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It’s slim-budget time in Las Vegas

By Mark Vanek

Las Vegas? It’s where half-price flights are wide open and where reservations are easily booked on a moment’s notice. Tourism is down, so rooms are plentiful, as well as inexpensive. On any number of travel websites, you will be able to find three- to four-star hotels on the Las Vegas strip advertised for as low as $23.

Getting there: The best way to get to your from McCarran Airport is to exit the baggage claim through Door 11 and check in at any number of shuttle booths. Shuttle vans that run between the airport and the Las Vegas Strip cost a measly $6 for a one-way trip.

Leaving Las Vegas: Many Vegas vacationers are eager to get there and slow to leave. So take the “red-eye” back home. Most red-eye flights depart around midnight, leaving you with an extra night of gaming, fun or frolicking without added expense of a higher hotel charge. You can sleep the whole way home.

Romantic getaway: Las Vegas is no longer all about gaming. The artwork at The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is certainly comparable to that at the Louvre. Speaking of Paris, take a trip up the Eiffel Tower at Paris-Las Vegas. The Eiffel Tower Experience costs just $10 ($7 for kids) and is unquestionably worth the price of admission. For an intimate evening, don’t hesitate to book reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Get a spectacular nighttime view of the Fountains at Bellagio by asking for seating alongside the floor-to-ceiling windows. This is truly a one-of-a -kind fine-dining experience. Details: www.parislasvegas.com.

During the day, escape the lively pace of the Strip by taking a leisurely gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel ( www.venetian.com). Gondoliers softly sing and effortlessly guide your gondola past the Grand Canal Shoppes and charming frescos of the luxury resort.

When in Vegas … shop: While the spouse is out on one of the several nationally acclaimed golf courses, don’t hesitate to experience all the amazing shopping opportunities Las Vegas offers. I was impressed by CityCenter’s Crystals Mall ( www.crystalsatcitycenter.com). Upscale stores such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany abound, all in an opulent and chic environment.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes: Casinos can appear very close together, but actually may not be. Know the tram systems that run up and down the Strip. Most tram lines are free.

Shows: Pass on pre-booking your nightly entertainment unless you are afraid of a sold-out show and have your heart set on seeing a favorite performer. Instead, purchase show tickets at one of the many “Half Priced Show” kiosks on the Strip. You can experience a dazzling and unique show each night of your stay. Need a look at what’s playing when you’ll be there? Visit www.booklasvegasshows.com.

Buffets : In Vegas you can take anything to the next level –including eating. Seven casinos on the Strip have teamed up to bring you an amazing deal: seven buffets – breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner – all for just $44.99 within a 24-hour period. Do not miss Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas, Lago Buffet at Caesars Palace, Carnival World Buffet at the Rio on this amazing meal program. Details: www.harrahs.com/total/las-vegas/buffet-of-buffets.

Bring the kids: This time of year, the weather is sunny and mild in Vegas. … And best of all are the grandiose swimming pools.

No trip to Vegas with the offspring would be complete without seeing the Grand Canyon ( www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm).

On the way, stop at the Hoover Dam ( www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/service/index.html) for an informative tour of a design and engineering marvel.

When you return to the Strip, treat the kids to a hair-raising roller coaster ride at the New York New York casino ( www.newyorknewyork.com/attractions/the-roller-coaster.aspx).

Mark Vanek, who lives at Lake Norman, has unlimited standby flight privileges and writes about where he goes: flying-standby.blogspot.com.
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