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Trip Report - First visit to Vegas in 15 years

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by GlobalRoamer333, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Location:
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    My Trip Report

    Well it was certainly nice to return to Vegas (and visit the U.S. again) after having no opportunity to do so for the past 15 years. This was my fifth trip, but all previous trips were taken 15-25 years ago. This was a solo trip.

    My accommodation
    I always used to stay at the Key Largo in East Flamingo (cheap and not too far from the strip), but that had burned down a few year after my last trip, so I stayed at Tuscany Suites nearby this time. For what little they charged, (proud low-roller here) I was very happy with the facility overall including the room and the casino and restaurants. Not a great pool (my stay was for 7 nights in the last week in July), but a nice relaxed vibe overall at the complex, mostly friendly staff, and an easy walk to a nearby 711 and the central strip. Rooms were very spacious, and included an empty fridge and a coffee maker and daily coffee and tea supplies. Unfortunately no microwave, but this could be supplied free upon request. Zero included eating utensils in the advertised kitchenette in the room was not a welcome sign, but at least they supplied paper and plastic cups, which was better than nothing. Housekeeping was solid, from my experience. The in-room flat screen TV was very small though.

    My daily routine
    The USD is currently very expensive for us Australians (it takes 1,500 of our dollars to buy 1,000 USD). So since I only had an allocated budget of $100 USD for gambling each day, and it was also very hot (I was coming from a Southern Hemisphere winter) I mostly hung around and relaxed in the hotel complex during the day (including the pool), and then gambled at night. Hence the kitchenette came in very handy (one of the reasons I chose Tuscany), because I could basically eat breakfast in my room, and also come back to the room to make a wrap/sub or something for lunch, and then head out to gamble from about 6pm, and have a take-out burger or something for dinner in one of the casino food courts. Being a solo trip I didn't really want to eat at Restaurants. And my wife cooks pretty healthy at home so it was also nice to have a bit of a junk fest for a week. There was an Albertson's supermarket on East Flamingo where I was able to stock up on food, snacks and drinks, at the start of the trip.

    Gambling
    I really do prefer single-zero roulette. My craps was also very rusty having not played that for so many years. And blackjack has never been a game that I (personally speaking) enjoy much. So with my gambling budget also being limited, I was only gambling on the slots this trip, and only betting minimum bets per spin. e.g. 30-60 cents per spin, depending on the machine. Even with those low roller figures though, I still had to take a few breaks and walk around or change casino or machine to avoid blowing through my hundred too quickly. I was thankful that the casinos I gambled at still had drink service that was not strictly tied to the gambling spend. I joined the main players card programs, but soon figured out that they were probably not a lot of use to a low roller/occasional visitor like myself. Nice for a discount on a buffet or something though.

    The casinos I gambled at were: Tuscany suites, Ellis Island, Bally's, Cromwell, Aria, Mandalay Bay, Palms, and Rio. I also saw the 'Blue Man Group' at Luxor and 'Love the Beatles' at the Mirage.

    Off-strip and other experiences
    I also rented a car on 2 separate occasions from Enterprise at the Westin, so I could visit some further away off-strip activities. I was able to visit the Gun Store and enjoy (under safe supervision) trying some target shooting on various types of guns (an almost impossible thing to do in Australia). And I also visited SpeedVegas to experience driving a fast car that I would probably never be able to afford to buy in my real world. I also visited the Red Rock conservation area, which was beautiful in its own unique desert type way, and the Red Rock Resort for lunch and gambling, which was a very nice resort indeed. I headed downtown one evening to check out the Fremont Experience, and also to gamble at El Cortez. Having not had the chance to shop in the U.S. for such a long time, I visited what used to be called the Belz shopping mall (now called South Premium Outlet), which was air conditioned and absolutely fine for buying clothes for myself and presents for others back home. And of course I also took a walk (really early one morning before it got too hot) along the full length of the strip. All in though, even travelling as mostly a low roller, my cost for a week away with cheap economy flights (United), low cost accommodation (Tuscany), gambling $100 per day, a bit of shopping, some Ubers, a few experiences and shows, and just eating cheap food, was still about $6,000 Australian ($4,000 USD). Quite expensive for me based on my current income and life stage, but everyone needs a holiday to refresh every now and then, and I sure enjoyed mine :).

    What I enjoyed the most
    * Just being back in Vegas
    - what more can I say, It's Vegas!

    * Visiting Red Rock and El Cortez.
    - I loved the beauty of the Red Rock natural area, including the very nice resort. And I loved the old school retro 1960s/70s vibe of El Cortez.

    * Loose slots at Ellis Island
    - I won well on most machines both times I went there, unlike many other newer, larger and flashier casinos. The cocktail waitress service was also very regular and their brewed beer and cheap meals were both delicious.

    * My accommodation at Tuscany Suites
    - Honestly, I was so happy overall with everything there, based on the very reasonable low season summer prices in late July.

