There will hopefully have been many candidates for ‘best day of your trip’ to Vegas. The last day will not be one of them. I never look forward to it and it never fails to disappoint. The trick is to make it as painless as possible.
Our main problem is the time of our flight back to the UK. For the majority of the year Virgin Atlantic’s VS044 back to London Gatwick is scheduled to depart at 4.35 in the afternoon. VS086 to Manchester usually has a 5.30 pm time slot. British Airway’s BA2276 to Gatwick is the earliest flight; ordinarily listed as a 3.30 pm departure and BA274 to Heathrow leaves even later at 8.40 pm.
Have a look at your hotel check out time. Bellagio is 11am, so is the Venetian, Aria and Harrahs. You might get really lucky and find a 12 noon check out but do you see the problem? You need to be out of your hotel with your luggage but it’s not yet time to be heading to the airport. So, what are our choices?
Surely bottom of the list is heading over to the airport anyway and hanging around over there. I say this because even though they spent a lot of money building the new Terminal 3 recently it still stinks by comparison with our major airports back here in the UK. Passing through Security remains an unpleasant business just as it was at the old terminal. They have six or seven full body scanners available to use but it seems to be a very rare event indeed if they actually operate more than two. The outcome is queues from beginning to end. The TSA staff also simply don’t have the personality and friendliness that the Border Control staff do back home.
Even when you’ve passed through security it doesn’t get much better. Your flight will be departing from a gate to the extreme left of the terminal. The Duty Free shopping area is a fraction of the size of the one you left behind at home. There are just a handful of shops and bars. Even the lounge that you can pay to enter – The Club at LAS – bears no resemblance to the V Room or No. 1 Lounge at Gatwick let alone the Clubhouse. There’s rarely any hot food, save perhaps some soup, it’s too small for the number of passengers it serves and no facilities like a spa or shoeshine. My advice is simply not to get to the airport too early on your way home.
You see some people wandering around town dragging all of their cases with them or playing at a table with their bags stacked up behind them. This isn’t a great idea unless your wait is very short. Also, many properties see this as a security risk and simply won’t let you do it.
What most people do is to check their luggage into the Bell Desk at their hotel. You’ll find this near the Registration Desk or Concierge. You hand over your bags to a member of staff and he gives you a ticket. When it’s time to leave you go back, hand over the ticket and he gives you back your luggage. The service is habitually free but you are expected to tip. The advantage of this is that you may be out of your room but you don’t have to drag your cases around with you for hours before heading to McCarron.
The disadvantage of this is that so many people do the same. Stand in the lobby at the Venetian for example between 11am and 12 noon and you’ll see great lines of people surrendering their baggage. Repeat the process later upon collection. Also you don’t leave your passport or anything important in your luggage so you still have to keep some bags with you or take a very big risk.
One step up the ladder of recommendation from this is getting a ‘late check out’. If you’re lucky enough to get one it simply means that the time you’re required to vacate your room is put back. By all means ask, as you have nothing to lose, but you’ll usually be refused any meaningful extension unless you pay for it. The time of year you’re travelling is a relevant consideration. If it’s a busy period and the hotel is potentially full they need the rooms for incoming guests so a late check out is as rare as hen’s teeth. When it’s quiet pressure on the hotel is less and they might accommodate you.
One key to getting a free late check out is being a ‘player’ or big spender. I tell you a lot more about this in the section of the blog entitled Comps and Free Stuff. When you make your request they’ll look you up on their system. If you have a casino loyalty or player’s card they’ll run it and see what you’ve been spending – yes, that’s why they keep making you show your card. They want to see how important to them you are or could potentially be. If you’ve played a lot during your stay or at high limits your prospects of a free late check out just rose significantly. If you don’t have a card they’ll look at your room account. If you’ve charged a lot to the room (and I mean a lot) you might get your request granted on that basis.
Where exactly you make the request varies from property to property. If you have your own Casino Host assigned to you just ask him or her. If that’s the case you’re probably a big player or return visitor anyway so there should be no problem. If you don’t have a host you can ask to see one. They usually have an office near the main cage, the high limit slots room or high-ranking lounges. At Harrahs for example they hang out in Diamond Registration just to the right of the main entrance lobby. Ask any member of staff and they’ll direct you. If there’s no host try the registration or player’s club desk. You might be able to ask by house phone.
Don’t wait until shortly before you’re due to depart. The best time to ask is probably the evening before. You’ve spent most of what you’re going to spend or gamble (so they’ll see you in your best light) and they’re not rushed off their feet with requests. If they don’t offer you a free late check out they might be prepared to sell you one. How much they’ll ask depends on many factors notably how long you want, what day of the week it is (Tuesday or Wednesday more likely yes, Friday or Saturday forget it) and how busy they are. They often ask for half of what it would cost to rent the room for the night. Depending where you’re staying this could be a little or a lot. You have to weigh up the cost / benefit analysis!
If you ask to book a room on the day itself it also usually costs you a lot more than reserving in advance. You can get some good deals by booking early. Have a think about reserving your room for a day more than you need. Your flight leaves on the Sunday, why not book your room as if you were leaving on Monday? If you’re able to do this there’s no pressure on you at all since you can stay in your room, as can your luggage, right until the last moment.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have a major delay at the airport you have somewhere to retreat to. I’ve only been delayed for a long time at Vegas once. Staying at the terminal wasn’t an option so I got the taxi driver to take me to the nearest casino. Unfortunately back then it was Hooters. I think I ended up gambling away far more than it would have cost to stay another night. With the benefit of my room until the next day however there wouldn’t have been a problem. Again, see what it would cost for one additional night and work out for yourself whether it’s worth it. Nowadays I do this every time and I find leaving day is not as painful as it used to be.