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Well, here we are in Las Vegas!

PH and I came down to Vegas a couple of years ago. Neither of us had ever had a strong desire to go, but when you live on the West Coast, Vegas is a cheap and common vacation spot.

Flights are usually well below a hundred dollars and when you come in the off-season (as we did last time) hotel rooms are shockingly cheap – like, 25 bucks a night. Plus, since everything in Vegas is aimed at getting you into their casinos, it’s easy to get discounts on everything from show tickets to meals. If you pay full price for something in Vegas, it’s because you were too lazy to check for a coupon.

Las Vegas is like walking into a bizarre Skinner Box which is specially designed for the extroverted mind.

Everything dings, flashes and clangs. People on the street dressed as Elmo or Spiderman accost you and demand that you take your photo with them. Signs assure you that “you can sleep when you get home!” while offering you all-night access to liquor, gambling, and naked ladies.

The slot machines are the most obvious Skinner Box kind of trap. Despite passing row after row of slots all of which offer different “games”, with themes varying from goldfish and cute dogs to Wheel of Fortune, Battleship, and Sex and the City… all of them offer the same basic game – pull the lever/press the button and hope that the computer will line up a series of pictures in your favour.

Even my teddy bear, Timothy, got hooked on the slots.

Every now and then the machine dings and gives you a reward for playing, which is usually just a fraction of what you have already spent. Nevertheless, the casinos know what I am always telling dog training clients : the size of the reward doesn’t matter – the behavior will still be reinforced whether you use a crumb or a giant cookie.

And so people lose their money at shocking rates, while being reinforced for pushing a button over and over again. I have trained rats to do the same thing. I really don’t see the appeal, personally.

So what are we doing here?

Well, first, as previously mentioned, it’s cheaper than a lot of other vacation options. Secondly, we’re on our way to see PH’s bible-thumping grandmother whom I have never met but am terrified of based on some of the family stories about her. Before we get to the place where I have to refer to Owl’s Christening as a “baptism” lest I suffer the wrath of the Almighty, we’ve got to get some fun into this vacation.

And Vegas is fun.

It is dirty, and sleazy beyond belief. But it is fun.

We specifically chose a hotel with a good pool, for Owl’s sake. Originally we wanted the Monte Carlo, but that was a little out of our price range so we settled for Excalibur, which we figured would be good when it came to entertaining Owl.

But it isn’t as good as we expected.

At our last stay, we stayed at Circus Circus. It is the epitome of Vegas – sleazy, filled with cigarette smoke and blinking lights. It’s also on the older end of the strip, making it a little out of the way.

But it was cheap.

We thought Excalibur with it’s fairy-castle exterior would be a step up, and in a way it is – it is cleaner, and less sleazy (although still full of sleaze – this IS Vegas).

I like the castle-ness of it, since knights and dragons appeal to me more than scary clowns. It is also closer to a lot of things, like the sharks at Mandalay Bay, is connected via indoor pedways to neighbouring hotels (which is good for walking Owl without roasting him) and the pool is pretty good, with a huge shallow end for Owl.

I feel like we made the right choice for this trip.

But it isn’t nearly as child friendly as you would think. If we come back again when Owl is older, I think we’d be much more likely to return to Circus Circus.

Circus Circus had a bigger arcade/midway, had an entire amusement park, had free circus acts to watch…

Excalibur actually has less stuff aimed at kids than Circus Circus, despite being priced higher, and to our surprise, the hotel rooms are not as good.

Our hotel room doesn’t have a safe, has holes in the coverlets, a stain on the floor, and it doesn’t even have a bathtub.

Now tell me, is it wise for a hotel which is semi-marketed to children to not offer a bath tub to the parents of these sweaty, sticky children? Shouldn’t they at least warn you? The site doesn’t say a word about no bathtubs. Now, it doesn’t promise you a bathtub, but it doesn’t promise you a toilet either. Some things you just take for granted.

I’m a bath kind of girl, but more importantly, Owl does NOT like showers. We would have to fork out another $300 bucks to get a fancy spa tub if we wanted to actually BATHE him (or if I wanted to do the same thing I did last time we were in Vegas, and eat Krispy Kreme in the tub at night).

Good thing we have the pool. 

We’re going to swim every day.

In other news, PH keeps offering to stay “home” with Owl while I go to a performance of Thunder From Down Under. I’m almost tempted, mostly because the girls at work would just about die from jealousy, but I’m pretty sure that a show like that is the kind of thing you DON’T EVER DO ALONE. So I think that I would really rather not.