Tips for VMworld US 2011 & Las Vegas

As VMworld US 2011 approaches I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve learned about traveling to & in Las Vegas, and things that I wish I’d been told the first time I went to VMworld. You folks probably also have a bunch of good ideas that I’ll miss, please add them in the comments!


  • There are multiple ways for a cab to get to your hotel, but the Interstate 215 tunnel is NOT the shortest way. Ever. That’s a classic cab scam and will result in a 30 minute cab ride, when the Strip is 10 minutes away. Explicitly ask to go to your hotel via Tropicana Avenue.
  • Traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard (“the Strip”) at night is insane, so don’t be surprised if a cab takes very strange back ways to get you to your destination. If you’re in doubt just ask the driver what he’s doing. Vegas cabs charge for time standing still, so you might as well keep moving even if it’s a sub-optimal route.
  • Cabs cannot pick people up directly on Las Vegas Boulevard. If you need a cab go to the nearest casino and get one at the taxi stand.
  • Cabs can take up to four people, so splitting a taxi with others is a good idea. Especially on the way back out to the airport at the end. That’s actually how I met Mike Laverick the first time!
  • There are free trams that run between the Mirage and Treasure Island, between the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo, and between the Excalibur and Mandalay Bay. There is also a monorail that runs the length of the strip but is $5 a ride. Check this map for more information. The trams usually stop running at a certain time each night, like 10:30, so beware.
  • Walking isn’t that big of a deal, as the Strip is only 4 miles long and the Venetian is right in the middle of it. Stay on Las Vegas Boulevard, though. Going a couple blocks off of it can get you into some seedy areas.

General Casino:

  • Many casino ATMs only issue $100 bills. However, all casino floors have change machines and cashiers, both of which can assist you in getting smaller denominations of money.
  • Drinks of any type, alcoholic or not, are free while you’re playing a game. This is true of all games, from table games to video poker & slots. Don’t be afraid to order what you want. It’s customary to tip the waitresses $1 every drink or two. Of course, you should weigh the price of a beer against what you’re going to lose by gambling…
  • If you’re interested in learning how to play a particular casino game most casinos have tutorials scheduled throughout the day & night.
  • If you do play there is usually some etiquette and superstition for each game. Look it up. For example, you never say the word “seven” around a craps table.


  • Good walking shoes are key. If you need a new pair, or a new pair of arch supports/inserts, get them now and break them in. If you’re doing it right you’ll be on your feet a lot.
  • In years past VMworld has issued everybody a backpack and water bottle, but I tend to bring my own, partly because my day pack is more comfortable and larger, partly because that’s what I bring on the plane anyhow. Regardless, there’s a lot of distance between your room and the conference hall, and it’s nice to have a place to stow swag, laptops, casino winnings, etc.
  • Leave room in your luggage for all the iPads you’re going to win. Doubly so if you’re @NerdBlurt.
  • All the sessions are recorded, which, for me, means I prioritize sessions where I can ask questions and participate. It also means that I’ll sometimes opt to do labs or visit the Solutions Exchange in lieu of sessions, too. Labs are great, make sure you do them!
  • Conference WiFi always sucks. Fact of life, all conferences, all the time (except Interop, which just makes sense). Likewise, hotel networking is always 100000000000% oversubscribed. Use the time to do some human networking instead.
  • Talk to your vendor reps now, while you’re at home. See if they are throwing any parties or happy hours at VMworld, and get yourself invited to them.
  • Most of all, enjoy yourself. This should be the fun part of your virtualization work!

That’s all I can think of right now. What am I missing? Add it below!

23 thoughts on “Tips for VMworld US 2011 & Las Vegas”

  1. Don’t forget to enjoy Vegas.
    May I recommend to visit the world famous (yes it is still free) fontain show at the Bellagio at least twice. Cross the street form the venetian, walk left and get ready for one of the most beautiful things in Vegas. (It’s alway’s the first thing I want to see in the evening.

    • I’d try Fry’s Electronics. It’s about a $15 cab ride there, one way, unless you have a car. Take friends and split the cost of the ride, if they’ve never been to Fry’s it’s worth it. It’s a giant department store, where all the departments are electronic/geek oriented.

