As a Southern Californian, the call to head towards Las Vegas is strong and frequent. A weekend roadtrip with friends or family to Las Vegas can be the ultimate dream or nightmare. What makes the difference? Most of the times, the drive has a big part on how your weekend turns out. As a Las Vegas native and current SoCal resident, I drive to and fro between Las Vegas to California almost once per month. Over the span of eight years, I have made the trek almost 100 times and have accumulated a certain amount of experience. While driving to Las Vegas might seem like a daunting task, these tips and tricks will make your trip as easy as pie, so take heed!
Before the Drive:
Just be aware the a trip from SoCal to Vegas will take approximately 5 hours if you are driving from the farther points such as Los Angeles or San Diego. If you are leaving from the Orange County or Inland Empire, your drive will take approximately 3.5 to 4 hours. So prepare ahead of time of things you want to bring in your car to make the trip most comfortable. Snacks, CD’s of your favorite music, soft pillows for the passengers are all good choices.
Also, remember make sure your car is at optimal operating efficiency before your leave. This means making sure all of your fluids are topped off, your tires and brakes are in good condition, and your engine does not have any major problems. You DON’T want to be the car that gets stuck in the middle of the Mojave Desert being gawked at by other travelers to Las Vegas, especially not in the summer. A functional air conditioner will also make your trip more enjoyable but is not necessary. Finally, the most important part is to make sure your car has a FULL tank of gas before you leave, doing this will allow you to avoid having to fill up during your drive. Not onlyl is this a waste of your time, the gas stations between California and Las Vegas are also more expensive than your typical gas station. So if you don’t want to pay $5.00 for a gallon of gas, then FILL up before you leave. I cannot stress this enough.
Finally, make sure all of your passengers empty out their bladders and bowels before your trip; the less stops you have to make the better.
Mapping out the Drive:
Directions to Las Vegas are actually quite simple.
If you are coming from Los Angeles county area, get on the 210 or 10 or 60 freeway and head east toward the I-15. Personally, I recommend the 210 freeway as it is usually the least crowded and will help you bypass the traffic near Ontario. Once you are on the I-15 Northbound, keep driving until you reach Las Vegas.
If you are coming from Orange county, head east on the 91 freeway and keep on driving until you hit the I-15. From there, get on the I-15 Northbound and drive until you hit Las Vegas.
If you are coming from Riverside, your best bet is to get on the 215 Freeway and head toward San Bernadino until the 215 transforms into the I-15 Northbound. Keep on truckin’ until you arrive at Las Vegas. An alternate route is driving on the 60 E bound until you reach the I-15 Northbound.
If you are coming from San Diego, the best route is to get on the I-15 Northbound switch onto 215 Freeway North and continue until the 215 become the I-15 again.
So now that you have prepared your car and have a general idea of where to go, we’re ready to head to Las Vegas!
If you are leaving on Sunday through Thursday, there is usually not much to worry about.
The bulk of traffic on the commute will come on Friday nights, Saturday morning, or the first night of a “getaway weekend”, (ie. Wednesday night of Thanksgiving weekend). To avoid the traffic on Friday nights or the first night of a “getaway weekend”, leave before 2:00pm on Friday afternoons if possible, 1:00pm if you are coming from L.A. or San Diego. If you are unable to get off work by 2:00pm, the best time to leave for Vegas would be after 10:00pm.
Now, if you want to leave on Saturday, the best time is at 7:00am. If you leave by 8:00am, you are really testing your luck.
Remember, if you leave at the least busy times, the likely hood of a traffic accident blocking your way is decreased significantly. So pick a good time to leave, and your drive to Las Vegas will bring much less headaches.
On the Road:
It might appear easy driving straight on the I-15 until you have arrived in Las Vegas, but driving to Las Vegas requires skill and determination. Below I will outline some hidden etiquettes of the I-15, ignoring them and you will infuriate veteran drivers and truckers driving alongside you. And might even lead to an accident or bodily harm.
