5 days in Vegas
My husband and I took a trip to Las Vegas for an early birthday get away. The British Airways flight took around 11 hours from Heathrow to Las Vegas. Our plan was to have a little flutter, see the strip, maybe take in a show and eat some tasty food.
We flew with British Airways from Manchester to London Heathrow and then on to Las Vegas. As it was a long haul flight we chose to use the companion voucher (BA Avios reward) we had to fly in club world (business class). Which also allowed us to use the executive lounge at Manchester, one world lounges at Heathrow and get priority boarding. Manchester’s executive lounge has seating around its dome window, which looks out to the shops below and large external windows with views of the planes. When we arrived there was not a great deal of food available, as it was in-between breakfast and lunch time. However, there was comfy seating, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, free wifi and a good amount of charging sockets. The washrooms were well maintained and provided Elemis toiletries to use. We found the staff very friendly.
We boarded quickly through the priority lane, and found our seats in row one. Club Europe seating was very spacious with an extra table between us. We were offered a light snack of chicken tikka salad, but chose not to have it as the flight was very short and we wanted to make the most of the three lounges at Heathrow. The cabin crew brought drinks around quickly and were very polite, attentive and friendly.
There are some good views of London from the plane; you could see the London eye, the Thames and much more.
On arriving at Heathrow’s terminal 5 we had a walk and a bus ride to get to Terminal 3, where our departure gate for Vegas was situated. It was made easier because our suitcases were transferred for us to our next plane, which is a big bonus if you have connecting flights but not so if you miss it. The transfer buses can get busy and it does take time to get from one terminal to another, so try and leave enough time to between your flights. We have found ourselves reenacting the airport scene in Home Alone, as we ran through the terminal to get to the gate before it closed.
Whilst waiting for our Vegas flight we visited three of the One world club lounges. The three lounges were British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. The lounges are close to each and not too far from the shops. The BA lounge was a good size and had different seating areas; tables for dining at near the food, seats in quiet areas and some high backed comfy seating by the entrance to the lounge, close to the toilets. When we arrived the lounge was very busy, the only seating available was near the toilets. The food was good with a selection of hot and cold options. No spa treatments were available on the day. Higher class ticket/club holders are able to pre book these appointments in advance, which can leave limited availability for on the day bookings. On the way back from Las Vegas we did manage to get a massage, aromatherapy hand treatment and shower at Heathrow, whilst we waited for our plane to Manchester.
The Qantas Lounge check in staff were very welcoming and gave us lots of information about the lounge. Downstairs was a well stocked gin bar and ample table seating. At the time of visiting, the table service was not available, however, upstairs there was plenty of seats, tables and a good selection of self service food. The lounge was quiet and relaxing. We would revisit this lounge again.
The Cathay Pacific lounge was accessed via a lift and on arriving at the front desk you are met with an amazing aroma. The lounge was quite big and the most luxurious of the three. They offered a selection of self service hot and cold food and a table service if required. The seating was very comfortable with some looking out to the planes. The staff here made us feel very welcome. We will also be visiting this lounge again.
BA Flight to Vegas
I decided to do some research on which seats to choose for this flight. As it was just the two of us we knew we wanted two seats by the window and near the front of the club world section. We chose seats 17A (window) and 17B (aisle). Boarding was quick, once we were seated we received an amenities bag (including White Company products, socks, eye mask, toothbrush and tooth paste), an alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink and the club world menu. A nice touch was that the cabin crew used our names every time they spoke to us and kept checking we had everything we needed.
Tip: It is best to pack up and store items in overhead lockers about 30 mins before landing to prevent the rush and to check you have everything.
Seat 17a was good for privacy, leg room and had enough space in the storage draw to fit our laptop, iPad, sweets etc, and of course you have storage in the over head locker too. The seat can lay flat and the footstool drops down to create the bottom of the flat bed. Seat 17B had no one was facing directly at you, it was right by the toilet, which didn’t bother me, but may bother others. The toilet door did bang the footstool a couple of times but on the whole it didn’t affect me. The seats are wide, the tv touch screens are very responsive, the headphones are good, they’re not noise cancelling but they do the job. There is a USB port by the headphone jack and charging sockets near the storage draw. Both seats adjust to different positions which added to the comfort, as did the pillow and bedding you were provided with. I would have liked a curtain across from the toilet just to give a little more privacy, however I would choose this seat again.
The food on board was tasty and made with good ingredients. We were offered snacks and drinks throughout the flight and had the option to visit the club kitchen if we required more refreshments. On landing in Vegas, we took a taxi from the airport to the Vdara Hotel, the cost was $23.00 plus $7 tip, it took 10/15 mins to get from the airport to the hotel.
