We are officially two weeks away from the greatest weekend in sports, the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. March Madness! Are you a March Madness Freshman? Welcome to the big show kid! Are you a 5th (or 10th)-year Senior? You know the tricks, but you can always strive for perfection.
I’m always for a care-free Vegas trip with very little planning most of the time, but for this weekend you need to have a plan. This is the second busiest weekend of the year in Vegas and almost everyone has at least one thing in common, they want to watch games! You have plenty of options, but if you have your heart set on a specific viewing party or want reservations at your favorite steakhouse, now’s the time to make sure you aren’t disappointed.
So without further ado, here’s The Dent’s March Madness checklist, featuring some planning tips before you head to Vegas and some savy veteran leadership to ensure you have the best time while there.
Research & Book Your Viewing Parties Now
If you have your heart set on a specific viewing party, you should book now. But if you have a specific viewing party, you probably already know that. We suggest researching your options for the games now so when you get to Vegas you have a plan in place, whether already booked or not.
There are lots of options for games. If you just want to walk around the casinos and find a place anywhere, you may not need a plan, but its still good to understand the options.
Most of the viewing parties come in one of a few different flavors.
- Traditional Viewing Party – All Inclusive: Casino Ballroom is converted into tables, couches, booths, etc. These usually are designed to watch every game, all day. They are usually pricey ($250/day often) and include food/drinks for the day. You can usually get GA tickets that guarantee a seat at a table or you can upgrade to a more private/comfortable experience for a price.
- Traditional Viewing Party – Food & Beverage Minimum: Very similar to above, but with a different food structure. Casino Ballroom is converted into tables, couches, booths, etc. These usually are designed to watch every game, all day. You basically pre-pay a minimum amount ($100+/person usually) and you get that in “credit” for your food and drink. The biggest difference is it can be cheaper (if you only spend your minimum) or way more expensive (if you get drunk and start buying shots). Similar to above, you can usually upgrade to couches/man caves/etc. for a higher minimum.
- Sports Bar or Club Viewing Party: It’s March Madness, so EVERYONE will be showing the games. But all these parties are not created equal. We recommend places that are used to throwing big parties with plenty of TVs and an understanding of how to get sound for multiple games on at once. Nothing is worse than having to watch your team on a 50 inch TV across the room with the sound blaring from another game. Also, be sure to understand the pricing structure. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check out previous reviews and understand if anything has changed.
- Pool Party/Viewing Party In One: If you want something a bit outside the box, you can get a cabana at one of the mega-pool parties and watch games and check out the scene. Not an option for everyone, but something to consider if it makes sense for your group.
- “Adult” Options: If you want to mix your pleasure and your basketball, some of the gentlemen’s clubs do throw parties.
- Sportsbook / Open Seating: If you can’t commit to one location for the day, you can always hop from casino to casino and sports book to sports book. Understand who are having parties and which are open. Most of the casino floor bars will have the game on and you can always find a place to watch.
The best place we’ve found to research parties is the March Madness in Las Vegas Facebook Group. This post is especially helpful, as it includes links to the 2019 March Madness viewing parties and previous year reviews.
Get a Haircut, Do Laundry, & Hit the Drycleaners
Okay, so maybe you don’t need a hair cut or the dry cleaners, but I do. Do you need a new
Here’s a list of things that we have forgotten before taking a trip: Sunglasses, sunscreen, comfy shoes, swimsuits, sports coat, condoms, undergarments, my entire dry cleaning order, bathroom essentials, socks, sandals, shorts, pajamas, and basically everything in between. Some of these are easy enough to replace, but everything is a little more expensive in Vegas and every dollar you send on a new pair of sunglasses because you got put on the porch, the less you have to gamble and drink.
Basically, don’t be like me and always wait till the night before to start thinking about these things and don’t forget the basics. Start now and make sure you have nothing to worry about besides catching your flight.
Talk To Your Crew Before You Leave
One thing I would have never considered before I went on my last trip: ask the guys I’m going with what they expect out of this vacation. I went with a buddy from college and a few of his friends who I watched games with in college. We drank and watched games in college, so I assumed we would be on the same page.
Boy was I wrong. The first sign that this was not what I signed up for is when they got to the room with only a small carry on… for 4 days. This isn’t even a roller bag, just a duffle bag to “save money”.
These guys didn’t bring a second pair of shoes and only had gym shorts and t-shirts. There would be no nice dinners, no clubs, no pools, nothing but basketball. For me, basketball is great, but I go to Vegas for all the other stuff too… Nice steak dinners, nice(r) weather than the midwest, and a club or two to boot.
Luckily I had some other friends in town that I did end up going to nice dinners with and hanging out, but I wouldn’t always have been so lucky. If you haven’t talked about what to expect with your crew, you might not get to do everything you want.
Check Your Booked Flight Price for Discounts
This is one I’ve heard about, but never thought it would happen to me until it did. Check your booked flight price to see if it’s changed. I have this nifty app called Trip It Pro (paid, but they have a free version) that sent me an alert last week that my Southwest flight has dropped in price. I went into the Southwest app, “changed” my flight to the same flight and now have $68 to use on my next trip.
It was an awesome little bonus, so definitely take a look. Two weeks out is usually a good time for this to happen.
Get Your Bets in Early
Everything is open all night in Vegas, except the sports book! And remember that the games start at 9:00am in Vegas, so getting bets in for the first round of games can be tricky. If you know what you want to do, make the first game bets Wednesday night or plan on using mobile betting options. Even though, know that you likely physically have to add money to your account, so don’t wait.
Overall, we did 90% of our betting on the app last year and it was a much more enjoyable experience. The “tip” doesn’t matter (as you can place bets throughout the game with moving lines, at least with MGM’s app) and you don’t have to remember your bet when talking to a cashier (which is great for newbies and drunks). There’s something nice about holding the ticket, but that wears off quickly when the line is crawling.
Must Have for Vegas!
Do Things Other Than Basketball
Basketball can be the focus, but don’t forget you are in Vegas baby! Get up early and take a walk through the casinos and grab some brunch. Catch a late night variety show (Absinthe is our favorite). Try one of the amazing restaurants that call Vegas home. Spend one night raging in a dance club (lots of A-List stars will be there) or grab a drink (even just a coffee) at a club with an amazing view (Apex Social Club has our favorite view).
We love March Madness and know you will too. Don’t forget to check out our Ultimate Guide to Crushing March Madness in Vegas and The Definitive Guide to Surviving March Madness in Vegas if you want even more March Madness coverage!