Last week Mustafa turned the dreaded 30. Leading up to his birthday, I left daily clues throughout our apartment that hinted toward a surprise trip. They were always vague and left him even more confused than before (which was my evil plan all along).
It all worked out as planned because when he got his last clue on his birthday to open his laptop and find out the destination from this music video he was in a state of shock.
Our trip was brief, which gave us a short, but sweet intro to the insanity that is Vegas.
We stayed at the Aria Resort, which was centrally located on The Strip, had insanely high-tech rooms and plenty to do onsite. The only gripe I had was that our room was visibility dirty when we arrived, but I guess you cannot have it all.
Despite a slight hygiene issue, Aria proved to be an ideal base for most of our stay and looking back we surprisingly only left the hotel twice. Vegas resorts are mammoth entities and we unintentionally chose well when it came to an accommodation that had endless options for food and activities within the premises to avoid schlepping around The Strip (especially when it’s 100+ degrees outside).
The Aria had a mind-boggling number of eateries inside, from casual cafes to celebrity chef establishments. Since we were on a budget we tried Julian Serano tapas restaurant, for our one fancy dinner, where I fell back in love with Spanish tortillas. For breakfast and dessert, we ate at Jean Philippe Patisserie, a fancy French bakery that had amazing desserts and delicious sandwiches.
To balance out the debt that we knew we would be in from our tapas meal, we ate at the Shake Shack the first night and I have to say In-N-Out Burger has nothing on this East Coast staple.
For a low-key first night, the stunning Chandler Bar at the Cosmopolitan, fit the bill well.
My days of clubbing are long over, but that being said this was Vegas and an early bedtime was not an option. So we waited patiently for our turn to get into XS Nightclub in The Encore , which we quickly learned could be avoided if we had planned beforehand.
The club theme was Monday Nightswim and it was the definition of a legendary Vegas pool party with an energy that was unreal.
To recover the next day, we sought out shelter in the Aria Spa, since check-out was at noon (it is usually at 11, but if you ask nicely they will give you an extra hour free) and our flight was not until 8pm. With a eucalyptus steam room, endless complementary beverages and meditation rooms (my favorite) pampering was well worth the $35 day pass as we felt reborn when we emerged 5 hours later.
Although I had a great time on The Strip, it definitely did some damage on my savings and for my next trip I’m hoping to explore a little further away, especially Downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street.
If you go:
To save money on airport transportation take the multi-stop shuttle that you can buy tickets for on the curb of the airport arrivals near the taxi stand.
Good budget eating on The Strip is possible! Restaurants like Julian Serrano have lunch menus that have the same items for half the price.
To avoid the long lines at clubs contact a host and you will have a better chance at getting on the guest list (especially if there are is a 50/50 or more percentage of girls in your group).
To save a considerable amount of cash, buy the majority of your snacks and drinks in CVS or Walgreens on The Strip.
Do not ever store anything in the hotel minibar unless you want to give up your firstborn. I had a close call when I failed to read the fine print and almost had to cough up $50 extra for two days of storage.