How to Visit Las Vegas on a Budget

by JoAnna on October 29, 2010

by JoAnna | October 29th, 2010  

If you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, you may be under the impression that you need a ton of money to have a good time. Though it’s definitely easy to blow through a bank account in Sin City, that doesn’t have to be the case. With a bit of advance planning and mindful spending, you might be surprised to find that it is, in fact, possible to visit Las Vegas on the cheap.

Transportation to Las Vegas

You have a few different options when it comes to saving money on your trip into Las Vegas. The big thing with choosing a mode of transportation to get to Las Vegas is that you’ll need to balance your time with your hard-earned cash. For the most part, the more you pay, the faster you’ll get to Las Vegas, and the less you pay, the longer it will take.

By Air

Airfare is generally cheapest if you’re flying to Las Vegas from other cities located in the Southwest such as Los Angeles, Reno, Phoenix or San Diego. You might also find cheap airfare if you fly with one of the airlines that offers several flights into the city each day, such as Southwest Airlines.

>>More information about flying to Las Vegas.

By Bus

Though few people choose to arrive in Las Vegas by bus, it certainly is an option. Depending on where you depart from, expect to pay somewhere between $40.00 and $80.00 for a one-way ticket. However, you should also plan on spending a significant amount of time on the bus. A trip from Los Angeles will take up to seven hours while those coming through Reno can expect to ride for up to 20 hours.

>>More information about bus travel to Las Vegas.

By Car

This may be your best option when it comes to finding a balance between time and money. Though you’ll spend more time in your vehicle if you go by car rather than plane, it will probably take you less time to drive than if you choose the bus. And, if you plan on traveling with other people, you’ll be able to split the price of gas as well.

>>More information about getting to Las Vegas.

USE THE WIDGETS ABOVE AND BELOW TO BOOK CHEAP AIRFARE.

Accommodations

Las Vegas certainly has its share of over-the-top suites ($40,000 per night for the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, anyone?), and chances are the most luxurious hotels in Las Vegas aren’t going to be dropping their rates any time soon, but there are still plenty of places to stay on a budget.

On the Strip

As hotels age, they tend to become less popular and desirable to the trend setters, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth staying at. In fact, many of them, such as Excalibur, Monte Carlo and Bally’s are conveniently located on the Strip. Those that are a bit out of the way, such as Stratosphere and Sahara, tend to have even lower prices. When trying to decide where to stay, you’ll need to consider how much time you’ll actually be spending in your room. If you just need a room to sleep in, you have plenty of options from which to choose.

>>More budget hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.

Off the Strip

If you choose to stay off the Strip, you’ll be a bit further away from the action on Las Vegas Boulevard, but you will have plenty of options for cheap accommodations. The most obvious place to stay off of Las Vegas Boulevard is in downtown Las Vegas, but you can also stay in one of the many Station Casinos or other “locals” casinos that are located off the Strip.

>>More information about off-Strip hotels.

Hostels

Even with tens of thousands of hotel rooms in Las Vegas there are still a handful of hostels to be found in the city. All of the hostels in Las Vegas are located in out-of-the-way, relatively shady parts of town, and most people won’t feel comfortable walking around this part of town at night. Nonetheless, if you’re a die hard hostel fan, there are options for you. Prices start at about $20.00 per night during the week.

>>More information about hostels in Las Vegas.

USE THE WIDGETS ABOVE AND BELOW TO BOOK A CHEAP HOTEL OR HOSTEL.

Entertainment

Las Vegas is all about entertainment. From the shows and the nightclubs to the exhibits and tours, there is always something to do any time of the day. If you’re on a budget, it won’t be possible to see the most popular shows and party at the most exclusive clubs, but you can still enjoy yourself. There are a few afternoon shows that are less than $30.00 per ticket, and shows held in the older resorts or off the Strip tend to be a bit cheaper too. When you book your hotel, consider looking for a vacation package that offers a discounted price by combining accommodations and credits for shows and spa treatments.

In addition to these discounted opportunities, it’s also worth noting that there are many free things to do in Las Vegas as well. Watching the Fountains of Bellagio and strolling through the Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden are among the more popular free activities on the Strip. There is also a free pirate show at Treasure Island and a free circus show at Circus Circus. And, of course, people watching is always free.

>>More information about free things to do on the Las Vegas Strip.
>>More information about free things to do off the Las Vegas Strip.

Dining

There’s no denying it: Dining in Las Vegas is expensive. This is primarily because you are paying for the experience and the chef as well as the actual food. In order to save money on food, either eat a small breakfast or no breakfast at all, then splurge on lunch and take advantage of happy hours and discounts on appetizers in the pre-dinner hours. There are also fast food dining establishments in most of the hotels, so you can chow down on hamburgers and pizza for the duration of your trip as well. Some greasy spoons also offer late-night after hours meals that run for pennies on the dollar.

If you really are a hearty eater, consider taking advantage of one of the all-you-can-eat buffets once a day, or splurge on the all-you-can-eat-in-one-day dining passes available through the Harrah’s properties.

Drinking

Another quick way to crank up your bill in Las Vegas is to drink. A lot. And that’s easy to do when so many people affiliate drinking with the Las Vegas experience. Want a beer at a pool party? Expect to drop close to $10.00. Need a drink at the nightclub? Just a few drinks will set you back nearly $50.00. And if you want bottle service? Expect to pay several times the actual retail price of whatever it is you want to drink.

