Las Vegas Tips: The Two Dollar Trick

Two Dollar Bills - HorizontalLas Vegas runs on tips. You can tip the maitre d to get that table by the windows, you can tip the concierge for scoring those hard to get tickets to the latest show, sometimes you can even tip the hotel desk clerk to get a nicer room. But that’s not all, there are tons of little tokes to give when you’re out on the town in Las Vegas: bartenders, cocktail waitresses, pool boys, bellmen, coat check, the maid (if you have a hotel room), the valet (if you’ve never watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).

The general rule of thumb for the average low-roller like me is to tip $1-2 for most of these services: A dollar a drink, a buck or two per night for room cleaning, one or two clams per garment at the coat check. The purpose of these tips is to reward proper service, and tips can become a large part of a service-person’s income.

The cocktail waitresses at your favorite casino (and the bartenders at your favorite bar) see a lot of George Washington’s. So, while a one dollar bill may be sufficient, it doesn’t really grab anyone’s attention. That’s no good. You want to make a positive impression – one where you are remembered as a good customer (tipper), worthy of the extra effort to provide exemplary service.

You could use two Washingtons at a time, and that might help, but in practice I haven’t really noticed much difference in the reaction I get with one bill vs two. You could tip with Lincolns (fives) or Hamiltons (tens), and that should get you noticed, but most of us regular folk simply can’t afford that. Besides, what’s the point of getting a free drink if you’re tipping more than the drink is worth?

Two Dollar Bills - BundleSo, you want to garner some attention without breaking the bank. The key to getting a reaction is to be different from all the other dollar bills out there – this is where the two dollar trick kicks in. Go to the bank and ask for some two dollar bills. Keep them separate from your other bills and use them for the small tokes. A wad of twos takes up less space in your pocket than the equivalent amount in ones, so you’re already ahead of the game.

The great thing about two dollar bills it that they are unusual. They look different enough from a one dollar bill that almost everyone gives them a second look. They get people’s attention. Some people collect them. Some save them to give to children. Some people believe they are lucky. Others will just cash them in. Whatever they do with them, they’ve just noticed you. They noticed that you’re tipping differently (and better) than most of their other patrons. You’re now the guy/gal that gives out the two dollar bills. You will be remembered as such. In fact, your server might even tell other servers about you.

Two Dollar Bills - VerticalThis little trick has gotten me free drinks at bars. Hotel maids have stopped me in the hall to thank me for the “lucky” bills. The cocktail waitress at one casino was bringing drinks so fast I couldn’t keep up. Lots of people ask where I got them. If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter. Try it next time you’re heading out. You might be surprised at the results!

Tips:

  • Any bank should be able to get two dollar bills for you, but it may take a few days to get them, so place your order in advance.
  • I’ve also had some luck getting twos at a casino cage. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • I have heard that some clubs give out two dollar bills as change to their (mostly) gentleman patrons. Perhaps one of my astute readers can confirm.

Have you tried the Two Dollar Trick? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Saving Money with the American Casino Guide 2013

American Casino Guide 2013 Front CoverThe American Casino Guide is a paperback book published annually by Casino Vacations Press and authored by Steve Bourie. It contains all the basics on the major casino games, with honest and accurate information about how to play, what the odds are, and what strategies to use to maximize your chances of winning. It also has detailed contact and property info for nearly every casino in the country. For the third straight year, this edition includes an entertaining and informative seven page story by Dewey Hill of Dewey’s Vegas Adventures (pages 22-28) which tells everything you need to know about resort fees in Las Vegas and how to avoid/protest them – definitely worth educating yourself about.

This is where I first noticed that the editing of the book is not quite perfect. The final paragraph on page 22 and the first two paragraphs on page 23 are a repeat of the earlier text. There are a few other errors, like the reference in the Las Vegas section that points to the wrong page for this article, but please forgive these small foibles. The value of this book far outweighs any annoyance caused by the little errors within. Hopefully, you feel the same about this blog.

American Casino Guide Las Vegas ExcerptGetting to the Las Vegas section (pages 233-256), Steve offers some tips on the best deals in Vegas, the best places to play, his favorite free attractions, and information on nearly every hotel/casino in the valley. Pages 255-256 feature an article by Gaming Today columnist H. Scot Kraus with more free things to do and see in Vegas.

Steve also reports annual statistics for the payback percentages of slot machines broken down by region and bet amount (page 235). These percentages can help give you a clue where the best games are found at each denomination – the higher the better. Las Vegas has some of the highest payback percentages in the country. If you want to know where to find highest payback in Vegas I’ll give you a hint: As a general rule, you’ll have to get off the Las Vegas Strip. Seems like you’re reading the right blog.

