Tips for your First Time in Vegas!

In this post, I detail our 40th birthday trip to Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam!


Mr. Trekker and I enjoyed an epic Spring Break trip to Las Vegas and the surrounding area to usher in both of us turning 40!  We drove 3270 miles that week!

We had to take the LONG way to Vegas to avoid snowstorms on both I-80 through Wyoming and I-70 through Colorado. So, we drove south through Nebraska and the Colorado plains all the way to Trinidad, CO.  Then we picked up I-25 to Albuquerque, New Mexico where we joined up with I-40, and took that to US 93, then the Hoover Dam, and Vegas!

This was not a typical vacation for us.  The Trekkers are probably some of the worst people to visit Vegas.  We barely drink or gamble (we only played–and lost–$5 on this trip! 🤑) and there weren’t any shows we were really interested in. 😂  When we go on trips we spend most of our time in the woods, not showering and using holes in the ground for toilets. 😯  Yet, we still had a pretty good time!

Las Vegas Casinos

We checked out most of the well-known casinos along the Vegas Strip.  I was impressed that you can go into all the casinos/enjoy all the entertainment they offer regardless of where you are actually staying. You may have to pay an additional fee of course, but everything is accessible to everyone. Even places like the Bellagio Conservatory were free to everyone!  It felt very egalitarian there…

–We liked Treasure Island, it looked like a pirate ship inside. I also liked the pirate ship in the pool out front!

Treasure Island casino with palm trees. Also the neon lights of Vegas and the Mirage casino. The casino is reflected in the pool of water in the foreground.
The Mirage was cool. I especially enjoyed the Volcano show set to music! We LOVED the fountain show and the incredible conservatory at Bellagio!

Thin fountains of water that are lit from below rise and dance from a pool of water.
The fountain show at the pool in front of the Bellagio!

Caesar’s Palace was very fancy but I found it felt somewhat confining with all the heavy wood and dark carpet/chair coverings.

The marble tower of the Ceasar's Palace casino rises from the ground below
The Paris was our favorite, if we ever go back again we’d like to stay there.  The actual atmosphere inside was almost calming.  The ceiling looked like blue sky with white, fluffy clouds. It was set up like you’re walking through the streets of Paris along shops and restaurants.  They even had a city-like walking bridge in the center of the main room!

A red, white and blue-colored, miniature version of the Eifel Tower. Another casino stands in the background with a pool of water in the foreground.

Flamingo Hotel

We actually stayed at the Flamingo.  First, the bad news…

Customer Service was difficult to navigate…

The Ceasar’s online/phone customer service that I tried to use before we arrived was TERRIBLE!  The woman on the phone could barely give me any helpful information regarding parking.  I’d ask her things like where to park and she’d say, “talk to the front desk”.  Then I asked her for that number or if she could transfer me and she said “Well, I really don’t know that.”  Then she’d follow up with, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”  My literal response was, “Well you haven’t really helped me at all so far!” 😝

To be clear, I ALWAYS strive to treat customer service workers, housekeeping staff, waiters, etc. with the UTMOST respect and politeness. They work hard for little money and they put up with A LOT of crap! (I’ve done LOTS of customer service work.)  But it was obvious this woman was just reading from a canned script and didn’t really care if I got the info I needed or not, she just wanted me off the phone as soon as possible.  THAT does NOT sit well with me! 😤 

A large hotel/casino with "Flamingo" written on it. A smaller hotel rises in front and a large, lighted ferris wheel stands behind the casino.

Then I did some searching on Ceasar’s website and found a little more info. They even had a phone number for Ceasar’s Parking Customer Service!  Of course, when you called that number, it rang a few times and then informed you it was a Ceasar’s nonworking number! 😝

Check-in was difficult to complete

Check-in also SUCKED! When we arrived on-site it took almost an hour to get through the line. We couldn’t get the online check-in to work using our phones.  Then they had mostly kiosks available with very few actual humans working.  Hardly anyone in line could get the kiosks to work so they had to resort to the humans anyway.

Though I will say, the Customer Service lady we dealt with was WONDERFUL.  She was incredibly polite, helpful, and fast. I felt really bad for her. There were A LOT of irritated people and she was doing a great job of helping them.  So KUDOS to her. And Ceasar’s, you should be paying her more!  Whatever she is making, it isn’t enough!

Several pink flamingos stand in a pool of water, or on rocks/grass surrounding the pool.
Real flamingoes at our hotel!
The Flamingo was a good, lower-cost hotel option in Vegas!

