Michael James introduces his Las Vegas trip planning tool and allows you a glimpse into his genius mind as he maps out his current trip.
I have been to Las Vegas 16 times, but many times for just a couple of nights. This current trip is only the third time that my wife and I are enjoying an extended stay.
The first long trip was for our honeymoon in 2005. In planning that trip, Las Vegas was big and overwhelming so we only pre-planned a few things (a Lake Mead brunch cruise, the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur and the Mamma Mia! show at the Mandalay Bay) so there wasn’t any particular concern about tripping over ourselves.
By the spring of 2009 – which would be my fourth trip in 3-1/2 years – the city was less imposing but the number of unfulfilled personal interests was continuing to grow. Throw in the mix that I would be the Cruise Director for eight people, and the planning was awfully convoluted.
For example; some of our group on that 2009 trip wanted to go on the Vegas Mob Tour, which was only held on Wednesday nights, yet everyone wanted to see a show that was dark on Monday and Tuesday, leaving only Sunday as a viable evening for attending that show. If we wanted to attend the show, it had to be Sunday so that the others could make their plans for Wednesday. I started taking notes (even trying to utilize and sort 3 x 5 note cards) and had stuff strewn all over the house. Then it occurred to me… Excel!
The first Matrix included everything that my wife and I were going to do and when we would do them. If the others didn’t want to join us, they were free to organize their activities using The Matrix as a guide to what days and times were available. The Matrix worked to perfection.
So when the planning started late last fall as a three-day vacation for my wife to bowl the USBC Women’s Open Championships this spring somehow became five days of mid-Stripness, it was instantly clear that we’d need to harness the power of The Matrix.
GOAL: Enjoy a six day / five-night vacation in Las Vegas.
The Objective – To enjoy the vacation without spending the entirety of six days and five nights gambling.
The Challenge – Utilizing specials, MyVegas rewards, advance ticket purchases and hours of favorite attractions.
Planning activities = not having to spend six days and five nights “winging it”.
The Solution is... “The Matrix”:
I started by entering the obvious stuff, like her scheduled bowling times and sleep (we’re both pushing 50, and neither of us has any interest in drinking ourselves silly, going to bed around 4:00 AM and taking 3 to 10 hours to sleep it off). Thanks to Southwest Airlines, the travel times didn’t have to be locked in, so I didn’t include them at the beginning.
I had begun a second tab on the spreadsheet, with categories for restaurants, shows, attractions, etc. We just brainstormed, at first, worrying about editing that list later on.
When we would see a deal for attractions or show tickets, we’d review The Matrix for available time, purchase the tickets, and then plug the information into the chart. “All Shook Up” at Planet Hollywood went in on Tuesday evening. “Raiding the Rock Vault” at the Tropicana seemed to fit well on Saturday night. The “Las Vegas Lights” bus tour was originally considered for late in the trip when we might be worn out. We decided instead to schedule that bus tour on the day we arrived as kind of a “Welcome to Las Vegas” event.
Before long, the trip and The Matrix started taking shape. There were still plenty of open spaces to fill, so we compared attractions with flexible times to the days that The Matrix said that we’d have time available. So a trip to Valley of Fire State Park was penciled in for Saturday after breakfast. We booked the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay on Sunday morning before she bowled. The Neon Museum / Mob Museum combo ticket was purchased for Tuesday.
Then we had to consider eating because at the pace The Matrix was filling it was becoming possible that we could miss eating for a few days. For the most part, we tried to schedule restaurants based on where The Matrix said we’d be. We scheduled breakfast at Eat to occur as we head to the Valley of Fire. We decided to relax with dinner at the Foundation Room at the Mandalay Bay after my wife’s bowling session at the South Point on Sunday. Gordon Ramsay BurGR at Planet Hollywood was a natural for before the “All Shook Up” show. The Bellagio buffet fit perfectly at the lunchtime pricing as the last thing to do before going back to the airport. Before we knew it, there weren’t a lot of gaps left to fill.
There was melancholy to putting the finishing touches on The Matrix, because as I see it, planning is half the fun. The truth is, we’ve had The Matrix set for over a month. I’ve kept my eye open for anything else that may interest us, but I honestly wouldn’t know where to put it without cutting something else.
Some attractions and restaurants didn’t make the cut. Lunch at Tacos El Gordo (a personal favorite) lost to Chow, as my wife loves fried chicken. I have also been itching to see the James Turrell “Akhob” inside of the Louis Vuitton at Crystal’s Mall, but that didn’t pan out, either.
On this trip, the lack of gambling time is kind of intentional as this is my wife’s special trip and gambling isn’t as important to her. Besides, I’ve got a trip to Reno coming up in May for the men’s national bowling tournament, and my fall Vegas poker trip will allow for further gambling degeneracy.
So in effect, you have my entire trip report. Amazing, isn’t it? Especially considering the trip doesn’t even begin for another week!
I do have one request, my dear readers. My wife is still not comfortable with my extreme celebrity, so please don’t use The Matrix to stalk me. The paparazzi can be crazy sometimes, so let’s not add to the pandemonium. If you’re going to be where I am going to be, send me a note, and we can meet, and you can buy me a drink. Appreciating your concerns in advance…