile, visitors stayed an average of 3.4 nights and 4.4 days in Las Vegas.

2. Costs and Budgeting

Take however much you think Vegas is going to cost and double it. Maybe even triple it, just to be safe.

Everything is expensive: food is expensive, even if you try to stick to fast-casual chains; booze is VERY expensive; clubs and shows are expensive; gambling is as expensive as you allow it to be.

The days of Vegas being a cheap getaway are long gone, and while there are plenty of fun, free things to do and see, everything else costs money. This is not the place to visit, and then decide you want to penny-pinch. Just lean into it and plan accordingly.

Also, you need to know a few things before you visit: first, you have to tip everyone for everything all the time. Have lots of singles on-hand, always.

Second, figure that every dinner at a restaurant is going to cost at least $50 per person. If it’s a more upscale place, figure that to be more like $100 per person.

Simple tips to Save Money in Las Vegas

Simple tips to Save Money in Las Vegas.

This is just the nature of being here. You can always come to Vegas and eat McDonald’s the whole time, but then you’re that guy who came to Vegas and ate McDonald’s the whole time. (Although if you are from the Midwest or East Coast and came to Vegas and just ate In-N-Out Burger the whole time, no one would blame you.)

Shows are also expensive (Tip: Get show discounts).

If you’re trying to see any one of the headlining Strip shows, plan on spending around $100 per ticket.

Cheap seats at an older show (like Cirque’s Mystere) might run a bit less, but with taxes and fees they still get up there in price. And if you’re picky about where you sit…well, plan on $200+ per ticket, all in.

Residencies tend to run about the same, but if you’re trying to see Lady Gaga, you’re not seeing her for less than $500 per ticket. Sorry.

In all, we would recommend budgeting at least $1,000 per person (not including flights or hotels) for a three-day, two-night trip, and that’s if you don’t go overboard.

See also:

3. When to Go

Spring in Las Vegas is really quite magical when all the flowering plants are in bloom and when it’s hot enough for the pool but not so hot, you can’t stand to be outside at all. Think March or April, maybe early May.

Usually, by June, it’s an oven, and it stays that way until October, when the temperature plummets just in time for Halloween in Vegas. And then it’s desert cold through February, which is numerically still mostly in the 50s and 60s, but it’s COLD.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Visit The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, excellent pool, dining and nightlife

Holiday weekends —are very popular and thus much more expensive including:

Don’t forget about fight weekends (big name boxing matches), sports finals (Super Bowl weekend, March Madness, National Rodeo Finals) and big convention weeks (the Consumer Electronics Show in January).

View the convention schedule and estimated attendees.  

With the exception of a big convention—and you’ll know when one is in town because rooms at even the cheapest properties will be outrageously expensive—mid-week is the best time to visit for the best deals on flights and hotels.

Most of the clubs and shows are fully operational Wednesday through Saturday so you won’t miss the party coming in a little early (…granted, the party atmosphere at the nightclubs and day clubs does escalate on weekends), and you can find good weekday happy hour deals to keep your dining expenses down.

See also:

Arriving in Las Vegas at the Mccarran Airport

Arriving in Las Vegas at the Mccarran Airport

4. Booking Flights

There is an old traveler’s tale tat flights are cheaper if you book them on a Tuesday. This is not entirely true.

The truth is, the best time to book a flight is when airlines are having sales, which usually happen on Tuesday, hence the old traveler’s tale.

You will know that they are having sales if you sign up for their mailing lists, and this is really the most efficient way to stay in the know on the latest sales for your preferred airlines.

best prices in flights to vegas

Find the cheapest days to fly to Vegas using Google Flights.

Otherwise, flying mid-week (Tuesday or Wednesday) and flying “off” times (6 a.m., 9 p.m.) are your best bets. To do some price comparisons, apps like Hopper and Hipmunk are great, and nothing really beats Google Flights when price shopping different travel dates and airlines to specific destinations.

