Las Vegas is the last spot this thriftygirl ever planned to visit. Gambling is just plain silly. Casinos wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars every year if the punters were the winners. Plus I suck at cards.
But stagette parties beckon – and with the first of my university mates getting married – this was one event not to be missed.
Luckily the trip itself was relatively cheap: only $750 CDN from Toronto to Vegas and three nights at the posh Bellagio Hotel, featured in Ocean’s 11 and home of the dancing fountains.
If you must do Vegas on the cheap – give it a miss. On a road trip through the States my parents spent a night in the strip’s only campground and had a miserable time. This is a city of pure excess where money is your ticket to fun.
To my surprise, I fell in lust with the city I’d loved to hate. It’s Disneyworld for adults: you can tuck into five star cuisine from around the world, get pampered in lush spas, shop (or gawk) at designer boutiques and hang out at nightclubs frequented by Bruce Willis to Paris Hilton.
Sporting a freshly broken heart, Vegas offered the perfect occassion to ditch the thrifty bit and indulge in a killer outfit, bang up meal and occassional mojito by the pool.
Without trying we managed to pinch some pennies at night. The trick? Go with a group of stunning girlfriends. On our big night out we donned matching tanks and headed for Pure – the nightclub in Ceasar’s Palace where Lindsay Lohan will soon be celebrating her 21st birthday in high style. Ladies don’t have to pay the $30 cover, but gents are out of luck.
Complete with pure white decor and a swanky rooftop patio, the club was impressive but the VIP zoning got on my nerves. Nearly three quarters was cordoned off for VIPs. In Vegas a VIP constitutes anyone willing to pony up the cash for $400 – $500 bottles of liquor. This buys a table heavily guarded by a bouncer. But stop spending and the VIP status is swiftly relinquished.
After sipping our $10 vodka sodas for an hour, a 20-something from Miami invited us to his VIP room downstairs. It had everything you could ask for: flowing liquor, its own washroom and guys who were too busy hitting on the girls already in there to bother us. Preferring the cooler rooftop location, we used the VIP room for refills and bathroom breaks and spent most of the night outside.
Night two was slightly more random. After a nice meal and some late night shopping we decided to soak up the atmosphere on the strip. Las Vegas’ seedy underbelly was revealed by Mexican men and women sporting extra large T-shirts that read: “HOT GIRLS DIRECT TO YOUR ROOM NOW.” In a city where captialist indulgence rules anything can be bought.
Outside Planet Hollywood a well heeled gent approached and introduced himself as Eric, the manager of the hotel’s nightclub. He offered us a VIP booth, a complimentary bottle of whatever we wanted and a ride in a stretch Hummer when we got tired of the club. This was the quickest decision my eight girlfriends and I ever made.
Soon we were dancing on our own pole on top of a private table, with our waitress pouring us vodka sodas and mixing us shots. It was too good to be true!
And for a reason. The waitress began pouring us ridiculously strong drinks and then mixed us a round of shots. Within 45 minutes the bottle was finished and a drinks list was quickly presented. We thought we might spring for a $100 bottle, seeing as we were having such a grand time. But the price was $375 and our negotiating tactics only brought them down to $200. We resisted the pressure and walked – to the stretch hummer of course.
A smiling Erik happily packed us in but only if we were willing to go to a “good” male strip club with a $10 cover charge. Being on a stagette weekend, it would be rude not to, so we hopped in. The rather ugly, white beast of a Hummer drove to the far end of the strip where hotels turned to seedy motels and pulled into a packed parking lot.
“Admission is thirty dollars and the male section closes in a half an hour,” drawled a haggered blonde cashier. Despite pissing off the limo driver, we insisted on leaving.
I recalled the tuk tuk drivers in Thailand who offer you a free ride to view “real” gems and jewlery in Bangkok’s factories.
Luckily the driver managed to find another large party emerging from the strip club and we agreed to share the ride back. The group was on a stag and doe trip from Ohio, the bride’s brother informed us. He was clutching a bottle of vodka with the pouring top still attached, “Do you think I’d leave this in the club?” he asked incredulously, “it was 500 bucks!” He told us the engaged couple flew 28 people to Vegas to celebrate and had blown $7000 at dinner that night and lost a large chunk of cash in the casinos. They tipped the driver with a thick roll of bills, subsidising our measly $30.
I suddenly felt much better about my $200 “splurge” on a new outfit and my decision not to gamble a penny. In Vegas thriftyness is relative.