It’s a cornucopia of flavors, sights and people. It can be a money pit if you do it wrong, but it offers a chance to see the world on the cheap if you do it right. My fiancé and I have been so incredibly busy that we haven’t been able to fit in a vacation for three years. We were way overdue. We wanted to make our little 3 night stay into something memorable. There are 3 basic costs in all vacations: consumption, hotel and flight.
Vegas is at the height of consumerism. If you can manage to budget and stretch your money there, then you’ll know that pretty much any other vacation location will be a piece of cake. These tricks will save you money all over the world.
Save Money: Book on Weekdays.
It’s just a fact that more people go places on the weekends, because let’s face it, that’s when most people have time off. It’s infinitely cheaper to stay in hotels on weekdays versus weekends. HUGE savings can be had, especially in Vegas. Vegas is geared to making the bulk of its money on Friday and Saturday, so there are more incentives for weekday deals to get people to fill the empty rooms….most notably on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Normally, people aren’t extending their vacations into Tuesday, so that’s where you will see a huge discount on Hotel and Flights. So start your stay on a Tuesday whenever possible.
Save Money: Play Around With Your Dates.
Unbeknownst to us, there was a six-week World Poker Tournament going on during the first week of June. From day-to-day, hotel costs had drastic price fluctuations. Make sure to check all aspects of your trip before booking anything. Check and cross check flight costs versus hotels costs, as you don’t want to paint yourself into a dilemma…cheap flight might get you there on a crazy high hotel night.
Save Money: For Flights: Skyscanner To The Rescue
My Aunt is always on the go. She easily does 3-4 Multi country, international trips a year. She uses Skyscanner and I literally saved $100 by booking our flight through them. I was looking over flights on individual airline websites and it was one step forward, one step back. Then I thought of my aunt and then “shoot I better check out Skyscanner.” I logged onto skyscanner and was shocked to see round trip tickets to Vegas for an average of $129. The cheap tickets are what sold me on the whole vacation idea. Two round trip tickets ended up costing us a total of $271… not bad at all.
Saver Tip: In most cases, I check AirBnB for my sleeping accommodations. For Vegas, we wanted to experience staying on the strip. But…you definitely don’t have to stay on the strip or even in a grand hotel! Check Airbnb and avoid all the resort fees. Oh yes, those resort fees are high! It’s easy to get lured into a reasonable hotel cost per night… but check the fine print because almost all Vegas hotels have an additional 30$+ fee tacked on afterwards. If you want to avoid the resort fees, don’t worry about being right on the strip. You can have as much fun staying on or off the strip.
Save Money: Book Through the Hotel
The best deals I found were directly through the hotel. Sign up for the rewards program through the hotel online. It’s a great way to save money, they want to show you their appreciation and you will receive discounts and upgrades when they have them available.
For 3 nights, including resort fee and taxes, we paid $210.00 at Treasure Island. Upon arrival, being a rewards member, we were upgraded to a strip view room on the 36th floor. Flashing my ‘high level’ room key felt special, I can’t lie. With our member rewards card, we received 2 for 1 drinks nightly, buy 1 get one 1 at one of the casino restaurants and most notably buy 1 get 1 Cirque Du Soleil tickets which retail for $60.00. Internet was included and we received a $25 coupon credit for our next visit. All in all, that is at least $250.00 in perks if you take advantage of them.
For me, I was just happy to get a nicer room because all I really had to do was to enter my email address. Remember, your hotel wants to be all-inclusive and keep you on their grounds so as you spend your money at their poker tables. Don’t be shy, don’t be afraid to ask about your freebies.
Consider the resort fee. Most resort fees are $30.00+ a day. This is pretty much unavoidable through any channel. I tried booking through multiple venues including Groupon, Las Vegas.com, and Priceline… all of them add the resort fee. They also add taxes to the resort fee. Member or not, they want that resort fee money.
Always look for a hotel that offers free airport shuttle services. We could not find one in our price range. Our cab ride from the airport to the Treasure Island hotel was 25$ each way. I also normally look for breakfast to be included. I couldn’t make that option work because we narrowed our hotel search to a specific location and specific dates. But, if you can get those two items included you will save a ton of money.
