Transcript: Las Vegas and Orlando

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Bob Sehlinger answers your questions on Las Vegas and Orlando

Disney theme parks and Las Vegas are my primary beats as a writer, but I also write about skiing, mountain biking, and river running. Travel, a lifelong passion, is something I've learned a lot about, primarily by doing everything wrong at least once. I would be very pleased if the lessons learned through my goofs and blunders could smooth the bumps of whatever road you travel. Please feel free to ask whatever you want.

Bob answered your questions Tuesday, July 13, at noon EST.

Bob Sehlinger is the creator and Executive Publisher of the 60-title Unofficial Guide series published by Wiley Publishing Inc. A Lowell Thomas Gold Award winning journalist, Bob Sehlinger is author or co-author of over 20 travel guides and five books on whitewater canoeing and kayaking. His Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and his Unofficial Guide to Las Vegas, along with the Unofficial Guide to Cruises, co-authored with Kay Showker, are each the number one best selling guidebooks on their respective subjects according to Amazon.com. In addition to his travel guide credits, Sehlinger is a contributor to the Dallas Morning News, the Denver Post, Fox Television Network, and Minnesota Public Radio among others. Sehlinger and his Unofficial Guide organization are unique in travel publishing. Instead of publishing guides based on an author's singular tastes and preferences, Sehlinger begins every project with exhaustive research on the specific needs of his intended readers and then develops the guide to expressly address those needs. Sehlinger is also known for exposing the inner workings of the travel industry and for showing readers how to save money, time, and how to avoid hassle by drawing on this insider knowledge.
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Bob Sehlinger: Hi, Bob Sehlinger here, ready to discuss Walt Disney World and Las Vegas.

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Garden City, NY: Dear Bob, I intend to take a group of 30 adults (ages 50 to 70) during a slow convention week in February or March. I thought to book the Flamingo or the Imperial due to location and presumed price. Is either a good choice? Is either run-down, or do you have a better suggestion? I want to arrange for a day trip each day to the usual spots, such as Red Rock, Death Valley, etc. Can you recommend a local tour operator? Also, I am planning 2 nights in Laughlin (including a day trip to Havasu City). Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks for your advice.

Bob Sehlinger: I'd go with the Flamingo. The Imperial Palace will still be in the midst of a major renovation. You might also check Barbary Coast and Bally's. Finding a tour operator for day trips depends on what you want to do. The operators specialize in various activities like biking, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, climbing, horse riding, Lake Mead boat tours, auto touring etc. Route 66 Car & Van Rentals will equip to do your own driving tours (702 369-5642) check the Internet for specialized touring companies. We don't cover Laughlin, so I can't be of much help there.

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Los Angeles, CA: Hey Bob. In a couple of months, a couple of my friends and myself will turn the magical age of 21. Naturally, we are planning a trip to Las Vegas to test out our new privileges that come with adulthood. Being college students, with somewhat limited funds, what are your suggestions as to how we can truly experience Las Vegas in our expected 4-day trip.

Bob Sehlinger: Stay in the middle of the Strip. Consult travelaxe.com for the best deals on rooms. Visit the major Strip hotels. Spend an evening downtown. Play Blackjack. Take in the view from the Stratosphere tower. Drive out to Red Rock Canyon.

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Olathe, KS: Bob, I would like to know if you have had a chance to see Zumanity in Las Vegas and what your take on that show is. Also, what is the Mirage currently doing now that Sigfried & Roy have gone dark? Thanks.

Bob Sehlinger: I loved Zumanity. It's very erotic but sometimes uproariously funny. But you'd better be comfortable with sex in all its myriad forms.

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Harpers Ferry, WV: I've seen a lot of tour for helicopter rides into the Grand Canyon leaving from Las Vegas. With so many tour companies to choose from, how do we pick one that is safe and good? And are you spending most of your time just getting there and getting back?

