10 things you need to know before you check in to a Las Vegas hotel

With so many different resorts in Las Vegas to choose from, where you decide to stay will be based on a number of factors – from cost and location to amenities and attractions. No matter what accommodations you book, however, we can give you some tips. We’ll not only tell you how to save money, but also what fees to expect, what to do (and not to do!) to avoid other fees and what will make for a hassle-free time at your hotel. Then you can rest easy knowing you’ve gotten the best value and experience possible during your Vegas vacation.

Las Vegas skyscape (photos.com)Be aware of resort fees. 
Almost every major hotel in Las Vegas now charges these mandatory nightly surcharges that are applied on top of your room rate. Ranging from as low as $3 at Silver Sevens to as much as $25 at resorts like Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan, Encore, The Palazzo, The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas and others, resort fees typically cover daily in-room internet access, local and toll-free phone calls, fitness center usage and perks like a daily newspaper, bottled water or the printing of your boarding pass. Resort fees are collected at the hotel. So if you book through an online travel agency (such as VEGAS.com, Expedia, Orbitz, etc.), be prepared to pay the resort fee when you check in. Regardless of how you feel about resort fees, be conscious they exist. Factor this cost into your nightly rate in advance. Sometimes what you think is the cheapest hotel rate isn’t when you add in the resort fee.

Generic credit cards (photos.com)Don’t use a debit card for the incidental hold fee at check-in.
Use a credit card. The incidental hold fee isn’t for “incidents” but rather to make sure you can pay for anything charged to your room or any damage to the room. It’s a common practice at most hotels around the world. The incidental hold fee usually ranges from $20 to $100 per night. When you provide your debit card or credit card, a hold will be placed on your account for that anticipated amount. As long as you make no charges during your stay, this hold amount will be released – but it may take three to five business days. So if you use a debit card, the hold will be placed against your existing funds in the bank account associated with the debit card. This can be annoying if you’re on a tight budget. However, with a credit card the hold appears as a “pending” charge and will only tie up some of your credit line for a few days – something that most people find easier to live with.

Check in between 3 and 7 p.m.
Even though most Las Vegas resorts have 24-hour front desks, you’ll want arrive during this “sweet spot.” If you show up early at say 11 a.m. and check-in time is 3 p.m., housekeeping will still be working on the majority of the rooms. This means you will likely be placed in a less desirable room that hadn’t been booked on the preceding night. The same goes for arriving late. If you get to the hotel at 10 or 11 p.m., the rooms in the best locations or with the latest amenities (think flat-screen TV) will all be gone. Although sometimes you can score an upgrade in the wee hours if it turns out there is space available, the probability is that you’ll be placed on the first floor near a noisy elevator or looking out at a parking garage.

Generic hotel front desk (photos.com)Don’t abuse the privilege of early check-in or late checkout – or you may pay the price!
Guests who land in Las Vegas early or have late departures often want extended access to their hotel rooms. Your best bet is to ask at the front desk. During non-peak days it may not be a problem or may entail a modest fee. But don’t assume you’ll be entitled to a late checkout. If you hang out more than an hour past checkout without approval, you may find yourself paying for an additional night’s stay. (Note: Another alternative to an early check-in or late checkout is to have your bags held at the front desk – that way you can hit the town and make the most of your time in Las Vegas.)

Take heed of the sensitivities of the minibar.
It’s usually fun to check out the minibar…until you see the prices. Many of the minibars in Las Vegas hotels operate with sensors or have other ways of applying charges, such as a written inventory made by the maid, which can be error prone. Be warned: If you pick up or move an item, you may find it listed on your bill at checkout. So if you want to avoid the awkwardness of disputing those charges, simply stay away from the minibar.

Avoid being assessed an extra person fee.
Pay attention to the extra person fee specified in the terms and conditions when you reserve a room. For most standard accommodations, room occupancy is two adults. If you reserve a room for two adults and you try to sneak in additional guests, you may be hit with an extra person fee (usually between $30 and $100 per night). Children are often allowed to stay for free without invoking an extra person charge – just be sure to check beforehand for any age restrictions.

Be careful not to incur a heavy cleaning fee.
It pays to be tidy. Generally, if you’re not above the maximum occupancy, the room should be in good shape when you depart – excluding dirty towels and linens, trash, etc. It is housekeeping’s job to clean your room, but some of the messes left behind go beyond the call of duty. Relax and unwind, but be careful not to spill something that might stain the carpeting and require steam cleaning. If so, you may be surprised to find a “heavy cleaning fee” added to your credit card bill after you’ve returned home.

Vegas hotels at night (photos.com)Know that distances in hotels are deceptive.
The megaresorts in Las Vegas are larger than they look. For this reason, guests who arrive with a car should use the valet service at check in. Chances are it will be an excruciatingly long walk from the self-parking garage to the lobby and then up to your room – especially when you’re hauling luggage. Also, if you have mobility issues or are a senior citizen, you may want to request a room near the hotel’s elevators (but be prepared about possible ancillary noise from the lobby). It literally feels like going on a hike when your room is at the end of a long hallway, and simply returning from the pool, buffet or showroom can turn out to be a half-mile walk…or more!

Leave the alcohol and coolers at home.
Some hotels in Las Vegas (the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is one) now forbid bringing booze from off-property sources onto the premises. Properties say the reason behind this is to maintain a safe environment at the property as well as protect the rooms from damage. Thus, guests who carry large coolers or other containers typically used to transport food and beverages to their rooms may find themselves being stopped by security. Personal-sized coolers, however, are permitted for things like medication.

Make reservations during low season or on weekdays to get the best room rates.
If you want to save money on your accommodations in Las Vegas, plan your trip when the number of visitors is likely to be at its lowest. Given its great weather and 320 days of sunshine annually, Las Vegas tends to be swelling with visitors from mid spring through Labor Day weekend. Crowds are smallest and room rates are often discounted in the month of November, during the days leading up to Christmas and throughout the latter halves of January and February. Another good rule of thumb is that you’ll find cheaper room rates on stays occurring between Mondays and Thursdays. Weekend pricing, particularly for Fridays and Saturdays, is going to be the most expensive.

Two more bonus tips…

You can dispute a fee and get it eliminated from your bill.
If you discover an unexpected fee on your bill (for example, the extra person or heavy cleaning fees), you can contest it. Contact the hotel and request to know why you were charged the fee and, if possible, get an itemized list of the extra services provided, especially if your room required heavy cleaning. If necessary ask to speak with a manager. Unfortunately, there are compulsory charges – like resort fees – that are almost impossible to contest. Numerous guests have tried arguing that they don’t use the internet, the phone or other inclusions while staying in a hotel room and, thus, do not want to pay for them. This typically falls on deaf ears.

Vegas hotels may have a number of fees, but at least parking is free!
Hotels in many other cities charge for parking, but not those in Las Vegas. Thanks to an abundance of huge garages, you’ll find complimentary valet parking (just remember to tip the attendant $2-$5 upon pickup) and self-parking all along the Strip. It is also free in downtown Las Vegas; however, if you’re not a guest of the hotel, you’ll have to obtain stamped validation on your parking receipt.

Booked a room yet for your upcoming Vegas visit? Check out a comprehensive list of hotels – and perhaps get a fabulous deal – at VEGAS.com.


I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Vegas.com. Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.