What I Learned From Our Jan.â€™07 Trip to Vegas First I learned I still canâ€™t write short, so this is long and youâ€™ve been warned, so no whining please. I did do this in categories so hopefully it should be easier to skip or skim topics that may or may not interest you. AIRFARE: You CAN get killer rates but it takes work to do it. We got $113 round-trip RDU to LAS via United airlinesâ€¦$298 total for two with taxes & fees. This price was originally emailed to me in October, but it took about a month of playing around with dates & times to actually GET that fare. We flew threw Chicago. In Vegas I spoke with a guy who had booked round-trip from Chicago and paid $279. Patience and persistence can really pay off! We did have the trip-from-hell home but we wouldâ€™ve still had that had we paid more for our seats. HOTEL: Getting a good deal on a Vegas hotel these days takes even more patience! I had done enough research before booking air to know that we were dealing with what shouldâ€™ve been a good-rate period of time since Bellagio had emailed a rate of $129 for a couple of our dates. However, I was hoping for an even better deal. Meanwhile, I had booked the Barbary Coast for $60 Tues-Thu. Nights and $100 for Friday night. Then Aladdin came up with a Gas Promotion (which when I first tried to get it said was â€œsold outâ€ for our dates), with a good rate for weeknights, but was still high for the weekend, so I booked it for Tues & Wed night, but kept the Barbary for Thursday & Friday. Then one day, about two weeks before our trip, Aladdin dropped to $78 for all four nights (via Pricelineâ€™s website) It was even offering a choice of rooms, including fountain-view king non-smoking, which we grabbed up. This was a pre-paid non-refundable rate with taxes and fees for $346.84 for four nights. I learned afterward that I actually paid $5 too much, as I didnâ€™t know that Starwood has a low-price guarantee, so the same fare was available from their website, and wouldâ€™ve saved me a $5 Priceline fee. Minor, I know, but darn it when you do budget travel for fun you donâ€™t want to be even minorly defeated. I did watch the Aladdin rates after that to see if it wouldâ€™ve gone down any more, and it did go down a few more dollars, but when I checked, I discovered the fountain-view rooms were not included in the lower rate. So we did okay. GETTING THERE: Getting there was a BREEZE compared to getting home, which was most definitely not (more on the trip home from hell later). 2:00 in the afternoon is a great time to fly as we had the morning to pack & go to the bank. We had time to have a couple drinks and some nachos at the RDU airport. One thing I learned about airport bars on this trip is they have improved the quality of their wines. This makes me very happy. They actually poured wine out of real bottles. Honest, Iâ€™m not lying. We also learned that an airport cafe server can surprise you with free drinks! Which, of course, earned her a very nice tip, but who wouldâ€™ve thought it was even possible in an airport? What a nice way to start a trip! In Chicago I was glad to know that the two things I do like about that airport havenâ€™t changed. The automatic toilet seat covers are still there and operating just fine. And Wolfgang Puckâ€™s is still there and still serving up awesome butternut squash soup. I did learn the hard way, however that he puts mushrooms in his meatloaf sandwichâ€¦bad chef!...but Iâ€™ll forgive him because the soup more than makes up for the fungus faux pas. Besides, my husband likes mushrooms, so it was nice for him (and meant he got to finish the sandwich himself) ,and he was wise enough to make the politically correct comment that my meatloaf was better than Wolfgangâ€™s. Iâ€™ll take the compliment, along with getting carded for a glass of wine there. (okay, okay, so they have a sign that says they card everyoneâ€¦you donâ€™t have to rub it in!) United from Chicago to Vegas played a guessing game of guessing the weight of the aircraft to win Blue Man Group tickets. So if that interests you you might educate yourself before you go, however, I wouldnâ€™t go to too much trouble because they give you clues and as uneducated as I am regarding math and science matters, I managed to guess really close myself. If I remember correctly I guessed something like 156,000, but some clever woman ten rows back had to be so smart and guess 156,888 . And of course it was 156,889 or something like that. Must be nice to be so smart! Itâ€™s a good thing it wasnâ€™t for â€œLoveâ€ tickets! Thatâ€™s okay, the landing of that uncomfortable Airbus was so gentle that we all won! Cabbing it to Aladdin was also a breeze. Virtually no wait at 8:30 on that Tuesday night and was just under $11 if I remember correctlyâ€¦$15 with tip. Easy & quick and weâ€™re THERE! The ALADDIN: What I learned about the Aladdin is that I LIKE it. I really really LIKE it! In the past, I could never drum up interest in anything more than just walking through it, but the Planet Hollywood renovations make it a much more pleasant place to hang out. No nasty fake jewels on columns anywhereâ€¦I PROMISE! Check-in was immediate & friendly. (although getting into the hotel was a slight bit awkward with our luggage and no automatic doors that we could