Bob Sehlinger: You do spend a lot of time commuting to the canyon if they go all the way to the really scenic parts. Ask how far they go and what % of the time you'll actually spend at the canyon. All of the chopper tours are heavily regulated, so one's about as safe as another. Equipment is a different story&.ask about windows and visibility.

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Chattanooga, TN: If you don't particularly enjoy gambling, what might be a reason to visit Las Vegas? Sightseeing at Hoover Dam doesn't seem appealing either. Maybe I should just forget Vegas? Am I missing something about this city?

Bob Sehlinger: The environment is fun, the sights surreal, and the entertainment exceptional. You could stay a month and never gamble but still have a great time.

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Orlando, FL: Most people coming to Orlando come for the theme park experience - and never venture past International Drive. In fact, most tourists think International Drive is downtown Orlando. What should Orlando do to promote itself beyond the theme-park experience?

Bob Sehlinger: This is a question I wish I had all day to discuss. Bottom line, Orlando is a great city with much to offer, but it's an ordeal to get there from the theme park areas. If you want people to come to Orlando, the city and state will have to invest in infrastructure, specifically, develop I-4 so that it's a breeze to drive to Orlando from the theme park areas.

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Calgary, Alberta: Got a great flight deal for 2 to Orlando mid-October. We can't seem to find ANY hotel deals on DisneyWorld Resort for this time period even though it appears to be a SLOW TIME PERIOD. Is October a good month to go? And will there be any luck in finding a great resort hotel at a great price?

Bob Sehlinger: October is a great month to go, and you shouldn't have any trouble getting a deal unless there is a large convention at the Orange County Convention Center during the time of your visit.

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Virginia Beach, VA: Hi, Bob, we're a military family (2 adults, 3 kids) traveling to Las Vegas in August on a budget. What's the best way to get from airport to hotel: taxi, bus or limo service? Will a taxi take all five of us, or will we be forced to take two separate taxis? We fly home on a redeye: how do we get the hotel to hold our baggage and is there typically a charge for this service? Can you recommend the best way to snag discount tickets on family oriented shows? Thanks.

Bob Sehlinger:
Taxi is your best bet, and yes, you might require two. Your hotel bell service will store your luggage until you''e ready to go to the airport. As for shows, try the half price ticket outlets just down the Strip from the MGM Grand.

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La Habra, CA: Since taking a 13-day tour of Egypt and the Nile River, I have constantly thought about becoming a tour guide. I could do a lot better than the 20-year-old girl we had. Anyway, how would I go about getting started in the profession? I have had a career and now am looking to fulfill my dreams of traveling and getting paid for it! Thanks!

Bob Sehlinger: Find a touring company near where you live and ask them for an internship. They'll train you and you'll work free or almost free until you're qualified. If they like you, they'll probably offer you a job, or failing that, a referral and a positive reference.

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New York, NY: I am going to be in Florida the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and am thinking about heading to Orlando for a few days with my 6 and 3-year-old. Are Universal Studios and SeaWorld generally just as crowded as ?

Bob Sehlinger: All the theme parks will be in gridlock.

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Cleveland, OH: Is it possible to visit Hoover Dam while in Vegas? Is there any other sites to see close by other than casinos?

Bob Sehlinger: Hoover dam is about 45 minutes from the Strip. Also check out Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, Mount Charleston, and Lake Mead.

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Atlanta, GA: What's gay-friendly in Vegas? Thank you.

Bob Sehlinger: The whole city is very gay-friendly.

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Las Vegas, NV: I've read quite a bit about the Mirage and how its quality seems to be lowering. I also read about how chaotic the pool area can be...in your experience is that true?

Bob Sehlinger: The Mirage is improving, not declining. It's a great property. Their new buffet might be the best in town. Pool can be chaotic, but the same can be said for almost all of the larger Strip hotels.

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Ellisville, MO: We are planning an August trip to . We want to stay on Disney property. Does Disney have last-minute deals, or should we book now? We would like a deluxe such as the Polynesian resort, but the budget is looking like we can afford the moderates. Thanks.

