Traveling stories with 20-year-old me:
An epic journey @ las vegas.. under 21 & traveling [nearly] alone
Sooo. Here goes to my first trip report. Ever :D.
THE RESTRAINTS: THE BEGINNINGS
Now, considering that I was going to Las Vegas on the money I’ve earned.. that is .. NOT a lot. Especially since I got $20/week off of 1h of private tutoring, and that’s it. But it’s okay! This ended up being my main restraint, making me /very/ creative with how I used my money.
Let me tell you.. I meticulously planned every detail of this event, researching everything from how not to be scammed by taxi drivers to about everything else I could possibly need to know about the strip.. the fact that if you’re under 21, you may not be on the streets past 10pm.. to what I would do in the fastest humanly possible way during every minute of the trip far better than anything else I’ve ever done. So if I seem like I went overboard planning for this.. I did. I wanted to make the most of this trip like no other. Family trip are definitely too darn slow for me, haha. FYI, everything is researched from scratch, because I really knew nothing about the place besides that it has lots of gambling, shows, and food. T___T
Several weeks beforehand, I changed my phone to one with WiFi, which was something I wanted a long time ago, but considering I definitely needed a phone to shrink on using their premium fee internet hooked up computers, I thought it was perfect timing with a promotion Koodo had for the phone. I also printed out a list of places that had free wifi, so I was able to move around LV without much trouble and stress (I had a final exam a day before, was veeerry stressed and thus incessantly checked my grade often><) even if I needed any help about when shows played, for backup and my text plan enabled me to communicate with my father for free in case of any trouble, just for safety reasons.
I deliberately went so that my trip would overlap with my father’s business trip so that I could cheap out on the hotel- since that would be covered by his workplace. For the flight, we had a $200 voucher from Expedia.ca from a previous trip, so my flight ended up being a total of $150, round trip. Now, the problem here was that during my attempt to find the cheapest flight, my trip ends one day after my father goes back (as the flights are $100 extra if I want to end my trip simultaneously with his and hotels are generally more expensive on Sundays).. which means I’m hotel-less for a night. And most hotels do NOT accept bookings if you are under 21 in Las Vegas. Uhhhhhh oh. I’ll come back to address that problem later.
Now, my father obviously gets to the hotel room first because I still have exams going. To make the most of his complimentary room, I taught him the sandwich trick, to discretely offer $20 to the clerk at the desk, and ask for an upgrade to a Masquerade room (faces the strip and has an extra large room). Don’t worry, tons of people do this, and I researched that Rio clerks were pretty good at taking up the offer ;). He was successful I’m proud to say =). We got a lovely, lovely room facing the strip & the pool with a large glass facade from ceiling to floor as well as two beds and a living room of sorts. Yah! He over a week to relax in this amazing room on less than $5/day with this trick. Not bad!
During this time, I was also hounding Travelzoo.com for good deals, and good deals most certainly did pop up. I was able to get Matsuri show tickets for $15.57 total. I was also able to get an incredible deal on the top South Rim Grand Canyon Tour on TripAdvisor for $90, when regular price is $150 (yeah, it was supposed to be super expensive, but super good. I checked all the negative comments so I’d be prepared for areas the tour may be weak in and in other places besides TripAdvisor for added validity ><), as well as the cheapest red canyon tour I could find, which was $59.
GOING TO LAS VEGAS
My flight required an exchange at Las Angeles PICTURE which was exciting as I’ve never been to that terminal before. It required a 10-20minute bus ride from terminus to terminus too?! No idea where I was, but the guy in the suit with the airplane logo looked like he did and he assured me I was at the right place so I believed him. Once I got to Las Vegas, I was following my very strict schedule that I had all mapped out to get to all the places I wanted in time, which was a LOT given the number of days I had there, so I had it down to a science: even the timing of the local buses to catch were written down (would be x10 more expensive by taxi- haha!). Shopping and sightseeing were the areas I really wanted to emphasize in hence;
*drum roll please.. *
MY PRE-PLANNED SCHEDULE:
April 19 [2:30pm-8:30pm] Las Vegas Outlet Centre (south)
- #109 bus, when turn on Gilepsie street, stop, cross street, take 117/217 to South las vegas blvd. drop-off @ premium outlet, cab back to strip/rio
April 20 [9:40] Rio shuttle – Harrah’s “bus departures”
- [10:30am] ticket pickup w/ ID by @ Imperial Palace box office[next to harrah’s]
- [11:00am] ticket purchase @ tix4tonight || @ Casino Royale
- [11:15am] Lions feeding @ MGM (11:15 am/4:30pm) || open 11am-7pm
- [12:30pm] Southern strip: titanic exhibition @ Luxor (30minutes) || 10am-10pm || $13
- Tix4Tonight -$13 tickets (head down toward MGM to the coke and M&M stores); reg. $27
- [2-3pm] Fashion mall || 10am-9pm
- forever21/aldo/banana republic/bebe/ninewest/pacsun/quicksilver/wetseal
- [4:00-5:15pm] Matsuri @ Imperial Palace
- Ross dress for less?