Now for the good news!  Once we finally survived check-in, the remainder of our stay was wonderful!  The hotel itself was clean, it provided perfect access to the rest of The Strip, our room was nice and it was relatively quiet (other than our neighbors who seemed to enjoy coming home arguing at 3 in the morning for several nights straight! 😝  We considered yelling outside their door when we left at 8 am but thought better of it. 😇 ).

I was actually impressed with the room.  The Flamingo is kind of a “budget hotel” on The Strip.  I was worried it would feel more like a Super 8 or Motel 6.  This felt more like a Hampton Inn.  Also, “budget” is relative. We still spent more than $500 for our stay there (three nights, Sunday through Wednesday) but that’s comparable to one night at many of the other hotels.

We used this website to easily check hotel availability in Vegas!

The accommodations at the other hotels are swankier but concerning location, Ceasar’s and Bellagio were literally right across the street from our room (also we paid extra for a room with a LARGE window and a Strip View.)

We spent more than an hour one night just staring out the window in awe, watching the well-oiled machine that is the Ceasar’s Palace limo system parade before us (we were getting Vegas-ed out by that point. 😂–it was impressive though!)

Nighttime view of the neon-lit casinos of Vegas through a hotel room window.
The view from our room!

The Flamingo offers EASY access to EVERYTHING not to mention GREAT views. You could literally park your car once and not have to move it again till you leave.  You can walk most places but for things that are further away the Vegas Monorail stops right by the hotel.

My final verdict is that the Flamingo is a good place to stay, especially for first-timers or “normal” people who are trying to stick to a budget.  Aside from check-in, I would even consider staying there again.

Tips for Visiting Las Vegas

Author’s Note:  This was our first time in Vegas so these tips are intended for first-time visitors.  Some of this info may seem rather “duh!” to people who frequent Vegas. 

I was a little anxious about this trip.  I’ve always wanted to visit Vegas but the Trekkers don’t usually do big cities so I worried we might be biting off more than we could chew.  I was actually much more impressed by Vegas than I thought I would be.  I could never live there (it’s still a big city).  I would also hate the heat and I’d REALLY miss the color green.

On that front, I was very impressed that even in the very nice neighborhoods people didn’t really bother trying to keep grass growing.  Obviously, it’s the desert, so they seemed to use desert-friendly plants, rock gardens, patios, turf, etc.  I was very impressed that they weren’t wasting such a precious, natural resource (water) on such a futile fight (keeping grass alive where it usually doesn’t grow.)–So good on you Vegas! 

A sign stands in the middle of a busy boulevard that reads, "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada!"
The iconic, Vegas sign!

–Everyone was VERY friendly.  I think I was a little intimidated to go to Vegas with the whole idea of rich, High Rollers walking around. I know they’re around and I’m sure there are places you can go that cater to those types of people (note: the Trekkers ARE NOT those types of people! 🤣) but everyone we encountered from fellow tourists to Locals, hotel staff, and servers were all very friendly!  It felt like a city in the Midwest–which, shouldn’t really be surprising as Westerners tend to be pretty friendly too. 

–It was pretty casual.  We didn’t feel out of place at all in our hiking pants when we arrived. 😊  I expected to see lots of dressed-up people so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people dressed comfortably like we were.  I was a little surprised to see the “Sturgis Wear”, as I called them. 😂

So the standing rule in the Black Hills, during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, is you have to wear at least “pasties or paint”–mind you, this is in reference to what women wear to cover up their “upper halves.” 🤭 

–Depending on what you want to do (and how much you can afford 😇) 2-3 days is a good amount of time to plan to spend in Vegas.

–I would definitely advise you to stay on The Strip if you can.  It’s beautiful, you have the iconic, “Strip views” and it gives you easy access to everything available there (food, shows, casinos, people watching.)

The neon lights of the Vegas Strip surround a pool of water and are reflected in it, at night.
Panoramic view of The Strip from the pool at the Bellagio

–Bring comfy shoes!  We walked SO MUCH!  We were EXHAUSTED every night!  It felt like it took 20 minutes just to walk to the car, in the parking garage, that was attached to our hotel!  We both lost weight on this trip and it DEFINITELY wasn’t from eating healthy. 😂 

–Whoever invented the raised walkways was a GENIUS!  People/cars hardly intersect except for the driveways leading into the casinos.

A large roadway with a row of palm trees in the middle and surrounded by the neon-lit, Vegas Strip, at night.
Strip view from one of the raised walkways

A few negatives to be aware of:

It stunk like Pot…EVERYWHERE! 🤥 (All of my 40 years may be showing with this comment but I was a DARE child of the 90s so, deal. 😉)  It was kinda weird because we never saw anyone smoking.  I lean Libertarian so I’m not looking to impede people doing what they want but holy smokes (no pun intended!) does that stuff STINK!  After smelling that for three days, when we actually smelled skunk later in the trip it almost smelled good! 😝 –that’s saying something!  I will say though, it seems to bother my asthma much less than cigarette smoke, interestingly enough.

