Veteran Las Vegas weekenders will tell you the only way to get to Vegas is to fly. This is especially true when traveling from Southern California. Somewhere between your twentieth and twenty-fifth Vegas road-trip you will make up your mind to fly next time. No manner of airfare expense can justify engaging in the misery that is the Sunday afternoon southbound commute on Interstate 15.
The I-15; a magnificent black river of asphalt expanse, stretching north and south in, through and out of Las Vegas. The I-15 on Sunday afternoon; a miserable gummy fly-trap of a road that invariably strands you on its blistering, congested sprawl because it is always too crowded no matter how many lanes are added to it. Traveling the I-15 on a Sunday, following two or three days of massive over-consumption of alcohol, and extreme sleep deprivation, is enough to discourage even the most dedicated Vegas addict from coming back for days, even weeks.
Experienced Vegas travelers know the time waiting the cab for the airport is well spent getting in that first Bloody Mary. Failing this, the airport bar is an ideal setting to put things right. Any terminal that has airlines servicing Las Vegas is likely to have within a bar teaming with a significant number of like-minded celebrants, willing to assist in setting the proper tone. Try to not overdo it right in the beginning. A good rule of thumb is to get to the airport an hour before departure, get to the bar within two minutes of that, and to try not to consume more than four Bloody Marys before your flight.
It is commonly in the terminal that one of your particularly bright traveling companions realizes he hasn’t brought nearly enough cash, whereby he will opt to pay a three-dollar fee to withdraw money from the airport-ATM. It will be some time later when one of your much less bright friends realizes that he hasn’t got enough cash either, except by then he will be relegated to the use of a casino-ATM, which charges $12 per transaction.
10:00am You want to get an early start, and should be on the plane by now. More specifically you want to be on Las Vegas soil by now, sipping Long Islands by the pool at the Flamingo Hilton, but at the very least, by now you should be on a plane. The average flight from any of the numerous South Western points of embarkation to Vegas is about an hour. The average time it takes a flight attendant to get from your seats, to the galley and back with the beer is about five minutes. Armed with this information it is important to budget your time wisely. Amateurs will waste precious minutes waiting until they have consumed their current beer before ordering the next one. A more practical and effective approach is to order a beer every time an attendant passes within your field of vision. When the Senior flight attendant comes to suggest that you cap your drinking, or at least think about returning to your seats and stop playing soccer in the aisle, order another round from her, and suggest that she hurry as you are pretty sure the plane just landed.
McCarran Airport The temptation to stop into one of the Vegas airport bars is powerful, as you may have been able to convince the flight attendants to let you have a beer while the plane was landing, and perhaps one more round while taxiing, the flight crew simply does not let you take beer off the plane . However, the Vegas airport bars are a needless waste of time and money as the casinos are just a brief cab ride away. You are mere moments away from having all the free alcohol you can handle brought to you on little trays. The airport bars are best left until you come back for your return flight.
You should also fight the urge to gamble in the airport. Vegas newcomers, and those who don’t come terribly often, will be struck by the bright lights and the Siren song of the terminal slot machines. Actually, what one usually notices first is how Nevada maintains fairly liberal smoking laws. Like a collision with a tangible wall, passing from the jet-way into the terminal slams visitors into a lingering barricade of cigarette smoke. Strangely, the Las Vegas Board of Tourism fails to mention the unbreathable nature of its atmosphere.
The second thing one notices, then, are the slot machines. Resist the urge to put money into these fly traps as the odds at the airport are the worst you will find anywhere. The odds of winning do not increase a great deal once you hit the casinos, but they are better, and at least in the casinos indescribably beautiful women bring you free cocktails.
If you are able, try to avoid checking any bags. This will save considerable time as the wait at the McCarran baggage claim is commonly longer than the flight. Failing to pack lightly condemns one to an unhappy baggage-retrieval experience that is like no other. Rudeness and impatience appear an unavoidable byproduct of air travel, though the unpleasantness is magnified at McCarran. In all airports you will encounter tired, cranky,irritated businessmen, and tired, cranky, befuddled vacationers, who think little of pushing in front of you, of jostling you with their excessive luggage, and being generally inconsiderate and unapologetic. At McCarran you may face the very same angry businessmen, the same confused weekenders, except now they are in Las Vegas where adrenaline seems to seep out of the ground, and they will think nothing of shedding a little blood if it will help speed them along their way to the casinos. Grown men will hurdle entire families to get to their garment bags. Bachelor parties of unsuspecting young men are unceremoniously trampled by a stampeding bingo clubs. A woman, not unlike your own dear mother, will use her child as a battering ram to get to the baggage carousel. The call of The Strip is a mighty one, and it makes animals out of the best of us. Know this, heed this, and for Wayne Newton’s sake, don’t check any bags.
Upon escaping the cozy confines of McCarran Airport you will likely question why you are in such a hurry. Fleeing the choking smoke tinged misery of the terminal plunges one headlong into the equally unbearable convection oven that is Las Vegas. The heat in Vegas is an actual physical being that seizes you in its burning grip and squeezes until you can feel your life force melting from your body like wax from a candle. With the rare and brief exception of a couple days in winter, Vegas is continually, blisteringly, unimaginably hot, and if you are foolish enough to get caught outdoors, pray that you are with someone who knows CPR and has a number of ice-buckets at their disposal.
Fortunately most of what you want to do in Vegas is done comfortably within vast climate-controlled buildings. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get from the airport to any of these places without standing outside in line for a cab in goat-frying agony. Once outside you get to battle several hundred of your closest friends to get a taxi to the Strip. Truly, the wait for a cab is not considerable, but when you are anxious to get your gamble on, dying to get your hands on some complementary cocktails, and now standing curbside listening to your brain simmer, twenty minutes becomes difficult to endure.
Our recommendation, hire a limo. There are always a few of them on hand, there is never a wait, and considering they are all nicely air conditioned, it will be the best money you spend all weekend.
Did you make it? Check out the Las Vegas Survival and Travel Guide – Poolside.