The Big Picture
With a few exceptions in the very expensive category, most hotel rooms in Las Vegas are pretty much the same. After you factor in location and price, there isn’t that much difference between rooms, except perhaps for size and the quality of their surprisingly similar furnishings.
Hotel prices in Vegas are anything but fixed, so you will notice wild price fluctuations. The same room can routinely go for anywhere from $60 to $250, depending on demand. So don’t rule out a hotel just because we’ve listed it as “Expensive”—it’s very common to get great deals on pricey hotels. On the negative side, some hotels start with their most typical lowest rate, adding “and up.” Don’t be surprised if “up” turns out to be way up. Just look online or call and ask.
Yes, if you pay more, you’ll probably (but not certainly) get a “nicer” establishment and clientele to match (perhaps not so many loud drunks in the elevators). On the other hand, if a convention is in town, the drunks will be there no matter how upscale the hotel—they’ll just be wearing business suits and/or funny hats. And frankly, the big hotels, no matter how fine, have mass-produced rooms; at 3,000 rooms or more, they are the equivalent of ’60s tract housing. Consequently, even in the nicest hotels, you can (and probably will) encounter plumbing noises, notice scratch marks on the walls or furniture, overhear conversations from other rooms, or be woken by the maids as they knock on the doors that don’t have the do not disturb sign up.
Cancellation policies vary from hotel to hotel, but generally speaking you can usually back out of your booking anywhere from 24 to 48 hours ahead of your check-in date without penalty. Exceptions to both of these general rules are often found on major holidays like New Year’s Eve, during big event weekends like the Super Bowl or if you reserve at a promotional price.
Getting the Best Deal
Here are some tips for landing a low rate:
- Remember the law of supply and demand. Las Vegas hotels are most crowded and therefore most expensive on weekends. So the best deals are offered midweek, when prices can drop dramatically. If possible, go then. You should also check the convention calendar run by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (www.vegasmeansbusiness.com; [tel] 877/847-4858) to find out whether a big trade show is scheduled at the time of your planned visit; if more than 50,000 conventioneers are descending on Vegas, change your dates as one-third or more of the beds will be booked and prices will soar. Remember also that planning to take your vacation just a week before or after official peak season can mean big savings.
- Book online. This is almost always the smartest way to book.
- Be social. Almost every major resort in town has some presence in the social media world, including Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and smartphone apps. Connect with them and you may find yourself getting exclusive offers that the luddites out there won’t be hearing about.
- Don’t be afraid to bargain. Get in the habit of asking for a lower price than the first one quoted. Always ask politely whether a less expensive room is available than the first one mentioned, or whether any special rates apply to you. If you belong to the players’ club at the hotel-casino, you may be able to secure a better deal. Of course, you will also be expected to spend a certain amount of time and money gambling there.
- Beware of fees. So-called “resort fees” have become very common in Vegas and they can add up, ranging anywhere from $3 to $29 per night. Although the specifics vary from property to property, they usually cover amenities like Internet service, health club access, newspapers, printing of boarding passes, maybe a bottle of water or two, and the like. So what if you’re not going to use any of that? Too bad—you still have to pay (at most hotels—some make it optional). Many hotels include this in their totals when you book your room, but a few wait and sock it to you at checkout, so be sure to ask ahead. (We have noted those hotels with resort fees in the listings, but do note that they change often.)
- Beware of hidden extras. The hotels that don’t charge resort fees (which are few and far between these days) charge extra for things that are always free in other destinations, such as health-club privileges. Expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $35 to use almost any hotel spa/health club. Wi-Fi also doesn’t come free; usually there is a $12-to-$20 charge per 24-hour period. (We’ve noted when there is a fee in the listings so that you won’t be taken by surprise.)
- Consider a suite. If you are traveling with your family or another couple, you can pack more people into a suite (which usually comes with a sofa bed) and thereby reduce your per-person rate. Remember that some places charge for extra guests and some don’t.
Note: Quoted discount rates almost never include breakfast, hotel tax, or any applicable resort fees, the latter of which can send up the price by $25 or more per night.
All of the major Las Vegas hotels require a major credit card to reserve a room although most do not charge anything until you arrive. Cancellation policies vary but generally speaking you can usually back out of your booking anywhere from 24 to 48 hours ahead of your check-in date without penalty. Exceptions to both of these general rules are often found on major holidays like New Year's Eve or during big event weekends like the Super Bowl.
Booking Agencies -- The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority runs a room-reservations hot line (tel. 877/847-4858 or 702/892-0711; www.visitlasvegas.com) that can be helpful. The operators can apprise you of room availability, quote rates, contact a hotel for you, and tell you when major conventions will be in town.
A couple words of warning: Make sure they don't try to book you into a hotel you've never heard of. Try to stick with the hotels listed in this guide. Always get your information in writing, and then make some phone calls just to confirm that you really have the reservations that they say they've made for you.
It's a good idea to get a confirmation number and print out any online booking transaction.