seeâ€¦the door handles are a big PH, by the way). We got exactly what we wanted (what we had prepaid for)â€¦a king non-smoking fountain-view that also included a nifty view of the Eiffel Tower. Our room was on the 32nd floor, North Tower, right next to the elevator. It took us a night to get used to the sound of the elevator all night, but after that it was kind of soothing. Our room had not been renovated. No sign of Planet Hollywood yet, but it was fine. It was clean as long as you didnâ€™t look too deeply into corners or anything. For instance, the tray on which shampoo, lotion, etc. stood looked like it hadnâ€™t been cleaned in awhileâ€¦things like that. Things that donâ€™t bother us, but if youâ€™re the type to do a white-glove test, Iâ€™m not sure it wouldâ€™ve passed. Nice touch in the room was the Vegas magazine (to be expected) and the OK magazine (not expected)â€¦How nice to have light entertainment for the â€œreading roomâ€. I like having the â€œreading roomâ€ separate from the rest of the bathroom, although the elongated toilet makes for some careful maneuvering around in the middle of the night if a mad dash has ensued. Gracefulness has never been a trait of mine. We never used the large tub, although we might have if weâ€™d thought to bring bubble bath. The water in the shower got just hot enough, but couldâ€™ve gone a hair hotter, so Iâ€™m not sure if we couldâ€™ve ever gotten a bath hot enough by the time it got filled up. Doesnâ€™t matterâ€¦too much else to do, and we can soak in a tub at home if we so desire. During our four-night stay, we never even heard housekeeping cleaning other rooms (we always put out a privacy sign until ready to leave the room). We rarely heard or saw anyone else on our floor. Nice & quiet! Housekeeping was consistent & unobtrusive. I wouldâ€™ve liked an extra towel in addition to the two bath ones provided, but realized a few days in that there WAS an extra towel by the tub. Duh! We made sure to leave Housekeeping a tip each day. As for the rest of the hotelâ€¦it wouldâ€™ve been nice to have an elevator stop on the Mezzanine floor. Instead you have to go down to the casino, past the timeshare people to go up the escalator. Perhaps the timeshare people pay them a large amount to have taken away that Mezzanine stop? Speaking of timeshare people, that is my only REAL complaint for this hotel. I donâ€™t want them in my hotel nor around my hotel, but we got around them by doing the time-share avoidance side-step. (kind of resembles a crab hurriedly scampering away). Elevators, by the way, were so fast we NEVER had to wait more than a few seconds for one. ELEMIS SPA: Donâ€™t trust their website rates! Donâ€™t be afraid to get "brushed"! We have never indulged in a spa service on a Vegas trip before, but this time decided to treat ourselves to a Couples Massage our first morning in Vegas at the Elemis Spa. I had checked rates online and thought that their $200+18% gratuity per couple rate was not bad. Booked a 9am, with an 8:30 check-in time. I called before we left town to confirm it, and we were all set. Donned exercise clothes in case we got a burst of energyâ€¦hah! Off we went, down to the lobby, deftly past the timeshare people, up the escalator toâ€¦hmmmmm, where is that spa anyway? Down here? No. Here? No. Oh, there it is, with the construction around it. We were greeted and given forms to sign when I noticed the charge was $115 per person. I questioned her and she said that â€œtheir rates had gone upâ€. I told her that was interesting because their website didnâ€™t reflect that, nor did anyone advise us of such when I made the appointment, nor when I confirmed it. She kept saying â€œsorry.â€ I said itâ€™s not the money, itâ€™s the principle of the thing. Why not take the rates off the website completely if they are changing? â€œThatâ€™s easier said than doneâ€. Oh okay. Then how about advising people when they make an appointment? â€œSorryâ€¦do you want to look at our rates?â€ Uh, no, I had already done that online and it didnâ€™t mean anything. Okay, so I did take a peak and saw that they were actually listed at $138 x 2 for a couples massage. So, I guess Iâ€™m supposed to feel like we got lucky that it was less than that even though it was more than we had expected? Yes, thatâ€™s it! After succumbing to my husbandâ€™s â€œlet it goâ€ look, we were escorted to separate waiting areas. I was assigned a locker, given a robe and slippers, given a quick tour and a long questionnaire to fill out. I changed and had the waiting lounge to myself, fixed a cup of tea, and sat down to fill out the questionnaire so Iâ€™d have time to read the new People magazine they had. I was told to be in the lounge and ready at 8:55, at which time I was brought back with my husband, who was a bit concerned that heâ€™d never been given a tie for his robe, hadnâ€™t been able to fix a cup of tea for himself as they only had loose-leaf in the menâ€™s area and no way to brew it, and he whispered to me that the menâ€™s bathroom was all stopped up and smelled like sewage. Yuck. Iâ€™m sorry! I felt bad, as I had booked this for us. The masseuse remedied the robe issue, though, and, the rest of the experience more than made up for the way it began. Our two masseuses were EXCELLENT. They were