Las Vegas on a Budget – Fun and Affordable
Written by: Gray Cargill
Today I am thrilled to share with you a guest post from a great travel writer and blogger, Gray Cargill of the site Solo Friendly. Gray’s expertise doesn’t stop at solo travel, she is also an expert on all things Vegas, as she proves on her other site, Vegas Solo. She was good enough to write a primer on how to save money in Las Vegas.
If you’ve been dreaming of a Las Vegas vacation, but don’t think you can afford it, think again. Yes, Vegas is the land of over-the-top excess, $300 bottle service, and shopping at high end designer boutiques like Dior and Louis Vuitton. But a vacation in Sin City doesn’t have to break the bank. There are always less expensive alternatives to what you want to do in Las Vegas. As long as you go into it with the right attitude, experiencing the city on the cheap can still be a blast. Here are a few of my favorite money-saving tips for Las Vegas:
Save Money on Your Hotel
Vegas hotels are not priced as high as similar hotels in other major U.S. cities, so no matter what price you pay, you’re getting more bang for your buck in Vegas. For $159, you can get a room the size of a prison cell (with shared bath) in New York City or a four- or five-star luxury hotel room in Las Vegas. I’ve seen three-star hotel prices as low as $26 night, even on the Strip. How can you save money on your hotel?
- Avoid weekends – Hotel prices are cheaper Sunday-Thursday nights.
- Shop around – Sign up to receive emails from all the Vegas hotels you’d consider staying at. They’ll send you any discount offers they have. Don’t be afraid to cancel a reservation and book a better one that comes along. (Just make sure that any time you make a reservation, you can cancel up to 72 hours before your trip.)
- Move around – Because hotel prices can fluctuate from day to day, I often change hotels mid-trip to chase the lower price.
Slash the Price of Entertainment
You can spend a lot of money keeping yourself entertained in Las Vegas, it’s true. Often, the top shows cost more than $100 per ticket, you can run through $20 in a casino in about 5 minutes, and a day at the spa with massage and facial could cost you hundreds of dollars. But you can also have fun for free—or very cheaply. Here’s how:
- Focus on the Free– Lounge by the pool, explore other hotels, take in free attractions, such as the Bellagio fountains and Conservatory and the Fremont Experience light show Downtown.
- Save on Shows – You should try to see at least one show while in Vegas. To see a show on the cheap, head to one of the half-price ticket booths (which have several locations on the Strip and Downtown) for same-day show tickets.
- Avoid nightclubs – Instead of dropping hundreds on bottle service at a nightclub, for the price of a drink or two you can listen to a live band at the Book and Stage at the Cosmopolitan or enjoy a raucous dueling piano show at Harrah’s, among others.
- Look for Alternatives – Rather than pay $17 for the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, take the bus Downtown for just $6 (roundtrip) and check out the Golden Nugget’s shark tank in the pool area. Instead of paying $15 to see white tigers at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden, check out the free Lion Habitat at MGM Grand instead. Want to play some games, but don’t want to blow $20 in 10 minutes? Take the 201 bus from the Strip to 1610 East Tropicana ($4 roundtrip), where for 50 cents a game, you can play over 100 classic pinball machines. There’s no chance you’ll win your money back, but you probably won’t on the slot machines either.
Eat and Drink on the Cheap
There are so many wonderful restaurants in Las Vegas it would be a shame if you didn’t splurge at least once on your trip. But not every meal has to be expensive! Nor do you have to eat at McDonalds to get a cheap meal. I’ve developed a number of strategies over the years for saving money on my meals in Las Vegas.
- Take advantage of coupons and discounts – You’ll find coupons in the hotel room magazines and in booklets on the backseats of cabs. The half-price ticket booth also sells discount meal deals. Don’t forget to check Groupon and Restaurant.com before your trip!
- Eat off the Strip – Even if you don’t have a car, you can take the free shuttle from Bill’s to the Orleans to enjoy their buffet for almost half what you would pay for a Strip buffet. Or grab the bus to Fremont Street for one of Downtown’s famous cheap meal deals.
- Save on cocktails- Drinks at many of the Strip properties can be very expensive, with a single beer costing the same as a 6-pack at the grocery store and mixed drinks ranging from $10-14. Prices off the Strip and Downtown are about half that. For cheap drinks on the Strip, head to Casino Royale and Bill’s Gambling Hall, or buy drink ingredients to keep in your room and have a drink or two before you go out at night.
- Buy cheap water – Don’t buy bottled water from your resort. It’s much cheaper to stock up at the ABC Store or Walgreens—or pick up a cold bottle from the guys selling it out of ice chests on the overhead walkways.
Just remember, the main reason you’re in Las Vegas on vacation in the first place is to get away from your everyday routine. As long as you don’t have a built-in need to “keep up with the Joneses,” your vacation can be both cheap and fun. After all, the best things about Las Vegas–the gorgeous weather, seeing the Strip all lit up at night, and people-watching—are all absolutely free.