Vegas Vacation: Is Taking Kids a Good Idea?

Q: Kids in Las Vegas: appropriate or not? My wife and I have been there a few times on our own, and we know they can't go in the casinos, but there are really cheap hotel rooms there right now and it's one of the few places we can fly to nonstop from our hometown. It'd be a lot easier to take our kids there than to Florida. I mentioned this to my friend, though, and she was horrified—she said we should expect all sorts of dirty looks. What do you think?

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A: Las Vegas tried to position itself as a family-friendly destination a few years ago… and then promptly axed that marketing campaign in favor of the much more successful "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" one. So that should give you some idea of what you're in for. In my opinion, the dirty looks (which you will probably get) are the least of your problems, but ultimately, it's your call.

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I've seen kids in Vegas, and some of the hotels have amenities that would appeal to them (wave pool at Mandalay Bay, Madame Tussaud's at the Venetian, roller coaster at New York New York, etc.). But Vegas is an adult playground, and even if you avoid the casinos, your kids are bound to be exposed to some rather adult things. In fact, I'd rather walk through a casino with kids than walk down the Strip with them. To my six-year-old, a casino would simply look like a giant, boring version of Chuck E. Cheese… but on the street I'd get questions like, "Mommy, why is that man handing out cards with a picture of a lady in her underwear?" Personally, I'd prefer not to deal with that kind of question yet, but that's just me.

I do hear you on wanting to take advantage of the cheap rooms and especially the nonstop flights (which are a huge plus when you have kids in tow). So I have another suggestion: why not look into the resorts just outside town? They're literally miles away from the Strip and are much more family-friendly.

How to Be a Generous Guest

Q: If a restaurant has a "buy one entrée, get one free" coupon, are you supposed to tip based on what's actually on your bill or what the bill would have been including the second entrée?

A: I think it's the latter. Your server has to do the same amount of work for a table with a coupon and a table without, so I'd figure the tip based on the larger amount.

Q: My friends invited me to join them on a road trip, but I don't drive. (I'm a native New Yorker—never learned!) So I can't take a turn at the wheel, which makes me feel like a bit of a freeloader, since we're driving from Chicago to New Orleans. Should I offer to pay more of the gas and tolls? What else can I do?

A: Yes, offering to chip in a bit extra for gas and tolls would be appropriate. Your friends might say not to worry about it, but it's nice to offer. You could also be the designated map-reader (or, these days, GPS-programmer), and occasionally pick up some snacks for the drivers. Basically, just don't behave like you deserve to be driven everywhere, and you'll be fine.

Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at