    * Being able to catch Ubers at half the price of a taxi
    - and they didn't try to 'long-haul' me either

    What I enjoyed the least
    * Paying resort fees for the first time
    - well documented already in various gripes by other travellers I'm sure.

    * Vegas traffic and crazy drivers
    - no doubt I was also one of those crazy drivers, seeing as I have been driving only on the left side of the road for the past 35+ years, LOL! All in all though, I'd just Uber next time, as the rent-a-car was pretty stressful for a an older guy like me from a tiny town who is used to zero traffic.

    * Tipping and various extra Taxes
    - it takes us Aussies a bit of time to get used to that.

    * Panhandlers and Scammers on the Strip and downtown
    - this speaks for itself

    What had changed
    * A few old casinos had gone down and a few new ones had gone up in the past 15 years.
    - as any visitor to Vegas would know, change is the only constant.

    * Prices and fees had gone up significantly for basically everything.
    - e.g. resort fees, e.g. general increase of food and beverage and entertainment and experience prices to diversify casino income away from the older model of subsidising everything and then just trying to earn profits from gambling.

    * The proud embracing of retro and old-school in the downtown area
    - Quite a few of the properties downtown seemed to realise that some gamblers/visitors are attracted by the cheap and retro and old-school vibe of old-Vegas and had embraced this. My view is 'don't change a thing'.

    So that's my trip report for those who were interested, and thanks for reading.
    All the best, and keep smiling and god bless to all.
     
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  2. drac999

    drac999 High-Roller

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    Excellent report! Happy that you had a good time. Your observations are very on target! Thank you.
     
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  3. smerrian

    smerrian View from Bally's

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    Loved seeing things from your perspective. You're dead on about casinos diversifying their income from just gambling to now trying to make money on everything! (food, clubs, parking, resort fees...)
     
    Can I just move here?
    3 weeks. Yikes!
  4. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Thank you smerrian for your reply.
    Yes, re: the various new ways that casinos have found to make money (or increase existing fees), I guess this could be called 'nickel and diming', although some of the fees and charges were higher than just nickels and dimes, LOL!...

    A few locals I spoke to during my trip said that a lot of the casinos went through a really hard time financially during the last GFC in about 2007/2008, and so, they felt compelled to look for ways to gain more revenue from the various possibilities available to them. Another reason often mentioned was that Vegas had become more of a family destination and one for international visitors for a look-see during the 90s and 000s, and apparently these folks weren't gambling as much. Some were not gambling at all. (which is of course fine and completely up to them).

    So I guess the casinos had their reasons, even though some of the charges (e.g. charging people for wireless when they have already paid a resort fee, or charging people for a pool chair when they have already paid a resort fee) do seem quite outrageous to someone of my generation.

    On the glass-half-full front, I guess that some things are gained, when other things are lost. They are building (have built) some beautiful facilities there, and one can still visit and soak up the ambience without necessarily having to pay the higher cost of staying or eating in such a place. And even the fanciest casinos still had food courts. I felt I could certainly still find some ways to have a good time on the cheap in Vegas, with a bit of searching and care and researching. And there is an element of fun in doing that.

    And of course I also fully understand and respect those folks who want to (or can afford) to fully go for it while on a Vegas holiday. Luckily the place still seems to cater for a wide range of possible vacations.

    And I certainly look forward to visiting again when I can :)
    All the best
     
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  5. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Thank you Kathy, yes I do look forward to visiting again when I have saved up again :).
     
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  6. jamesxnj

    jamesxnj VIP Whale

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    That sucks at the exchange rate,did not know that.Glad to hear you overcame it enough to have a nice trip.Thanks for the report!
     
  7. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Yes, worst exchange rate timing for Aussies to USD in about 10 years, LOL!
    We are still happy though if our friends across the Pacific are going ok :). These things go in ebbs and flows back and forth between regions/nations as we all know.
    And a few cheap beers after a little win helped provide a good cure for the bummer rate in the nice summer heat.
    All the best, and thanks for reading my trip report.
     
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  8. robert m.

    robert m. High-Roller

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    Thank you so much for the very enjoyable trip report!

    I agree with so many of your observations!
     
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  9. Iratus

    Iratus Low-Roller

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    The exchange rate is a killer at the moment. I miss it being 105 cents to the Aussie dollar. I feel so poor when I go these days because of that. 2011/12 was great, strong exchange rate and the downturn was making everything super cheap.

    Respect for flying 14 hours on United too. Not sure I could.
     
    Pre-conference Shenanigans
  10. win4me

    win4me It's the year of the piggy, dontcha know!

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    I really enjoyed reading your trip report. It sounds like you had a great time in spite of the "cons". I agree with many of your observations.
     