  2. Bob, thanks for the tips, and keep em coming. Excellent and timely as well. Looking forward to VMworld alot!!!! What’s the typical tip by the way? We don’t tip here in NZ…

    • Tips depend on what you’re doing. In a busy place I tend to tip extremely well ($2-$3 per drink) the first time, so I get their attention, then settle down to $1 or so per drink after that, depending on the level of service. If you run a tab/put it on a credit card I’d think about 20% or so, plus or minus depending on the service.

      The recommendation for gambling is $5/hour to the dealer, at least what I’ve read (I don’t do a lot of gambling). For cabs I usually do a few dollars, depending on the distance and helpfulness.

  3. Been to Vegas a lot of times.

    -Forget airport cabs, take the shuttle buses. They are pretty cheap and you can usually buy the ticket when you make your flight/hotel reservations on travel sites. If not, just go to the stand at the Vegas airport in the limo pickup area and buy a round trip ticket. You call to schedule a pickup time from your hotel the day before heading back to the airport.

    -The free trams are nice, but they are like moving sidewalks in airports. Don’t consider them to be distance strip transportation. Most are way in the obscure back of casinos and finding the stations can be an adventure. If you happen to be near one that goes in your direction, great! Otherwise don’t worry too much about them.

    -Only 4 miles!? Been many a foot blister in my groups. Usually end up walking one way then taking a cab back due to pain, bleeding, and exhaustion. Good walking shoes are mandatory, this place is BIG.

    -At&t 3G is massively over-used and was completely worthless on my last trip in Dec. 2010. Couldn’t hardly load a single web page all weekend. Turned 3g off, edge worked wonderfully in comparison.

    -Things are not cheap, restaurants, bars, and shows cost quite a bit. There are several ridiculously excellent buffets, which usually cost $15-30.

    -Vegas is a shopping mall that wanders in and out of the hotels, around the back sides, and through the corridors between them. If the strip is 4 miles, there is 12 miles of shopping mall. Take that, Mall of America! But its a lot of repeat stores and not so much variety, not much in the way of electronics. The Planet Hollywood mall, near the PH Towers, had a Best Buy vending machine. Really.

  4. If you’re walking during the heat of the day, bring water or perhaps buy one from the guys on the street. You should be at sessions instead but that’s another story. Sure the casino is right there but if you’re really thirsty it will take a little while to walk in, grab a drink.

    Please be aware that lots of people will be flipping little cards in their hands to get your attention. Don’t grab one unless you’re prepared for what you’ll see. Usually naked ladies with (sometimes) discreet stars or smiley faces on certain locations. I haven’t been in a couple of years but I assume this is still going on.

    • Hooker trading cards — yeah. 🙂

      Guys on the street sell water for $1 a bottle, which is actually a decent deal, comparatively. I do suggest bringing a Nalgene anyhow.

      • Hooker Trading Cards +1 LOL
        we bought the bottled water a couple of times and had no issue. Had a seal and didn’t taste like river water at least. 🙂

  5. The flyer-mexicans are almost gone. Lot’s of nightclub proppers now though. If you want a show, visit the discount shop tix4tonight. Usually 40% off tickets for the same day. Monorail is pretty useless since the walk to and from a station meanders through the casinos. Cabs are way more convenient. Say hi to Tony Sanchez the crazy cabbie for me 🙂

    • Coming with a bunch of smaller bills ($5, $10) helps immensely if you are splitting checks with people. As for ATMs, I figure that if I need to use one I will get at least $400 out, to minimize my cash-to-fee ratio.

      • Yea, I don’t think I’ve ever pulled below $500 out (ATM) in Lost Wages, but it’s usually because I’m down at the tables, not to catch the next showing of Blue Man Group.

  6. I just got word that my chances of attending this year are looking better (although not yet certain) I am figuring up total trip cost but have no idea what to expect for daily living expenses. I naturally assume I’m responsible for all of my dinners and i usually throw down granoloa bars or fruit for breakfast anyways. Is lunch provided during the event? Just trying to get an idea of how much I might need in pocket throughout the week.
    Thanks and I hope to see you there!

  7. I have a question…. What is the best way to sneak my spouse into the party? Borrow someone’s pass? $275 is a RIPOFF for a guest pass.

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