friendly, yet very professional, with excellent skills. Mine told me she was going to â€œbrush meâ€. Uh, okay, Iâ€™ve never been brushed before but youâ€™re the expert. Apparently my questionnaire indicated I needed it. Well, it didnâ€™t hurt, I know that. We didnâ€™t use any of the other facilities, but we did peek into the fitness room and it did look like it had some great equipment in there. We meant to go back and use it that dayâ€¦really we did! SHOWS: Lance Burton is worth the price of admission! My husband has said for years that he would like to see Lance Burton. Heâ€™s also recently said he would really like to see â€œLoveâ€. I wanted to surprise him with tickets to one of them. It didnâ€™t take me long to discover that one good seat to â€œLoveâ€ was almost the same price as TWO tickets to Lance Burton. Lance won by,oh a hundred bucks or so. I was able to score two front-row seats for the 7pm Wed. show, and to be honest I wasnâ€™t expecting much. Weâ€™ve both seen David Copperfield before and been put off by his egotistical attitude, and the way he did his tricks were rather obvious by sight and sound. I had read some rather unflattering reviews of Lanceâ€™s show online, so I held my breath, and hoped for the best. The show was fantastic! Lance couldnâ€™t have been more personable. From the simplest tricks to the most complicated ones, they were well-executed and fun. We loved the way he interacted with the audience, and the ducks he uses in the show are just adorable. GAMBLING: I still prefer Blackjack to anything else. Poker side-bet on Let It Ride is great! The first night the only thing we played was a penny Deal Or No Deal that was near the Zanzibar CafÃ© in the Aladdin. I started with $20 and walked away with $50 after 4 bonus rounds. Off to a good start! The only other slots I managed to play for any length of time were all at the Wynn. I love the way they give you $10 of free play with a new playerâ€™s card. That went fast in a dollar Megabucks machine. I did manage to get up and play for awhile on a Texas Tea machine, but didnâ€™t cash out when I was up. Same with a penny progressive that I lasted on for a long time. Fun, but after awhile I started hearing blackjack tables calling my name. I have two rules I follow when looking for a table. One is that the dealer has to be friendly. The second is that most of the players need to look like theyâ€™re having fun. If I break either or both of those rules, I lose and donâ€™t have fun. If I follow my rules, I might still lose, but at least Iâ€™ll have fun. The whole concept to me is that Iâ€™m paying for entertainment, so if Iâ€™m not enjoying it, whatâ€™s the point? Venetianâ€¦I LOVE this hotel. Have stayed there before, but I have NEVER had a good nor fun gambling experience there. I couldnâ€™t even find a blackjack table that fit my two simple rules. Played a little Let It Ride, didnâ€™t win a hand, and tried really hard to find even one blackjack table that met my simple little rules. No luck. I did get one glass of wine out of them, and it was nothing to cheer about. Also, like an idiot, I managed to leave $20 worth of $5â€™s at the table, realized my error some minutes later, and went back to find the dealer had saved them for me (although she didnâ€™t seem happy that I had come back for them). I have never seen such a large room full of people looking more like they were at the dentist to get teeth pulled instead of in a casino! I donâ€™t get it, but I did know we didnâ€™t have to stayâ€¦there are way too many other places that will CHEERFULLY take my money. Treasure Island did exactly that. Much more cheerfully took my money! I didnâ€™t break my rules, cause I did try two blackjack tables that had both a friendly dealer and friendly players. However, I couldnâ€™t win a hand, and drink service was non-existent. It was hot and smoky in there. On other trips Iâ€™ve really enjoyed the Treasure Island casino. Not this time. It was very crowded, however, so obviously many others disagreed with me. (although there was lots of grumbling about the lack of drink service) Ballyâ€™sâ€¦UGH, whatâ€™s the point here? 6-5 blackjack, but theyâ€™ll give you a plastic necklace? I will say people looked like they were having fun, and it was hard to even get on a table, they were all full. To each his own. Give me a better payout! Wynnâ€¦this was my first time at the Wynn, and I was able to find a low-limit table with a friendly dealer and friendly players, great drink service (a decent glass of wine in a wine glass), and I managed to win. The only catch was I had just gone to the cashier and had told my husband Iâ€™d be right back, which I did INTEND to do, but I might as well have been a fish on a hook the way that table reeled me in. This would be when I discovered my cell phone wasnâ€™t working. Oops. Bad wife. Sorry again, Honey!! (Itâ€™s better to ask for forgiveness than permission were the words of wisdom given to me at the tableâ€¦I told you it was a good table!) Unfortunately he was ready to move on to another hotel, so I didnâ€™t get to go back to that great table! Bellagioâ€¦Played on both some five dollar tables and some ten dollar tables, and blackjack at Bellagio was as fun as usual each time we went. I had no problem finding tables that fit my simple