The Monday Link – Before You Plan Your Las Vegas Vacation

THE MONDAY LINK

After returning from Las Vegas, I thought it would be apropos to make this Monday’s Link about planning your next Vegas Vacation.

TripSavvy.com has a good blueprint when planning your Las Vegas Trip as a newbie or frequent visitor. TripSavvy calls itself “a travel site written by real experts, not anonymous reviewers, with hometown pride, parents who are road trip heroes, cruise junkies who know every ship at sea, and virtually everyone else in-between.”

So, how do you plan a trip to Vegas? Some plan every minute, some plan by the sections of the day. There are many Las Vegas lovers who visit without any direction or itinerary. “Go with the flow” is their motto.

To be honest, the first investigation is with yourself and those going. Here are a few NETG suggestions:

  1. When tripping to Las Vegas with others, meet before to find common ground, interests and vacationing.
  2. Determine how much gambling is important to your trip. As a group, time in Vegas is easily wasted waiting for others
  3. It’s important to understand that time together and time for individual adventure is important.
  4. Discuss transportation – how are you or the group getting around and how far do you expect to travel? Are you only spraying on the Strip, going downtown, checking out sites outside Las Vegas?
  5. Plan your meals at first – more time is wasted waiting in buffet lines and dining options.

So the following article is good place to start, or a good reminder of what you might have missed.

“Before You Plan Your Las Vegas Vacation”

by Zeke Quezada

TripSavvy.com has many Las Vegas articles for everyone’s interest. Check them out.

Enjoy

Binbin

My Vegas Vacation – Trip Report, Part 1 – Stays & Eats

The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip from high up in Mandalay Bay.

Most trip reports begin with “Day 1” and takes the reader through the trip from beginning to end.

Let’s try something different.

THE WEATHER

This trip was not like our usual yearly Vegas Vacation – for one it was July.  I thought it was hot in July, but the average temperature was 117 degrees F.  Oh sure, it’s a dry heat and lowered to around 105 in the evenings, but who cares – who really needs to walk around anyway.

It ended with a monsoon.  Our final night had over 2 inches of rain in 5 hours with winds across the valley up to 69 mph!  The vent in our hotel room at Planet Hollywood had to be taped down because the wind kept popping it from the top of the window sill.

TOP 3 MEALS

Bomb Tacos – Downtown, suggested by Tim & Michele from “Five Hundy by Midnight” (the original Las Vegas Podcast!).  It was outstanding. We recommend the cartinas, chorizo and crispy brisket tacos. The veggies are extremely fresh, the place is clean, and it’s all freshly prepared. An “NETG Must-Do” when in Downtown Vegas.

The Palms A.Y.C.E Buffet – The Palms is going through a major renovation after Red Rock Corp (formerly Stations Casinos) bought it. The buffet re-do is amazing.  Smaller than the big Strip Property buffets, it is still pretty large.  Salads were great, a wide variety of entrees across 7 stations – The Greenery, The Hearth, The Roastery, World Pan, Smoke & Fire, Revival & Sweet & Light. Centered around a large rotisserie and wood-burning grill, the Roastery station offers dishes like porchetta, French onion sliders and curry cauliflower heads. At the Hearth, a brick oven turns out duck cassoulet and fresh pizza, while Smoke & Fire serves barbecue ribs and smoked brisket.

Palms Buffet, courtesy of VitalVegas.com

For guests who’d like some lighter fare with their fries and pies, the Greenery provides salads and antipasti, and Revival dishes up health-focused fare like fresh-pressed juices and zucchini noodles. Part of the attraction is price: It’s just $12.99 for breakfast, $15.99 for lunch and $21.99 for dinner.  For more information on the Palms make-over, check-out Andy Wang’s review in Food & Wine called “A.Y.C.E. at Palms Is a Vegas Buffet That Does a Lot of Things Right”

 

Gordon Ramsay’s Burger – Yes, I know – why highlight ANOTHER burger place, isn’t Vegas saturated with burger joints?  Hold on, this new burger joint is a high end gourmet burger restaurant which we loved. We ordered three burgers, cut them in half and the tried all three. My favorite was the Blue Cheeseburger, which comes with blue cheese fig jam, arugula, cider vinegar reduction and spicy mayo. Mt wife loved the Mediterranean Burger with lamb patty, tandoori baste, feta cheese,tabbouleh salad, lemon vinaigrette, all subtle meshing together in one fantastic burger. We loved the Curry Burger, with chicken patty.  Looking for a great burger mid-Strip? Go to Gordon Ramsay’s Burger at Planet Hollywood.

