Monday, May 11, 2009

Planning your summer Vegas trip

Thanks to the kind comments regarding the BBT. I am on quite the heater the last three weeks. May it please continue!

Here is an updated guide to Vegas planning for 2009. You can't beat the deals this year. The following can also be read at FTP's Blogger from the Rail.

Whether you are a Vegas virgin considering your first trip to Sin City or a grizzled WSOP veteran preparing for yet another six to seven-week slough at the Rio you should find some useful information in my guide to planning your trip to Vegas and the WSOP.

Below are some helpful hints that I hope will enable you to save time and/or money as you make your Vegas planning for June and July. This is the best year since I’ve been regularly traveling in the summer for the WSOP for vacation discounts in Vegas.

Keep checking back here at Full Tilt Poker’s Bloggers from the Rail in the coming weeks in the run-up to the granddaddy of poker tournaments as I bring you a series of articles highlighting the ins and outs of summer in Vegas, from WSOP orientation, to the must see sights, and the other tournaments in town you may want to consider during your stay.


Step one is deciding on how to get there. For most of us that means airlines. Reports are that average airfares are down 10 to 20 percent from last summer, thanks to the slumping economy and dropping gas prices. A quick look through the various online travel sites proves that theory out as many cross country flights can be had on many summer days for as low as $200-$250 round trip to Vegas.

There are ways to save even more on airfare. First, go to and download its Ding program. This will allow you to view Southwest’s daily specials for the departure cities of your choosing. For example, from my home airport of Birmingham, Southwest’s roundtrip fares to Vegas generally run $250-$300 with fees included, but occasionally on Ding those same fares drop to around $200 for the same flights.

The other recommendation I have is to bookmark the site You can search a city and find some really good daily or weekly deals that pop up from time to time, or view the top 50 cheap fares on any given day. Sign up with your email and get daily alerts from the site. In recent months, users got wind of a ridiculous $14 fare on Jet Blue from New York to San Francisco so this site could be well worth your time.


Never have I seen room rates in Vegas this cheap. It truly is a bonanza on lodging there this summer as rates are down 30 percent or more at many properties. I found a ridiculous deal through Orbitz in which I paid less than $300 to stay on three and four-star Harrah’s owned mid-Strip properties for 11 nights in June and July.

Here is that deal: You can use the promo code 4ODWR75 to get $75 off a four-night weekday stay (Sunday through Thursday or Monday through Friday). This is some collaboration between Orbitz and Office Depot. In addition, on Orbitz there is a separate promotion at Harrah’s properties that allows you to receive a fourth night free with a three-night stay. I booked the Flamingo June 22-June 26 for $57 and Bally’s June 29-July 3 for $88 using the combined promotions. I sandwiched the Imperial Palace in between with no weekend discount for $152 for three nights. Total: $297.

Deals like this can be found by scouring popular travel discussion forums. I found this deal while looking at the popular 2 + 2 poker forums. (The poster had used the Office Depot promo to book the El Cortez for $12 for four nights.) Try these sites to find deals that may pop up over the next couple of months:,, and

Another thing to consider before booking your room is the hotel’s location and your transportation situation. If you plan to rent a car then location within a few miles of Rio and the Strip is fine. If you plan to taxi it, then staying any farther than mid-Strip can be cost prohibitive. If you stay at the Rio you are obviously set for travel to the WSOP. The same is true for the Gold Coast, which is next door, and the Palms, which is about a quarter mile west of the Rio on Flamingo.

Cheaper rates for rooms can be found Downtown, but other than the Golden Nugget most properties are of the two-star variety. Also, aside from the Nugget and Binion’s (both of which are running nice summer poker tournament series – more about that in a future article), there are no other good poker rooms Downtown so you will often be traveling to the Rio or the Strip for the juicy poker action. If you rent a car this isn’t much of an issue, but is a major consideration if you are not.


You have several options for getting around: taxis, rental cars, buses and hoofing it (NOT recommended, unless in moderation). Let’s look at each in turn.

If you come into town with a fat roll then you can probably afford cabs around town. From much of the Strip to the Rio will cost you around $10-$12 one way. From Downtown to the Rio is about $15-$20. If you plan a lengthy stay the fares will certainly add up.

Alternatively, you can rent a car. Rates are rather reasonable in Las Vegas, as an economy car will only set you back about $25-$30 a day, and having a car will give you a ton of freedom in exploring all parts of the city and beyond. I highly recommend this option.

A third choice is taking the city buses. Fares on the Deuce, the double decker buses that run up and down the Strip and to Downtown are $3 for one ride. A daily pass is available for $7, as is a three-day pass for $15. You can also use these buses to ride from the Strip to the Rio. There are two major negatives to bus travel: one, you have to hoof it to the bus stops, which might be a fair hike, and two, travel by bus is very slow. It can take more than an hour to get from Downtown to the Rio by riding a bus to Caesars Palace, getting off and walking around the corner to the Flamingo stop to get on a second bus to the Rio, for example.

I should also note that there is a free shuttle bus that Harrah’s runs from its namesake Harrah’s casino on the Strip to the Rio and back, which is a viable and obviously very cheap option to travel between the Strip and the Rio. At Harrah’s you board the bus at the bottom of the parking garage and at the Rio you board just outside the buffet entrance, which is to the left from the front of the casino.

Lastly, we have hoofing it. Vegas in the summer is not a pleasant time to spend walking around in the sun as the thermostat pretty well stays above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and above 90 degrees at night. Granted, the lack of humidity makes conditions more comfortable than they would be at the same temperatures in my neck of the woods in Alabama, but you still feel like your ears and nose are baking in an oven. The distance from Caesars Palace to the Rio may look deceptively shorter than it is – it’s about a mile in reality. I’ve walked it a couple of times during the day and night and I wouldn’t recommend either. At day you bake as the sun shines off the sidewalk and asphalt and at night you worry you’re likely to get robbed as the walk is pretty isolated (because people have enough sense not to try it!) If you plan to do some casino hopping on foot pace yourself by frequently stopping into the highly air conditioned properties on the Strip and hydrate yourself often.

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