rules, and every time we played there, I at least walked away with what I started with. Drink service was excellent and their wine was decent as well. One dealer showed us the cool little air vents that blow air on them to help keep smoke away from them. A nice touch for the dealers, I thought. As a player, I wouldnâ€™t mind some of those myself, as the smoke really bothers me at some of the hotels. Bellagio still isnâ€™t too smoky. Barbary Coastâ€¦Played for quite some time at a very friendly blackjack table one night. Held my own. Drink service is way too good there, so I had to watch it (and I knew better than to order wine there). Walked away ahead. MGMâ€¦This is the first time I ever won a thing at MGM. Started at a Let It Ride table. Made $50 pretty quickly, then moved to blackjack after losing three in a row. Found a great table to play on and walked away ahead. Drink service was slow, but I was able to get one. Enjoyed our limited time there. Did try a nickel Deal Or No Deal on the way out that was not kind to me like the penny one at the Aladdin had been. Harrahsâ€¦Played a little Let It Ride and did okay with the poker part of it in particular. Didnâ€™t stay there very long though. My husband was anxious to move on. Parisâ€¦Only played Let It Ride. Had an up day and a down day doing it there. One guy at our table hit for 40-1 on the poker part and got $400 just from the poker part of the hand. Drink service was excellent. I had my best table drink there, after watching a fellow player with a Lemon Drop, I decided to order one and it was delicious! Aladdinâ€¦I had my worst blackjack there and by far my best as well. The worst was my own fault cause I broke both of my rules. I sat down where Gloria was dealing to some unhappy players, probably because SHE was so unhappy. I shouldâ€™ve waited for a friendly table to open up. Lost very quickly. Tried a different table that was one deck, dealt down and I just donâ€™t like that. Itâ€™s too quick and not as fun, imo. Whatâ€™s fun about feeling like Iâ€™m sneaking when I look at my cards? And not being able to see everyone elseâ€™s? Finally found the PERFECT type table for me there, and for the rest of the trip I did quite well as long as I stayed with a six-deck, hand-shuffle tableâ€¦again, with a friendly dealer and friendly players. My best round was starting with $30, walking away with $260. I really got a kick out of some of the special chips they have. Kelly Clarkson, Moody Blues and Loggins & Messina were my three luckiest ones. To me, itâ€™s little things like that that add to the entertainment value of a casino. I did not care, however, for LIR there. They only had one table, it was usually full, the dealers were cranky at it, and the shuffle machine kept getting stuck. Not to mention I could hardly win a hand there, but one of my favorite blackjack tables would usually have an open seat eventually. The other thing that was fun about the Aladdin, is their daily two million dollar slot pull, and the daily free slot tournament. We each won a tote bag. My husband won a coffee mug, and I won a pair of tickets to a show at the V Theatre, although we didnâ€™t get a chance to use the tickets. They let us trade them in for a couple more coffee mugs our last day. Small things, but things that again, added to entertainment value. My husband, by the way, said that at one point he witnessed a very drunk young guy playing blackjack at a table by himself. He was betting about three thousand a hand, and winning, even though he was doing some stupid doubling-down and stuff. They finally pulled his dealer, and he got up to leave with $36,000. Overall gamblingâ€¦ My least favorite place to play anything is the Venetian, still. My favorite, by far was the Aladdin, although Wynn mightâ€™ve been my favorite had it been closer and I couldâ€™ve spent more time there. I sure enjoyed it while we were there.I came home with most of what I took to gamble with, which I consider a lot of entertainment for a small amount of money. I spent a LOT of time on tables as we were there for four nights. I played the slots very minimally, as I get kind of bored with them. It was fun to do the bonus round a few times on Deal Or No Deal, but getting TO a bonus round on a machine takes more sacrifice than Iâ€™m willing to gamble, most of the time. For some reason, I feel more in control with Blackjack, plus to me, the tables are so much more fun with the interaction with others (again, as long as itâ€™s a fun table with a fun dealer) Wouldâ€™ve been nice to hit something big, but coming home with money feels just fine. FOOD: Big lunches at really nice places equals a fine and somewhat economical plan. We love to eat good food, but expensive dinners are not quite in the budget, so what we ended up doing was sleeping late, then hitting somewhere nice for lunch when they opened at 11 or 11:30 (before they got busy, and when theyâ€™re not as expensive as dinner). GREAT plan! Mesa Grill: Relaxed from our massages, but very hungry with stomachs on East Coast time, we were there shortly after they opened. We were seated at a comfy table where we sat side-by-side on a bench, and started with prickly-pear iced tea, but decided to add some margaritas to the occasion. Iâ€™m not normally a margarita