Las Vegas with Less Money

After my Nth time to Las Vegas, I get the odd request for the best things to do and see when first-timers go.

In fact, one came a few weeks after my most recent visit to the Consumer Electronics Show 2011. I duly sent off an email, and got told by reply that I should blog it, so – here you are! My tips on getting the best bang for your Las Vegas Buck.


When you come out of L.V. airport, if there are 3 of you or less (and you’ve not hired a car) consider getting the shared shuttle instead of the taxi. For $6 each or so you get driven to your hotel (if it’s on the strip) with a bunch of other people who are also doing the same – great place to start random conversations.


If it’s your first time, I’d recommend staying on the strip, some bargains can be had if you shop around. You’ll probably be visiting a lot of hotels on your trip, so don’t worry about paying top dollar for a top hotel unless you intend to stay in that one the whole time.


Make a particular effort to see the Wynn and the Cosmopolitan – also mooch through the Bellagio, Venetian and Paris. If you ever watched the series ‘Las Vegas’ pop over to the Montecarlo hotel. There’s a pretty good sushi bar on the ground floor there.

Things you MUST MUST MUST Do in Las Vegas.

0. The best free thing in Las Vegas is the Fountain show at the Bellagio. Every time I watch it, I find it utterly breathtaking. 

1. Eat at the Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan hotel – 29 bucks gets you fed and watered (more if you want booze) – prices are correct as at Jan 2011

2. Go see a show: it may cost a bit, but ‘O’ at the Bellagio is SPECTACULAR. you are best off getting blocks 203 (or 303 on the cheap). Section 10X will be cool, but you’ll be paying a premium for being closer to the stage. You may get wet in the first few rows. go for the insider tour and for $260 you get great seats and a backstage tour – which I haven’t done ! Jan 2011 saw me with a ticket in section 303 at the back costing $100.

3. BARGAIN ALERT: if you gamble at tables in Paris or the Wynn, you will be given complementary drinks while you’re at the tables.

4. Yes, do the Fashion show mall, get 30mins at the oxygen bar but if you’re really into shopping, hit the PREMIUM OUTLET STORES for better prices. There’s an all you can eat japanese which is good value here if you’re not burger-inclined.

5. Other places to eat:

Margaritaville – surf food, and a brilliant evening out on the strip, try the tuna tataki – they also do lots of steaks.

There’s a Japanese restaurant in the MGM grand called Shibuya which is very tasty  – I was taken there for dinner and consequently have no idea about the prices.

I would stock up at breakfast time, generally hotels will have an all-you-can-eat buffet where you can stuff in food to last you the day. If you’re staying on the strip, you can also wander into Denny’s for breakfast 24 hours a day. That’s a LOT of pancakes and hash browns.

6. Ride the Monorail! it gives you a great idea of where things are. It’s a terrible attempt at infrastructure and not actually near that much but it’s fun. $12 day pass.

7. Go to the shops at the Venetian and eat italian food under the fake sky. The gondolas are nice but be warned v. expensive – unless you’ve got a yearning, don’t worry too much about it.

8. If you like roller coasters, then go to New York New York and stick everything you own in a locker near the coaster queue. Buy a re-ride, you’ll want it! Also hit the Stratosphere hotel – have drinks on the nearly-top-floor bar, and go up on the roof for some truly hair raising rides. I highly recommend the drop ride on the top of the tower at night, which gives you incredible views of the strip. Ask nicely to be facing it when you’re hurled into the air.

The rides are not for the faint hearted, but the bar is the nicest part of the hotel, and they do vitamin water Detox/retox cocktails.

9. If you’re into quirky, look up both the Neon Museum and the Pinball Hall of Fame. You could also visit Fremont Street (the old town) although I’ve not had a chance to get down there yet. If you want to shoot things with live ammo, go to American Shooters who will let you fire real guns on their range.

and finally

10. Learn how to play craps!


It looks a lot like a city, so it’s easy to forget that Las Vegas is in the middle of the desert. So drink lots and lots of water. You might want to bring along some throat sweets too – a combination of dry air, lots of cheering and rollercoasters means you might be a bit croaky after a few days. At night it gets cold, so even if the sun is out, it’s worth packing an extra layer.

