Here we go
We’re off on long-planned road trip to the US.
Over the next three weeks we’ll be visiting the cities we’ve seen in the movies, seeing the canyons and parks and eating some very fatty food! Most of all we’ll be spending a decent amount of time in the car. We’ve chosen an anti-clockwise route starting in Vegas. There are many variants and ultimately there are choices we’ve had to make but we want to achieve a balance between time traveling and time actually digesting what we’re seeing.
Some plans we’ve seen, including bus tours, cover the same ground as we will in two weeks (or less) but that seems a heck of a lot of time on the road and very little actually stopping to take things in. If you’re really pushed for time you can fly between cities relatively cheaply but you’ll likely miss so much along the way.
We’ll be reviewing the places we visit on trip advisor and posting the links here.
We’ve chosen a variety of accommodation that often isn’t the cheapest and you could lop a big chunk off the cost if you decide to stay in the typical roadside motel chains (Best Western etc.) but I prefer the more localized (and sometimes it has to be said eclectic experience) of staying in lodges and B&Bs.
As you can see the google route suggests we’ll be covering just under 1,900 miles (or 3,000 km in real money) and if you skip to the end you’ll see that various diversions added a bit to that.
The long road…
But first, there is the small consideration of getting there!
For us, that typically meanings a 650kmtrip to the airport by car … the reason? We have an old cantankerous dog that is happy to stay in kennels … but only in the kennels where we used to live and no others….anywhere. Yes, I am being serious. Anyway, that means an overnight stay with some friends before boarding a flight to Switzerland (more on that in a moment). So from leaving home to arriving at Las Vegas Airport was a journey of around 48 hours. Oh well, we did say it was a road trip (or was that more like ‘trains, planes, and automobiles) and what the heck anyway we’re (semi) retired now so it’s not as if we’re eating into vacation time :).
We’re flying on the long stretch (Zurich to Las Vegas) with Edelweiss Air which is the low-cost arm of Swiss Air. Surprisingly, this isn’t a bad option as there are few direct flights from Europe to Las Vegas which is why we’ve opted for the short hop in Europe first as in any event there would be a change somewhere along the route and changing in Europe is much less painful than changing in the US. Edelweiss is actually not that bad and as it’s an 11:30-hour flight we’ve upgraded to their version of premium economy (extra legroom, more seat recline, and free alcohol). Personally, I am not sure I would bother doing that again as the seats are no wider than economy and whilst there’s the possibility of a little more sleep it’s still achingly uncomfortable. While the premium economy upgrade is probably not worth it I also can’t justify the €1,000 per person upgrade to business. I always put these things into cost per television so the cost would be 6 televisions which puts 11 hours of discomfort a little more into perspective.
We’ve hired a car for the three-week trip (top tip – make sure you book your car in Europe so that you get all the insurance included). You can hunt around for cheap car hire but Holiday Autos always seems to come out on top or close to the top in terms of lowest price. We’ve had separate excess insurance for the past couple of years which is ALWAYS cheaper than that offered by the car hire companies and problem free when making a claim (we claimed once for a broken wing mirror).
At last Vegas!
This is our second trip to Vegas so why should you come here?
It’s an experience and a spectacle – you could almost say a modern wonder of the world (although “wonder” might require a personal perspective). A buzzing city developed right in the middle of the desert. Although it spreads out over a considerable area, everything the typical tourist will see focuses on the 6.8km strip which you can walk from one end to the other in the morning, stop for lunch and then walk back again. There are some things to do away from the strip (e.g, Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam which we visited last time) and a few things further afield (see next blog post) but largely you’re coming here probably to see the strip.
On the strip itself, you will spend a lot of time walking through glamorous hotels and casinos, possibly attending a show or two and eating (a lot). You might even spend some time drinking margaritas from an Eifel tower shaped glass (if that’s what takes your fancy).
As I said we’ve been here before and we’re only really using this as a jumping off point for the rest of our trip so we’re only here for one day and two nights. We’re staying at the Wynn Hotel which is at the far North of the strip. It’s an upmarket hotel and feels very modern and well kept. Our room is on the 52nd floor with a fabulous view over the hotels own golf course and beyond to the mountains. The only complaint I would have is the add-ons which would normally be included in the price in Europe (e.g. entry to the gym, no kettle in room – they will only sell you hot water). It’s a bit annoying but a minor irritation and otherwise it’s a very nice hotel.
Eating in Las Vegas is pretty cheap and a number of the casinos off all-you-can-eat buffets at a very decent price (we paid $28 each for a lunchtime buffet at the Bellagio). These offers are there to get you through the door in the hope that you will throw at least some of your money away at the tables (or more likely on the slots – of which there are thousands). But there are lots of cheap and not so cheap options around so you definitely will not be stuck for somewhere to eat.
As it was just over 40 degrees when we were there it was also an incentive as we walked down the strip to step into the casino to get a little bit of a breather and some cool air and I would say as you walk from one end of the strip to the other you can spend around 50% (at least) of your time undercover, possibly more if you are determined – just don’t get distracted along the way (difficult)
Last time we did a couple of shows (Cirque du Soleil and Shania Twain) but this time we didn’t have the time. There are plenty of places along the strip selling discounted tickets so you shouldn’t have to pay full price and I would say your trip wouldn’t be complete without at least one show.
We (mostly) don’t gamble and some would argue that if you’re not going to then there’s no point in coming. I disagree and there’s at least enough to keep you entertained here for a few days (in my view a week is too long to spend just in Vegas itself). If you do gamble then you will be in seventh heaven. I find it amazing that the casinos have so many slot machines and I really struggle to understand exactly what the attraction is. Everyone knows the
house always wins and while there may be elaborate flashing lights, is there really so much fun in pushing a single button every few seconds? In fact, a lot of the machines have “auto-play” which means even that single button push effort is removed. I’m sure that one day they will have a machine that tells you to stay at home and do the gardening and just takes a couple of $100 from your bank account every week. I think there is some excitement in playing some of the games but roulette is the one I have seen people lose the most money on very, very quickly. Playing is not cheap and most of the bigger hotels will have blackjack minimum bets of $15 (if possible to find $10 and even $5 game if you look really hard). I would aim to have a strict limit and walk away once the money is gone.
While we’re here this time we’ve also been on the rollercoaster at New York, New York. $15 per person and a reasonably good experience provided you have a strong stomach for these things. We do….just. You can enjoy a virtual ride experience for yourself here.
I think everyone should see Vegas once, it’s like a shiny jewel that you keep in the bottom drawer for special occasions, nice to look at occasionally but totally impractical in every logical sense. I’m glad we came through again.
Vegas is fairly full on but tomorrow we’re heading for a complete contrast as we leave Vegas and head out into the desert to the Grand Canyon.