- [7pm][TI Show @ Treasure Island (18mins)|| 5:30pm/7pm/8:30pm/10pm
- [9pm] Rio shuttle – shuttle
- [10pm-12am] Rio show in the sky- runs 7pm-midnight; 5 shows, 3 diff productions
April 21 [7:30-8:00am-12:30am] Grand canyon walking tour + 3h hike pickup@hotel || $90
- Rio @ 8am The main entrance to the Rio is where you’d catch a taxi or valet. Please wait to the
- right of the main doors as there is more parking and standing room there. The main
- entrance faces Flamingo Road and you can see the Palms from this entrance.
- Request In-and-Out Burger
April 22 [9:40/10:10am-3pm] Discount beads||10am-6pm
- (~30min) Walk to W Flamingo outside Rio, take #202 “Flamingo WB” bus à Flamingo& Durango
- – we offer a strand as a gift (value$5) to all customers visiting our shop for the first time. Just tell any one of our associates that you are a first-timer, and we’ll fetch the basket for your choice
- – 4266 S Durango drive
- Premium outlets/strip
April 23[11-1:30pm] Las vegas blvd
- [1:30-4:30pm] Redrockcanyon pickup @ paris|| $59
April 23 –April 24[6pm-4am] Mccarran sleepover
I cracked the first day though. I followed through with taking the local bus during the trip to the mall, but going back to the hotel, I got out of the mall right when it closed, and the buses only ran every 30minutes. I panicked so bad when I realized I had waited 20 minutes, that it was 9pm, that barely one person passed me then entire time, that I’d only seen cars thundering down the 6-lane road before me, and I wasn’t even sure if the buses ran anymore and was getting more and more paranoid about whether I was even waiting at the right stop, so I ran back and thank gosh, there was still a taxi at the front, and I hailed that one down, costing me an additional $20. Sadly enough, I saw the bus I needed hurtling past me as I got on the taxi. But at least I got to the hotel safe and sound. The entire way there though, that was a bit of a fright too. I took the wrong bus, went to the inner areas, and only realized 20minutes into my journey when I should have been at my stop within 10minutes. Imagine my horror when the bus driver uttered the last words I wanted to hear and ended with me stuttering in shock “.. I-I-I’m going in the opposite direction?!”. Took the bus back immediately, then took the right one and had to transfer to another bus at another stop, going based on only the picture google maps showed me. Apparently there were 2 bus terminuses at the airport, not one as I originally thought, so I’d gone to the wrong terminus, neglected to see the “N” on the bus for north, and gone that way instead of south. T___T
It was at this point that I started questioning my sanity and the feasibility of my intense schedule.. haha. I felt like I barely even made it through this one, tripping and stumbling on each step. But I carried on. Couldn’t have done all that research for nothing. XD
Do note that *ALL* the places on April 20th were ordered so that the places were almost right next to each other because the strip is VERY long and it takes ~30 mins to scale it one way. So I had to put them in the best possible timing so that I could attend them all by walking. So this goes by distance and by timing of the shows/mall hours. On top of this.. Rio requires a bus that comes every 15-20mins, so I had it timed to the scheduling of the buses as well. Even with this meticulously planned out schedule, I ended up having to walk up and down the strip 3-4 times in one day to get to all the places I wanted. Waking up late was not an option.
Now, given my scheduling and tight budget.. I really did not want to spend money on food. So I brought a bag of chips there from Canada so I could munch on if I felt like I was really dying of hunger, a small bottle for easy carriage of water, and a $20 gift card I’d gotten for free from applying for scholarships from Wendy’s =P. It ended up that I had breakfast based on whatever my father had as his complimentary breakfast food, most of it fruits and croissants, and I’d pack some of it for later during the day. Surprisingly enough, I was able to last on this, my handy dandy bottle, my bag of chips, and my $20(from which I only used $5 of! I don’t know how I survived..) gift card for the entire trip. (I cracked twice though, bought a drink and another bag of chips when I finished my first one haha.)
I was going to ask for in-and-out burger since I’ve heard many a good thing about it, but was too pooped during my 17h venture to and from the grand canyon. I rode shotgun in the van to grand canyon and got to know the guy heading the tour quite well. As it turned out, I got REALLY lucky, and he was the head of the entire company, so obviously he gave a very enthusiastic and well-rounded trip and was very friendly (when I recommended this tour to my parents, they got a sucky one! Was not worth it for them in my opinion. And they paid much more because they couldn’t get my discount ><). I got along with everyone (only 9 people/tour, so get to know them well), though everyone else were older and in couples. It kind of felt like everyone kept an eye on me because I was so young in comparison and traveling alone. All of them constantly asked me if I wanted to have my picture taken as I had no one to do it for me, and always made sure I was with them. Lol.. I felt so bad though, I was fully prepared to give the guide a $5 tip, but he blatantly refused it, because I was obviously some kooky starving student loner of some sort. 8) Fed me better than the others too, I got extra fruits and everything haha and kept asking if I needed more food.