The Club lounge used by BA at Las Vegas McCarran airport is ok, it’s quite small and there is not really enough seating for all the airlines that use it. When we accessed it (approx 8pm) we didn’t find a big selection of refreshments available.
On checking into the Vdara the staff were friendly and helpful. We had been advised to look at upgrading to the City corner suite, we asked if this was available and decided we would pay the additional cost by using any M-life comps we earned before checkout (see casinos in the places we visited below). We got a city corner suite on the 33rd floor.
The City corner suite was spacious and inviting. It had everything you could have needed, including a washer and dryer. The windows wrapped around three sides of the suite and housed electronic blackout blinds which were overlaid with Venetian blinds. So after a long night on the town you wouldn’t be disturbed the next morning. There is an in room touch screen tablet that enables you to request food, order a Starbucks, get information about the spa, pool, restaurants, maps, and set alarms . You can also request one of the two robots to deliver your room service.
After a night in the corner suite we decided, as we were not big gamblers and didn’t want to spend time trying to earn m-life comps, that we would try and move to the studio suite we had originally booked. We discussed this with the front desk, who were very helpful and we moved to a studio suite on the 41st floor. The corner suite would have costed an extra $80 dollars a night plus taxes.
The studio suite did feel more comfortable, it is not as big as the corner suite but it still had plenty of space. It came with the same amenities as the corner suite; kitchen, dining area, bathroom, bedroom and seating area. I think the only differences were the separate sitting room, washer and dryer, oh and of course the views in the corner suite. We did prefer the studio to the corner, and it did seem a waste for just two people.
Aria Hotel and Casino
The Vdara and Aria are sister hotels, they are situated opposite each other. The Aria is the larger of the two hotels with more restaurants and a casino. Unfortunately, due to a problem with a broken part on our plane, we had a delay of 24 hours until our new departure time, whist a new part was brought in from the UK.
We got the news of the delay at the airport, whilst at the boarding gate, which meant we had to quickly find a room for the night, luckily we managed to get a room at the Aria Hotel, which was a huge relief, especially because that day we had watched all the planes, helicopters and cars arriving for the Tyson Fury fight and we had been told all the hotels throughout vegas were almost full.
The room we got at the Aria was a great size room, very cosy with comfortable beds, a spacious bathroom and lots of storage space. As there was a casino in the hotel we did think it would be noisy but it wasn’t. It was late when we arrived at the hotel so we ordered a take out pizza from Aria’s restaurant and ate it in the room, which was just what we needed whilst we sorted out our commitments back home. The next morning we had breakfast at the Salt and Ivy cafe in the Aria. The food was very tasty, we had pancakes with fruit and a side of bacon. I wouldn’t say it was value for money but you are paying for the table service etc. You can get all you can eat buffets and cheaper food in Las Vegas, but we preferred this option as it gave us time to chill in the room before a long day of waiting for our evening flight.
We knew of a few places we wanted to eat at whilst in vegas and had booked a dining reservation at Gordon Ramsey’s Hells Kitchen at Caesars Palace. The rest of the time we went with the flow and ordered food into the hotel using Uber eats.
Whilst we stayed at the Vdara we got a Starbucks for breakfast, it was based just in the lobby next to the market cafe, which also sold a variety of food options. Our go-to was the iced scone, warm cinnamon bun, a decaf tea and a cappuccino. It can get busy as it is only small but you can also order via the tablet in your room for pick up to avoid the queues.
A running theme through our USA trips is eating at the Cheesecake Factory and on this trip we visited two different locations. The first was at the Premium Outlet (north) and the second was in The forum shops at Caesars Palace. Both restaurants had great service, the outlet restaurant was quieter, we got a booth in the corner by the window, this was because we arrived at 11.30 just as it opened, so there was no queue. The Forum shops restaurant was situated by the Atlantis show and aquarium (see places to visit below), at first we sat outside but then moved inside, it can get very noisy and busy when the Atlantis show is on. The food at both restaurants was very good, as we expect it to be. A good choice on the menu is the beef or chicken sliders, BLT sandwich, orange chicken and of course the cheesecakes. You always get bread served at the table, we generally share the starter, main and a cheesecake.
If you have ever been to New York and tried Joe’s New York Pizza, you’re in luck because they have a Joe’s New York pizza in Las Vegas. We ordered to our hotel via uber eats. We met the driver outside the hotel entrance, it was delivered quickly and the pizza was out of this world. Definitely a good option for a reasonably priced quick tasty meal.