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5. Where to Stay and Booking Your Hotel

When visiting Vegas, you have two places to stay: on the Strip and off the Strip.

Staying on the Strip has its advantages—you’re right there in the heart of the action already, and don’t need to rent a car or catch a Lyft or taxi every time you want to leave.

If you’re a value traveler, just know that “value” is increasingly hard to come by on the Strip—resort fees have become so outrageous that you’re often tacking on upwards of 50% of the advertised nightly cost of your room per night to have access to an ice machine, or whatever.

Center strip near the Bellagio fountains is a great location to stay in Vegas.

If you’re going to stay on the Strip, know that the hidden costs really add up, and pick a property you actually want to be in—because getting from one side of the Strip to the other can be quite a task, and the Strip is several miles long so not super-walkable if you’re trying to make a quick trip back to your room.

So if everything you want to do and see and eat is at the Cosmopolitan, maybe just stay at the Cosmopolitan, or at least at the Aria nearby.

Las Vegas Strip Map - 3D by Vegas Unzipped

Map of the strip – click for full view of the map.

Also, if you’re a pool person, the best (and sometimes only) way to access Vegas’s amazing resort pools is to stay at a resort with an amazing pool.

Off the Strip, you have a lot more options (every mid-range hotel chain and its various offshoot brands, including ALL the Marriotts and the Hiltons and etc.), but they’re mostly non-gaming and pretty basic.

No resort fees though!

Locals’ casinos are also getting pretty great, like the Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch, but those are about 20 minutes from the Strip in opposite directions.

palms las vegas

Palms resort off the strip in Vegas

Just off the Strip, the newly-revamped Palms and Palace Station casino-resorts are well worth checking out, but mind the resort fees and know that you’ll still need transportation to the Strip.

Downtown Las Vegas (aka Fremont Street) is a great value, though it is an entirely different vibe.

The accommodations, with rare exceptions, are best described as “shabby chic” (often just plain shabby), and they lack the glitz and glam of the Strip. But if you like your Vegas a little more down and dirty and want to mix more with the locals and yokels, DTLV is the place to be.

Be sure to check the best Vegas hotel deals on Vegas Unzipped.  

Airbnb is also an option here, but the hotel industry is doing everything it can to shut it down. It’s a cheaper option than hotels, but make sure that your property is properly licensed through the city of Las Vegas lest you risk your reservation getting unexpectedly canceled.

Also, if you’re sensitive to “vibes,” know that the areas of town where people actually live and where your Airbnb will likely be are pretty…meh.
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6. Get Inspired

Nothing can get you more excited about going to Vegas, like one of the many movies set in Vegas.

best movies based in Las Vegas

Here are some movies to get you inspired for your Vegas vacation:

  • 21
  • 3000 Miles to Graceland
  • Casino
  • Fear and Loathing Las Vegas
  • Hangover
  • Hangover 3
  • Last Vegas
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Oceans Eleven
  • Ocean’s Thirteen
  • Swingers
  • The Cooler
  • Vegas Vacation
  • Viva Las Vegas
  • What Happens in Vegas

How about a Vegas related book:

  • Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream by Stefan Al
  • Super Casino – Inside the ‘New’ Las Vegas by Pete Earley

Stay up to date on the latest Vegas news and happenings:

Some great Vegas content to follow on Twitter:

For more ideas and tips, read our post Vegas inspiration while stuck at home

7. Packing for Vegas


You might be tempted to assume, “It’s Vegas! It’s hot!” and just pack shorts, tank tops, and flip flops, only to get here and it’s 54 degrees and raining.

(Yes, it rains here, and yes, in the winter it gets cold.)

Look, if you’re visiting in the dead of summer it’s going to be hot, but October to April can be unpredictable, and 72 degrees to one person is a lot different than 72 degrees to another (by Vegas standards, 72 is cold), so check the weather and pack accordingly for your temperature tolerance.

las vegas weather and packing

Las Vegas strip at night

Also, when it’s 105 degrees outside, it is near-freezing everywhere you go inside.

