How to Do Vegas Like a Pro

We really wish that, on our first visit, someone had told us not to walk all the way from the Bellagio to the MGM Grand -- sure, it doesn't LOOK far, but a couple of blocks in and you'll wonder what made you do it.
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When to get drinks (and when not to), how to deal with the cab lines and more ways to travel smarter in Las Vegas

By Jennifer Prosser

Congratulations, you're going to Las Vegas! You're about to indulge in what 41 million visitors to this neon-laden paradise did last year -- unforgettable restaurants, fabulous shows, a cornucopia of luxury shopping (to spend your winnings on) and attractions that run the gamut from mild to wild. But if you don't want to look like newbie, follow our four tips and you'll look like a seasoned pro ... like you own this town.

1. Distances are further than they appear
We really wish that, on our first visit, someone had told us not to walk all the way from the Bellagio to the MGM Grand--sure, it doesn't LOOK far, but a couple of blocks in and you'll wonder what made you do it. The Strip is four miles long, and because the buildings are so close together, they appear closer than they really are--a two building walk from, say, Bally's to Planet Hollywood is manageable, but any more than that, and you'll wear out your walking shoes.

(The Bellagio, like so many of the big resorts on the Strip, may look close, but it's not. Distances are deceptive here.)

2. Don't buy drinks in the casino
If you're going to play slots, video poker or table games, don't purchase cocktails at a casino bar beforehand--wait until the cocktail waitress approaches you. In an effort to keep you gambling, the casinos offer free cocktails; you may have to wait a little longer for it, but you'll save money. And if you're hitting the clubs later, start your drinking on the casino floor so there's less you have to spend--for any type of performance, even a DJ spinning, you'll get hit with an additional live entertainment tax. Better to start early!

3. Know the costumed-character game
Sure, it's fun to see someone dressed up as Elmo, Bumblebee and a Minion at various points along the Strip (including at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign), but be forewarned, if you stop to take a photo with them, they expect you to pay for it. Avoid a potentially nasty situation by either taking a pass or negotiating a price you feel comfortable with beforehand. In most cases, these costumed characters are at iconic sights you snap photos of anyway--but if you simply must have Big Bird in your photo at the Las Vegas sign, so be it.

(Those showgirls and other characters you see on the streets? They're not here for charity; they expect you to pay for a photo with them.)

4. Allow waiting time for cabs
If we had a nickel for every time we've heard of some being late to a show or dinner with friends because they didn't factor in the time it took to wait for a taxi, we'd own a casino by now! In general, you should allow for no less than 30 minutes; bump it up to an hour at the prime dinner times we mentioned above. If you're leaving a convention, concert, or other event that draws thousands of people, two hours may be a better estimate. No, we're not joking. Oh, and you can actually pay a cab driver not to take you home.

OK, so with those four pieces of wisdom in your knowledge bank, you're on your way to becoming a pro traveler, and you can find more Las Vegas travel tips here that will make your trip even better. Some other strategies? Get an amazing, over-the-top hotel suite, eat well (it helps balance out the late-night fun you'll be having), and do something off of the Strip, like touring Red Rock Canyon or shooting a machine gun at one of the town's famous gun ranges.

Photo credits (from top): ©Las Vegas News Bureau, ©Shutterstock, ©Las Vegas News Bureau

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