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One of my colleagues is fond of saying that Las Vegas exists solely to part you with your money. And it does that with surprising efficiency. Even if you are not a gambler, there are nearly a million options to pry cash from your hard working fingers. However, Las Vegas doesn’t need to bleed you dry and we found a number of surprisingly affordable tips.
How to Save Money in Vegas
Tip 1: Hotels
We recently went to Las Vegas for a work trip and extended time to explore all that the city has to offer. The trip allowed us the opportunity to stay at several different hotels on the Strip, including the Cosmopolitan, the Bellagio and the Venetian. Booking mid-week can save you well over half price compared to the weekend rate. Booking last minute can save a lot of money, as well as using a website like Booking.com or Expedia.com.
It’s worth noting that many hotels charge resort fees for services that most people never fully utilize. If you aren’t going to utilize the full range of a hotel’s options, you might be better off at a place without a resort fee. Staying at a lesser property (i.e., not a big name) can also save a lot of money. Finally, there are many timeshare, vacation rental and condo options just off the Strip, which can go for pennies on the dollar instead of a hotel (the downside is you often need to have a rental car – See Tip 7 below).
Tip 2: Drinks
We love to relax in the evenings. While most people know that you can get “free drinks” (although greatly watered down – our recommendation is to stick to bottled beer) as a comp while they are at the slot machines, there are many other ways to save money.
We had terrific success visiting some of the fancier nightclubs early in the evening before the party really gets started. At Mandalay Bay, we secured “VIP vouchers” into the MIX Lounge with 2-for-1 drinks early in the evening. And at Caesar’s Palace, we got VIP admission to the PURE nightclub and plus free drinks just by asking the hotel concierge for tickets.
Tip 3: Breakfasts
Many of the hotels offer fancy/expensive brunches. Once in a while, these are great, but you probably won’t want to eat like that every day. Even a quick muffin at some hotels will run you $8. But there are a few places on the Strip that still serve a reasonable sit-down breakfast. Our find was the Planet Dailies inside Planet Hollywood, but there are others.
Tip 4: Lunch
A late lunch is a great way to save money. Many of the nicer restaurants on the Strip serve the exact same menu (or a slightly modified menu) at significantly reduced prices for lunch compared to dinner. Holstein’s in the Cosmopolitan or I Love Burgers in the Venetian both had great burgers at reasonable prices.
Another option is to find a cabbie and get him to take you to In-N-Out Burger. There’s nothing like classic takeout from the backseat of a cab!
Tip 5: Dinner
In recent years, dinning in Vegas has gone upscale. It seems like practically every celebrity chef has at least one place in Vegas. It can also be pretty difficult to get reservations during peak times. Over the years, much has been made of the “hit the buffet” mantra – the theory being the buffet is cheaper. The hotels have gotten wise to this and buffet prices have increased significantly.
Our recommendation is to do your nicer meals for lunch and hit up a mid-priced restaurant for dinner. Border Grill at Mandalay Bay was perfect for this – a good dinner that didn’t break the bank. Also, consider a Las Vegas food tour. For the price of a meal in a restaurant, you’ll get a multi-hour culinary experience.
Tip 6: Shows
Nearly everyone will take in some kind of show in Vegas. Our experience on ticket prices was mixed. For long-run shows that have been in Vegas for a long time and don’t seem to be going anywhere soon (the numerous Cirque du Soleil iterations), it seems that day-of bookings in Vegas can save money, particularly if you’re flexible on which show to see.
However, if you want to see a limited engagement show or a touring performance or have your heart set on a particular show, we’ve found that booking online in advance is the preferred method (usually through a consolidator). But if you didn’t buy in advance, it’s also worth checking with your hotel’s concierge – you can sometimes get lucky with reasonable tickets direct from the hotel. Usually the hotel over-buys on tickets or has somehow come by them and you can pick them up on the cheap (plus a nice tip).
Tip 7: Rental Cars
Many people come to Vegas and want to go out to Hoover Dam. Or maybe they want a weekend getaway/quick multi-day trip to the Grand Canyon, the National Parks in Utah, or even the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument (home of White Pocket and The Wave). All the major rental car agencies have offices in various hotels on the Strip. We found we were able save over half by taking a short cab ride back to the airport and getting the rental car there (we found the best deals at RentalCars.com, but you might also have good luck with Hertz.
Tip 8: Free Entertainment
Las Vegas is one of the few places where there is actual free entertainment. Several of the hotels on the Strip have free shows to drum up business. There is the erupting Volcano at the Mirage, the fountains at the Bellagio, the fountains at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace and a few others. But the greatest entertainment of all is people watching! Vegas is one of the truly great places to observe your fellow mankind.
Tip 9: The Freebie
Rarely is anything in life actually free, but it does happen in Las Vegas (particularly during Conventions). If you keep your eyes open for these promotions, you could score free drinks, free t-shirts, free meals, passes to nightclubs and other parties – all free for the taking and paid for by some corporate sponsor. Never pass up a good freebie.
Have you been to Las Vegas? Do you have any other tips? We’d love to hear from you!