Have a lovely time, and let me know how you get on – Viva Las Vegas, baby !

Do Loads! Productivity Links and Tips

I really enjoyed making the recent package for BBC Click all about productivity  – and I got to meet some real masters of the art, which was eye-opening and rather inspiring!

click the pic to go to the BBC's site and watch the feature

click the pic to go to the BBC's site and watch the feature

RSS Readers /can’t see the link? If you want to watch it, click here.

This blog has links to everyone featured in the segment, and below that some hints and tips, both from the feature and also stuff that I couldn’t fit in. Between them, this lot shamed me into going through my inbox and sorting through all my stuff.

Featured Interviews

Professor Richard Wiseman, Psychologist, University of Hertfordshire

David Allen, Author, Getting Things Done

Michael Sliwinski, Founder, Nozbe task manager

Websites mentioned in the feature

Productivity Blogs

Goal sharing

Task services

Processes I use to keep my inbox empty and my tasks under control

NB these are not compulsory – I’m a big fan of whatever works.

General tips

  • As mentioned in the package, it’s impossible to respond to every single email you’ve been sent. But mark it as read or add it to a task, and your brain will know you’ve processed it.
  • Spend a day clearing your backlog, or process 100 emails a day if you have huge amounts, then you’re treated to a lovely clean inbox.
  • Close down your distractions – If I’m working on a script, then email and twitter have to be closed down – sadly they won’t help with the task at hand. Every now and again, I’ll take a physical break from my work area to refresh my brain. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t…
  • Rediscover the telephone as a means to get things done quickly – instead of 5 or 6 emails back and forth over 20 minutes, try a 5 minute phone conversation which gets it done in one go.

Finding stuff on your computer

Folders are useful for grouping similar files together in one place to copy, share and store, but not so much for finding stuff. I use my computer’s inbuilt search function instead, and name my files by thinking “What would I type in to search for this file?” – so far this has worked quite well.

Multiple inbox set up for Gmail:

A feature in google labs called multiple inboxes can be configured to send unread items to the top of your inbox. If I mark an item as “read” it means I’ve read it, dealt with it, replied to it or processed it in some way, like adding a Star or a label. Starred email is stuff I know will take more than a couple of minutes to deal with. I find it makes my inbox a lot more manageable.

  • Enable labs in the top right hand corner of the screen, then scroll down to Multiple Inboxes. Click Enable and then Save changes at the bottom of the screen.
  • Go to settings in the top right hand corner of Gmail
  • Click on Multiple Inboxes
  • Set up by typing the following into each pane to set it up to send Unread and Starred emails to the top of your browser screen.

Pane 0

is:Unread under Search Query, and Unread under Panel Title

Pane 1

is:Starred under Search Query, and Starred under Panel Title

  • Select number of conversations to display – mine is set to 30
  • And set the inboxes to “Above the inbox”
  • Save Changes and go back to see your starred and unread messages above your normal inbox.

TASKS: Any emails that require doing something move to tasks by clicking on More Actions

MARK AS READ KEYBOARD SHORTCUT: Mark an item as read by hitting Shift+i

Note on labels in Gmail: Increasingly, I use the very powerful search function over the folder structure. However, I still label a few emails to make them more search-friendly, such as “internet registrations”, “receipts” and “travel tickets”. This is so that if (for example) an internet registration email doesn’t have the word “user ID” in the body of the email, I can still find it.

Viewing Unread items in one place in Microsoft Outlook

Seeing all your unread items in one place in MS Outlook is easy.

Look in the Search folders under your folder list – one will be named “unread“.

TASKS: Drag an email to the task icon to turn an email into a task, and then you can set due dates and more options.

MARK AS READ KEYBOARD SHORTCUT: Mark an item as read by hitting Control+Q.

Note on folders in Outlook: I have only a few folders in my work outlook system, one is called “Important Reference” for stuff I keep having to refer back to, one is called “Current Ideas”, and one is “Personal” – I use the search function to find everything else.

Let me know…

  • if you have some hints and tips you’d like to share, favourite keyboard shortcuts or productivity tips on these or other software
  • if any of these tips helped!

Good luck 🙂