Timing Your Trip

Especially on weekends, accommodations in Las Vegas fill up fast. When it's time for a big convention—or a big sporting event—it's not unusual for all of Las Vegas's roughly 150,000 hotel rooms to sell out completely. Combine those with three-day holidays, and you can see why it's wise to make lodging arrangements for busy weekends as far ahead as possible.

On the other hand, 2011 and 2012 marked the era of the last-minute deals. Many hotels, eager to fill rooms, were offering rock-bottom prices and tempting packages for as low as $79 per night (most offered these deals on their Twitter accounts). What does this mean for you? If you're not traveling during a busy weekend and have the luxury of waiting until the last minute, you probably can find a room somewhere in town—for dirt cheap. Look around.

Getting the Best Room

There's no surefire way to ensure that you'll get the room you want, when you want it, and for the lowest price possible. But here are a few tips for increasing your chances:

Book early. This town's almost always busy, so book as early as possible. Generally, if you book a room for $125 and later find out that the hotel is offering the same category of room for $99, the hotel will match the lower price, so keep checking back to see if the rates have dropped. Of course, this won't work if you prepay for a room on Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, or Priceline. It also won't work if you buy in for a prepaid package deal. Once you go this route, you either can't get out of the reservation or you may have to pay a hefty cancellation fee.

Getting the room you want. Actual room assignments aren't determined at most Vegas hotels until the day before, or the day of, arrival. If you're hoping for a particular room (for example, a room with a view of the Strip), phone the hotel a day before you arrive and speak with somebody at the front desk. This applies whether you booked originally through the hotel or some other website. Don't be pushy or presumptuous. Just explain that although you realize the hotel can't guarantee a specific room, you'd appreciate it if they'd honor your preference.

Your second-best bet. Simply check in as early as possible on the day of arrival—even if no rooms are yet available (and you have to wait in the casino), you're likely to get first preference on the type of room you're seeking when it opens up.

What about upgrades? It's virtually never inappropriate to request a nicer room than the one you've booked. At the same time, it's virtually always inappropriate to expect that you'll receive the upgrade. The front-desk clerk has all the power and discretion when it comes to upgrades, and is unlikely to help you out if you act pushy or haughty. Gracious humility, smiles, and warmth go a long way.

Do I tip for an upgrade? It's not customary to tip hotel clerks for upgrades, especially at nicer properties. If you wave some cash around discreetly, it might not hurt, but it won't necessarily help either.

The Lowdown on Rates

In general, at an average of about $95 per night, rates for Las Vegas accommodations are lower than those in most other American resort and vacation cities. Still, the situation is changing; though rack rates for fancy properties are higher than ever, many hotels still offer fantastic deals. There are about a hundred variables that impact price, depending on who's selling the rooms (reservations, marketing, casino, conventions, wholesalers, packagers), what rooms you're talking about (standard, deluxe, minisuites, standard suites, deluxe suites, high-roller suites, penthouses, bungalows), and demand (weekday, weekend, holiday, conventions or sporting events in town).

When business is slow, many hotels reduce rates on rooms in their least desirable sections, sometimes with a buffet breakfast or even a show included. Most "sales" occur from early December to mid-February and in July and August, the coldest and hottest times of the year, and you can often find rooms for 50% to 75% less midweek than on weekends. Members of casino players clubs often get offers of discounted or even free rooms, and they can almost always reserve a room even when the rest of the hotel is "sold out."