If the pool situation is important to you, research ahead of time. I’ll tell you now that Mandalay Bay has the most extensive pool area with a 1.6 Million Gallon wave pool, a lazy river, multiple pools, bungalows and a full on beach. At most hotels, a spot by the pool in a standard chair is free ( if you can find a chair that is…). Everything and anything more than that will cost you extra. There are also two water parks near Las Vegas, consider those if you are looking for a family water park scene with perhaps a cheaper hotel. Remember to lather yourself up in sunscreen, umbrellas aren’t standard and will cost you. It was over 100 degrees during our early June stay.
Save Money: Buffet Lunches
When in Vegas we all look forward to the buffets, you have to right? In my humble opinion, your top 5 Vegas buffets are going to offer relatively similar foods. One buffet might offer the coveted crab legs, another may offer prime rib, but usually they offer both. Fight me all your want on this one, but we can only eat so much. Since we’re already talking the top of the world here, go for ambiance and atmosphere. A quick google search will help you decide. Some of the most notable are below.
Caesar’s Palace- Bacchanal
The Cosmopolitan- Wicked Spoon
Bellagio- Bellagio Buffet
Paris- Paris Le Village Buffet
Aria- The Buffet at Aria
Wynn- The Buffet at Wynn
There is $15-$25 differential depending on the buffet and whether it’s for a lunch vs dinner. Save money by going earlier in the day and enjoy all the delicious offerings at a lesser cost. We chose The Wynn Buffet and saved $16.00 per person by going during lunch. Their selection was incredible and the desserts were delicious.
Research on which buffet offers the best options for your family. At Wynn, kids under 3 years old ate free and kids between 3-8 were 1/2 half off. If you have kids, check the children meal prices ahead of time. At yet another buffet, kids could eat free till 4 years old and 1/2 off till 10 years old. You won’t know unless you google it. If you have a few kids, this could make a huge difference in where you want to go. I wanted to go to The Wynn because of the incredible floral and dessert displays… which did not disappoint. It’s worth the splurge for a great buffet experience! However…. do your research as many casino buffets, including ours at Treasure Island, received poor reviews with comparable prices.
Save Money: Don’t Eat directly in The Casinos
If you eat close to where the actual gambling machines are, you’ll be paying extra. There are cheap options in every single resort that I checked. Bellagio, Venetian, Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, Excalibur, Planet Hollywood, The Mirage and ok…you get it… all have affordable food. The casinos now include their own mini mall of luxury shops. Venture out into these areas for even more decor and food.
Mini malls always breed food courts. Sandwiches, wraps, pizza, and pretzels are available. Chipotle, Panda Express and Subway have slightly inflated prices of $1-$2. That’s negligible compared to what you would have to pay for a random reuben sandwich. If you eat at the first place you see, you’ll probably end up paying $15 each easily… walk around a bit more check your options. Save your money on non event meals and splurge on the few extravagant ones.
Save Money: Be an outsider and soak in What Brings in the Money, but don’t stay there. Free sights.
There is so much money and culture invested in the big Vegas hotels as they are vying for chance to earn your business. The most notable hotel in Vegas now is The Bellagio. The fountains are world-renowned, the casino is immaculate, and the check in area holds more Murano glass than in Venice. At the MGM Grand, there is even a huge lion enclosure inside the casino, which guarantees you a closer looksy than any zoo. At the Mirage, see gigantic coy fish and catfish, flamingos, a huge waterfall for the backdrop of the Volcano that blows. There’s something for everyone when you are surrounded by extravagance.
Save Money: CVS and Walgreens
We got our snacks and water from CVS. It was a whopping $3.00 a bottle for water from the vending machine, instead we got 2 liters for $4. CVS is also great for a late night snack to avoid overspending. There are fresh wraps, croissant sandwiches, hoagies, pesto stuffed pitas, and pretzel sandwiches. If you get sick of spending money, it’s a great, healthier alternative to french fries. We carried one backpack between us, so we were always hydrated and had emergency snacks and of course…. the bandaids LOL…
With strict TSA regulations many of us are traveling without the comforts of home. Hotel shampoo and conditioner are awful. I don’t know how they could think anyone would sign up for their spa services when your hair feels like copper wire …. I digress…. make sure to pick up a decent shampoo and conditioner from the CVS. It’s worth it for a 3 day stay.