This is not a joke.

The hotter the temperature, the lower the casinos set their air conditioning.

It’s a good idea to always have a light sweater, sweatshirt, or jacket on-hand. And ladies, we know you want to look cute in your sky-high heels, but just to get from one side of one casino to another requires a LOT of walking.

BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES. This is one of the biggest rookie mistakes people make in Vegas.

Vegas is a pretty casual city and you can go pretty much anywhere in casual clothing, but if you’re trying to hit the clubs bring appropriate (classy!) club attire, and if you’re trying to do some upscale activities, don’t look like a slob.

Most places won’t bat at an eye at a person wearing shorts and sandals, but be mindful of how you present yourself.

8. Getting Around in Vegas

So you just flew into town. Now what?

First, you can rent a car.

Renting a car in Vegas is usually pretty cheap; parking a car in Vegas is not. Some hotels waive their overnight parking fees for guests, but not all of them do.

Some don’t charge parking fees at all (Wynn, Venetian), but they make up for it in resort fees.

Also, if you don’t know how to navigate driving on the Strip or how to get the Vegas’s “backstage” area where most of the garage parking is found, it’s really probably best you don’t try to drive around yourself. It won’t save you much money to rent a car yourself, and forgoing that will save you a lot of headaches.

Second, you can take a taxi from the airport to the Strip or wherever you’re staying.

Plan on that costing at least $20 (and that will really only get you as far as MGM…literally across the street).

You also have to wait in line at the designated taxi queue.

Rideshare in Las Vegas

Lyft and Uber and the preferred transportation options around Las Vegas. Get a estimated prices before your trip.

Your third option is the most preferred but also the most confusing: rideshare (Lyft or Uber in particular).

While cheaper than taxis, often by a lot (unless they’re surge pricing and then it’s just luck of the draw there), the rideshare pickup area at the Las Vegas airport is an exercise in barely controlled chaos.

Also note, rideshare pickup is on level 2M. That “M” is important.

Transportation Around the Vegas Strip

Once you’re out of the airport at your destination, you have a few different options for getting around Vegas.

Rideshare is, again, preferred over taxis, and all the Strip properties have designated rideshare pickup areas. Once you’re off the Strip it works the same as anywhere else—they come get you where you are.

Hailing taxis here really isn’t a thing, so don’t bank on that.

bus transportation to fremont street

Deuce transportation in Las Vegas is cheap

There are buses that run up and down the Strip all the way to Downtown Las Vegas, the Deuce and the Strip & Downtown Express (SDX).

They are by far your cheapest option, and the Deuce runs 24 hours a day every day. It does take quite a bit longer, though (though the SDX is a bit faster with fewer stops). 

Las Vegas monorail strop prices and map

Ride the monorail from MGM Grand all the way up to The Strat.

Finally, there is the Las Vegas Monorail, which connects several properties along the east side of the Strip all the way to the Las Vegas Convention Center and the SLS Las Vegas. Single rides are $5, unlimited day passes are $13, and unlimited three-day passes are $29.

You do have to walk through the entire casino all the way to the very back to find the monorail station, though, so be prepared for there to still be a lot of walking involved. It’s not quite 24/7, but is in service early and late enough for most people.

On the west side of the Strip, shorter free trams, separate from the Monorail, connect Mandalay Bay to Excalibur, Park MGM to Bellagio, and Mirage to Treasure Island, with stops at the different properties between each. 

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9. Where to Eat (Be sure to make reservations in advance, fine dining, great views, cheap eats)

It bears repeating that dining in Las Vegas, especially on the Strip, is expensive, even at “cheaper” places.

That said, there are endless dining options on and off the Strip to suit a wide variety of budgets and preferences.

wynn buffet vegas

Wynn Buffet – One of the many buffets on the Vegas Strip.

Part of the fun of dining in Vegas is being inside the gorgeous dining rooms that cost millions of dollars to build out.

