Sending a kid I know some advice on booking a trip to Vegas. She's been there once or twice. No idea what her budget is, or if she's apt to spend all of her days at a pool party. (Which I assume are all but over in mid-October.) Here's a draft of what I'm sending her. As usual I figured it wouldn't hurt to get some feedback, and a dose of cynicism, for my efforts before I email them to her. ------------------------------------------------------- When I go to Vegas I spend very little time on the strip. I find reasons to visit the strip, but I spend far less time at strip properties these days. I’m not opposed to staying on the strip again some day, but I tend to minimize my costs, which is why when I go I usually stay for five or six nights and stay off strip or downtown. I don’t spend a ton of cash on my hotel, my meals or my entertainment, and I rent a car, which makes my experiences very different than your trip will be, but I can make a few suggestions that should help you plan your trip. Let’s start with a few basic assumptions. You’re going to stay on the strip, you’re not going to rent a car and you have unlimited money to spend. OK, that’s a bit overboard. As soon as I know I’m going, I spend a few minutes most days checking airfares, hotels and other assorted stuff. Even if you haven’t committed to travel dates, start checking a set of dates for a week or two and see if there are fluctuations, how much, and if the price fits your budget. Hotel rates are higher on weekends, naturally, and certain times of the year are more expensive than others. If you were to leave on Oct. 16, as you suggested, that’s the start of the annual teacher’s conference here in Minnesota. Kids are out of school, which means many teachers have the days off. A lot of young teachers will use that four-day weekend to book a trip to Vegas. So you might find that flights are more expensive. Airfare fluctuates all the time, and for whatever reason last year I was able to find round trips on Sun Country for about $250 round trip. Direct flights, decent flight times. Lowest round trip fare I had booked in years. Prices bounce up and down, and you never know if it will go higher or lower from one week to the next. Bing and Kayak may predict when fares are at their lowest, but don’t bank on that. Check not only Bing and Kayak, but check the airlines directly, especially Southwest, which isn’t on the search engine sites and can have a good deal pop up occasionally Check Expedia and Orbitz once in a while, too. Usually they’ll all report the same prices day to day, but occasionally one site will have a deal nobody else has, for whatever reason. I also check cheapoair.com for price comparisons. Spirit Airlines can have low fares, but they ding you more for baggage and carryons, and their planes are tighter than the rest. They have lousy flight times out of Minneapolis, too, so I wouldn’t recommend them unless your boyfriend is as petite as you are and neither of you needs to bring more than 20 pounds of clothing. Expect to pay $300/ticket round trip, not including any bag fees. If you can find a deal for less, you’re doing pretty good. Today the rates look high for Oct. 16-19. That might change next week, and the rates usually start climbing three weeks before the departure date, so lock in airfare more than three weeks in advance. Also try packaging air and hotel options via Expedia and/or Orbitz, as well as any other vacation package deals, such as funjet.com. The airlines, such as Southwest and Sun Country, like to offer combo deals, too, and those can save you money. But look carefully when you book a package deal through Funjet or third party providers like them, as their low rate for airfare and hotel might be for a crappy flight on Spirit. For hotels, you can pay more than $200/night at nice properties on the strip. If you have an unlimited budget, way to go. Stratosphere is OK, but far north and an island unto itself. The old Sahara is opening next month as something called SLS and will offer lots of trendy nightclub experiences that 20-somethings want to spend big money for. It is far north, too, and not next door to anywhere you’re going to want to visit. For reasonable priced joints on the strip, Monte Carlo is next door to NYNY and gets decent reviews. It’s not luxurious, but it’s decent and reasonably priced, with a nice pool area, I am told. I read this woman’s blog, and she’s a fan of MC. http://www.vegassolo.com/the-monte-carlo-las-vegas-bigger-bang-for-your-buck/ Other modest places that are hit or miss in terms of room quality: Luxor and the Quad, soon to be named the Linq. Luxor leaves you on the south end of the strip. Not as bad as being on the north. Quad/Linq is across from Caesar’s Palace and has been undergoing renovations forever. Not sure how good or bad the experience will be there. Some of the hotels make a big deal out of turning their pool areas into “dayclubs,” where people crowd the pool and spend big money on cocktails. If you want that atmosphere, do your research. If you want peaceful afternoons at the pool with room to breathe, do that research, too. I’m not very well versed on the pool party scene. I stay off the strip at a reasonably priced joint that I like with plenty of pool space when the sun is shining. IN SUMMARY: Know what kind of vacation you want and where you think you want to stay before searching. Try to set dates for travel. If your travel doesn’t have to be centered around a weekend, use that to your advantage. Get ideas of what airfare will cost for your preferred dates of travel, price your preferred hotel, too, then see if you can package them together somehow.