LAS VEGAS – The cashier in the hotel lobby shop practically apologized when I asked about the price for a small box of Band-Aid Hydro Seal Blister cushions.
They were $12.95. I had no choice but to swipe my debit card. The free generic band-aids a clerk at another store generously offered a day earlier when she saw me limping didn't do the job.
It was day three of four days at Las Vegas pool parties and my right heel was covered by a blister.
Blame it on poor footwear choices on day one. Las Vegas dayclubs have strict dress codes so I wore what I thought were practical but stylish Steve Madden wedges instead of flimsy Target flip flops.
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Most Las Vegas dayclubs are tucked away at the back of the resort and require a winding walk through a casino, especially if you park or get dropped off at the hotel entrance. Add in endless time on your feet at the pool party and Band-Aids beckon.
If Las Vegas pool parties – where music festival meets nightclub – are on your next Vegas vacation agenda, these do's and don'ts will help set your expectations and save time, money and, maybe, your feet.
How do you get on a Vegas pool party guest list
•Don't buy tickets in advance unless you need a pricey cabana, day bed or bungalow reservations. Get yourself on a guestlist for free admission.
Some hotels offer guestlist desks on site. We spotted desks at Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and The Venetian – they tend to set up shop near the parking garage, hotel lobby or near the pool entrance and are easy to spot.
We wasted $50 by booking two tickets to Wet Republic in advance and couldn't get a refund after we nabbed guest passes in Las Vegas.
The exception here, especially during busy summer holiday weekends: Purchase tickets if there's a must-see act or dayclub on your list and missing it would ruin the vacation.
Some guest list passes include perks. Many places have expedited entry, saving time. (Elia Beach Club had only a single line, resulting in an hourlong wait to get in to see Snoop Dogg.)
At Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay, the guest list admission included two free drinks on the Friday we visited. Ditto at Circa's Stadium Swim on a busy Monday night and Ayu Dayclub at Resorts World Las Vegas on a Saturday morning. We were supposed to get free drinks at Elia but they ran out of tickets before we got to the front of the line given strong demand for Snoop Dogg.
Read the fine print on your guest list admission, especially as it relates to arrival times. We planned to hit the newly renovated Tao Beach club early Saturday afternoon but our admission said we couldn't arrive until 4 p.m.
•Check with your hotel to see if staying there gets you into any of the posh pool parties. We just showed our room key from the Flamingo Las Vegas to get into Drai's Beach Club for free. The Drai's admission came with a free towel, a $5 value. In downtown Las Vegas, a stay at Circa, the D Las Vegas or Golden Gate comes with two free passes to Circa's eye-popping Stadium Swim complex.
•Consider a pool party crawl. The tour we chose from LA Epic Crawls got us expedited admission into both Marquee and Wet Republic, plus a 30-minute party bus ride on the Strip. We paid $112 for two people before tips for the guides. The party started with a buy-one-get-one drink deal at our initial meeting spot at the Tipsy Robot bar inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.
Laura Hill of Melbourne, Australia, books multiple dayclub and nightclub crawls sometimes in the same day, for the camaraderie. She visited Las Vegas twice in the past month to make up for lost time when international borders were closed.
"I just love crawls," she said. "I haven't had to need to meet randoms so far in Vegas because when you go on a crawl you have instant friends."
Don't expect to find a place to sit
•Be prepared to stand. Las Vegas dayclubs make their money from cabanas and other exclusive seating areas with hefty food and drink minimums so they hog all the real estate around the generally small pools.
Ask an attendant at Drai's Beach Club about seating options and they'll say: "If it's red, they cost money." The place is a sea of red.
The only place to sit at most pool parties is on the edge of the pool and those spots fill up quickly when a big entertainer is in the house. The only other option is standing in the pool.
Of the 10 pool parties USA TODAY visited, just two offered free seating on our visit, though one of them you could hardly call a seat.
Stadium Swim at Circa has lounge chairs that are first come first serve, even during the final game of the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. (VIP lounge chairs on the top level of the amphitheater cost extra.)
Encore Beach Club also offers padded cushions around its palm trees, but the seats tend to fill fast. Even if no one is seated, expect to find the cushion covered with shoes, coverups or towels.
•Eat before you go or prepare to pay a lot to eat standing up. In the sun.
Food choices are a mixed bag at dayclubs and the menu items are usually pricey. The carne asada nachos at Marquee Dayclub were delicious – and $36. A chipotle grilled chicken club at Encore Beach Club was $22. Tao Beach has a $52 crab Rangoon dip with caviar.
Cheaper options are available, including $9 chicken tenders and $8 skinny fries at Drai's Beach Club and $14 for a Waygu beef hot dog at Stadium Swim.
Price isn't the only problem. Since there are no free seats with general admission, there is no place to eat at most places.
A bartender at Daylight at Mandalay Bay said we could order food and eat at the bar but standing was the only option because there are no bar stools.
Encore Beach Club had tables near its food stand, although they were small with little shade and no chairs.
The most comfortable and affordable dining option we found was at Drai's Beach Club. The upscale concession stand counter is covered, has a couple tables (but no chairs) and boasts views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Las Vegas pool parties can be packed. Here's how to manage the crowds
•Do go on Friday or Sunday for lighter crowds. The pools we hit in the morning (11 a.m. Friday at Daylight, 11 a.m. Saturday at Ayu and noon on Sunday at Marquee) had little to no lines for entry.
If you have to wait, the guest list line at Encore Beach Club was tops for comfort. It was partially shaded, with fans and water stations to help keep guests cool. The 20-minute wait on a Saturday afternoon wasn't so painful.
At Stadium Swim, lines form inside, a major bonus in the summer.
At Elia Beach Club, in contrast, there was little shade and no water stations in a snaking an hourlong line on a Saturday when Snoop Dogg was the entertainment.
•Don't bring a lot of stuff. Lockers are pricey, ranging from $20 to $75 per day at the pools we visited. But because many pools forbid large bags, guests are often stuck choosing between lugging their items around all day or forking over the money for a locker.
Inflation seems to have hit the pool party lockers. One security guard at Daylight told us the price doubled in the past year, from $20 to $40.
Pack light, too, so nothing is confiscated.
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How hot is Vegas in the summer?
•Slather yourself in sunscreen and stay hydrated. Shade is scarce – unless you pay up for it. Some cabanas and daybeds keep guests cool, but they can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Those $13 water bottles at the pool may be costly, but they're well worth it since mixing alcohol and heat can be a recipe for disaster. If you want to avoid buying an overpriced bottle of Fiji at the bar you can try asking for a cup of ice at the bar and filling it up at a water fountain. Some pools do offer free water stations.
Staying hydrated is always important in the Las Vegas heat (temperatures can exceed 110 in the summer), but it's even more crucial when day drinking. USA TODAY reporters witnessed visitors getting sick and fainting during a weekend trip to pool parties, and one Uber driver said he refuses pick-ups at pool parties if he sees someone being held up by their friends on their way to the car.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vegas pool party: 8 tips for dayclub first timers