We’ve been planning it for nearly a decade. My sweet nephew, only 11 at the time, brushed off our comments about going to Vegas when he turned 21. As a kid not even in his teens, he had better things to do with his time like ride his bike and play baseball with his buddies.
Time is a funny thing, though. That decade sped by and in October, fourteen family members clambered on planes all over the country with one destination in mind: Las Vegas. Most of the group stayed at Mandalay Bay, with the exception of my sister who opted to stay at the more family-friendly Vdara (i.e. no smoking/no gambling).
I haven’t been 21 for a long time, and I knew doing Vegas this time around would be much, much different.
So here are my tried and true tips for surviving Sin City when you’re no longer 21:
This is numero uno on my list! Being in the desert, especially in the warm weather months, coupled with alcohol, can make for one unpleasant vacation. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that doesn’t recover as well from a night out as I did in my 20s. For me, drinking plenty of water first thing when I woke up and alternating water between drinks throughout the day kept the headaches/body aches at bay.
Keep in mind that water can be pricey in the hotels (avoid the mini bar water – it’s ridiculously expensive). I was even charged $4 for a cup of soda water at a bar in downtown Las Vegas. Instead, stock up on water and other hydrating beverages a convenience store along the strip where the prices are much more palatable.
The food choices in the city are enough to make your head spin. 3:00 am pizza? No prob. Bloody Mary with all the fixins? Why yes! Mouth-watering sushi in the desert? Mile-long buffets? If you can dream it, you will most likely be able to find it in Vegas. I have to admit, I opted for chicken and waffles one morning, a first for me. So so good, but so bad all at the same time. The last thing you want is an upset tummy while trying to wander the strip.
For me, what worked best is eating something small and light in the morning – a cup of yogurt. A fruit smoothie. A scrambled egg and a piece of toast. I tried to fit in a larger, more balanced meal in the late afternoon. Think protein and veggies instead of something carb-laden, which will make you feel sluggish for the rest of the day.
Gone are the days where I can stay up til the wee hours of the morning, crash for a few hours, and wake up recharged and ready to do it all over again. I’m not saying that when you’re no longer 21 that you shouldn’t stay up late, but if you do, just plan your next day accordingly. On my nephew’s 21st birthday, I don’t think I made it back to my room until 4:00 am. Yikes. It was a-okay, though. I slept in the next morning and actually felt good. #winning
And although not everyone will agree, I’m a big advocate for a mid-day nap. Great way to get a quick recharge on your battery for the night ahead.
If you’ve been to Vegas before, you know how deceptively close the hotels seem to be along the strip. If you’ve ever tried trekking from the MGM to the Hard Rock, you know the pain. It may look like a few blocks, but in reality, it may be a few winding miles. Use this to your advantage! Put on some comfy shoes and explore the shops and resorts along the strip. Not only is it a great way to see the city, but you will absolutely find some fascinating things/people along the way.
If walking doesn’t sound all the awesome to you, consider getting your heartrate up another way: the coaster at New York New York. I haven’t been on this ride for many moons, and I thought eh, why not go again. I grabbed my husband and niece and we headed to pay for our tickets ($15/person). Being “off-season” in October, there was no line. My nerves started to kick in when I pulled the should harness down – I had forgotten that this particular coaster went upside down.
The minute the coaster starting climbing into the night sky, I could feel my heart clack-clack-clacking in time with the chain pulling us toward the crest. What in the hell was I thinking? As we roared down the first slope, I remember thinking, “God, I hope this harness holds me in.” My niece sat crouched beside me, head bowed, eyes closed.
The Vegas strip was a blur as we whipped and turned through the sky. All too quickly (maybe thankfully), it ended. It was a blast and the adrenaline rush gave me a boost that carried me well into the night.
By day 3, I was pretty pooped overall. I needed to breathe some fresh air and get out of the casinos for a bit. My sister, brother-in-law, and my nephew and niece invited me over to their hotel to go swimming for the afternoon. We lounged by the pool and sipped on smoothies. We took silly pictures using our underwater camera. We chatted about Disney princesses and the new Star Wars movie. It was blissfully mellow and such a great way to get in some quality time with my family.
Even if you find yourself solo during the day, the pool is a great way to unwind. Grab a book or magazine. Snooze in the warm desert sun. Order poolside service. Your body and mind will thank you for the reprieve!
If you have some extra cash burning a hole in your wallet, consider visiting the spa. Most of the major hotels have a spa service – anything from massage to facials to pedis/manis. If the spa and pool aren’t really your style, consider going to one of the exhibits or shows in or near your hotel and along the strip. One afternoon, a group of us trekked to the Venetian. A few family members and I decided to take a gondola ride down the “river” while being serenaded by a gondolier. It was a short journey, but if you closed your eyes for a moment, you could almost picture yourself floating down a canal in Italy. A few of the guys opted for the Star Wars virtual reality experience and said hands down, it was the absolute highlight of their trip.
I always say that it’s easy to be present but not present – meaning, yes you’re physically there, but mentally checked out. Try to tuck away your phones and pay attention those around you and things around you. It’s so easy to miss the best experiences when you’re not mentally there. As trite as it sounds, life is so fleeting. Tomorrow isn’t promised, so it’s important to enjoy the NOW.
I’m beyond grateful for the time with my family. We may live all over the country, but I’m so thankful for the few days with my family. The laughs, the new memories created, and the simple joy of just being together.
Until next time, Vegas!