girl, but when in Romeâ€¦sounded like a perfect breakfast juice to me! We tried the white peach one, and the prickly pear one. Both were good, but the peach one was the best and my husband, wise man that he is, pulled the teeth out of his arm, and suggested that I finish that one, while he enjoyed the pear one. $13 each. A perfectly respectable breakfast, along with the bread they brought. The only teeny disappointment in an otherwise perfect meal was the blue-corn muffin that was dry and crumbly. The ciabatta was good though. Soon our Baby Romaine salad with chorizo and roasted garlic dressing arrived, which we sharedâ€¦$11. YUM. Followed by the best burger Iâ€™ve ever had ($16) and an incredible pork tenderloin sandwich ($15) Both of which we shared, and each came with spiced fries. Usually I always put ketchup on a burger, but this one was perfection without it and had the best grilled flavor. It was juicy and incredible. Iâ€™m drooling just thinking about it. The pork tenderloin sandwich had to have had a whole tenderloin on it. It was pretty and tasty and perfect. We were sooooo fullâ€¦there was no way for dessert. Total bill with tip was $96.89. Expensive for a lunch, but worth every penny! The Brew Pub at Monte Carlo: Later that night before Lance Burton we were looking for just a drink and a little something to munch on, so we ordered a â€œcrock of quesoâ€. It was a bowl of okay dip with red, yellow and green chips. Decent. Nothing exciting. I actually ordered a glass of wine, even though I was in a Brew Pub, but my husband got a brew. Total bill with tip $26.49. Il Fornaio at NYNY: After Lance Burton we were looking for something light. We ended up in a cozy booth in Il Fornaio to share a pizza. I couldnâ€™t resist trying the eggplant appetizer either: Melanzone Alla Parmigiana $8.75. It was layered with a very nice smoked mozzarella. We expected the pizza to be a lot smaller than it was, or we never wouldâ€™ve ordered the appetizer too. We got the Pizza Capricciosa that had prosciutto cotto, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and other delicious toppings for $12.95. My husband, who makes pizza from scratch himself, rated the crust very highly. It broke our hearts to not be able to eat every bite. We hate wasting foodâ€¦my Italian Grandmother wouldâ€™ve been ashamed of us, but we did the best we could! Wynn Buffet: The next day, we were somehow hungry again, and cabbed it down to Wynn for our first time there. We checked out the restaurants, but decided to try the lunch buffet. I believe it was $22.95. We donâ€™t usually do buffets, but this one exceeded our expectations! As soon as I saw butternut squash ravioli, I knew it was going to be special. Every fish dish was excellent that we tried, as were the kobe meatballs, the flank steak, shrimp, penneâ€¦it was all top-notch! The only thing that didnâ€™t knock my socks off was a small asparagus salad in a pretty little glass cup that didnâ€™t have much flavor to it. The desserts were tiny and cute and delicious. I loved the floating island I tried. The Wynn Buffet was a big winner! Ellis Island: As if we could eat another meal again after that buffet, later that night we were somewhat hungry again, so we decided to go from one extreme to the other and check out Ellis Island, which weâ€™d never been to before either. I got a Frisco Burger for $5.95. My husband got the Steak & Shrimp for $8.95. With two teas the bill was $18.19 before tip. It was good, and a LOT of food. I took my bun off, cause I couldnâ€™t eat it all. We were a little uncomfortable walking around that dark area at night, not being familiar with the area, and not knowing if it was safe. I would not have walked there at night by myself, thatâ€™s for sure. They had karaoke going on and some of those folks were pretty darn good. Emerilâ€™s New Orleans Fish House at MGM: We were there waiting for them to open at 11:30. As usual we hadnâ€™t had breakfast, so we were hungry. We ordered the Avocado/Crab Cakes to share($15). I ordered the Trio of Seafood Sliders ($17) that included a crab one, a shrimp one and a lobster one. My husband got a steak sandwich with homemade Worcestershire sauce for dipping. We were served some yummy breads (including a corn muffin that was the texture one should beâ€¦sorry Bobby). The only slight disappointment was the crabcakes. They were okay. Not as delicate and more bready than we expected, and I never did detect any avocado. Weâ€™ve had much better crabcakes elsewhere before. My sliders were really good. And cute! Served with Zappâ€™s chips. My husband liked his sandwich and I got to taste the Worcestershire sauce which was excellent. (the waiter wisely suggested dipping the chips in it and/or breadâ€¦both were great!) I also had a $10 glass of Emerilâ€™s house Chardonnay, which was a small pour but tasty. My husband had iced tea which was surprisingly only $2 (compared to I believe $4 or $4.50 at Mesa Grill). Service was very friendlyâ€¦loved our waiter! I think I liked the place more than my husband did, but he said it was alright. Bill before tip was $66.95. Bootleggerâ€™s: We met some friends who live in Vegas who were kind enough to pick us up and take us to our beloved Bootleggerâ€™s for dinner that night. The linguine with red clam