Las Vegas on a Budget – Fun and Affordable

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.

Vegas Strip

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.

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By: Gray Cargill

Gray Cargill is an unabashed fan of Las Vegas and its pretty, pretty lights. A long-time solo traveler, she publishes SoloFriendly, a solo travel blog, and The Vegas Solo, a website dedicated to helping travelers plan their first solo trip to Las Vegas.

14 Responses

  1. Caroline in the City

    I would KILL for a 99 cent margarita! You can’t get ANYTHING for under a dollar in Australia! It’s 45 dollars for cheap tequila and another 45 for the mix!

    But it’s true in Vegas. For how much luxury stuff they have (the $7,000 per night suites) they have a nice balance of cheap stuff (aforementioned margaritas).

    Reply
  2. Lisa @chickybus

    Great tips here! I’ve never been to Vegas (but will make it there sometime) and have always wondered how to pull it off on a budget. Now I know how. It really sounds like there’s a way to save no matter what you want to do.

    All I need now is to find a $1 roulette table or to actually win so that I can splurge on a massage!

    Seriously, this is great info and I’m sure it will come in handy when the time is right. I think the people-watching will be fantastic, too!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Isn’t Gray’s advice great! I love Vegas and this really helps. Just as an FYI, there is $1 roulette at the Casino Royale mentioned in this piece, near Harrah’s. It’s great because you can have fun without going broke.

      Reply
      • Lisa @chickybus

        Really? $1 roulette? Awesome. If I make it there one of these days, I’ll definitely head over and there and play. When it’s cheap like that, I can play a little longer (before the ‘house’ wins.) 🙂

  3. Cam

    Love the Vegas!
    This is a great resource page. I will surely return when its time to revisit.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  4. Mark

    Great post! Vegas is always fun and packed with so many things to do as you mention. Even taking day trips out to Hoover Dam or Mt. Charleston are cool. I’ve always had a great time there, my only regret is not ever having seen Siegfried & Roy prior to the accident. I still beat myself over that one, especially since I lived there for a few months back in the 90’s. Oh well, still a great place to escape to and catch plenty of action!

    Reply
  5. T.H. Meeks

    Good tips! I think all the new (and posh… and expensive) places might give people the idea that we’re a spendy destination, but the truth is we’re got a lot of inexpensive things to do & places to stay. I’d also recommend joining the players’ clubs–you get discounts and you get points for play–it’s like a shopper’s card, only for casinos.

    Reply
  6. Gray

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!
    @Caroline – Gulp. Australia sounds rather spendy.
    @Lisa, @Matt – I like the idea of $1 roulette (and $1 craps, etc) but in reality I’ve always found it hard to get anywhere near those tables. They’re very popular, and I don’t throw elbows very well. 🙂
    @Cam – Yeah, Vegas rocks, eh?
    @Mark – I keep meaning to rent a car while I’m in Vegas to just drive outside the city and enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Wish I’d taken advantage of low car rental prices when they were available. One of these days….
    @TH Meeks – I think part of the problem is that the expensive places in Vegas don’t want tourists to know that there are cheaper alternatives, so it’s not always obvious to visitors who haven’t done their research ahead of time. That’s why we’re here. To let them in on all those little secrets. 🙂

    Reply
  7. JoAnna

    As always, great Vegas travel tips from Gray! Las Vegas on a budget is totally possible, especially if you get off the spendy Strip. There are so many great places to eat (Chinatown) and things to do (out of town, downtown), and so few people know about them. Thanks for helping spread the word!

    Reply
  8. Jimmy

    Here is one tip that I wanted to add. It may sound a little odd but it was mentioned that hotel prices can vary. You may be surprised how widely even during the week. Vegas has many events and conferences going on at different times of the year that will effect prices wildly on almost all of the hotels in town. If you’re not going to Vegas for those events then it’s best to avoid those dates. Rather than doing research to find out what is going on when, I simply will go to a few of the hotel/casinos website reservations page without entering specific dates. Most will show you a calendar up to at least 3 months with the standard rate for each day. Note the cheapest dates and compare them to the other sites. Chances are the cheap dates don’t have events going on that will jack up the rates at that time. But then it is more interesting in town when things are going on.

    Reply
  9. Gray

    @JoAnna – Thanks! I haven’t actually made it out to Chinatown yet. Will have to check it out soon….
    @Jimmy – More good advice. It’s always going to be less expensive if you travel at a slow time. I, too, am a big fan of the rate calendars posted on Vegas hotel websites. It’s an easy way to get an overview of which weeks are more expensive and less expensive. I wish all hotels would do that.

    Reply
  10. Maddycat

    Awesome. When does having a good time ever need to mean spending a fortune? Although you forgot one important tip – Don’t get married in Vegas! Divorce is expensive…

    Reply
  11. Hai

    Highly appreciate your efforts. I sometimes do solo travel too,yeah fun and a lot of thinking.

    Reply
  12. Emma Bail

    Cool post.You have shared really great tips.I will surely follow all these tips to save more money in my next trip 😉 Many people think that its really impossible to make a veags trip in a budget.But its not true we can make a awesome trip to vegas in our budget if we are not going to spend money on gamble and casinos.I really hate this thing to spend unnecessary money on gamble you can see and enjoy so many good things in a city like Las vegas.Thanks again for sharing sucha informative post.Keep posting waiting for many more from you.

    Reply

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