Since I first discovered it in 2008, I have bought a new guide every year. In fact, I pre-ordered my copy of the 2013 edition in September. Why? Do I care that much about the payback percentage of penny slots downtown? Do the strategies, rules or games vary that much from year to year? Do I need to know if there are any new casinos in Montana? Nope. In fact, every year since that first year I have torn out the last couple hundred pages of the book and given the rest away.

Don’t get me wrong. The information in the front of the book is great, and I read every bit of it when I first got my hands on this book five years ago. Now I pass it on to friends and keep the best, most valuable part of the book for myself. You see, the back of this book is loaded with coupons, and roughly half of them can be used at casinos in Las Vegas.

American Casino Guide 2013 Discount CardThe coupons come with a card which you will need to show, identifying yourself as a purchaser of the book. You will need this card along with the coupon in some places, so it’s best to just cut it out and keep it in your wallet. The coupons themselves are divided up by state, then region (Las Vegas has its own section) and are listed alphabetically by the business name.

American Casino Guide 2013 El Cortez CouponsHow good are the coupons? This year there is a coupon for 50% off your meal at the Flame Steakhouse in the El Cortez that offers up to $25 in savings. This coupon alone can save you more than the cost of the book. While you’re at El Cortez you can also get $10 free slot play in the casino. There’s even a coupon to give you a hefty discount off of a hotel room.

Bring your coupons to the Four Queens and you can get two-for-one Mike Hammer tickets, two-for-one lunch or dinner entrees at Magnolia’s, and double players club points for a day (up to 500). There are $5, $10 and $25 table game match plays for casinos all over the valley, two for one show tickets, food and drink discounts, bonus slot club points and free slot play. There are even some nationwide coupons you can use on car rental and buying gambling goodies online.

This book easily pays for itself every year. I’ve discovered great places I had never been (like The Flame), and I’ve never had any trouble using the coupons. I was so confident that I would get my money’s worth out of this book that I pre-ordered my personal copy not knowing what this year’s coupons would be. It’s probably the safest bet I’ll make all year.

Thanks to Steve Bourie and Casino Vacations Press for providing a complimentary review copy at my request so that I could share this with you before the book arrived in stores.

Three great ways to get the American Casino Guide:

  • Buy it for $18.95 at your local bookstore when it becomes available (likely mid-late December).
  • Place a pre-order for a discounted copy from Amazon and help out this blog. (A small percentage of your total purchase made after clicking through the affiliate link comes back to LasVegasOffStrip and helps support the costs of providing this site.)
  • Win a FREE copy before you can buy one (US/Canada Residents only) in the next Where In Vegas contest. Stay tuned.

Tips:

  • The El Cortez hotel room coupon states it is for a Vintage or Pavilion room, but when you call for reservations you can use the coupon for a nice discount on the swankier Cabana Jr. Suites as well. Also note, this only applies for a Sun-Wed arrival and a minimum 2 night stay. Details like this (restrictions) can be found in the text on the front and back of each coupon. Though most of the restrictions are quite reasonable, it pays to read closely.
  • Many casino coupons require a trip to the player’s club (and membership, which is free) to redeem, so make sure the player’s club will be open when you get there.
  • Updates to coupons and other valuable information for bargain hunters can be found on the American Casino Guide website. Follow the link below.
  • New this year! Download the free American Casino Guide App for iPhone.

Website
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Las Vegas Car Rental Tips and Tricks

McCarran Car Rental Center

Image: Clark County Department of Aviation

Before I get into all the great things you can do away from the strip in Las Vegas, it might help if you had a way of getting to them. Locals and those who drive themselves to Las Vegas are lucky. Keep reading anyway – some of these tips apply no matter where you travel.

Most of the travel guides I have seen recommend that you don’t rent a car in Las Vegas. The bright lights and spectacles of Las Vegas are distracting. Las Vegas Blvd is often gridlocked. You can get everywhere you want to using shuttles, cabs, limos, busses, and your own two feet. Renting a car is a liability. You could get lost, waste time in traffic, or worse.

For the typical tourist to Las Vegas, staying in a mega resort on the strip, uninterested in anything beyond that 4.2 mile stretch of asphalt and neon – this is probably good advice. However, if you want to experience all that Las Vegas has to offer, and most of what this blog is about; you need your own transportation.