So how to drink on the cheap? One of the best ways is to take advantage of the free drinks given out on the casino floor. Get a feel for the route the cocktail waitresses walk, then take a seat at a cheap slot machine just before one of them reaches you. Play slowly and cheaply until the waitress returns with your drink.

Many other people also bring their own alcohol with them. You won’t be able to go into the shows or any of the nightclubs with your own can of beer, but you can walk around the Strip with an open container, so it might as well be one that you bought at a regular retail price from a local grocery store.

Gambling

Regardless of whether you play roulette or decide to try your luck on a slot machine, you always take the chance of losing your money. It’s true that some people leave Las Vegas just a bit richer, but more often than not people walk away with less. Gambling is, in many ways, the enemy of the budget traveler, but if you absolutely must do some gambling while you’re in Las Vegas, there are some ways to minimize your loss.

First, realize that, as a budget traveler, you don’t have extra money to lose, so only take a limited amount of cash with you to the casino and leave all credit cards in your room so you won’t be tempted to visit the ATM. Choose to play at tables with a low maximum bid so you can play a few hands of poker for $5.00 each instead of betting everything on a single $50.00 hand. Similarly, play penny or nickel slots so that your money lasts longer. Chances are you won’t walk away a jackpot winner with so little cash to play, but you also won’t lose a ton of money either.

Also, the casinos in Las Vegas are, for the most part, run on debit-type cards, which means that it doesn’t feel like you’re playing with real money. Some of the older casinos in Las Vegas, such as Slots-A-Fun still let players drop coins into the slot machines. For what it’s worth, Slots-A-Fun also has really cheap drinks as well.

>>More information about gambling in Las Vegas.

Transportation in Las Vegas

One of the quickest ways to lose money in Las Vegas is to hop in a taxi every time you need to get somewhere. Sure, it’s convenient, but when you get caught in traffic—even if you aren’t going far—the fees add up.

The cheapest way to get to your Las Vegas hotel from McCarran International Airport will likely be to take advantage of an airport shuttle. From there, the cheapest option is to take advantage of the free trams on the Strip (Mandalay Bay-Luxor-Excalibur, Bellagio-CityCenter-Monte Carlo and Treasure Island-Mirage) for a bump in the direction you need to go and then walk the rest of the way. If you need to go further than up and down the heart of the Strip (such as to Fremont Street), consider hopping on the Deuce, which costs $5.00 for a two-hour pass and $7.00 for a 24-hour, all-access pass.

>>More information about airport shuttles in Las Vegas.
>>More information about riding the bus in Las Vegas.

>>More information about transportation in Las Vegas.

Seasonal Considerations

There really is no slow season when it comes to travel in Las Vegas, but there are times that are exceptionally busy. To save the most money, avoid traveling during these busy times. This includes traveling over holidays, during the summer and whenever there is a particularly popular convention in town. Opt instead for any time between the first week in January to mid-March (when Spring Breakers descend upon the city) and the middle of the week if at all possible. These are the times when hotels will court you with lower prices and shows might be running two-for-one deals.

Coupons and Discounts

Before you leave for your trip to Las Vegas, take some time to search for the best travel deals, and scout out coupons and discounts that can make your travels less expensive. There are numerous websites that advertise specials in Las Vegas, and keeping an eye on the Las Vegas-specific Groupon offers is also a great way to snag some deals. Also, don’t be afraid to pick up coupon books that are scattered throughout the resorts and casinos. You’ll have to filter through a lot of junk, but every once in awhile you’ll find a great deal on dining or entertainment.

You might also consider signing up for a player’s card at one or more of the casinos. When you sign up, you’ll likely get some free slot play and possibly a discount at some of the dining establishments in the casino. The casino is counting on you to continue to use the card so that it reaps the benefits, but if you have self control and stop after you’ve taken advantage of your initial player rewards, then it’s worth signing up.

>>More information about saving money in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Plane (neilalderney123), New York New York (gordon2208), The Venetian (slideshow bob), Hamburgers (chotda), Slot Machine (Victoria Belanger), Walking (ilmungo), Money (xrrr)


{ 4 comments }

wandering educators October 29, 2010 at 11:35 am
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brilliant tips! we’ve been meaning to get there, but don’t gamble (or drink) so hoping it can be cheaper! and, we’ll be traveling with our 8yo daughter, so need to find plenty of family friendly activities. thanks for the inspiration!

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JoAnna October 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm
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Check out our Family Travel page (http://www.lasvegaslogue.com/family-travel) – a work in progress – as well as our list of family-friendly hotels in Las Vegas (http://www.lasvegaslogue.com/what-to-do/las-vegas-for-kids/best-hotels-for-families-in-las-vegas.html) and family-friendly shows (http://www.lasvegaslogue.com/what-to-do/las-vegas-shows/family-friendly-shows-in-las-vegas.html). And definitely let me know if you have any specific questions!

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Rebecca March 22, 2011 at 9:19 am
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I haven’t been to Las Vegas yet, but I will. That’s one good thing about living in Arizona or California, you can drive to Las Vegas and save on airfare.

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JoAnna March 28, 2011 at 10:41 am
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Very true, Rebecca. Although driving into Las Vegas from California on Fridays can be a bit of a drag because so many people do it. Just keep that in mind if you plan on coming in via I-15.

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