Most of those dining rooms are tucked away inside the casinos without a window in sight, which makes the rooms with a view all the more impressive.

strat las vegas

View of the Strat at night in Vegas.

Check out the recently revamped Top of the World restaurant on top of the rebranded “Strat” (formerly the Stratosphere) for the best view in Las Vegas, rising 800 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard and rotating a full 360-degrees every 80 minutes. The menu is classic steakhouse fare with a renewed focus on sourcing.

Elsewhere on the Strip, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the top of the Paris Hotel’s replica Eiffel Tower offers updated classic French fare and unparalleled views of the Bellagio fountains.

Las Vegas is also home to the highest concentration of celebrity chef restaurants per capita—you can’t throw a pair of dice without hitting a restaurant bearing a famous name.

While there is no shortage of buzzy celeb chef joints, Chef Roy Choi’s Best Friend inside the Park MGM is easily the most exciting new restaurant on the Strip and signals the beginning of a new era of Vegas tourism. Also inside the Park (well, technically inside the NoMad Las Vegas hotel inside the Park), Chef Daniel Humm’s NoMad Restaurant brings the Michelin-starred New York institution to the Las Vegas Strip.

If you’re looking for something a little less expensive but still a unique experience, hop in a Lyft and head down Spring Mountain Rd. to Las Vegas’s excellent Chinatown, where nearly every imaginable Asian cuisine is represented by both dirt-cheap late-night eateries and more formal (but still cheaper than the Strip) high-end restaurants that consistently outshine their Strip competition, at least for those in the know.

Check out the massively popular Raku, Lamaii, or Mordeo for a more affordable gourmet experience, or hit the local favorites Monta Ramen or China Mama for solid cheap eats.

See also:

10. Shows to See

Las Vegas shows tend to have some combination of the following: gravity-defying acrobatics, magic, strongmen, burlesque performers/topless dancers, and comedy.

In other words, variety—that’s the name of the game in Las Vegas, and nowhere else in America (maybe the world?) will you find such a variety of variety shows.

Beatles love cirque du solei

These are the shows that stick around in Vegas for years, but are always changing so you can see them again and again for a different experience each time.

Now you can also see some A-list musicians in residency on a regular basis.

lady gaga vegas residency

See a resident artist like Lady Gaga in Vegas

Residencies are usually pretty short-lived—a few months at a time for most of them, with only a weekend here and there—so do your research ahead of time before you get your heart set on seeing a performer who isn’t even in town the weekend that you are.

But Vegas has shows seven days a week, and there is something for all tastes. If your tastes run a bit raunchy, you MUST catch one of Spiegelworld’s shows, Absinthe or Opium.

If your tastes are more goth horror and heavy metal magic, check out Criss Angel’s Mindfreak.

Peen and Teller magic show vegas

Penn & Teller in Las Vegas, via Flickr:

If magic with a heaping helping of sarcastic comedy is more your speed, hit Penn & Teller or Piff the Magic Dragon (in fact, if it’s comedy you want, check out our guide to the best comedy shows in Vegas!).

And if it’s Cirque you really want, then Cirque you really should have: everyone has their personal favorites, but KA’s narrative structure sets it apart from all the other Cirque shows and Michael Jackson’s ONE is a spectacle that befits the King of Pop.

See also:

11. Things to Do and Attractions

There are dozens of amazing things to do in Las Vegas for free (check out our guide!), but there are dozens more amazing things to do if you’re willing to throw down some cash.

The FLY LINQ Zipline on the Vegas Strip

The FLY LINQ Zipline on the Vegas Strip

Try ziplining down the LINQ Promenade, or under the LED canopy on Fremont Street, or even between the hotel towers at the Rio All-Suites Resort.

Take a spin on the High Roller, jump 829 feet off the top of the Strat, or ride rollercoasters all day under the Adventuredome.

Take a gondola ride through the canals inside the Venetian, take a ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or ride a rollercoaster through the Big Apple (with or without VR enhancement).