  11. marcianofan

    marcianofan High-Roller

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    I’ve gambled but not stayed at the Tuscany a few times , it’s an ok place, nothing to fancy but seems fine none the less, glad you liked it! I am curious what you meant by scammers on your trip(I know about the panhandlers) downtown and on the strip? Guess it’s just my looks but the homeless/panhandlers/scammers etc..never seem to mess with me (the hookers don’t either which is kinda a letdown to me even tho I wouldn’t do anything anyways lol).
     
  12. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Yes Marcianofan, I agree, Tuscany casino is nothing amazing. Just a small off-strip casino. I gambled there twice during my week in Vegas. I think, however, it was mainly the overall package that did it for me (met my admittedly low-roller needs). The combination of price, location, very spacious rooms, a few cheap meal places in-house, a close enough walk to the strip for an older fella like me, low rise rooms with windows that could be opened (I'm from the countryside and don't like heights), relatively quiet at night for sleeping, and a 711 nearby. I was in a building reasonably nearby to all the main complex facilities too (J building), so it wasn't a huge walk to anything, which was great.

    re: the scammers and panhandlers, sorry, I probably should have just lumped them all together under the same word. i.e. I might have incorrectly used the words I used. I guess I meant that (to me) panhandlers were people approaching me who were selling something that I didn't necessarily want or need, but might be mildly legitimate, or were begging for money. Whereas scammers (to me) were people who were outright trying to deceive me into parting with my money based on some scam. e.g. offer to take a photo of me at the Las Vegas sign or the Fremont St experience and then demand money as though some payment was already pre-agreed. I (personally) found most of the above a bit more prevalent downtown than in the parts of the strip I visited. I mostly walked the strip early morning, whereas I went downtown at night, so this might have been part of why they were more prevalent then. Someone I chatted with during the trip told me they had done a bit of a clean up at the strip in the past few years. Not sure if that's true. On that front though, I did find this website both entertaining and revealing: https://travelscams.org/north-america/united-states-of-america/

    re: the ladies, thankfully I'm old enough and wise enough now, to know that if a pretty young girl is approaching me for any reason in a bar/casino or in the street, then she must be a professional, LOL! So, I'm thankfully free of self-deception nowadays on that front :) now that my hair is more grey and my belly more round. Haha! Not to mention that my lovely wife would divorce me and take half the house and the dog too. I'd miss that dog :)

    All the best to you, and thanks for your reply.
     
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  13. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Yes Iratus, and almost 16 hours on the way back from LA to Melbourne (longer on the way back due, I assume, to the trade winds), and then a 5 hr drive to my small country town between Melb and Sydney. I don't think i could do that every week. I had to keep the window open all the way driving home, to keep me awake. So good to visit Vegas again, but such a long way from Aust, once other on-travel time is factored in. e.g. travel from home to airport, check in and security, transit flights in LA, etc... Well, I guess that's the pull that Vegas can have, after a long time not visiting. And when I have some money saved up, I'll punish myself all over again, LOL! To give credit where due, United was actually very good for the price in my experience. A lot better than I had expected compared to a couple of flights I took with them many years back. US customs/immigration/security was also very smooth and quick for me (arrival in LA and departure in Vegas), and all airport staff were friendly, so no complaints there either. But sure, premium economy or business class would be nice if I was a richer man, and if the Aussie dollar was a lot stronger :) A lot of 'ifs' there though, LOL!

    Take care and all the best. Thank you for your reply.
     
  14. GlobalRoamer333

    GlobalRoamer333 Tourist

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    Thank you win4me,
    yes, ultimately speaking, I was lucky to have any such first-world cons, and to be able to take a holiday in the first place. i.e. many of us might not feel rich, but we are in fact much richer than we might otherwise be if we were truly poor.
    I must remember to keep that awareness of how lucky I am in the forefront of my mind as I save for my next low roller trip :)

    Thanks you for your reply, and all the best.
     
  15. Iratus

    Iratus Low-Roller

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    I hear you on the journey. I go from Sydney via Melbourne to LA just so I keep my frequent flyer status up. It’s a long day. Especially if you add the Vegas leg on the same day too (learned that mistake and am not doing it again)

    Can’t imagine a long drive on the other end as well. I resent the taxi ride home and that’s like 25 minutes.
     
    Pre-conference Shenanigans
  16. nostresshere

    nostresshere Mr. Anti Debit Card

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    wow

    One of the most concise yet very information TR I have read.

    Thanks for posting.
     
  17. Valgal

    Valgal VIP Whale

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    Thanks for the TR. I’ve only stayed on the strip but love reading about the off strip properties.
     
  18. casinokid68

    casinokid68 VIP Whale

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    Welcome to Las Vegas in the year 2019 my friend. It is a lot different than it was 15 years ago. But that is pretty much true for everywhere else you want travel, not just Vegas. I'm glad you had a great time regardless!!:beer:
     
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  19. LV_Bound

    LV_Bound VIP Whale

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    Come back again next year....don't wait another 15 years.