The night before our return home from Las Vegas, was spent being tourists on the strip.

For months, I had looked forward to seeing the famous Bellagio fountains, so we ventured over there to catch the show. We had (deliberately) positioned ourselves in the same spot where George Clooney and company stood to watch the water show at the end of Ocean’s 11, but the wind that night was just strong enough that we couldn’t stand anywhere close without being soaked by the mist. I was pretty disappointed, but I guess I’ll just have to watch the movie again and pretend I saw it for myself.

Our group met up in our hotel casino later that night, to just hang out and relax. We had crammed a lot of activity into just a few days, so it was nice to just chill out, have a drink, throw a few dollars down at the slot machines, and not have anywhere to go.

Our flight was leaving around suppertime the following day, so we still had a full day to kill, though the killing would be done without any of the standard indulgences, as we were staring down a 12-hour travel day. I’m not much of a shopper, but we couldn’t exactly leave without a few souvenirs, and my mother-in-law might have disowned me had I come home without taking advantage of the many shopping venues. Our first stop was Dick’s Sporting Goods where a few of us with 13-year-old sons picked up some jerseys and other outrageously-priced memorabilia. (And I scored a Philadelphia Eagles shirt on clearance, so not a total loss.) I can appreciate the wasted opportunity of those massive outlet malls we visited, but with the exception of a few little things, we didn’t buy much.

With just a few hours until we had to go home, we headed back to Harrah’s to join our crew for a final bit of vacation. We got massages, ate a few specialty treats at the amazing on-site bakery, and tried the oxygen bar (not worth the money, by the way). The great part about finding people with whom you travel well, is that everyone enjoys things at their own pace, and our group was the perfect example. Everyone was pumped to enjoy Las Vegas with friends, and equally content to do their own thing when the time came, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to make some great memories with friends, old and new. They all had a later flight, so we bid them farewell at the casino and left them to enjoy their last few hours in town.

During an Uber ride to one of our excursions the first or second day, we were bragging to the driver about how much energy we had on such little sleep. He laughed uproariously at our confidence, and explained that oxygen was pumped into every hotel 24/7 to keep people awake and spending money. He assured us that the moment we were away from the strip, we’d hit a wall, hard.

A truer statement has never been made.

It hit us like a freight train the moment we walked into the airport. Everything hurt. Our heads pounded from sleep deprivation and dehydration, and I was so tired I was almost in tears. We sat at our boarding gate, in absolute, abject misery. Contrary to popular opinion, what happens in Vegas does not, in fact, stay in Vegas – it follows you home.

And home is not a two-hour drive with reclining seats and climate control. It is an excruciating, never-ending test of the human condition, meant to punish you for the week’s sins. Every annoyance and gripe you endured on the way TO Las Vegas is amplified on your way FROM Las Vegas, and I can promise you, of all the flights I’ve taken in 40 years, that day was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life. Should you make the trip, prepare accordingly.

The thing about Las Vegas is that it grows on you. Even if you don’t have a huge interest in gambling or drinking (like me), even if you don’t have a huge interest in seeing shows, there are so many things to do and see that you could go 10 times and barely scratch the surface.

And if you go with the right people, shortly after returning home you find yourself planning a return trip, even if it’s only in your head.