Honorable Mentions: 

Ellis Island (Koval, off-strip) – I tend to forget how good that $9.99 steak special is.  The price is slightly higher than some of us remember, but is still outstanding and a NETG Vegas Top Value. Della’s Kitchen (Delano at MB) – somewhat pretentious breakfast, but the quality of the food was terrific. Order the chorizo patty’s with your breakfast. Coco’s Bakery Restaurant (behind Hooters, walking distance from MGM Grand, Hooters, Tropicana, some other south Strip properties.) want a good, hearty breakfast, for a decent price with a Las Vegas local Flavor?  Check out Coco’s. It was a nice find for a place outside the mammoth properties of the South Strip.

At Coco’s Bakery Restaurant. You should see their pies! Think Perkins, only homemade and twice as many flavors.

HOTELS

Mandalay Bay 

If you have stayed at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, you would find many similarities.  But one is not gambling. The staff is friendly and helpful, very typical of MGM properties. It has an Arena similar in size and usage to Mohegan Sun Arena, where we saw our CT SUN WNBA team play the new Las Vegas Aces (unfortunately lose to the Aces.) It has shoppes like the Sun, but no where near a comparison to the Tanger Shoppes in Foxwoods. The Gambling I will cover tomorrow.

This is the second time I have stayed at MB in three years. The rooms are large, spacious and homey.  This is a good thing – it’s a comfy room. But then there are other considerations:

  • The doors creek, especially in the room, to the toilet. Every time someone opens the toilet door, it sounds like someone opened the Munsters front door – enough to wake someone in the middle of the night.
  • Then there is the gurgling sound from the sinks – think Blue Man Group tubes if you ever saw the show – yes during the night.  The TV didn’t work until day 2.
  • Who was the genius who designed the door to the bathroom opening directly in front of the beds?  What’s wrong with the door opening in the hall inside the room, like everybody else?  Our doors couldn’t even stay closed.

So, a night in a Mandalay Bay room goes like this.  You get up to use the toilet in the middle of the night.  Open the first doors right next to someone sleeping…….gurgle, gurgle, gurgle……. creeeeeeeek……….gurgle, gurgle…………creeeeeeeek………….closed doors next to someone sleeping.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD

Mid-Strip is a great place to be.  Planet Ho has a fun, partying atmosphere. Our room was one of the Ultra Hip room, two queens.  These rooms used to have the rock memorabilia in each room.  The renovations are nice, in a sort of ho-hum way.  It’s clean, but the amenities are a little lacking. And it feels SMALL! Even the white walls don’t help that aspect. we enjoyed the room, but it was a little claustrophobic.

I would recommend both.  Each have advantages.

Tomorrow we tackle the Gambling aspect of the trip. We will also play NETG Best Three lists and give you our NETG Vegas Not-Shots.

Until tomorrow,

Binbin

 

Cardless Casino Players Clubs

So many casinos – so many Players cards. I use to have a fanny pack in the 90’s that was full of them, from Vegas to Atlantic City.

At first, they were introduced for slot players to off-set the high house edge.  People were skeptical.  Why earn comps when you can just ask for comps?

According to Bill Burton of ThoughtCo.com,  “The “Slot Clubs” were born in Atlantic City in the early 1980’s when the casinos there were trying to find a way to keep players from hopping from one casino to the next. By offering a reward for their loyalty they were able to keep the player coming back.”  It worked. By 2000, most casinos had players club cards for all gamblers including table games, registering data that transformed gamblers play into complimentary eats, show tickets, and rooms. Life was good with a players card.