sauce was as good as I remembered, having had it at 9:30 in the morning last time we were in town. Loaded with garlic and clams, and tomatoes & olive oilâ€¦I love it! I hated wasting a spaghetti strand, but I couldnâ€™t finish it all. Love love love Bootleggerâ€™s, and our new friends couldnâ€™t be more delightful! Olives: Last day in townâ€¦where oh where to go for our big breakfast/lunch? We decided to check out Bellagioâ€™s buffet, since Wynnâ€™s had been so good. Unfortunately, the line was killer-long, so we decided to try Olives instead. We were really hungry, but by now were learning not to over-order, as we donâ€™t like to waste food! Started with two iced teas which were $4.50 each. (Do they make tea out of gold in Vegas everywhere but Emerilâ€™s???). I decided to try the daily special which was a roasted pork tagliatteli (not sure on the spelling for that pasta), and my husband got the Portobello flat-bread pizza. When the breads and olives came we were so glad we hadnâ€™t ordered an appetizer, because what could be more perfect than two types of tapenade with three types of bread and wonderful olives? Yes! My pasta dish was good. It had several types of tomatoes, plus peppers, the roasted pork and a creamy-tomato sauce. My husband said his pizza with portobellos, carmelized onions and fontina was good as well, although he rated the crust below Il Fornaioâ€™s. Before tip, the bill was $47.41, and we were stuffed! Zanzibar CafÃ©: We ate there twice. The first night we arrived, we shared a grilled shrimp & bacon club with fries for $12.95. They split it in the kitchen for us on separate plates, which was nice. The shrimp were huge and the sandwich was messy and delicious. The night we left we also stopped in to the empty cafÃ© to share some southwestern egg rolls ($8.95), and an order of four baby â€œranch burgersâ€ ($6.95), with two iced teas ($2.50 each). I wasnâ€™t feeling particularly hungry, and starting to feel a little not-right, so I barely ate anything. My husband polished it all off though. We felt bad for our server who told us the restaurant was closing on the 22nd for remodeling and they were all losing their jobs. We left a $10 tip on a $22.52 meal. Overallâ€¦we did some great eating! Mesa Grill and the Wynn buffet being our two favorites. Emeril wins a prize for the best tea bargain in town at just $2! TIME-SHARE PUSHERS: Theyâ€™re WORSE than the porn-slappers now, Iâ€™m sorry to say. We were pretty deft at avoiding them in our home-base, the Aladdin, although we still needed some stern NOâ€™s! Itâ€™s amazing how annoying they can be when you just try to get around them on the street. They do tend to back-off easier if you say youâ€™re leaving town today. MISS AMERICA: The Miss America Pageant is/was taking place at the Aladdin. The contestants arrived a couple days before we left. I found it rather humorous that every time they went through the casino to go to a function, they would parade through with their crowns on, sashes on, and always in alphabetical order by state! Very cute. They all looked about 12 to me. TRYING TO GET HOME: I learned a LOT trying to get home from Vegas on United Airlines. I learned never again book a red-eye. You shouldnâ€™t be exhausted for whatever you might have to deal with at airports these days. We had checked out at 11 a.m. Our flight was scheduled for 11:30pm. I had had very little sleep the night before. At the airport, I had a headache so I took an Ibuprophen, then thought Iâ€™d take a Dramamine to ensure sleeping on the plane, as I was exhausted. The plane starts boarding just as those meds on a relatively empty stomach start acting up. Uh oh. Run to the bathroom. What happened to my usual rock-gut stomach? Food poisoning? Sick sick? Or just exhaustion mixed with the meds on an empty stomach? I donâ€™t know the answer to that and I have to get on a crowded Airbus. Danger alert! I learned next that I should never have booked me a window seat and my husband the aisle seat in anticipation of sleeping better in our favorite seats. I needed my husband next to me! There was a young guy in the middle seat where he was supposed to be and I asked him if he might prefer the window? You do? Greatâ€¦thanks! Sit down, casually peeking into the seat pocket to see if thereâ€™s what could be a life-saving bag in there. Phew, yes. Please God donâ€™t let me need it! Settle in, taking deep breaths, trying not to move and concentrating on not getting sick, when the young guy says, â€œOh, there goes my cell phoneâ€. Guess you better turn that off, huh buddy? â€œUh, you donâ€™t understand, itâ€™s up THEREâ€. Oh, I understand what that means, and boy do I hate the thought of jostling my tummy anymore by moving, but up we go, so he can reach in his bags and turn it off. Back down, seatbelts on, up we go, Iâ€™m holding my own, put the seat back and start to doze. The young guy was really restless, and he reached up to push the call button. Flight attendant comes and he asks if there are any other open seats as he â€œcanâ€™t put his seat backâ€. Flight attendant looks, comes back and says he can move to 4 or 12. Okay, up we go again and heâ€™s out. Settle back in, more deep breaths, recline seat, young guy comes back. Mean old flight attendant up front wonâ€™t let him move. Okay, would you like the aisle seat this time? Sure! I move to the window with my husband next to me. Sure enough, the guy behind me is so tall, that not only will the seat not recline, but every time he moves, it pushes my seat forward. Oh well. Praying for sleep and no dramatic events that will traumatize a whole plane, I do manage to doze off and on and we make it to Chicago on time at 4:30. By now, Iâ€™m fairly sure that Iâ€™m not dealing with sick sick or food poisoning so Iâ€™m very grateful and ready to get home after a two-hour layover. 