I rode the Las Vegas monorail today; it runs along the backyards of Vegas’s giant hotels, all the way from the MGM to the Safari.
From its windows, you can see things you wouldn’t ordinarily glimpse from the Strip, like pools, and lounge chairs, and tanned bodies in tiny swimsuits, and white towels, and — wait a minute! — why are so many of those lounge chairs EMPTY?
Come to think of it, the traffic on the strip seems much lighter than I remember. The casinos seem quieter and less crammed. And the buffet restaurant lines are shorter, or even non-existent.
Where are the people? It’s the middle of summer. Shouldn’t this top American vacation destination be overflowing with visitors? I am curious, so I ask around.
Read on . . .
It seems it’s not my imagination. I chat with a young woman who has managed to cover a month’s stay in Vegas with comped rooms. “Vegas is hurting,” she says, with a wide smile. “I just stay a couple of nights here, then a couple of nights there. And it’s all free. For a whole month.”
Another woman I meet at one of the slot machines (she and I are the only players in an area of the Mirage with at least 24 machines in the vicinity). She, too, has noticed there are fewer people around. But worse, both of us agree that we have seen a change in payouts on the slot machines. “I could play for ages on $20 bucks a year ago,” she says. “And I’ve gotten squat and I haven’t seen anyone else win anything big,” she adds.
And I agree. It’s true. Have the casino bosses reacted to the shortage of visitors by reining in the slot machine payouts? It looks to be the case.
I ask a clerk in a hotel gift store: “How’s business?” She rolls her eyes. Enough said, I think, as I look around the empty store, devoid of its shoppers.
I suspect its the increased airfare prices that have slowed the visitors to this gambling mecca. But while Vegas is hurting because the tourist numbers are down, the famine works in our favor because there are deals to be had, like cheaper hotel rooms (stay at the Mirage for $77/night). So, even with an increase in airfare, there are huge savings to be had in room rentals. In fact, it might just be the perfect time to visit Las Vegas, but only if you can stay away from the slot machines. They really are being nasty.
- When you need cash, use the ATM machines in the monorail stations; the ATM withdrawl fees are only $3 as compared to $4.99 in the casinos, and $3.50 or $3.75 in ATMs on the Strip.
- The monorail is a great deal especially if you can find a coupon for a $9 unlimited day pass. Look in one of the smaller advertising tourist books you’ll find all over the city, beginning in the airport. But even at the full price of $15/day for unlimited rides, it beats both a taxi and the bus.
(Trams between hotels like Treasure Island and the Mirage, the Excalibur and the Luxor, are free.)
- If you plan to gamble anyway, look for deals that offer FREE things like buffets, when you sign up in a casino’s loyalty player’s club.
- Parking is always free in the big casinos on the Strip. Park your car centrally at the back of one of the major hotels, like Treasure Island, and then walk the Strip. Your car will be out of the merciless heat of the sun, and you usually won’t have to worry about its security. In fact, you’ll find security guards at the entrance of the parking lots now, who will stop you, assess your car’s occupants, and then send you on. (This occurs at the Hoover Dam, too — ever since 9-11, according to one of the security agents on the gate.)
- If you are planning to visit Vegas, get on the Net first. Check deals especially in hotels off the Strip like the Emerald or Budget Suites in South Vegas. You will be stunned at how cheaply you can stay if you rent a car, and you don’t need to be centrally located.
Wishing you safe and happy travels,