1. If you wish to be in the fast lane, drive at least 80mph. A good thing to note is that if you maintain a speed of 80mph the whole way to Las Vegas, I guarantee you will never get a speeding ticket (unless you are in a construction zone). Cops regularly pick out cars who are driving at 90-100mph to ticket.
2. If you are driving 80mph in the fast lane and someone behind you is driving faster, unless the faster car is already switching lanes, move to the slow lane when safe and allow the faster car to pass you. Even though the other car is in the wrong for tailgating you, you are protecting yourself and your loved ones.
3. If there is a long backup due to many cars in the fast lane and a line of trucks in the slow lane, DO NOT use the slow lane to get ahead. This not only causes the fast lane to be slower, it increases the risk of causing an accident.
4. Be a courteous driver and share the road. Honestly, if you are in a rush to Las Vegas, follow my tips below and you will definitely save time. There is no need in being an inconsiderate jerk of a driver; it’s bad for your health.
1. Make sure you are awake – if you are tired and drifting off, pull over to the side and take a quick two hour nap. Trying to brave a drowsy spell and losing your life on a fun drive to Vegas is not worth it. I’ve seen enough crushed bodies and totaled cars to feel that this is important to remind you of. If you do not wish to stop, good ways to stay awake include eating a spicy sauage, pouring ice on yourself, and having your friend riding shotgun punch you in the face. Seriously. A bruised eye is better than decapitation.
2. Do not stop at distractions – If you are not sleepy or about to poop your pants, there is NO reason to stop. Stopping wastes your time and allows for possible traffic to build up.
A. Not for food – since you’ve prepare snacks right?
B. Not for tourist traps – There is no need to visit the “ghost town” or the giant thermometer, they’re not that great anyway and remember your goal is LAS
VEGAS! There’s more fun and excitement there than twenty thermometers combined! P.S. Alien jerky is overpriced and not that great. Don’t even stop at
the casinos at stateline. They are a mire shadow of what would be in Las Vegas. For example, the outlet mall in Primm has less selection and higher prices than the outlet malls that are actually located IN Las Vegas.
C. Not for gas – you filled up before your trip and for most cars, one tank should be enough. Please do not drive Hummers for your Vegas trips because you
would just be burning your money away and killing mother earth.
3. Use cruise control – saves gas, allows you to rest your right foot, helps you avoid getting a speeding ticket, enough said.
4. Tune in to the Highway Station occasionally – I know you can’t get enough of your Led Zepplin CD, but do tune to FM 98 or 99 once in a while. They have chessy commercials and tolerable music, but the reason you tune in is for the all important Mojave traffic report. Listen occasionally just so you know what to expect and plan accordingly.
5. Do not speed too badly in construction zone – For construction zones marked 35mph, you can usually get away with 55-60mph. Follow the flow of traffic if you need a guide for how fast you should be going.
6. If there is an accident and the Freeway is stopped or really slow – If you are near a town, it might be a good idea to find a cafe and grab a coffee and wait for the traffic to be cleared. There is no reason to decrease your gas and increase your frustration by sitting in traffic. If you are not near a town and the traffic is completely stopped, just turn off your engine and take a nap.
Arriving in Las Vegas
Upon arriving in Las Vegas, there are two ways you can go. You can take the 215 exit if your hotel is Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excaliber, Tropicana, or Hooters.
Stay on the I-15 and take the Tropicana exit if your hotel is New York New York, MGM, or hotels near those.
Stay on the I-15 and take the Flamingo exit if your hotel is near Caesar’s Palace
Stay on the I-15 and take the Spring Mtn. exit if your hotel is near TI, Venetian, Wynn, Mirage, etc.
Leaving Las Vegas
Make the same preparations you would when you were leaving California. Now in order to avoid traffic and beat the crowds leave at 7:00am for optimal flow and 8:00am for normal flow. If you leave at 9:00am, you might be okay. 10:00am and you’re out of luck, especially if there is an accident. Follow the same tips on the road and you’ll have a nice trip home as well. Remember, don’t make stops unless absolutely necessary.
Hope you enjoyed this guide and put it to good use. Until next time, drive safe and prosper!