Finding the right hotel room in Las Vegas is an art. Do it right and you feel like a high roller; do it wrong and you feel unlucky.
In Las Vegas, amenities that most of us assume are included in the cost—think: gym, pool, WiFi—are often extra , meaning that US$150 room could climb to US$250 faster than you can say “fold!”
To find a guest room like a big shot, I’ve listed some common booking pitfalls and workarounds, so you hit the big-time with room selection. Borrowing a little Vegas terminology, you just have to know how to “game” the system.
1. Get choosy: Gaming or non-gaming hotel
There are two main hotel types in Las Vegas: Gaming and non-gaming. Thanks to Vegas’ lifestyle travel revolution, visitors now expect more than just slots and shots. With this, a new breed of non-smoking hotel has sprouted along the Strip focusing on the food-, shopping-, relaxation-centric consumer, versus those regaling in roulette.
At the top end, the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas goes all in with its 23rd floor Sky Lobby, relaxing pool scene, and spa overlooking the Strip. Other non-gaming options to consider are Vdara Hotel & Spa for its all-suite, LEED Gold-certified sweetness; the gold-ensconced Trump International Hotel Las Vegas; or the Signature at MGM Grand.
The hack: Consider the gaming versus non-gaming factor, then decide if you want less expensive stay with the potential for extra costs or hassles (see further points below), or a pricier option with all-in amenities.
2. Splish splash
Even though Sin City is smack-dab in the middle of a desert, the climate can get chilly in the winter. With this, the influx of visitors slows down. To cut costs and ride the wave of traveler fluctuations, Las Vegas hotels often close their pools seasonally, which is a big letdown when all you want is dose of poolside vitamin D.
The hack: Call the property you’re considering before you book and ask what pools on property are open, and how big they are. For example, when I visited in February 2016, only a backyard-sized pool was open at a 4,000-room hotel, yet it was a busy and hot Valentine’s weekend! Word to the wise: Call your potential hotel for pool info; don’t rely on their website for closure details.
3. Work it
Not that working out in Las Vegas is your first travel priority, but if you’re a fan of sweating on the Strip, know this: Most Vegas hotels only offer a simple gym, or no gym at all. In many cases, if you want a spacious workout facility, you’ll have to pay an additional daily fee.
The hack: Skip the gym and run the Las Vegas Strip in the early morning—it’s oddly peaceful at sunrise.
As many frequent travelers can attest to, not all hotel Wi-Fi is created equally—especially in the Glitter Gulch. For example, some hotels do not offer complimentary access, others offer lobby-only access, while others recoup costs by limiting the amount of devices per room that can join their network. All in all, very few properties shower guests with multi-device and complimentary connectivity.
The hack: Call ahead and confirm your connectivity conundrum, or book a hotel such as Vdara to ensure you stay online (that is, unless, you want what happens in Vegas to stay in Vegas).
5. To park or not to park
In the past, parking in Vegas was typically a free-wheeling affair; however, things are a changing in 2016. If you decide to take your ride, plan on the potential of adding up to US$35 per night to your bill for the convenience of having your car close.
The hack: Forget your car and fly, find a hotel with free self-parking, or select a swish stay with a town car service.
Viewfinder Tip: Use Expedia’s hotel booking filters to find the best amenities for your buck.
6. Don’t be afraid to play room roulette
With select Las Vegas properties boasting upwards of 6,700 rooms, it’s hard to know what caliber of quarters you’re getting at check-in (there’s often a ton of wiggle room within room categories). Here’s what you want to avoid: rooms near the kitchen, above a club, near the elevator, close to an ice machine, etc.
The hack: Take a hard-hitting journalist approach to check-in. Politely and assertively determine where your room is located and ask the front desk agent to place you somewhere quiet and calm. Unless you’re a loyalty program member or bigwig, upgrades are less likely in Vegas’ pay-to-play environment, so it’s well worth it to find the best option within your category.
7. Consider the distance
From the sky, the lights lining Las Vegas Boulevard make it look compact and easily walkable, when in reality, the distance is enormous (so big there’s a yearly marathon spanning part of the Strip). Therefore, while off-Strip hotels may try to lure you with cheaper rates or regular shuttle service, they can be miles from the action, and if you miss a connection, a cab back can be very costly.
The hack: Decide where you want to be: In the center of it all with the option to walk, jump on the Las Vegas Monorail, or take a quick cab ride; or out yonder.
What are your tricks for finding the best hotel room in Las Vegas?