The Las Vegas Strip deceivingly appears no bigger than a regular city block from the window of an airplane, but it is overwhelmingly large once you’re on the ground, with a multitude of hotel and resort properties that each occupy the space of a city block or more all on their own. Woven throughout these monstrous pieces of real estate is an accumulation of restaurants, clubs, shops, high-end malls, street side attractions, parking complexes, and even some amusement park rides. No doubt it is a highly congested area with a LOT of distractions, particularly when mixed with the dazzling lights, a multitude of signs, and heavy traffic, both on the street and on the sidewalks with hoards of titillated tourists.
With such a frenzied scene, it’s easy for first-time visitors to become confused when trying to navigate the bustling city. And it’s every bit as easy to be lured into spending more money than necessary. So in our quest to provide our readers with the best possible travel advice, we have compiled a Top Ten list of ways to save money when Visiting Vegas.
1. Hotels and Resorts
Regardless of your vacation destination, the best ways to save money are to travel during the off-season, as well as avoiding weekends, avoiding special events happening in the area, and taking advantage of membership cards such as AAA, CAA, and hotel reward programs, and seek sell-off deals that offer severely reduced prices.
But let’s face it, avoiding all of those things isn’t always possible, especially if your reason for travelling precisely is for the reason of attending a special event, or getting away for a special weekend. Thankfully, when it comes to Vegas, there are other ways to save as well. For example, choosing a 3-star resort saves money without sacrificing quality, cleanliness, or comfort considering that Vegas standards are high.
If you plan to travel with several family members or a group of colleagues or friends, booking multiple rooms is expensive. A handy alternative is to book a hotel ‘suite’ with a sofa bed featured in a small living area. For slightly more than a regular room, this provides added space as well as an added bed. Better yet, select a condo-style accommodation which is offered at The Westgate with their one-bedroom suites and villas featuring sofa beds in the living area, or at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club, which boasts one, two and three-bedroom options. This is an excellent choice for budget-conscious travellers looking for extra space and the conveniences of home, all with a reasonable rate.
There are plenty of transportation options in Vegas, including the public bus, shuttles, monorails that connect hotels, limos, rental cars and taxis, as well as Uber and Lyft for ride sharing. There is even an outlet for exotic car rentals if your wallet will allow for it. And, of course, there is walking, which you will do a LOT of regardless of how you choose to navigate the streets.
The public bus, shuttles, and monorails are the most inexpensive choices, of course. That said, many vacation packages come complete with a rental car, and some travellers opt for one after they arrive in Vegas in order to accommodate side trips such as excursions to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. If renting a car, beware that parking garages are often a significant distance from hotel and casino entrances so be prepared for a lengthy walk. More importantly from a budgeting perspective, be mindful that most hotels charge for parking and it adds up quickly if you’re hopping from hotel to hotel and from restaurant to club to casino. If that’s the type of evening you have planned, consider leaving the car at your hotel and trying a combination of monorail and walking instead, and mixing in a taxi or Uber here and there when necessary for destinations downtown or off the strip. As for taxis, remain alert when it comes to the routes they choose to take and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that there is a closer drop-off spot or a faster way to reach your destination. If left to their own devices, taxi drivers will often choose the longest and most expensive route.
3. Rental Cars
Rental cars can be expensive, but if you opt for one there are several ways to save money. For starters, choose the car that suits your budget, not your personal taste. It goes without saying that compact cars are the most inexpensive choice and will help to keep fuel costs down, so there’s no need to book an intermediate or SUV unless you’re travelling with several people. Shop around and compare rates before you book, and when you finally select the company and deal that’s best for you, book online or incorporate it into your vacation package for discounted rates that are not available at the counter.
Before adding insurance to your bill – a charge that can double the price of the car if you’re not careful – be sure to do your homework. Call your insurance company to see if your regular policy covers you for rental vehicles as well. If not, check with your credit card company as some will carry all the insurance you need if you pay with their card. If both of these options fail, look into supplemental coverage which can be found at TuGo, Trip Insurance Store, TravelGuard, and Insure My Rental Car. These alternatives have infinitely cheaper insurance than what will be offered by the rental company.
And finally, consider renting from a location other than the McCarran Airport Rent-a-Center as all rental companies pay a hefty fee in order to operate there. As you can imagine, that fee gets passed along to the customer.