–It was PRICEY!  I mean, I get that we were on “The Strip” but the thought used to be you could get things like food and hotels cheap in Vegas because they wanted you to spend your money on gambling…NOT SO ANYMORE!  $75 for a couple of burgers, some fries, and two milkshakes?!  We spent $60+ one morning for Dunkin’ Donuts!  I mean COME ON! (To be fair, you go off The Strip just a couple of blocks and prices return to normal.)

A large road surrounded by the lights of the Vegas Strip, at night

“Affordable” Vegas Restaurants

We definitely didn’t need to gamble to lose all our money on The Strip!  That being said, below are a few food suggestions that shouldn’t break the bank:

Blueberry Hill: this restaurant has multiple locations around town (all off The Strip.). It was your basic, DELICIOUS, home-cooked meal.  I especially recommend them for breakfast. (If it helps, the parking lot was full of local cars–on a Monday morning–which is ALWAYS a good sign!)

Related post: Drive the Extraterrestrial (ET) Highway

Bobby V’s Ristorante:  This place was VERY good.  I had some of the best cheese ravioli I’ve ever had!

Apparently, this is owned by Chef Buddy Valastro from Cake Boss–and that’s literally the extent of my knowledge on that subject. 😂

Bobby V’s is right on The Strip and not “cheap” but definitely a more “budget-friendly”, option, at least by Vegas standards.  (It also offered some great views out the windows!)

Hoover Dam!

The Hoover Dam is a fun, interesting side trip when you’re visiting Vegas!

The Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s to help control the unpredictable floods of the Colorado River.  The dam is used for hydroelectric power.  There are a variety of tours of the dam offered at various times and days (unfortunately none were being offered while we were there as the elevators were being worked on.)

You can check out the dam’s website for info on tour times, days, and prices (which range from $15 – $30. Typical cost to view the Visitor Center and see the short documentary on the building of the dam is $10).

Cement wall with the seal of the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. Dates shown 1931 and 1935 and the title "Hoover Dam"

The dam was cool! We did feel a bit like cattle being herded through a pen as they guided us into the movie theater for the short info movie; then guided us upstairs to the Visitor Muesum portion and viewing decks. 😂  The sites and info were pretty cool though!

Cement dam with the Colorado River leading to it. Higher water levels of the pool behind the dam, all in a rocky canyon.
The Hoover Dam!
Cement pylons rising from the pool behind the Hoover Dam
Where is Hoover Dam?

Hoover Dam is located off of US 93, right on the Nevada/Arizona border, about 40 miles east of Las Vegas.  It spans the Colorado River in this area.

A bridge spans a rocky canyon. People stand on an observation deck in the foreground with high-tension electrical towers and wires rising overhead
Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Lake Meade

As the Hoover Dam slows the mighty Colorado River, it forms Lake Meade, the largest reservoir in the US.  The lake has been incredibly low for the last several years due to drought (like 20 to 30 feet low). 

A large lake surrounded by rocky cliffs with rocks rising out of the middle
A VERY low Lake Meade!

Watching Fighter Jets at Nellis Air Force Base

Nellis Air Force Base sits just outside of town and Mr. Trekker was very excited to find out some military exercises were being held while we were in Vegas (yep, I married a nerd! 😉)  So we spent a sunny, 70-degree afternoon sunning ourselves next to the Vegas Speedway (which sits just across the road from the Nellis runway). 

For some insider info on when you can catch planes flying at Nellis, click here!

WORD OF WARNING!  You will be perfectly fine if you sit and watch planes on the roadside next to the Speedway.  DO NOT sit across the road next to the Base fence!  Technically both are portions of a public road, but the Base Police are known to get cranky if you sit on their side. (Just a tip to help your trip stay fun and uneventful. 😇)


So, take a trip to check out the Vegas Strip, the Hoover Dam, and maybe watch some fighter jets roar through the skies above you!

Have you been to Vegas or the Hoover Dam?  Tell me what tips you would have for first-time visitors in the comments! 


Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Four pictures: 1)The marble tower of the Ceasar's Palace casino rises from the ground below; 2) A red, white and blue-colored, miniature version of the Eifel Tower. Another casino stands in the background with a pool of water in the foreground; 3) Look up towards the Vegas Eiffel Tower from below; 4) Cement dam with the Colorado River leading to it. Higher water levels of the pool behind the dam, all in a rocky canyon; pin reads: "Las Vegas: Tips for your First Trip"

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts! You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!