Mon Ami Gabbi is a French bistro restaurant that can be found by the Eiffel Tower. This restaurant had been recommended by many people, especially for breakfast. We got there a bit late for breakfast and as we had a lunch reservation at 3.15, we asked if we could have a small snack or a dessert to tied us over. The staff were very welcoming and we got a table in the indoor atrium by the window. More seating is available outside and in the formal dining area inside. We enjoyed a fresh baguette, a Tarte tatin with ice cream and Sorbet du jour. We both agreed we would visit again to try other menu options.
Panda Express – We had our order delivered by Uber eats to the hotel. It took some time for the driver to arrive but it was worth it. The orange chicken and rice is a must. It is the sweet and spicy orange sauce that makes this dish. We get the plate that has two portions of orange chicken and a side of rice, this will generally feed the two of us.
Cinnabon – A Cinnabon is cinnamon inside a dough swirl, covered in frosting. We have had the classic roll, the bonbites (smaller versions of the big ones), the sharing packs – these are good to have for breakfast the next day and come in different sizes, but on this trip my husband wanted the caramel pecanBon – a cinnabon with caramel frosting, covered in pecans. We’ve tried them in many cities and have never been disappointed. We also got this delivered to the hotel via uber eats.
Hells Kitchen at Caesars Palace – I reserved a table here for a birthday treat. We had done our research and decided to go for lunch so we could try the Beef Wellington and also have something lighter too. Our table was booked for 3.15 as lunch ended at 4pm. We sat in the main seating area with a view of the red and blue kitchens. Once we were given the menu we were informed lunch had ended and it was now the dinner menu, which meant a big increase in the price. We didn’t want to leave as it was a birthday meal that we had been looking forward to. We looked and decided it would work out better to get the three course menu (which included the beef wellington) as the Beef Wellington on its own was $59.95 for an extra approx $15 you could have a starter and Dessert.
I’m not sure we would return again, the price was quite high for the quality of the food. We had been served our food and finished our three courses within 45 minutes, so it was not as relaxed as we had hoped. The change of lunch the time from what was previously stated was also a problem for the diners sat next to us too, as they had planed for the lunch menu prices.
Places we visited
Casino’s – as we were staying across from the Aria and a walkway from the Bellagio these were the casinos we visited most. The MGM properties use a rewards program called M-Life, which gives points for every dollar you spend be it in a restaurant, hotel, in the slot machines or at the tables and these points are converted to rewards and benefits. The rewards include discounted hotel room, express comps and discounts on shows to name a few. Once you have registered for the m-life membership online you then have to visit an M-life desk in one of the MGM properties, give your membership number and they provide you with a card. You give this card to the dealers at the tables, restaurant staff or insert the card into the card slot in the slot machines and you then earn the points. The casinos we visited seemed quieter than most but they were still busy and more so at night. You can have free lessons on how to play the table games, such as poker and blackjack, just look out for the signs on the tables for the times of the lessons.
Now, something you might not expect me to say is that you can see a lot of art in Las Vegas, we saw plenty of free art just by walking around the hotel resorts and shopping malls.
The Bellagio has a famous glass ceiling in the front foyer that was designed by artist Dale Chihuly. The approx 2,000 coloured pieces of hand blown glass flowers are suspended from the ceiling, acting as a cover for the bejewelled horse, seating and plants underneath. The art piece called “Fiori di Como” is said have been inspired by the flowers in the village of Bellagio on Lake Como in Italy.
Whilst you are visiting the Bellagio make sure you go through to the conservatory. The conservatory theme is changed each season and for the new year celebrations. It was February when we visited, so the new year celebrations were still on display and as it was the year of the rat, they incorporated the rat and the dragons into the display. The floral displays are beautiful and so colourful. The Bellagio also has a gallery of fine art which you can visit for a small fee. There is also another private art gallery in the Forum shops at Caesars Palace.
If you head to The shops at Crystals by the Aria you can see more art work including Halo – the vortex water cylinders of different sizes, lit by lights create a visual display. Also, head towards the three level wooden treehouse structure that houses the concierge desk at the bottom and seating further up. It is a contrast to the high end shops with bright lights and glass fronts.
The Bellagio fountain show is definitely worth watching, both in the day and the evening. When we visited the shows were every 30 minutes until 8pm then they were every 15 mins till midnight. The best view (if not in a fountain view room) is on the pavement overlooking the lake towards the Bellagio.
