Viva Las Vegas
Can a couple survive a long weekend in Sin City with a 2-year-old? Based on our experience, the answer is an emphatic yes, but we recommend a number of key ingredients for a successful trip:
Money. We were blessed to have enough of this commodity to "do things right." Actually, we didn't need too much, as we were able to score a beautiful room at Caesar's Palace at a very low rate thanks to a generous friend. We wound up with a huge two-queen nonsmoking room high up in the Palace Tower -- one of the nicer rooms we have ever occupied. And we were able to have adjoining rooms with our accompanying couple and their child, and we opened the door between the rooms so that the kids could roam between our room and theirs. Tons of space.
Money well spent is what we paid for a cabana that we rented every day alongside the Caesar's Venus pool. The cabana has lots of nice amenities, including service that fawns over guests all the day long. The tent-like structure provides a refuge from the sun when necessary, and the TV allows gambler sorts to keep one eye on the day's sporting events. That view alternates with the topless sunbathing scene at that particular pool, while one's other eye remains (of course) on the toddler.
We went cheap on one thing only: gambling. Although the Caesar's casinos are beautiful and provide great gambling conditions (good lighting, hardly any smoke), the stakes were slightly too high for our tastes, and so for that activity we left the Caesar's property. Otherwise, during the day you could find us at the cabana, and in the evening it was a 50-50 bet that we were somewhere in the Emperor's lair.
A friend. Our companions have a child just a few months younger than ours. The kids get along well. They keep each other occupied for fairly long stretches, and two stashes of toys, books, videos, etc. are exponentially more fun than one. My wife and I took the two of them out to a grown-up restaurant for dinner one night -- no problem. Can't imagine that either of the litle darlings could have or would have been any sweeter on their own.
Gear. We relied heavily on our sturdy travel stroller. Our companions left theirs home in favor of a backpack-style baby carrier, but the two toddlers, staying with their solidarity theme, insisted on climbing into the single stroller together. A little crowded, but great togetherness! A few blow-up boats for the pool also came in quite handy, as did sun protection (lotion and clothing).
Trust. Our companions have a good Las Vegas babysitter whom they hired through the hotel in past years: a person whom in a different era you would have called a "nice little old lady." Instead of sitting just their little one, she minded both theirs and ours for two of our three evenings, enabling both couples to do adult things for a few hours. Better than we usually manage at home! Leaving the little one with a relative stranger wasn't easy for me, but she was great, and everything was fine.
Realism. One great aspect of this trip's agenda is that it contained virtually no ambition. In past trips, we felt compelled to pound the pavement of the Strip, drinking in as much of the attractions as we could. That was exhausting, and I can't imagine doing it with a little one. This time around, on foot from Caesar's, we made it only as far as across the street to the Bellagio (for the scene) and to the Barbary Coast (for cheap gambling). We also jaked a cab and rode over to the Orleans (off the strip) one night for an hour or so of excellent cheap gambling. And that was it. Never made it off the Caesar's property otherwise. Didn't need to. Our energy wasn't sapped by those miles-long walks in the desert heat. The joints look close together on the map -- they aren't. The front doors of two adjoining hotels can be a half mile or more apart. Guaranteed to make everybody cranky, especially if your destination turns out to be a bust.
Our daughter had a great several days despite her stationary status. The pool and cabana were a big hit, and she loved the dancing waters across the street at the Bellagio. We sang and danced around the walkway surrounding the gigantic fountain as it played "Singin' in the Rain." Soooooo sweet! And the shops and scene in Caesar's are more than enough for little eyes over a few days.
Luck. It doesn't hurt for you not to lose your shirt via the fall of the cards, dice, slot counters, etc. We were never in the red, and wound up ahead by just over 100 bucks -- enough to put a smile on our faces. When my first pull on a $2 slot bet paid $60, I knew that the toddler scent I had on me was good luck. Emboldened by this, I picked up another $55 on college football bets, and broke just a hair ahead of even on craps and blackjack. Gambling is great entertainment when it is free, but a nightmare when the odds mow you down. Bring good luck, or the correct attitude and restraint to enjoy losing.
It looks like another Vegas trip is in the cards for this time next year. We look forward to it enthusiastically.