It goes without saying that the best way to save money in Vegas is to be cautious when gambling.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of the casino and lose far more than you intended. So be sure to set limits and stay within them. And don’t be fooled by the Penny Slot machine.
Most people are familiar with playing nickel, quarter and dollar slots, where players can bet one or more of each domination. However, penny slots can be cleverly deceiving as many of them do not allow for just one penny to be played. Most start with a minimum bet of 30, 40 and 50 cents for each play, which essentially makes the penny slot more expensive than a nickel or quarter machine.
Bottom line, if you can’t afford to lose your money, then simply don’t play as there are plenty of other things to do in Vegas, some of which are free.
Vegas is known for its abundance of shows, many of which can be costly. However, you don’t have to spend a bundle in order to include a good show during your vacation. For starters, speak with your travel agent or hotel concierge, as they might be able to assist with tickets. Failing that, there are several ways to keep costs down, including matinee performances (if available) instead of attending the in-demand evening show. Plus, several online sites offer discounts on tickets, such as Las Vegas.com and Tix 4 Tonight, which updates every day at 9:30am PST with discounts and even half-price shows. Coupons are also an option with several found right HERE.
If you have a few hours to kill and don’t mind sitting through a sales pitch, consider attending a Timeshare Presentation. Participants are rewarded for their time with show tickets and dining vouchers. Not to mention that while you’re there, you will be treated to a half decent breakfast or lunch.
Another alternative is to make use of the free shows and attractions in Vegas, of which there are many. The Volcano Eruption at the Mirage is a favorite on The Strip, as are The Fountains at Bellagio, which dance gracefully to music. Circus Circus offers a free indoor performance, as does The Forum Shops at Caesar’s. And The Rio has free live music in Masquerade Village. Head to Bellagio to wander through gorgeous and ever-changing displays at their Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, or check out The Wildlife Habitat at The Flamingo. Line-up early to see the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop made famous by the reality show, Pawn Stars. And while you’re downtown, consider staying for the night time action on Fremont Street with street performers amidst a dazzling laser and light show. These are just a few of the free attractions available, but there are plenty more listed HERE.
Given that most hotels offer multiple dining options on the premises, many guests fail to look much further when it comes to mealtimes. Unfortunately, this approach can be limiting and expensive. Conveniently, many hotels have begun to include moderately priced chain restaurants in their repertoire to offset their high-end restaurants. For example, The Orleans includes a Fuddruckers and TGI Fridays on site to balance out their 5-star restaurants. Similarly, The Flamingo offers Margaritaville, The Mirage has The Carnagie Deli, and Mandalay Bay has a Fat Tuesday on the premises. But if your hotel isn’t one that offers an inexpensive alternative to their steakhouses and seafood restaurants, consider venturing away from The Strip to find everyday eateries like Olive Garden, Chilli’s, Zaxby’s, and Denny’s, as well as fast food outlets like Subway, Wendy’s, and Panda Express. This can help to save a few dollars and change up the pace for an evening or two.
When it comes to the buffets that Vegas is so widely known for, it’s possible to save money there as well. Buffets in hotels OFF The Strip, such as The Palms ($14.99 per person) and The Orleans ($15.99 per person) are far less expensive than most but are every bit as tasty and well varied.
Coupons are also available via Groupon and TravelZoo.
If you are in need of drinks and snacks for your room, or perhaps toiletries, over-the-counter medications, or beauty products, then SKIP the hotel gift shops and head to one of many convenient CVS and Walgreens locations. They stock a wide variety of products and brands at a third of the price of any hotel shop. Additionally, the locations on The Strip host a souvenir aisle where you’ll find everything from Las Vegas hats, T-shirts and hoodies to keychains, jewellery and a selection of novelty items. The quality is good and the prices are lower than anything you’ll find at the hotels. All considered, CVS and Walgreens are truly handy for many things you might need while you’re on vacation.
As for clothing and accessories, Vegas offers plenty in the way of shopping, including The Fashion Show Mall, Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, The Shops at Mandalay Bay and The Shops at Crystals toward the south end of the strip. However, for the most part, these malls contain high-end designer stores that include Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hugo Boss, Chanel and Cartier. To save money, consider Las Vegas North Premium Outlets or Meadows Mall, with stores and prices geared to what you would find at home.
