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    • • LV's McCarran International (LAS) is the 8th busiest Airport in the U.S. and number 23 in the world, with 41.7 million passengers
    • • 79 percent of McCarran's departures and 82 percent of arrivals are on time, the average departure delay is 52 minutes and arrival delay is 50 minutes, and cancellations are at 0.6 percent
    • • McCarran Airport is only two to four miles southwest of most Las Vegas Strip hotels
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Up, Up and Away! Stratosphere Las Vegas


X-Scream

Originally uploaded by scottyvegas2

Have you ever been to the Stratosphere? You know, that tall needle like structure way north on the strip? Funny how most people I talk to say they’ve never been there. Yet the Stratosphere seems to always be in the background of every Las Vegas ad you see. The problem with the Stratosphere is that nothing is close to it and it takes effort to get there.

But if you’ve never been there before maybe you should consider it, why, you ask? Well if anything else it has several unique attractions that no other hotel in Vegas has. The first and most obvious is that it is the tallest building in Las Vegas and offers spectacular views of the whole city and the surrounding mountains. The amount of Air traffic in the Las Vegas air space is unreal. Blimps, helicopters, and planes are everywhere all day, every day. It’s a neat experience to be at level with a flying blimp or helicopter. If that isn’t enough in itself the top of the Stratosphere is home to three record breaking thrill rides.

  • X-Scream – Is like a giant teeter-totter 866 feet above ground and 27 feet over the edge!
  • Insanity – Will spin you at a 70 degree angle 64 feet over the edge at up to 3G’s!
  • Big Shot – Shoot’s you up 160 feet at 45 mph to a total height of 1081 feet above ground!

(I’ve been on X-Scream, The Roller Coaster (removed 12/2005), and Big Shot. Let me tell you the Big Shot is a trip.)

As you would imagine there is also a restaurant at the top of the tower that revolves 360 degrees. Though I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding food quality the view/experience gets thumbs up.

I’ve only been to the Stratosphere once back in 01/2005 and I really don’t remember too much about the casino floor but do recall having to go through a cheesy “mall” like area before getting to the elevators that takes you to the observation decks. The shops in the “mall” area were not very appealing, flee market type stuff. I also recall the whole place being kind of a dirty dump. But don’t let this stop you. If you’re feeling adventurous to experience Vegas a little different, consider visiting the Stratosphere because the rides and observations decks won’t disappoint!

Cost (as of 11/09):

TOWER TICKETS (Observation Deck)
Adult – $15.95
Child – $10.00
RIDE TICKETS
Big Shot -$13.00
xScream – $12.00
Insanity – $12.00
EXTREME VALUE PACKAGES
Tower Admission + All Rides $35.95 (Extreme All Day Unlimited Package)
Tower Admission + 3 Rides – $29.95
Tower Admission + 2 Rides – $25.95
Tower Admission +1 ride – $21.95

Interesting fact: Since its opening in 1996, five people have jumped to their deaths from the top of the tower.

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Free Room Upgrade? Let me introduce you to “The $20 Trick”

The Twenty dollar trick is a popular subject on many Vegas forums and is often mentioned on podcasts. In fact there are entire websites dedicated to it. The basic theory of the trick is to tip the hotel registration clerk $20 in exchange for a complementary upgrade.

As you may know Vegas hotels often have many different promotions going on at any one time. These promotions are identified by promo codes and are often sent to player club card holders through direct mailings or email. It’s my understanding that it’s up to the registration clerk’s discretion whether to upgrade customers. So the twenty dollars acts as a little incentive to upgrade you.

The trick requires a little finesse. You just don’t wave a twenty around screaming free upgrade. The preferred method is to fold a twenty and place it between your driver’s license and the credit card you reserved the room under. While some suggest a wrap around, that is, wrap a twenty around your credit card. Which ever method you try make sure the folds are crisp as you don’t want the twenty to unfold and sit on the counter like a dead fish. When handing the clerk your information make sure the twenty is visible and ask “is there any complementary upgrades available?” they will either quickly dismiss it by saying no and most likely hand you the twenty back or they will look to see what rooms or promo codes are available.

I can’t help to think if anything is this popular Vegas hotels registration clerk’s and hotel management must be well aware of it so I wonder if the word “trick” is even appropriate. Regardless, many people have been successful trying this trick. But be aware that upgrades vary widely, reading user experiences in the links before will give you a good idea of what to expect.

Tip: Another spin on the trick is if you have already reserved a higher end room, instead of asking for a complementary upgrade specifically ask about a complementary “suite upgrade“.

Tip: When you go may be key to your success. If you are there during a large convention or major holiday the hotel may be either fully booked or close to it and hence less likely to be upgraded. On the other hand, if you arrive Monday afternoon during a quiet week your chances increase significantly.

Now I have never tried the trick myself but plan on doing so during our January 2010 trip. I am just going to consider it my first gamble of the trip. After all, it’s only twenty dollars. I will let you know how it goes…..

More Information

Front Desk Tip Is a good site with lots of information including a “How to” guide and stats of success by hotel. This site also has “Field Reports” by readers on their experiences.

Note – No need to login or sign up to get most information.

Fat Wallet Forums is a great site all around with lots of good information from forum readers regarding the $20 trick and other topics.

Note – Click the highest number “Go to Page” to see the latest post.