Last week, I spent several days in Las Vegas. While I was there to attend the Affiliate Summit, I also had an opportunity to step out a bit and see what I could learn about saving money if you were planning a trip to Las Vegas for pleasure.
A general caveat first. I’ve decided I’m really not a fan of Las Vegas. There are a number of reasons for this, but mainly it’s because I feel like Las Vegas a pretty stinky city that wears too much perfume and really just needs a bath. But, that’s another post for another day. I do know that many, many folks love going to Vegas – perhaps for a girls’ weekend away or a romantic getaway or to live it up and have fun. So today, I’d like to give you a few ideas for how to save money.
Saving on Airfare to Las Vegas
I really like using Travelzoo’s Today’s Best Airfare Deals to see at a glance where the best prices are for airfare. Just type in your city and voila! Best prices for the day.
You can also watch for one-day only type sales. I do post about these when I find them. Another way to go is to check out my post on leveraging credit card sign-up bonuses for free (or nearly free) airfare. Because I had earned a number of Southwest air miles this way, I paid a whopping $10 fee for my round-trip ticket to Las Vegas from Seattle.
Once you’re at the airport, you have a few options for transportation to your hotel. Thankfully, the Strip is just minutes from the airport so there’s not a huge distance to go. I opted for the taxi out of convenience, but it was super pricey. If you’re looking for the cheapest option, go for one of the $7 shuttles. The shuttle would’ve meant more stops, but would’ve saved me about $20 over the cab fare.
Saving on Hotels in Las Vegas
Now, I stayed at the Paris because that’s where the conference was happening. When I went to the hotel’s website, I noticed a smallish banner at the top that they were running a stay two nights, get one night free deal – and the dates happened to coincide with my trip!
In checking their website now, I noticed this:
Unless you would’ve paid attention, you might have missed that entirely! So do look for deals on the hotel websites or give ’em a call and see what discounts may be available.
Another good option is to check Groupon Getaways leading up to your trip. If you haven’t used Groupon Getaways (or maybe it’s been awhile!), check it out. You can now easily search by Destination and Timeframe, so you won’t have to mindlessly scroll through lots of unrelated deals.
A quick search on Groupon pulled nearly every major hotel in Las Vegas on discount including the Venetian, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Stratosphere, Trump Hotel, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Wynn, Rio, Caeser’s Palace, and Planet Hollywood (to name a few). I found prices as low as $20/night – but that was the Hooters Hotel & Casino which I doubt I’d stay at… even though I do like a deal.
In all seriousness, DO check out Groupon Getaways for Las Vegas hotel discounts!
Of course, another site I talk up a lot around here is Hotwire. Unlike Groupon, you won’t know the exact property you’re staying at until after you book. But if you’re willing to take a little bit of a risk in exchange for great savings, you can really come out ahead! My family and I have personally used Hotwire to make about a dozen bookings over the past few years in cities including Salt Lake City, New York, Portland, and Vancouver BC and every single time, we’ve been pleased and have had zero hassle. We’ve easily stayed in rooms that were $300+ for about $100. Recommend, recommend.
Saving on Shows in Las Vegas
One of the things I wanted to do the most during my Las Vegas stay was take in a show! I learned that there are several ways to do this, and if you have some time to do some comparison shop, do so. The price differences of tickets can drastically vary!
My pal Maria and I decided to hit up one of these Tix4Tonight stands. There are quite a few locations up and down the strip (just start walking until you see one!). In addition to offering up to 50% off shows, you can also save on buffets and dining options, too.
Here’s who we ended up seeing for half off (and getting GREAT seats):
(Yes, she was fabulous in case you’re wondering!)
Maria also suggested that if there’s a show you want to see, consider staying at the hotel it’s playing at. In some cases, they may offer a substantial discount for guests. Another reader suggested on this Facebook thread to contact the venue’s box office directly the day of the show to see if they can offer you a deal.
