Booking a Room in Las Vegas

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By John Deiner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2004

Anytime you book a hotel room you're taking a gamble. In Las Vegas, you're taking a gamble before you gamble.

Sin City is home to tens of thousands of hotel rooms, from the poshest of the posh to the how-did-I-get-myself-into-this-mess dreadful. As could be expected, the room you end up in depends on where you want to be located and how much you're willing to pay.

Those fabled $25 rooms? Still there, but almost always in the downtown area, where you'll find ancient hotels sorely in need of an upgrade and with labyrinthine, smoky casinos.

The wide thoroughfares running parallel and perpendicular to the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) are lined with dozens of low- to mid-priced chain hotels (Embassy Suites, Fairfield Inns, etc.), budget casino offerings (Palace Station, Greek Isles and the like) and some high-falutin favorites (Rio, Palms, Hard Rock Hotel). At Lake Las Vegas, a newish development about 17 miles from the Strip, luxe properties ring a man-made watering hole and command top dollar.

Then there's the Strip itself, where prices vary widely. Rooms at the Stratosphere, at the northern tip, can sink to $30 a night or so on a quiet week, while the mid-Strip Bellagio can easily top $300 -- as can Mandalay Bay, which anchors the Strip's southern point.

Here's what you need to know before booking Vegas.

Getting a Deal

Even pricier digs can be had for a discount -- if you know where to look and when to go. Some suggestions:

• Going Sunday through Thursday is usually a tremendous money-saver, since the city fills up on weekends. Summer and early winter are generally quiet, as are the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If there's a big convention in town, or at one hotel, all bets are off.

• Opt for a less-flashy, non-casino property off the Strip, including all-suite hotels with kitchens.

• If you want to be near the deluxe properties but not pay top-drawer prices, consider cheaper options nearby. For Bellagio/Mirage/Caesars/Venetian proximity, try the Flamingo or Harrah's; for Mandalay Bay, try Luxor or New York New York; for the Golden Nugget downtown, try Fitzgerald's.

• To pick a time to visit, check rate calendars on hotel Web sites to see which weeks are less expensive; it usually holds true for other properties. One good source is the Luxor calendar (www.luxor.com).

• Given a choice between a room with a view and one without, go for the latter (unless you think flashing neon or an erupting volcano is worth an extra $20 or more a night).

• Shop around. Sounds basic, but there can be a huge disparity among different sources. Start by calling the hotels or checking their Web sites, then move on to the all-purpose booking sites (www.expedia.com, www.travelocity.com, www.orbitz.com). Plug your dates into www.sidestephotels.com, which searches a wide array of sites for the best rates. Go to the discounter www.hotels.com -- which has a huge inventory and, often, excellent rates -- and www.quikbook.com, with a much smaller bank of rooms but some real deals.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (877-847-4858, www.vegasfreedom.com) has a huge online list of ongoing deals. Unaffiliated with tourism but still a font of info (and good hotel prices) is Vegas.com (800-851-1703, www.vegas.com).

If you're feeling lucky, try a hidden-provider travel site, such as www.priceline.com or www.hotwire.com (the hotel name is revealed after the price is accepted). Check www.biddingfortravel.com to get a feel for winning bids on Priceline.

• Consider an air/hotel package. Check with travel agencies, tour operators and airlines, such as America West (800-2-FLY-AWV, www.americawestvacations.com) and Southwest (800-243-8372, www.swavacations.com).

• Double-check before you leave to see if any new bargains have surfaced. The Venetian, for example, often offers rooms on its Web site for as little as $129 a night at the last minute. Other properties may introduce packages after you've booked; if possible, cancel your reservation and rebook.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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