Delve into multiplayer virtual reality games at MGM and the Venetian, or get a group of friends together to escape The Basement an escape room with live actors).

Take a helicopter tour through the otherworldly Red Rock National Conservation by day or to see the lights of the Strip at night, see the Hoover Dam and the stunning Black Canyon from a boat on the Colorado River, or sample of smorgasbord of some of Vegas’s best restaurants on a foodie tour.

Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas

Explore Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is also home to some of the most unique museums you’ll find anywhere in the country (possibly world?), and they are all uniquely Las Vegas. Don’t miss the Neon Museum at night, or the Mob Museum with drinks at The Underground on-site distillery and cocktail lounge afterward.

See also:

12. Vegas Nightlife and Clubs

Maybe you’ve already heard this, but Vegas is pretty popular for its nightclubs!

And now also day clubs, so people can literally party 24/7.

onmia vegas

Omnia is one of the most popular nightclubs in Las Vegas

For the full Las Vegas superclub experience, you have to hit Hakkassan inside the MGM Grand or Omnia inside Caesars Palace. (Or both!)

For day clubs, nothing compares to Encore Beach Club, but the newest party in town, KAOS at the revamped Palms, promises some serious completion (and some seriously insane public art pieces).

Encore beach pool party

Day club and pool party at Encore Beach Club is a fun party experience

And if you’re trying to pull an all-dayer-and-nighter, Drai’s After Hours at the Cromwell completes the club circuit.

See also:

13. Where to Drink

It should come as no surprise that Vegas has many fine drinking establishments, but it can be hard to determine which places have legit cocktail programs and which are all hype.

On the Strip, cocktail aficionados will feel right at home inside The Dorsey at the Venetian and Rosina and Electra Cocktail Club inside the Palazzo.

The Juniper Cocktail Lounge inside the Park MGM is the gin joint to end all gin joints, while nearby Eataly introduces the wider world to the many shades and flavors of Italian Amari.

But for the overall WOW factor, no trip to Las Vegas is complete without a visit to the stunning Chandelier Bar inside the Cosmopolitan. Head to the interior bar on level 1.5 to order the highly Instagrammable “We’re All Mad Here” cocktail.

Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan

Chandelier Bar at Cosmopolitan

Downtown Las Vegas also has many fine spots worth exploring.

Check out the Downtown Cocktail Room, Velveteen Rabbit, Commonwealth (especially if you can make advanced reservations at the hidden speakeasy bar inside called The Laundry Room), Oak & Ivy in the Downtown Container Park, and the Kitchen at Atomic for one of the best craft beer selections in Vegas alongside excellent craft cocktails.

14. Discounts and Vegas Savings

For cheaper show tickets and the occasional actually good meal deal, scour sites like Groupon and Travelzoo.

Sometimes you’ll find a good deal at a great restaurant or decent discounts on a show you actually want to see. Mind you, a lot of what’s on there is on there for a reason, but there can be some genuine good finds.

Tix4Tonight is also a solid source for last-minute discounts on shows, tours, and attractions.

And, of course, there’s us!

Sign up for the Vegas Unzipped newsletter for exclusive discounts and the best deals available on hotels, shows, and attractions!

Author - Brian at Vegas Unzipped

Brian Eller - Vegas Local

I am a Las Vegas local looking to bring you inside tips and information that can't be found anywhere else. I'll dive into hidden gems and some of the best places to eat and visit in Las Vegas from a local's perspective.

I hope my tips and information can help people plan an enjoyable vacation and do so while saving money.

More About Me | Contact Me

One Comment

  1. The strip, of course, fascinates with its magnificence and riotous life! It seems that all law-abiding America forgets about its strict restrictions and orders. Streep does not fall asleep either at night or during the day. You can go out at any time and plunge into the life of excitement, parties and even debauchery. The most amazing thing is that day and night you can go to any hotel, walk through its luxurious halls and, of course, game rooms. It is easy to lose, and maybe even win a couple of dollars in any room of one of the many hotels on the Strip.

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