Bob Sehlinger: If you're going the last 12 days of August, wait until a week before you go to book. If you're going earlier, book now.

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Orlando, FL: Where is the best place to go skiing, mountain biking, and river running in Orlando?

Bob Sehlinger: For river running try the Econlockhatchee on the east side of Orlando off FL 50. For mountain biking the Ocala Mountain Park off I-75 near Belleview, FL offers some of the most scenic singletrack in the SE. Takes about 75-90 minutes to get there from WDW or Orlando.

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Riverside, CA: My husband and I go to Vegas quite regularly. My question is, is it true that the casinos that the locals go to pay the most?

Bob Sehlinger: Local casinos offer player friendly rules for Blackjack and provide the type of slot and video poker machines that locals enjoy playing. Slots are programmed to return a certain percentage of money played over the long run. If a casino advertises a slot or video poker machine with 97% payback that means that the house advantage is 3%. It's generally accepted that local casinos have more machines with higher return rates (as a % of the total number of slots in the casino) than Strip casinos, but only the casinos know for sure. For table games other than Blackjack, the odds are the same for almost all casinos.

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Middle Village, NY: I've been to Vegas 4 or 5 times already but always went low budget. When is the best time to travel and stay in one of the nicer hotels without going BUST?

Bob Sehlinger: Mid July to mid September, December after the National Finals Rodeo, and January excluding New Years and Super Bowl weekend. Always check for city-wide conventions before choosing your dates.

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Anonymous: Bob, Where is the best Keno game in Las Vegas?

Bob Sehlinger: Keno is a sucker game, so you'll bleed dry wherever you play. If you're looking for the lessor evil, try the Silverton.

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Lincoln, RI: We've always heard Las Vegas was cheap, but I've been pricing a 3-day trip from the east cost and there didn't seem to be an bargains? What's the best deal in town?

Bob Sehlinger: No casino has the best deal all of the time. You have to shop and play the internet. Having said that, try the Boardwalk and the Aladdin on the Strip and the Orleans, Gold Coast, or Silverton off the Strip.

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Denver, CO: Which showgirl show would you see in Vegas? Foiles Bergere or Jubilee?

Bob Sehlinger: Both are excellent, but given the choice I'd go with Jubilee.

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San Antonio, TX: I am a seasoned Disney Fan and have read your guide cover to cover. We are planning our first Christmas trip this year during the most crowded time, the week between Christmas and New Year's. We are going to see the decorations and so that our teenagers can be MK for New Year's. Do you have any advice for getting into the park on Dec. 31? We will be staying at Fort Wilderness. Is it at all feasible to leave the park at noon and come back?

Bob Sehlinger: Arrive at the turnstiles 40 minutes before park opening. Yes, it's feasible to leave the park and return later...just make sure you use Disney transpiration when you return.

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Fort Wayne, IN: We are going to Disney World at Christmas, being there on Christmas day. I know it'll be busier than usual. Any suggestions to make the day better, fun and interesting with my family? I have boys, 8 and 13. Thank you for your time.

Bob Sehlinger: Not a good day for experiencing attractions. Pretend you're a Type B personality, relax, and go with the flow. Spend your time enjoying all of the special live entertainment. Use FASTPASS for attractions that are important to you.

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Fort Lauderdale, FL: As a novice gambler I enjoy Vegas and I love 3 card poker. Can you enlighten me on money management so I can enjoy the gambling aspect and still manage to keep the casinos from taking all?

Bob Sehlinger: Define a stake limit for the trip, a stake limit and time limit for each play period, quit when you're ahead, and don't play when you're tired or sloshed.

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Rocky River, OH: Due to our budget we are staying at the Stardust when we go to Vegas in a few months. How would you rate that hotel? Also how is the casino there?