A final stellar option to keep on your radar? Goldstar, which is like a daily deal site of shows and entertainment. When I changed the city to Las Vegas, I found one of their current offers was the Cirque du Soleil show starting at $51 per ticket (vs. $66 and up full price).
Bottom line: shop around and do your homework!
Free Stuff to Do in Las Vegas
Admittedly, Las Vegas is not a cheap town. (Well, in some ways it is cheap, but remember, I’m trying to keep this post from getting rant-tastic.) Here are some of the interesting things you can do for free in Las Vegas.
Without a doubt, people watching is one of the most interesting and free things to do in Las Vegas. I can’t tell you how many bizarre people I saw while in Las Vegas. The people in costumes cracked me up the most. Hello Kitty… in a ballroom gown… hello? (pun intended)
A minion just chillin’ outside the Bellagio.
Here’s another free thing to do: don’t gamble. Instead, just be a creeper and watch other people lose their money at the poker tables. (Yeah, I’ll admit I did a little bit of this.) If you do want to gamble, set a budget and be careful. And watch the alcohol. ‘Nuff said.
Another free thing to do is just wander the hotels. Many are very beautiful and “theme-y” inside. There are lots of upscale stores to window shop and great places for photo spots. I also found that many of the hotels are actually connected. I will add, it’s very, very easy to get lost inside these hotels (and I do think it’s intentional). Make use of maps! And wear good shoes. I bet I clocked miles on the day we walked through the hotels. I swear, they should really just put a running/biking trail through them.
Also, make sure to check out the beautiful water show right outside the Bellagio. It’s free and happens every 15 minutes on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour until midnight.
4 Final Tips for Saving Money in Las Vegas
I have a few additional tips that didn’t really fall into any of the above categories, but I wanted to make sure and share them!
Tip #1: Make sure to sign up for the FREE Total Rewards card if you stay at one of the Caesar’s Entertainment Properties (the Paris Hotel was one). This card saved me up to 20% in select restaurants and 10% in the gift shops.
Tip #2: Be wary of hidden fees! Hidden fees seem to abound in Las Vegas. One of the restaurants I ate at had some random concession fee. There was also a fee for using the workout facility in my hotel. There was also a resort fee tacked onto my hotel bill. You might not necessarily avoid these, but they are something to be mindful of when budgeting your trip.
Tip #3: Consider packing some of your own food. I found KIND bars for $2.95 in my hotel lobby and a drip coffee for $5. YES $5 – OUCH! I sure wish I would’ve packed some granola bars, instant coffee, and maybe some other non-perishables to save on simple snack foods.
Tip #4: If you want a super frugal vacation, Las Vegas might not be the best bet. I know this final tip flies in the face of a lot of this post, but it’s true. If you want a frugal girls’ weekend getaway? Go the ocean or rent a cabin. Don’t go to Las Vegas.
Bonus Tip: If you really want to make the most of your Las Vegas stay, the Lonely Planet Discover Las Vegas (Travel Guide) is priced around $17 and has full-color maps, honest reviews for all budgets, and lots more info at your fingertips that will go into a lot more detail than what I’ve covered here.
I’ve said this before, but when I go on a trip, I do like to make a couple splurges. On this particular trip, I just so happened to have had a birthday and I wanted to go to a VERY special restaurant:
This would be Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish, the Beef Wellington at the Gordon Ramsay Steak restaurant in the Paris. It was not frugal – although I did save $2 on it thanks to my Total Rewards Card. But it was a nice splurge and easily one of the five best meals I’ve had in my LIFE.
I do think vacations are most enjoyable if you can set aside a little money to do a couple things that are indulgent like this, without worrying about the cost. After all, who knows when I’ll be back to Vegas next?
Now it’s your turn! I’m sure many of you have been to Las Vegas before or are planning a trip. I’d love to hear some of your best tips for getting great deals in Vegas! What would you add to my list? How about any money pitfalls to avoid?