8. Night Clubs
Las Vegas boasts a multitude of nightclubs, with well-known venues that include Drai’s at The Cromwell, Ghostbar at The Palms, Marquee at The Cosmopolitan, Hyde at Bellagio, and Foxtail at SLS, as well as TAO, Hakkasan, and XS… just to name a few. No doubt, if you want to party, there are plenty of places to indulge. The problem is, clubbing can be expensive, due to cover charges and the price of alcohol coupled with the amount you choose to consume.
One option is to follow the clubs on social media since they often post info regarding their happy hour, drink specials, and sometimes even fun passwords that can be used at the door as a means of bypassing the cover charge. On the subject of social media, you can use it to get the club promoter’s attention. If you’re social media savvy and help the club out by reposting their message or leaving a clever message, you might be guest listed or treated to some free drinks. Or visit Vegas.com and click on the sub-heading Nightlife to find ticket specials for nightclubs as well as those infamous Vegas pool parties.
9. Side Trips/Excursions
Many visitors to Vegas are interested in side trips to attractions of a more natural genre, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, and Valley of Fire. From mountains and forests to canyons and desert, these locations all offer different scenery and experiences and are a photographer’s dream come true.
Additionally, there are side trips of a man-made variety, including Hoover Dam, Laughlin, Pahrump, Calico Ghost Town, and Los Angeles, where you can pose with the Hollywood on the Hill sign, cruise down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and venture to the Pacific Coast for views of Santa Monica and Malibu Beach. Of all these side trips, LA is furthest at 4.5 hours drive time. But it’s definitely worth it, and the landscape along the way is truly awe-inspiring.
You can approach most of these trips via tour companies that offer bus trips, limo or luxury van excursions, helicopter tours and even sightseeing via hot air balloon. But before you commit to any of them, shop around and compare prices, look for specials on Groupon, search for online discounts and coupons, or consider bundling two more adventures, as some tour operators offer big discounts for travelers desiring more than one excursion.
If you choose to go it alone via rental car, make sure you fill the gas tank before you leave Vegas because fill-ups in desolate areas and on Native American Reservations can cost double what you would normally pay. Plan your route carefully so you don’t drive out of your way and unnecessarily spend extra on gas. And stop at CVS or Walgreens for road trip snacks and drinks so you’re not stopping at restaurants along the way.
If you’re headed to the Grand Canyon, consider by-passing the Skywalk as the experience does not match the expense. Time spent on the Skywalk is limited as operators endeavor to keep tourists moving so pausing is frowned upon, and visitors are not allowed to take their cameras or smartphones onto the bridge, which defeats the purpose of going. Instead, these items must be placed in lockers prior to entering the Skywalk. Not to mention that the canyon is not at its deepest and most impressive in this area. Despite that Grand Canyon National Park is an extra two-hour drive beyond Skywalk, the lookouts are far more stunning and the trip is more cost effective considering the Skywalk is $79 per person, whereas admission to Grand Canyon National Park is only $30 per car, regardless of the number of passengers.
However, if these excursions seem too lengthy and expensive but you’re still in the mood for some amazing scenery and photographs, head to Mt. Charleston (shown in the video below) which is only 40 minutes from Las Vegas. This majestic mountain has an elevation that ranges from 3000 to 12,000 feet and overlooks Lee Canyon, Kyle Canyon and vast desert below, with the Vegas strip in the distance. The views are positively spectacular and the area is perfect for hiking, skiing, tobogganing, picnicking, and horseback riding, with a wide variety of wildlife in the area that adds to the thrill of the trip. It’s the most economical yet jaw-dropping side trip you can take.
10. General Tips
Upon checking into your hotel, ask if they offer any Welcome Packages which are pre-packaged envelopes stuffed with Vegas info and discounts on a variety of shows and restaurants. Check to see if your hotel lobby features a display of pamphlets for local attractions and shows since these conveniently sized brochures often include tear-out coupons/discounts as well as two-for-one specials. If you plan to gamble at a hotel, consider signing up for their Players Card, which accumulates points and results in discounts on a wide variety of things.
And finally, don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel as though a restaurant or hotel has shortchanged you in some way. Vegas is always anxious to right a wrong and keep the customer happy. So for genuine and justified complaints, this can result in reduced resort fees, a discounted meal, or even a freebie product or service to rectify the problem.