Bob Sehlinger: Rooms are fine, but the tower rooms are nicer than the garden rooms. Expect Holiday Inn quality.

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Blacklick, OH: I am 35 years old, myself and 7 of my college friends meet annually in Vegas for a reunion. Every year we try to do something different in Vegas. We have done the ATV's in the Grand Canyon, golf and popular attractions (shows and, of course, gambling). We are looking for something else to that is out of the "norm". I have researched a bunch of websites, but I keep getting the same information. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

Bob Sehlinger: Raft or kayak the Black Canyon of the Colorado....see downriveroutfitters.com.  Take the Calico Tanks hike at Red Rock Canyon.

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Los Angeles, CA: Las Vegas hotel rooms at a decent resort have gone through the roof. why have things changed? In the past you could get great deals on rooms because the hotels just wanted to get you in to gamble, now it seems all they care about is filling up their $350 a night rooms, what has changed?

Bob Sehlinger: Here's what changed: for the first time, some of the larger, newer casinos are generating more revenue from hotel, restaurants, entertainment, etc. than from gambling. In other words they discovered they don't have to give it away.

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London, England: My wife and I will be in Vegas (again) on the 20th to 23rd September 2004, staying at Harrahs. As we MUST go and see the new Fremont Street Experience, can you suggest the best route to downtown, and, more importantly give any advice on parking downtown (I seem to remember it being a problem in '99).

Bob Sehlinger: Go north on the Strip, left on Spring Mountain, right onto I-15 (N), and follow the signs to downtown. Park at the Binion's Horseshoe garage.

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Elyria, OH: We're planning a family vacation at Walt Disney World in January or February. I've only been there in August, so I was wondering what the temperatures are like?

Bob Sehlinger: February is usually sunny but temperatures are all over the scale. Be prepared for lows in the mid 30s to highs in upper 70s and everything in between.

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Phoenix, AZ: There has been an increasing number of off-Strip hotels that are being highlighted. For short trips to Vegas (a 3-day weekend), do you recommend sticking to the Strip or is it worth venturing off it?

Bob Sehlinger: I really like off-Strip hotels. Among my favorites in no particular order are Silverton, Hard Rock, Rio, Palms, Orleans, Gold Coast, Green Valley Ranch Station, and Suncoast. Of course, it doesn't make any sense to stay off-Strip if you plan to spend most of your time on the Strip.

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St. Louis, MO: Being a novice a gambling, where do I find the more generous slots? Is this information published as it is here in Missouri?

Bob Sehlinger: It's a closely guarded casino secret in Nevada, so nobody knows for sure. But try the Las Vegas Hilton for dollar slots, the Palms for quarter slots, the Fiesta Ranchero for quarter video poker, and the Las Vegas Hilton for dollar video poker.

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Plano, TX: Hi Bob, My question is about Las Vegas....I myself no nothing about Las Vegas but I've always had it in my mind to purchase a home there, sort of vacation home. With me knowing nothing about Las Vegas and not wanting to live in a lower class or too expensive area, more like white-collar working people, with quiet schools and still being able to drive into Las Vegas for fun with an easy drive, tell me what part of Las Vegas would I purchase?

Bob Sehlinger: Green Valley

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Anonymous: Dear Bob, Do you believe I will get a better price on a Las Vegas package looking on the Internet or dealing with a local travel agent?

Bob Sehlinger: Shop the internet, find a deal, and then take it to your travel agent and ask her if she can do better.

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Buffalo, NY: Are Fast Passes only available to guests who stay at one of the Disney owned hotels?

Bob Sehlinger: FASTPASSes are available to everyone.

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Greensboro, NC: Bob, Love your books! How do you keep all of your information updated for each new version? You must travel a bunch!

Bob Sehlinger: Many thanks. To answer your question, we stay at it. We literally work on our annual editions (WDW, Las Vegas, etc.) all year long.

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Charleston, WV: When is the best time to visit Las Vegas? Please take into account both cost and most pleasant time of year for visit. Thank you.

