Gone are the days when a holiday in Vegas meant staying in a cheesy themed resort – over the last few years, the new hotels on the Strip have moving away from Disneyfication and focusing on luxury. I, for one, lament that – to me, the whole point of Vegas is to kip in a pyramid, drink at the foot of the ‘Eiffel Tower’ and pack in a quick gondola ride before dinner – but those of you who aren’t so keen on the kitsch factor will be glad to know that you now have a great array of options. In fact, even if you don’t think of yourself as a typical Vegas visitor, the new flush of non-gaming, non-smoking hotels will make you reconsider.
Best of all, all this extra choice combined with a tanking economy means that there’s never been a better time to visit. Competition is fierce, upgrades are easy to come by, and prices are incredibly low. You can get an ensuite room in a prime Strip location for under £20, or splash out on a five star suite and still get change from £100. In which other major city does that happen?
Things to consider before booking
• There’s not really a high or low season in Vegas. Instead, room rates vary hugely by which day of the week you’re choosing – rates are lowest Sunday to Wednesday, then rocket for the weekend.
• Check your American calendar! As one of the major holiday destinations in the States, prices get sky high around national holidays. And I’m not just talking room rates – everything from club entry to restaurant reservations becomes super-expensive.
• Book ahead. Most Vegas hotels employ the budget airline approach – starting low and increasing prices as availability becomes scarce. Last minute deals are extremely rare, and, where they do occur, they’re usually announced on the day itself, which won’t exactly help you.
• Even if your stay includes a weekend, it’s really worth arriving midweek. Check in on a quiet night and you’re far more likely to swing an upgrade or extra perks that will then last for your entire stay. For example, Caesars Palace has an extremely strict no upgrade policy to its two most popular towers on the weekend, but a friend of mine arrived on a Wednesday, and was upgraded. She stayed in that nice room for two weeks!
• Although Vegas is smaller than most cities, and nearly everything you’ll want to see is confined to the Strip, location is everything. There’s very little in the way of public transport, taxis are expensive and queues can be long. So work out where you’ll be spending your time, and try and get within walking distance.
• The majority of hotels on the Strip are owned by one of two companies: MGM Resorts International (called MGM Mirage until this summer) and Harrah’s Entertainment. If you’re planning on gambling, it’s best to stick to staying and playing under the same brand, because their reward schemes are extremely generous. Also worth noting is Harrah’s excellent pool policy – any Harrah’s guest can use any Harrah’s pool. Yes, you can pay £15 a night for a room at Imperial Palace, and nip across the road to sun yourself at the uber-posh Garden of the Gods pool at Caesars.
• Watch out for the bane of any Vegas hotel guest’s stay: resort fees. Most hotels will add on a daily fee – anything from US$1 to $20 – for the privilege of using their services (such as pools, towels and other things which you’d think would be included in the room rate). Obviously, over a few days, this will really add to your bill. Harrah’s properties are pretty much the only ones not to charge resort fees, but I’ve listed the charges for the hotels that do.
• Normally I tend to ignore packages offered by hotels, but Vegas is one place where they really do work. See if your hotel is offering any deals including a “resort credit”, which you can spend on anything from the spa to a restaurant. I once scored a US$50 room at Hard Rock with a $50 resort credit, meaning all I really paid for the room was the resort fee.
• If you have a car, the best thing about Vegas is that - on the Strip at least - parking is a cinch. Every casino has plenty of space, and parking is free at every property on the Strip except the Mandarin Oriental. Even valet parking is free – although you’re expected to shell out about US$2 on picking up your car. Downtown Las Vegas is a different story, though – you’ll need to pay and parking options are limited.
• None of the hotels I've picked include breakfast in their rates, but I have factored in the eight per cent city tax into my guideline prices (hotels exclude this when they quote you a price). These "from" rates are lead-in rates for two people in the cheapest type of double room, midweek. Where applicable, I’ve stated the daily resort fee too.