Before going online, it’s important that you know what “flavor” of discount you’re seeking. Currently, there are three types of online reductions:
1. Extreme discounts on sites where you bid for lodgings without knowing which hotel you’ll get. You’ll find these on such sites as Priceline.com and Hotwire.com and they can be money-savers, particularly if you’re booking within a week of travel (that’s when the hotels resort to deep discounts to get beds filled). As these companies use only major chains, you can rest assured that you won’t be put up in a dump. For more reassurance, visit the website BetterBidding.com. On it, actual travelers spill the beans about what they bid on Priceline.com and which hotels they got. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the hotels that are offering these “secret” discounts.
2. Discounts on the hotel’s website itself. Sometimes these can be great values, especially if you’re a member of a loyalty program. In 2016, a number of major chains announced that they would be giving up to 10% off the lowest going rates to those who booked directly, through special membership areas of the hotel’s website. Before biting, though, be sure to look at the discounter sites below.
3. Discounts on online travel agencies, such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia.com, and Vegas specialist Travelworm.com. Some of these sites reserve rooms in bulk and at a discount, passing along the savings to their customers. But instead of going to them directly, I’d recommend looking at such dedicated travel search engines as Hipmunk.com, HotelsCombined.com, Momondo.com, and Trivago.com. These sites list prices from all the discount sites as well as the hotels directly, meaning you have a better chance of finding a deal. Note: Sometimes the discounts these sites find require advance payment for a room (and draconian cancellation policies), so double-check your travel dates before booking.
Tingo.com is another good source, especially for luxury hotels. Its model is a bit different: users make a pre-paid reservation through it, but if the price drops between the time of booking and the date of arrival, the site refunds the difference in price.
You might also try the app HotelTonight (www.hoteltonight.com). It works best for day-of bookings, though it now allows users to book a few days in advance and for multiple day stays. Occassionally, it can get the best prices for procrastinators (up to 70% off if you book on the day of travel, 40% on average if you book a few days in advance), but again, check around to make sure you’re getting a real deal.
It’s a lot of surfing, I know, but in the hothouse world of Sin City hotel pricing, this sort of diligence can pay off.
What Am I Looking for in a Hotel?
If gambling is not your priority, what are you doing in Vegas? Just kidding. But not 100% kidding. Vegas’s current identity as a luxury, and very adult, resort destination means there are several hotels that promise to offer you all sorts of alternatives to gambling—lush pool areas, fabulous spas, incredible restaurants, lavish shopping. But if you look closely, much of this is Vegas bait-and-switch; the pools are often chilly (and often partially closed during non-summer months), and it will be years before there is more foliage than concrete in these newly landscaped environments; the spas cost extra (sometimes a whole lot extra); the best restaurants can require a small bank loan; and the stores are often the kinds of places where average mortals can’t even afford the oxygen. So what does that leave you with? Why, that’s right—gambling.
The other problem with these self-proclaimed luxury hotels is their size. True luxury hotels do not have 3,000 rooms—they have a couple of hundred, at best, because you simply can’t provide first-class service and Egyptian-cotton sheets in mass quantity. But while hotels on the upper end of the price spectrum (Wynn, Encore, Bellagio, the Venetian, and so on) have done their best to offer sterling service and to make their rooms more luxurious than those at other Vegas hotels, there’s only so much that any place that big can do. Don’t get us wrong—these places are absolutely several steps up in quality from other large hotels, and compared to them, even the better older hotels really look shabby. But they are still sprawling, frequently noisy complexes.
If the hubbub of a casino makes you itch, there are a few non-gaming hotels and even non-gaming towers within casino-hotels that could help reduce your stress level. Check out Mandarin Oriental at CityCenter or the Delano at Mandalay Bay.
Casino hotels, by the way, are not always a nice place for children. It used to be that the casino was a separate section in the hotel, and children were not allowed inside. (We have fond memories of standing just outside the casino line, watching Dad put quarters in a slot machine “for us.”) But in almost all the new hotels, you have to walk through the casino to get anywhere—the lobby, the restaurants, the outside world. This makes sense from the hotel’s point of view; it gives you many opportunities to stop and drop $1 or $100 into a slot. But this often long, crowded trek gets wearying for adults—and it’s far worse for kids. The rule is that kids can walk through the casinos, but they can’t stop, even to gawk for a second at someone hitting a jackpot nearby. The casino officials who will immediately hustle the child away are just doing their job—but, boy, it’s annoying.
So, take this (and what a hotel offers that kids might like) into consideration when booking a room. Again, please note that those gorgeous hotel pools are often cold (and again, sometimes closed altogether) and not very deep. They look like places you would want to linger, but often (from a kid’s point of view) they are not. Plus, the pools close early. Hotels want you inside gambling, not outside swimming.
Finally, the thing that bothers me the most about this latest Vegas phase: It used to be that I could differentiate between rooms, but that’s becoming harder and harder. Nearly every major hotel has changed to more or less the same effect; gone is any thematic detailing and in its place is a series of disappointingly similar (if contemporary and sleek) looks. Expect clean-lined wood furniture, plump white beds, and monochromes everywhere you go. All that may distinguish one from another would be the size of the room or the quality of the furnishings.
Ultimately, though, if it’s a busy time, you’ll have to nab any room you can, especially if you get a price you like. How much time are you going to spend in the room anyway?
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.