Bob Sehlinger: Personally, I like November, March and April.

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Henderson, NV: Is there anywhere in the Vegas area to take kayaking lessons?

Bob Sehlinger: I'm not aware of lessons offered, but try www.downriveroutfitters.com

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Anonymous: What are three "must see" things to do in Las Vegas if we're only there for 3 days?

Bob Sehlinger: Hard to answer because I don't know your tastes, but I'd recommend the view from the Stratosphere Tower, a hiking, biking, or driving tour of Red Rock Canyon, and catching a performance of Cirque du Soleil's Mystere.

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Bernardsville, NJ: I've heard that the best time to visit the Orlando theme parks (in terms of the smallest crowds and shortest lines) is the last 2 weeks before Labor Day (i.e. before school starts up North.) Do you agree? We're thinking of visiting Aug. 30-Sept. 6. What are the average high and low temperatures at this time? My husband is concerned it will be too hot. And how rainy is it likely to be? Thanks.

Bob Sehlinger: That's a good time period for crowds, but not as good as later fall and certain periods in the winter and spring. It will be hot and humid (highs in the 90s) and you can count on scattered thunder storms each day.

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Port Richey, FL: When will Steve Wynn's new hotel/casino open in Las Vegas, & what what will be the theme? Also, does he plan any attraction such as the volcano or water show? Thank you!

Bob Sehlinger: Wynn Las Vegas will open in the spring of 2005. Wynn claims there will be no theme but he's building a "mountain" with waterfalls, etc. next to the hotel tower.

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Raleigh, NC: Bob--Going to Las Vegas in two weeks but do not have a room. Where would be the best hotel to stay at for a modest price range i.e. $100-250 per night. Will stay two nights, if that helps. Thanks for your thoughts.

Bob Sehlinger: You can get a lot of hotel for that price range in July or August. Check out travelaxe.com, a search program for the best rates at over 70 hotels

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Colton, CA: What is the best (and cheapest) way to get to Disney's All Stars Sport resort from the airport if I will not be renting a car? I will be traveling in early November. Thank you.

Bob Sehlinger: If it's only you, take the Mears shuttle. If there are three or more, a cab's you best bet. For two people it's a toss up.

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Jackson, NJ: A few years ago, Vegas was trying to entice families with children to vacation there. Since then they seemed to lay off that advertising. Would Vegas still be a place my family would enjoy this August? If so what resort would you recommend staying at with kids? My children are ages 11 and 14.

Bob Sehlinger: The hotels don't want families because the kids generally keep the adults out of the casinos. But LV is still a great family destination. Excalibur and Circus Circus cater to families, but you can stay at any of the hotels whether they prefer families or not.

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Hudson, WI: I love Las Vegas and go there every 3 months, but am now wanting to look for bargains rather than pay full price for everything. Do you know of any websites that offer 2-for-1 or 1/2 price coupons? Thanks much.

Bob Sehlinger: Try travelaxe.com

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Youngstown, OH: I'm planning a trip to Walt Disney World in December. What makes the advice in your book better than the advice found on the Internet? I can find free guides to touring the parks at many sites for free.

Bob Sehlinger: It's simple, my advice is better because I work for you and only you, and I'm not trying to sell you anything.

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Chicago, IL: We are going to Vegas for a couple days in mid-Sept staying at the Venetian. We were wondering: Which are the "must do" buffets? We heard Bellagio is very nice? For buffet, should we only do lunch and save dinner in a nice restaurant? We love exotic food, what restaurant would you recommend in Vegas?

Bob Sehlinger: Mirage, Aladdin, Paris Las Vegas

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Bob Sehlinger: Thanks so much for all of your great questions. I apologize for not being able to answer more of them, but hopefully we'll have another opportunity to hook up. Also, allow me to express my great appreciation for your support of the Unofficial Guides.
Happy travels,
Bob Sehlinger

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