One of my first players club cards – Lady Luck in Las Vegas. Notice the divits used for the data – magnetic strips in back were not universal yet. Notice no name, no number!

Now, there is something new on the horizon, already in use out in Las Vegas – the Cardless Players Card!

What is Cardless Connect?

Red Rock Resort Casino

Red Rock Resort Casino Hotel, the Gem of Stations Casinos

The IGT Cardless Connect technology with Station Casinos enables a player to use their MyBoardingPass loyalty card without actually using a physical card. To use Cardless Connect, players simply download the STN app, sign into the account and tap the phone on the card reader at a slot machine. The phone will simply connect the player just as a physical loyalty card would so the player can experience all of the benefits of the loyalty program.

You must have a working 4G signal OR be connected to the casino Stations Wi-Fi, in this case Stations casino, in order to sign into the STN mobile application. You also need to have Bluetooth enabled; that’s how we connect you, so keep your phone close by the bezel or you might get carded out.  Forgot your card?  No problem!

You can also log in through kiosks with your mobile device by selecting the QR code in the Boarding Pass section of the Station Casinos app.

IGT Innovations

IGT was the pioneer in TITO – Ticket In, Ticket Out – technology that brought coinless machine play to casinos all over the country.  IGT is also the owner of the vast number of video poker machines in today’s casinos and has been a leader in Lotto technology. Now, they’re taking Rewards clubs to the next level.

A player sits down and points their phone at the gaming machine. Suddenly, the player display shows the player’s name and point balance. When the player leaves, the app automatically cards them out. No card? No problem! As long as you have your phone or mobile device with you (and who doesn’t!?), you’ll be able to connect.

 

Cardless Connect is in Barley’s Casino & Brewing Co. in Henderson, NV, just outside of Las Vegas and is the only Vegas casino to already have it installed. Stations will be installing it in two more of its casinos in the coming months.  How successful this will be with players is yet to be seen.

I remember when I thought the reality of coins in slots and video poker was real gambling – not this fake sound of coins hitting trough and a paper ticket.

Years later, with clean hands and no more hopper fills to wait for, I am convinced I was wrong – TITO was a great innovation.  Maybe this will become the next one.

Binbin

 

 

 

 

 

 

The players club display on the machine will show the player’s name and point balance as if the card were in use. When the player (and the phone) leaves the game, the app automatically cards them out. This is as simple as new mobile can be.

Based on the initial success of the Cardless Connect technology at Barley’s, Station Casinos plans to implement it at two more locations in Las Vegas later this year with the remaining properties to follow shortly after. Unfortunately, Station Casinos isn’t ready to divulge which casinos will are up next for Cardless Connect. Here’s what they did have to say about the future of using their players club card.

“We are committed to continuously delivering new benefits to our My Rewards Boarding Pass that bring value and convenience to our new and existing members,” said Staci Alonso, Station Casinos EVP and Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer. “IGT’s Cardless Connect technology adds meaningful value to the STN mobile app by allowing guests to use their phone to card in at their favorite slot game if they prefer a digital experience.”

“Station Casinos has been a phenomenal partner in our rollout of Cardless Connect technology,”said Nick Khin, IGT Chief Commercial Officer, North America Gaming & Interactive. “We evaluated multiple technologies and developed a flexible solution that supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or QR code connectivity. From the initial phases of implementation to the excitement of the ‘go live’, the Station Casinos team has embraced Cardless Connect’s innovative features and BLE connectivity, which deliver a superior user experience.”

Cardless Connect is a great idea and should make visiting Las Vegas easier as more casino operators add the technology to their machines. The days of packing countless players club cards for a trip to Las Vegas may be over soon.

Don’t dump your players club cards just yet. This will only roll out to a few Station Casinos properties this year with more next year. While MGM Resorts has been testing Cardless Connect at MGM Grand in Detroit, they haven’t been any announced expansion of the technology into Las Vegas.

Kudos to Station Casinos for stepping out with this great technological advancement. Let’s hope others will follow soon.