L.A. to Vegas Drive Tips
Face it. You're sick of the grind. That loose change left over from the office candy machine is burning a hole in your pocket. L.A.'s lacking preponderance of flashing neon lights is pushing you to the brink of insanity.
It's time to pack your bags, channel your inner Elvis or showgirl, and head to Vegas for some glitz, glamour and good times, baby!
You could book a flight or travel package and take your chances with long lines and gratuitous airport security frisking.
Or be spontaneous! Throw those fuzzy dice around the rear view mirror and indulge in the great American pastime … the road trip.
It's less than 300 miles between the City of Angels and the City of Sin. Yet with traffic and construction, the drive itself could eat up half your vacation. And trolling the sea of desolate, open desert road can at times be quite boring. That's why this guide will make your ride a smooth one.
Traffic: If you're going on a weekend, know that there WILL be traffic. Not maybe. Not perhaps. There is no luck involved here. There WILL be traffic. Even if it's 3 a.m. Saturday, there is traffic.
However, on an average weekend, the traffic is not too bad (by Southern California standards). You can usually make it from L.A. to Vegas in about five hours. It'll be bumper to bumper around Barstow, but it'll clear up and you could end up going about 70 mph the rest of the way.
It seems most visitors leave Southern California between Friday morning and very late Friday night, but everyone heads back to L.A. between noon and 8 p.m. on Sunday. The trip to L.A. is almost always slower than the trip to Vegas. If you can take Monday off and travel then, you'll be traffic free.
Still there are worse things about driving than traffic. Just ask Las Vegas comic Rita Rudner.
"I recommend first renting a five year old to sit in the back seat (as it happens, I have one to rent), and have her say 'Are we there yet?' and 'I feel sick' at least 12 times an hour," Rudner said. "When you next make the L.A.-L.V. trip, minus the child, the five hours will just fly by."
To help make your Vegas trip easier, we here at VEGAS.com have a few tips:
- Extend your Vegas trip by a day or two so that you are traveling on weekdays rather than the weekends. In addition to bypassing traffic, construction and headaches, you'll also avoid the crowds, possibly get a better room and better deals on food and entertainment. Plus, you gain another few days to party in Vegas -- and that's never a bad thing.
- Turn your car into a Vegas showroom. For those long waits in traffic, there's nothing better to get you in the Sin City mood than a collection of Vegas-themed songs for the road. Some of our recommendations: "Viva Las Vegas" by The King himself, "Luck Be A Lady" by Ol' Blue Eyes and "Danke Schoen" by Wayne Newton. If the wait is too long, you can even stage your own mini karaoke competition in the car. Will you be the next Vegas headliner?
- Kenny Rogers may know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, but most of us can use a little practice. So take advantage of the drive to practice all your Texas Hold'em strategies before you hit the poker tables in Vegas. We've found there's nothing like staring down the idiotic driver who cuts you off in a construction zone to perfect your poker face.
- Spend the night in Jean on your way back to L.A. Sure, it's not Vegas, but in this little roadside "town" less than an hour's drive from Vegas you can still gamble and enjoy a buffet. This way, you can extend your Vegas experience by one more night, get a good night's sleep and head back early in the morning.
Holiday Weekends: If you're coming to Vegas on a holiday weekend, be prepared for the longest road trip of your life. It is not uncommon for the trip to Vegas to take as long as seven hours and the trip back to take as long as 11 hours. That's not a typo. That's an 11-hour trip. It took one guy we know 12 hours to get from the Stratosphere to UCLA on New Year's Day.
... and speaking of New Year's: New Year's weekend traffic is usually six-eight hours on the way to Vegas and 10-12 hours on the way back. If you don't mind the time, but can't stand the traffic (i.e., you'd rather be moving fast for a long time than moving slow for a long time), you can try taking the 10 east to the 95 north to the 215 west to the 15 north. With no traffic, that's a seven-hour drive, but at least you're moving. If this alternate route has traffic, though, you're stuck because there's no turning back.
Gas and Mileage: On average, the trip is about 300 miles from most parts of L.A. Know your mileage and how much gas you've got left. This may seem trivial, but there are a couple of sections on the 15 with 30-plus mile stretches with no gas stations. In an approximate sense, if you're coming from L.A., Victorville is about the one-third mark, Barstow is the one-half mark, Baker is the two-thirds mark and Primm is the "We're in Nevada -- only 45 minutes left!" mark. Barstow has lots of gas stations and fast food joints, while Baker has only a handful. Oddly enough, it doesn't take much longer to get here from San Diego because you can stay on the 15 all the way.
Las Vegas comedian George Wallace suggests buying your gas before you arrive in Sin City.
"That's why Vegas is the fastest growing city in America," Wallace quipped. "People come here lose all their money and can't
Don't forget the water: Nevada is a desert and staying hydrated is a must. Summer temperatures in Las Vegas sometimes reach higher than 115 degrees.
"It's a long trip and you need to prepare for it," said Bob McKenzie, public information officer for NDOT. "You need to have plenty of water, especially in the summer time."
Speeding: How can you speed if there's so much traffic? You can't most of the time, but there will be spurts of speed. Be careful! The California Highway Patrol and Nevada Highway Patrol are always ready to hand out a speeding ticket or, more frequently, a moving violation ticket.
Don't tailgate, don't cut off your neighbor, don't drive in the Slow Truck Lane and pay attention while driving. It's a dangerous highway if you're not careful.
Pass the time: It's a road trip so remember to pack the tunes to keep yourself entertained. You'll find a couple of compilation albums are more entertaining on the road than listening to the same CD or tape over and over and over.
Coming into Vegas you can also tune in to several radio stations that feature information on deals in Vegas, late-breaking news and music. Nighttime driving is tough because there's not a lot to see. It's not the most beautiful drive during the day, either, but at least you see more than a line of light from opposing traffic. However, if you can time your trip to be between Barstow and Baker at sunset, you'll see some amazing sunsets, especially if there are some clouds.
Local Driving: Don't drive on Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip). Use Paradise to the east and Dean Martin/Industrial to the west as much as possible. Twenty-six miles of the 405 every day for a year was never as bad as Strip traffic on an early Friday night.
--By Aleza Freeman, Jennifer Whitehair and Geoff Carter