Secrets of the Las Vegas Airport

This was not the scene I imagined unfolding my first time in the Las Vegas airport.

Las Vegas airport sign

Daniel Ramirez from Honolulu, USA [CC BY 2.0]

Whenever I pictured my my first time in Las Vegas, I imagined one big blur full of overpriced cocktails and buffets and Blackjack tables, five-course meals served up by celebrity chefs, interesting strangers and late-night strolls through nearly-perfect replicas of Venetian canals. I imagined coming home with more stories than I could fit in my oversized carry-on.

Instead, I spent my first time in Las Vegas stuck in the airport on a layover for six hours in the middle of the night. We had landed around eleven in the evening and, because of some technical issues with the airplane, we were grounded until further notice. My fellow passengers and I were suddenly on our own.

Interior of Las Vegas airport

Sunnya343 [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Let me preface this by saying that at the time, I wasn’t a very experienced traveler. I didn’t know that amenities like sleep pods and charging stations and 24-hour restaurants were only part of the overnight airport layover experience. I knew none of these secrets. I thought the best way to get through the night was to put on some noise-canceling headphones, roll a sweater into a pillow, and find an unoccupied corner or an empty seat in a deserted hallway (which is, regrettably, exactly what I did).

Now that I’m a much more experienced traveler, though, I realize that my first time in Vegas—in an airport terminal or not—could have been a much more enjoyable experience. Not all airports are as night-friendly as Vegas, of course, but I’m hoping my do-over tale will inspire you to check out what your own future layovers have to offer.

For one thing, The Las Vegas airport isn’t eerily abandoned at night like some airports. It just so happened that the terminal we were in didn’t have much going on. In talking to other people who’d been stuck in the Vegas airport, I learned that the rest of the airport buzzes with just about as much energy as any other airport would in the middle of the day. Stores never close. Most of the restaurants (some of which, yes, serve up celebrity-inspired fare just as tasty as what you’d find on the Strip) stay open for 24 hours, seven days a week. Bars are not exactly hard to find. There are over one thousand slot machines squeezed into every nook and cranny big enough to fit one.

slot machines

Yamaguchi先生 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

There’s even a gym with drop-in Zumba classes.

But that’s not all. If you’re like me, someone who desperately loves her eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted slumber, there are even options here. You don’t have to stay up like a zombie and wander the airport in search of a place to eat or work out. For less than the cost of one specialty cocktail, you can actually rent a private sleep room in the airport gym for a whole hour. We’re talking twelve US dollars here.

If only I’d known, right?

Years later, when I’d actually go to Las Vegas for the first time, I’d have the night I imagined. Two of my best girlfriends and I flew in from all over the country, met in the airport, and headed to the city. We hit the Strip, sang karaoke, and danced until the sun came up, appreciating the ridiculous city like you’re supposed to.

The next morning, when we parted ways at the Las Vegas airport, I remembered the place I’d spent the night alone on the floor, and I smiled because, even though our flight was on time this time around, should we ever get delayed again, I knew the secrets of the airport.

Post by Kristin Winet.

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