Save Money: White Castle and In & Out Burger
Within a half mile of each other you can have the burgers movies are made of. We actually went to In & Out Burger twice because it was so good. You can share one order of french fries between 2 people and unlimited refills mean one soda cup is adequate.
Save Money: Say No to Gimmick Cups and Sugar Drinks
Those commemorative drink cups can cost you $18 a drink and they contain sugar syrup and cheap alcohol. Definitely not worth it! Do you really want to haul it onto an airplane, and store in your kitchen cupboard for the next 20 years? If you sit down at a slot machine and start pulling on that handle, I guarantee that someone will ask if you’d like a drink. The drink is comped, but be sure and tip if you’re going to enjoy the libations. You really shouldn’t pay for alcohol in Vegas. The casino wants you dazed, stumbling around their casino and spending money, so they provide the free drinks if you are gambling. If you want to buy alcohol CVS, Walgreens and Casino gift shops have deals on cans and bottles. These will cost you a fraction of what they would in a restaurant or at the bar.
Save Money: Gambling
You might expect this section to be bigger for Vegas, but my advice is simple. If you’re going to gamble do yourself a favor and designate a certain amount of money that you are ‘ok with losing’. You won’t beat yourself up if you lose it all, and you won’t stupidly dip into other funds to ‘WIN IT ALL BACK!’ We’ve all seen the movie ‘Las Vegas Vacation’ and that technique does not end well. If you can adhere to this rule, you can lose those funds but it’s a calculated part of the overall vacation cost in Vegas.
*Be aware of minimum bets on slot machines… the machine might say .25 cents but… there could be a $5 bet minimum and a minimum in order to win a jackpot. If you put a players card in… POOF 5 bucks gone. It can be fun just watching a high roller table. It’s amazing how one person’s 1$ bill is another’s 100$ bill and yet someone else’s 1000$ bill. I really don’t get the disparity in wealth in this world. We are all human, have a brain and put in the same amount of work hours :0(
Save Money: See The World
I think of the Strip as Disney World and Epcot for adults. You can see Italy (Venetian, Palazzo), Ancient Rome (Caesar’s Palace), Paris (Paris), Manhattan (New York-New York), The Tropics (The Mirage, Flamingo, Tropicana), Egypt (The Luxor), Asia (Mandalay Bay), and hang out with The Knights of the Round Table (The Excalibur). The MGM Grand will offer you an Art Deco look reminiscent of old Hollywood.
*No one thinks of band aids until it’s too late. Put band aids in every bag you have. If you aren’t usually on your feet much, your tender footsie might be susceptible to blisters. I had bloody socks my first day despite wearing what I thought were comfy shoes. My dad walked the 500 mile Colorado trail last summer and he said he only made it all the way because he carried ‘moleskin’. It’s even better than band aids. Check it out here. You can bring a roll of it with you, cut as large a piece as you need. It is adhesive on the skin side and felty on the outer. It is pure heaven on a blistered area.
*Of course you need sunscreen, but it’s a great idea to get ‘sport’ or water-resistant sunscreen, even if you aren’t planning on swimming. The little bit of sweat your body produces is actually enough to render normal sunscreen useless. Buy it at CVS if you don’t want to pack it along.
*Remember your vitamins. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you don’t need your daily intake.
*Think of the random…. Migraines attack at the worst times! Grab your advil. Plan for the most inopportune, because that’s what happens while you’re living life.
If you go to Vegas in the Summer, expect temperatures of 100 degrees +… no joke. You’re going to think I’m crazy for saying this, but pack light weight long-sleeved shirts or wispy blouses. You will stay cooler without the sun beating down on your arms, and you are more protected. Cotton shirts get sweaty and clingy, shorts roll up and create terrible thigh rash. A breezy dress with a light cover up will be perfect, pair with a sun hat and sunglasses, perfection.
Our vacation was a smash success! My fiancé hasn’t done too much traveling, so Vegas offered the perfect amount of big city with walkable charm. If you are smart and you do your research you can spend 4 days and 3 nights in Vegas for under $600 smackaroos. What have you done to save money on vacation? I’d love to hear your tips.
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