6:24 turns into 7:10, which turns into 7:30, which turns into 9:20. Weâ€™re told that a plane canâ€™t get out of Indianapolis to get to us. Then we see the black screen of cancellation and we RUN to customer service, where a very nice Mr.Levy gives us boarding passes for the 11:30 flight to RDU. Seats 13D and 13F. I go get a Diet Snapple, then lean against my husband to try to snooze some more, when suddenly my butt felt WET. Yup, I hadnâ€™t put the cap back on tightly, itâ€™s gone sideways, and Iâ€™m sitting in Diet Peach Snapple. Lovely feeling. Run to the bathroom, where I attempt to squeeze it out of my undies and my pants. Itâ€™s not working very well, so I resign myself to a wet butt, being grateful that at least my pants are black, when I eye the hand-dryer. Hmmmmmâ€¦.I strategically position myself with my butt pointed up and am letting that hot air do its magic while an endless stream of people file in the bathroom giving me some interesting glances. Why oh why did so many of you need that bathroom on that day at that moment? And NO I didnâ€™t wet my pants! Not the childlike way anyway. So back to the gate I go, only slightly soggy, not sloshy as I had been. My husband says, â€œNow donâ€™t cry, but itâ€™s been delayed againâ€. WAH! Iâ€™m sick, soggy, sleepy and weâ€™re STILL not going anywhere? What could be worse? Yupâ€¦the black screen of cancellation! Only now thereâ€™s a whole lot more people stuck than the first time. RUN! Off to customer service we fly along with a couple hundred other folks. We made it in about tenth place, not bad for a sick, soggy, sleepy girl! We wait our turn, and the first thing I notice when we get to the counter is the four Customer Service reps have all either taken their nametags off (you could see the holes in her sweater) or TURNED THEM AROUND, so you couldnâ€™t see their names! This wasnâ€™t boding well for us, as they were obviously anticipating the worst. Sure enoughâ€¦that was it for us for the day, and we were re-booked to leave for Washington, DC at 6 am, not getting into Raleigh until early afternoon. Uh, since weâ€™re not going to get in until late anyway, might you something later so we donâ€™t have to get to the airport so early? Fingers fly on the keyboard. No words, just typing and typing (have they learned that not-speaking is safer?) Finally she hands us what look like boarding passes for the 11:30 direct flight to Raleigh for the next day (Seats 13D and 13F againâ€¦hmmmm, what a coincidence). Uh, might you have any hotel vouchers? Yes? We are to call this number on this pink slip? Great, thank you! Pink slips mean discount hotel room, not free. In case you want to know. I think yellow means free. I wouldnâ€™t know for sure, cause we had pink and it was not free. In order to get free youâ€™d have to get someone to admit that the delay was due to something other than weather, likeâ€¦oh, perhaps the fact that we were in Chicago and the big Chicago Bears game was about to commence? There was a plane at the gate for the second flight that got cancelled. It had even been de-iced. We never saw any crew get on it. Go figure. Suuuuuureâ€¦ mustâ€™ve been the â€œweatherâ€. Pink slip. Call 800 number, get a Wyndham for $59 per night with a free shuttle that we just have to go outside to get. Outside huh? Thatâ€™s nice. Our coats and everything else we own are packed in our checked luggage. We are in Chicago, in short sleeves, in January. Smart huh? Thatâ€™s okay, weâ€™ll make a quick dash for the shuttle area. Whatâ€™s this, the shuttle area is outside way over THERE? Our dash ensues amidst some rather foul language that just flew out of my mouth when my sick, soggy body hit the frigid Chicago air. Screw the shuttle, we flew into the closer Hilton Hotel. I have never been so happy to see a hotel gift shop in all my life, and zip-up fleece Chicago jackets were on SALE. Weâ€™ll take two of those for $19.99 each please. On they go and out we go over to the shuttle waiting area where we see every hotel go by over and over EXCEPT for the Wyndham. Meanwhile, we stare longingly at that comfy-looking Hilton that we know has beds in it. I decide to throw myself on their mercy and surely theyâ€™ll give us a nice Hilton room for the Wyndham rate and we donâ€™t have to wait for a shuttle anymore? Leaving my husband to watch for the shuttle, I go back to wait in line at the Hilton Registration and plead our case. Thereâ€™s only one guy in front of me, but gosh darn theyâ€™re taking their time! Finally get to speak to someone and she quotes me $279! Uh, donâ€™t you have a stranded traveler rate? Well, yes, do you have a pink slip? Yes. Well you have to call them. Canâ€™t you just give me that rate please? No, you have to call them. I look up just in time to see my husband mouth that the shuttle came and went. What?! You didnâ€™t throw your BODY in front of it?! Somehow feeling like this is payback for going missing at the Wynn blackjack table, I call the pink slip number again to ask about the Hilton. Yes, itâ€™s available but itâ€™s $119. Can we please have it for $59 because we waited and waited for the Wyndham shuttle and then missed the darn thing. No? Well, I didnâ€™t think so, but it doesnâ€™t hurt to ask. â€œThereâ€™ll be another oneâ€¦the Wyndham is pretty good about that.