by Nikole Weber
Sydney Jung tops off her duffel bag with red Solo cups, Band-Aids, Advil, Gatorade and two pairs of heels. She’s off to Sin City, and being the Vegas veteran that she is, has perfected the art of packing for a weekend of endless partying.
Mid-afternoon on a Friday, Jung and her friends pile into her Volkswagen Jetta to embark on a four-hour journey from Orange to Las Vegas. Although the barren route consists only of monochromatic desert brush, by the time Jung pulls up to the Las Vegas Strip, the sun has set, and the city flashes and clamors with life.
“There’s nothing around you the entire drive, but as soon as you get to Vegas it’s like: Buildings! Lights! Glamor! And lots of smoke,” said Jung.
Vegas is the ultimate destination for twenty-first birthdays, fraternity formals, EDM concerts, and weekend getaways. 21 year old Chapman students flock to the neighboring state year-round and hit the club-filled Las Vegas Strip as a way to let loose, celebrate and escape the standard scene. A handful of Chapman students have made vacationing in Vegas a norm, and have learned the tricks on how to thrive—or at least survive—in the city that never sleeps.
But why has road tripping to Vegas become routine to so many Chapman students? Senior Amy Sayers said it’s a desire to escape the small college town, especially after the anti-partying laws inflicted by the Orange Police Department.
“Chapman doesn’t have the best party scene, so we like to get away to Vegas,” said Sayers, before adding, “When you go there, you’re escaping from real life; you’re away from civilization.”
Jung adds that even when she goes out in Newport for the night, she seems to always encounter familiar faces and classmates.
In contrast, “Vegas is so big, and you can go to so many different places in one night, the chances of you running into someone you know is small,” said Jung.
The sparkling city is an ideal destination for college students and can easily be done on a tight budget, if planned wisely. Senior Kendra Fox, who has been to Vegas roughly nine times since her twenty-first birthday last year, said that she and her friends often trade the lavish, glitzy hotels for modest rooms and prices, and still have an extraordinary experience.
“This last weekend I spent sixty dollars the entire weekend. Try to do it as cheap as possible so you can keep going back,” said Fox.
Fox and her buddies have made modestly-sized Vegas hotel, The Quad, their home base. It’s situated right along the Strip, but according to Fox, it’s not as renowned as some of the larger, more extravagant resorts.
“No one’s ever heard of [The Quad], but I totally recommend it. It’s about $100 for a room per night. So, if you have four or five people splitting it, it’s pretty cheap,” said Fox.
While going to Sin City every few weeks requires careful budgeting, some students only make the trek for special events that call for splurging.
Sayers highly recommends her twenty-first birthday spot, The Cosmopolitan, which features stunning chandelier décor and easy access to nightclubs within the hotel. Junior Chloe Edgerton, also a Vegas expert, loves to splurge on Caesar’s Palace because of the extensive collection of shops and restaurants inside the elaborately decorated Caesar’s Forum. Edgerton says that location is also a game-changer when deciding where to stay.
She points out that Caesar’s Palace and the Cosmo are both “directly in the middle of the strip, so no matter where you go cabs aren't going to be super expensive. Cabs are notoriously overpriced in Vegas,” said Edgerton.
To avoid the hassle of taxiing to various hotels featuring the clubs on her agenda, Jung once took a strategic approach to her Vegas stay.
“One time we tried staying at the hotel of the club we went to every night. So the first night we stayed at Mandalay Bay because we went to Light, then the next morning we woke up and went to the Wynn because we went to XS that night,” said Jung.
She said that although it was difficult to check out and move hotels early in the morning, it was easier than waiting in long lines for cabs after a long night of clubbing.
Vegas has world-famous nightlife, and the resort-based clubs each have their own unique features that draw enormous crowds every night of the week.
Hakkasan, Marquee, Light and XS seem to be the trending nightclubs, offering elaborate spaces, live DJs and unexpected surprises. The crowd favorite, XS, inside of the Wynn, has an expansive open-air space located behind the backless stage to cool off, socialize or play a game of Black Jack.
“There’s an outdoor section that wraps around the pool. And they also have gambling in the middle of the pool. I think it’s the only club that has outdoor gambling,” said Fox.
It can be a challenge to get into popular clubs, such as XS, without possessing VIP wristbands or being on some sort of list, especially when high-profile DJs are headlining. That’s where club promoters come in.
Ask anyone who’s gone to Vegas, and they’ll tell you that networking is key. Fox asserts that the more people you know, and the more you interact with promoters, club staff, and other party-goers, the more likely you will be able to get what you want.
“Early October I made a friend who works at the new club, Light, in Mandalay Bay. Every time I go, I text him. The great thing about promoters is that they have this huge connection web. So, say I’m not going to his club but I’m going to XS. He would have friends who work at XS who would be able to get me on a list, get me free drinks…things like that. Just from making that one friend,” said Fox.
If you’re having trouble pinning down a club promoter, Edgerton suggests using social media. They may even come to you.
“Often by searching #hakkasan or #whateverclub you'll find someone's public page of promoting with their number for you to contact,” said Edgerton.
She notes that when travelling with a group of all women, she and her friends have had dinners, shows, and VIP tables with bottle service, all comped by a promoter. By getting beautiful women into the clubs, men spend more money on them, generating revenue for both the club and the promoters.
There’s no denying that attractive women in Vegas are treated like royalty, but if men play their cards right, they can reap the benefits of networking as well.
Jeff Morse, a Chapman alum and former President of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, explained how his connections and reputation led to perks including the free use of the $25,000-per-night Harwood Suite for Pike’s evening event. The famed 10,000-sq.-ft. suite inside of the Palms resort is known for its full-sized basketball court.
Morse grew up going to Las Vegas with his father, an avid gambler, who was frequently flown out to the casinos by various resorts. Morse’s 21 birthday marked the beginning of his own monthly trips, which quickly gained the attention of Vegas hotels.
“There’s a certain program that’s used to track spending at different hotels. There’s an ID number for each name given once you check in, and if your name is used often, they notice that,” Morse said.
But Morse has done far more than just piggyback off of his father’s reputation. The charismatic go-getter said he loves socializing and strives to make connections everywhere he goes.
He left his impression on the Palms by hosting multiple Chapman events that brought masses of people, not to mention copious amounts of dough, to their resort. Morse and his Las Vegas-native friend, Madison Fiore, also a Chapman alum, organized the first “Chaptown Goes to Vegas” event in 2012. They invited the entire student population (primarily via Facebook) to purchase a discounted weekend package that included a four-person room and four wristbands for day and night access to the hottest clubs on the Strip.
The next year, when Jeff brought his fraternity to the same site, the Palms were eager to offer him upgrades and elite perks.
Due to the unpredictable nature of Vegas nightlife, however; it’s possible to have rare and coveted experiences without ever spending a dime. Fox recalls a time when she and her friends were dancing near the stage to one of their favorite DJs, Laidback Luke, when a bouncer unexpectedly pulled them back stage.
“We took a selfie with Laidback Luke,” said Fox, “We weren’t on a specific list, we weren’t even on his radar, we just got pulled out of a crowd.”
Fox said that one of the friends in her group had gone home earlier in the night and regretted missing the once in a lifetime opportunity. That’s why her one rule is to “close the club down.” She stresses that everyone stay out until they see the golden glow of sunrise, even when they feel like calling it a night.
“Always stay until the end. You never know what’s going to happen,” she said, “And that’s why I keep going back. Every time I go, something crazy happens.”