Renting a Car from McCarran Airport:

Bus to McCarran Car Rental Center

There are no “on airport” car rentals at McCarran. The major car rental companies all share an off-site car rental center at 7135 Gilespie Street, about 5-10 minutes from the airport itself. When you arrive at the airport, follow the signs for ground transportation. Look for the car rental shuttle pickup area and board the next shuttle. Once you arrive at the rental center go inside and find your car rental company. From there it works like any other airport. When you return the car, set your GPS for 7135 Gilespie Street.

Here’s my first money-saving tip: There is a gas station at the corner of Gilespie Street and East Warm Springs Road. Don’t prepay for your gas and don’t let the rental company get you for not returning the car full. Grab gas here right before you return the car. Make sure you get a receipt – you can use it to prove that you filled the car immediately before returning it. Some rental companies will automatically charge for gas even if the gauge reads FULL unless you produce a receipt.

I recommend sticking with one of the major agencies for your rental – Avis, National, Dollar, Enterprise, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty, or Hertz. Some of the lesser known agencies are off-site, requiring another shuttle to and from the rental center – wasting your vacation. The cars at these locations are not generally as nice, or as new. Besides, with a little research you can usually get a better price booking with a bigger national agency.

Getting the best rate:

This advice applies anywhere you travel, but maybe more so in Las Vegas – book early and book often. Car rental rates change with the wind. Find the best rate you can. Start with an aggregator site like Kayak.com which will give you a baseline of available rates from most car rental agencies. Then go to each agency’s web site and look for deals. Try codes from any affiliations that you qualify for. Costco members get a healthy discount at a couple agencies. AAA members too. Entertainment books and the American Casino Guide offer discounts. Check your credit card companies and airlines for discount codes as well. Once you’ve found the best (other than prepay) rate you can, book it. Then, keep checking for lower rates as your travel dates approach. If you find something better, book it and cancel the first. As long as you don’t prepay you can cancel and rebook as often as you want with no penalty – even at the same agency. Keep checking rates. I once cut my rental rate in half by rebooking on the night before I left.

Bonus Tip: You can use this same strategy for hotel bookings as well. Just watch for cancellation fees as you approach your check-in date.

Pontiac Solstice at Red Rock CanyonUnless you have a need for a specific type of vehicle, book the cheapest car class you can find. Often upgrading is cheaper at the counter, and if they are out of your car class when you arrive you can often get an upgrade for free. Even when you get out to the garage, if you don’t like your car you can ask an agent if it’s okay to pick a different one. I’ve scored a couple interesting rides this way – a brand new Toyota Prius when they first came out, and more recently I chose a Fiat 500 over the Chevy Aveo I was assigned. My girlfriend did a nice write up of the Fiat on her own blog – you can check it out at http://notjustforgamblers.com/the-fiat-500/. Of course if you have your heart set on something specific, then pony up the cash and special order it in advance. I did this for the Pontiac Solstice above – well worth it. Just make sure your insurance will cover it.

Getting around Las Vegas

Las Vegas, like most major American cities is essentially a grid. Streets run East and West of Las Vegas Blvd, and North and South of Fremont Street. While it is often fairly easy to navigate the city using this information and a decent sense of direction, it’s 2012 – use a GPS.

Drunk Bumps

Drunk BumpsLanes in Las Vegas are divided using small round white bumps. Hitting a lot of them is a pretty strong indication that you shouldn’t be driving – hence the term “drunk bumps.” If you can’t avoid these bumps, park the car and call a cab. You do not want to get a DUI in Sin City.

Single drunk bumps separate lanes of travel, double drunk bumps indicate a “turn-only” lane. If there are double drunk bumps on one side of your car and a shoulder on the other side, your lane is disappearing. Merge over the double drunk bumps unless you are planning to take the next turn/exit.

Parking

Look for signs that say “self-parking.” I would never hand over the keys to my rental car to a valet. Remember “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”? I’m not chancing it. Self-parking in most places in Las Vegas is free. Downtown, near Fremont Street there may be a nominal charge for parking. See if you can get your parking ticket validated at the hotel, casino and/or restaurant whose garage you are using. In large lots or garages it’s a good idea to take a picture of your car in the spot. You can use it to help find the car later.

In Summary

  • You’re a traveler, not a tourist. Get a rental car so you can get around.
  • Book early and book often for the best price.
  • Try to score a free upgrade at the rental center.
  • Let the drunk bumps (and a GPS) be your guide.
  • If you park at a garage that charges, try to get your ticket validated.
  • A rental car is your ticket to the best of Las Vegas, Off Strip. Enjoy the ride!

Website: www.mccarran.com/Go/RentalCars.aspx
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