The Venetian – Is a must place to visit not just for the grand lobby, shops and restaurants but for the painted blue sky over the grand canal, were you can relax on a gondola or maybe admire St. Marks Square, the Campanile Tower and the Rialto Bridge, imagining you are taking in the sights of Venice.
Premium Outlet North – This is a good place to get discounted clothes, especially from Ralph Lauren, Diesel, Calvin Klein, Armani and Disney to name a few. We arrived early in the morning before it got busy and it was so quiet, as you can see from the pictures below. We managed to go to all our favourite shops, have a Starbucks break and eat lunch all before midday. There is a good variety of snack and dining places to eat at.
The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace – Take time to admire the Fountain of the Gods, the aquarium (a large 50,000 gallon saltwater tropical aquarium) situated under the Atlantis show by the Cheesecake Factory, this tells the story of the fall of Atlantis. There are also many high end shops including Tiffany’s, Cartier and Breitling.
There are of course a variety of restaurants at the Forum Shops, including Carmines and Trevi for Italian dishes, Joes seafood, Sushi Roki, and The Cheesecake Factory and Planet Hollywood for American food. As we had our flight delayed we were entitled to food and drink for the night and day we were delayed for, up to a certain amount. We decided to eat at the Cheesecake Factory as it was a good option before the flight and within the food allowance and, of course, it is one of our favourites in America.
Top Golf – Never played golf? Don’t worry, it’s a place to eat, drink and hit a golf ball into targets for fun. It’s a bit like mini golf but without the 18 holes and walking. You can watch sport on the large floor to ceiling screens, play shuffle board (long table covered with sand, three coloured disks are pushed down the table into scoring zones) or people watch by the pool or bar. The refreshments are good too.
Explore – As we had an extra day due to our flight delay, we went exploring and got the free tram from the Bellagio/Aria to the Park MGM hotel and then walked over to the MGM Grand hotel. Here we got to watch the live television recording (held in the hotels foyer) of the build up to the Tyson Fury fight, that was happening that evening. We also found out that you can get a free tram from the Excalibur hotel to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay, all of which are worth a visit as they are all very different hotels.
Things we were recommended to do but didn’t manage to get to.
Neon Museum – The museum collects and looks after iconic Las Vegas signs, so if you are into the history of Las Vegas this might be for you.
Shows – There are so many shows to choose from and the one we were going to see was “O” by cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately, this visit we missed out seeing them due to timing but our next visit we hope to. Also, ask your concierge for advice as sometimes they can get you discounted offers for the shows and can recommend ones that the locals go to.
Casinos: Most of the casinos provide free alcoholic drinks whilst you are playing at the tables or slot machines. Look out for the waitresses to order from and they will bring the drinks to you. The one rule though is you must give them a tip, this can be as little as a few dollars. So before you go out to the bars it is a good idea to visit a casino, spend a few dollars to get some drinks at a fraction of the cost you would pay elsewhere. Always check with the waitress that the casino you are visiting provides this service, everyone we visited did.
Premium outlets – get there early, you can get a bus or an uber. Uber is quicker and easier especially if you have lots of bags when returning and you can get dropped off at your accommodation. There are local buses that do go to the outlets but we have not tried these yet.
Trams – When taking the tram from Bellagio/Aria to Park MGM as you get off the tram at Park MGM there are escalators from the Tram (Level 3) to Park MGM (level 1), but the quickest route to level 1 is to take the lift/elevator (look for the elevator on the opposite side to where you got off), come out of the lift/elevator and go left, through the glass doors and into the walkway for Park MGM. As you head towards Excalibur you will see sign posts for the Excalibur tram station, here you take the free tram from Excalibur to the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.
Time: The hotels and resorts are huge. It can take time just getting from your room to the foyer or from one end of the resort to the other, so beware of your time, especially if you have a reservation or show/activity booked because you will need more time than you think to get there.
Walking the strip – use the escalators and walkways that go above and over the streets to get around to the different hotels and down the strip. It is quicker than having to wait to cross the street and wait for the traffic lights.
Walgreens – Convenience store. The one we used was on the main strip near the Bellagio and Aria, it’s a good place to get bottled water, crisps, medicines and any forgotten essentials.
Top Golf – Our tip is to go in the evening if you can, the golfing target zones are lit up at night and sometimes respond along with the music. Try to reserve the upper floors as these give a better view.
The Strip – People dressed up costumes and girls in samba dress offering to have pictures with you will expect a money donation from you for the privilege. Try not to go off the strip and do some research the areas to stay away from especially at night.
Until our next adventure x TRT