â€ Well they havenâ€™t been up til now! Can you please tell them to come back and get us? Which of course, all equates to putting my tail between my legs and waiting. We wait. And wait, but alas, it does arrive, and we soon have a room with a bed and a bathroom! Quick bite to eat while the Bears game plays in the lounge, and Iâ€™m too tired to search for pilots and flight attendants in the game crowd, on tv, but I just KNOW theyâ€™re there. Off to bed, we crash while the Bears win their game. The next morning, feeling like new human beings with old clothes on. (At least the Wyndham was kind enough to our fellow passengers to supply us with toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, a razor and shaving cream), we hopped the shuttle (it was right there this time!) and headed back to the airport with what we thought were boarding passes. They looked like boarding passes. They had seats assigned. Go to check in at the computer and it says to call due to a change in flight plans. Otherwise meaning get in line, but good luck guessing which one is the right one. Deciding to take the guesswork out of the process, I ask a United Airlines rep who is being so helpful helping all the first class customers check in (all four of them), while the masses struggle alone in the coach lines. â€œYou need to go down to 4â€. Okay, thanks. Off to 4, and guess what? There are two of them. The line on the right is slightly shorter, so logically that should be the one to get in, right? We wait, and wait. Something tells me weâ€™re in the wrong line, but there is no signage that indicates any difference between the two â€œ4â€™sâ€. I spot another United Airlines person and get out of line to ask him. â€œWe have boarding passes, are we still supposed to stand in line?â€ He looks at them. Those ARENâ€™T boarding passes, you need to stand in THIS line. Oh, the OTHER 4, not the one we were in? And those arenâ€™t boarding passes, huh? Interesting. Very interesting. Off to the other line, where the poor girl behind us mentions that she waited in the other 4 line only to get to the front of it and then found out it was the wrong 4. She was in the same boat, only United had made her wait until 7:00 at night when all flights to LaGuardia for the day had been cancelled before they told her she wasnâ€™t going anywhere, and by then the discounted pink slip hotels were all sold out. She was swearing to never fly United again. They had two people working the counter at this, the longest line. Finally got to the front and were once again told, no those arenâ€™t boarding passes no matter how much they LOOK like them. We GET it now. 13D and 13F means go away, be quiet, and hopefully youâ€™ll get on a flight eventually. Think about it. What would you do with hundreds of passengers who you canâ€™t re-book due to oversold flights? I think the fake boarding passes are, quite frankly, rather ingenious. It allowed us to get a good nightâ€™s sleep without worrying about it. If I were them, Iâ€™d probably do the same thing.Type. Type. Type. No communication until â€œI can get you on the plane but not in seats togetherâ€. Sounds like a PLAN to us! I donâ€™t care if one of us is strapped to the wing! â€œHere you goâ€¦first class!â€ Be still my heartâ€¦is it a mirage?! REAL boarding passes in FIRST class? Thank you thank you! So, after all that we flew home (finally!) in seats 1A, and 2A. No food other than pretzels, but a free drink and plenty of leg room! All is well that ends well, as they say. FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT I LEARNED: 4 nights is actually just the right amount of time for us. Our trips have usually been in the 2-3 night variety, always seeming way too short. This felt about right. It was great to try new restaurants (Bobby Flayâ€™s burger RULES!), to see a show weâ€™d never seen before (loved your show Lance!), to stay in a hotel weâ€™d never stayed in before (really enjoyed the fun atmosphere of the Aladdin), to get to see the Wynn for the first time (Iâ€™d LOVE to stay there sometime!), to have our first Vegas spa experience (although I hope for the menâ€™s sake theyâ€™ve fixed the sewage problem at the Elemis Spa by now). We didnâ€™t do a lot of the typical touristy things because weâ€™ve done or seen them before. This time we stayed relaxed, took our time, wandered aimlessly as we desired and played a LOT. And still came home with money. Vegas still has that going for it, as far as Iâ€™m concernedâ€¦the only place I know to have that kind of quality vacation, with the chance of coming back home with more money than you left with. (or at least about the same amount). And, as usual, I learned that information gleaned here was once again so useful. My thanks!