When it comes to visits to Las Vegas, the regret usually kicks in on the return trip home. Instead, I felt mine as soon as our plane tickets from San Jose airport were purchased—two adults, three kids ages six and under. Was this a disaster waiting to happen?
Let me rewind a bit by explaining that we really let spring break sneak up on us this year, and many of the places we have visited in the past were long since fully booked. Also, our youngest has reached peak toddler-mayhem stage—that blend of restlessness, lack of body awareness, and top-volume communication that makes plane travel, well…tricky. Final item of note: I was SO. OVER. THE. RAIN.
So, what’s a destination filled with available hotel suites, guaranteed to be warm and dry, and a mere one hour away by plane? You guessed it—Vegas, baby!
In the weeks leading up to our departure, I came up with a standard line when asked about our spring break plans: “We’re doing Family Vegas. It’s an experiment.” Going in, I felt the odds were pretty much 50/50 that it would be a success or a harrowing failure.
After three action-packed days and early-bedtime nights, I can report success! Part of me is still surprised to say that, but we have the photos to prove it.
Every family is different, both in terms of ages and personalities, and also budget and favorite activities. So I won’t lay out our detailed daily itinerary. But here are a few takeaways if you’re thinking of rolling the dice (get it??) on your own Family Vegas adventure.
Map out your top must-do activities and choose a hotel as close as possible to the majority of them. For us, it was the Four Seasons, conveniently attached to the sprawling and activity-filled Mandalay Bay. (Also: I considered it a huge plus that the Four Seasons is a non-gambling, non-smoking property.)
If you have a child who can fit in a stroller, bring or rent a stroller! We thought our toddler wouldn’t agree to be constrained, so we spent much of the first day carrying her down comically long hallways and winding paths, nearly destroying our backs in the process. By Day 2, we had a stroller, and even she was relieved.
Consider a cabana. If you plan to be parked by the pool for a good chunk of the day (the Mandalay, for example, boasts a wave pool, lazy river, and huge regular pool), a cabana gives you a “home base,” some guaranteed shade and often some helpful other perks like a safe for your valuables. Plus, you will usually get to bypass long pool check-in or towel lines.
Get to know your show. Las Vegas boasts an incredible lineup of performances that take place multiple times a day, every day, but make sure the one you choose is jaw-dropping in a good way— not in a “Mommy, why is that lady half-naked” kind of way. Even a kid-friendly show might be too long for certain ages, so check the run time, too. We opted for Blue Man Group for our 6- and 4-year-olds, and we all loved it (and at about 90 minutes with no intermission, no one got too restless).
Save your leftovers. Food in Vegas is pricy—sometimes shockingly so. But portions are also large, and most hotel rooms have a fridge. If you request in advance that your mini-bar items be removed, you should have room to store unfinished food and use it later as post-swimming snacks or even a full meal. And if you pass by a bowl of fruit in a lobby or hotel gym, be sure to stock up! (Same goes for bottled water.)
Come up with answers to tricky questions in advance—this is still Vegas we’re talking about. Feel free to borrow a few of my choice lines: “She must be wearing that because it’s so hot here.” “They must be very thirsty because it’s so hot here.” “He’s hoping that machine will give him money. But it probably won’t.”