I almost made it through my entire to-do list on April 20th, but had to move some to April 22nd because I was too tired. Everyday, I’d go home around 9-10pm, right when my curfew hit, whether anyone actually checks or not on the strip haha. Running on 6-7h sleep on long days were definitely not ideal.. but whatever. 4 days like that were doable.
I was also a bit crazy, and there was a bead shop I was seriously eyeing although it was 20minutes by local bus. Funniest thing my convo with the cavet, who couldn’t quite believe what I was trying to attempt. Conversation went something like this:
10minutes after I’d had no success trying to get out of the maze of a parking lot
- Me: “I’m wondering how to get out of this parking lot and I’m wondering where the bus stop for the ___ bus is?”
- Him: “turn right at the corner, and go down until you hit the exit there. I’m not sure about the bus though, where are you trying to get to?”
- Me: ___x____ street.
- Him: “.. That’s.. pretty far. Why, may I ask?”
- Me: Beading shop! /grinnn/
- Him: looked at me like I’m crazy “.. BEAD shop?”
- Me: Yup! /smile/ Sorry, I gotta get going, my bus comes at ____ am. Thanks, bye! (remember that I run on a VERY tight schedule? XD)
- Him: “.. good luck then…”
Don’t forget that he was looking at what looked like about an, oh, 16-17 year old? I was only 19 on this trip!
THE LAST 48 HOURS OF THE TRIP
Let me tell you now, the last 48 hours were the most epic compared to the rest.
April 23, early morning getup to shop and explore and then @ 1:30 I had the red canyon trip I booked for my father and I. It was GRUELING. Hot, tiring, and a real exercise in the rugged terrain. Unfortunately.. I had no access to a shower as we had checked out. Smelly, ahaha. And I’d remain this way for 48 hours. TMI? Hahaha. My father took his complimentary taxi ride @5:30pm, and I tagged along so I wouldn’t have to pay extra or relive the terrors of failed attempts at traveling on the local bus to the airport. Anyways, I would have had only a couple hours to shop before heading off to the airport as, may I remind you, I had no hotel reservation, and my flight was nice and early @ 7am the next morning. Thus began.. my alnighter. I will let you read it over, as I wrote up for “the guide to sleeping in Airports”:
PROS: quiet & clean within the waiting areaCONS: cold, always bright, arm restsMy first time sleeping over at any airport and alone at that- done just for the experience and of course cheapness of not wanting to rent a hotel room and torturing myself to wake up early to take a cab. No sense in that when I could just head on over and sleep at the airport!
For a good 5-6 hours, I stayed in the main terminal area where everyone could go. Terrible- I ended up having several shady homeless men move on over to sleep next me. Did NOT feel safe at all, being a female. I finally got checked in and entered the area to wait for the plane. That was much more decent, felt safe, and definitely exuded a better cleanliness feel. Considering that it was 2am when I went in, I was essentially the only person there other than the cleaning personnel and one or two other passengers who were quietly asleep. The gambling machines seemed to be off and the internet was fast, I watched movies till 4am. The armrests were really my biggest annoyance. Even as a short person at 5’2, I had an uncomfortable time contorting myself to lay my head on my backpack as a pillow, while my feet dangled off the opposite armrest. Sleeping on the floor was definitely an enticing option at that point. I sat on the wheelchair seats close to the wall to get access to an outlet to charge my cell, a short distance away from the other chairs but facing the opposite direction. Inevitably the downside was when I woke up at 7am.. to an audience of passengers waiting for my plane, staring at me..
Got home on 3 hours sleep and bloodshot eyes.. mm. Wonderful.
I would definitely do this again though if necessary, all things considered. I’m still young and an adventure’s an adventure even if it doesn’t go so stellar!
**Note- don’t forget to bring your own snacks. Large bag of chips perhaps from some place on the strip would be amazing and perhaps ask for water from Starbucks (that way you have something to hold your water if you didn’t bring a bottle). As others mentioned, food can get seriously expensive- and as a starving college student, I wouldn’t have myself die there from lack of an ability to pay overpriced items:).
Needless to say, I think I know the hotels, the deals, the shops, etc, of the strip, like the back of my hand. And far better than I know that of Vancouver, sadly, I’d say. Overboard research? Quite. Too budget minded? Most definitely. Insane? No doubt. Probably not the ideal trip for most people, but I LOVED it. It’s not everyday that I get to take charge and plan my trip from beginning to end. My parents are much less insane than me, my mother tried to needle me out of sleeping over at the airport and changing so many flights and told me to pay that $100. I refused, flights changing is good for gaining points. But most of all, both changing many flights and sleeping overnight give me a chance at an adventure I have never tried.
It was AMAZING.
Next time I want to try going to Victoria, booking a hotel, and coming back, all alone although I’ve been there and traveled up every interesting nook and cranny I’ve known of.
NEXT TRIP PLEASE.