Neon lights, five star hotels, celebrity chefs and lots (and lots) of slot machines… LAS VEGAS!
Many eager travelers venture to the City of Sin with high hopes of winning big and leaving at least a little richer.
Unfortunately, Las Vegas is a glitzy town full of lots of exciting (and expensive) things to do.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the glamour and get tempted into spending a small fortune on your trip, even if you did manage to score a jackpot.
But, you don’t have to have a disposable income in order to feel like a high roller.
Here are some tips to rock Las Vegas on a Budget.
Figure out a budget… and stick to it!
After the airfare and hotel essentials are booked, try to identify just how much you’re willing to spend on food, activities, shopping and gambling while you’re there.
Once you’ve touched down, the whirlwind will commence and money can go really fast so it’s best to have a rough budget set before you leave home.
TIP: Once you’ve decided to go to Las Vegas, begin to save up your spare change. Add this “bonus money” to your trip budget. You’ll be amazed how the change can add up. (I tried this and ended up with over $90 for my last trip!)
Las Vegas on a Budget: Take advantage of FREE Vegas
One of the best parts about coming to Las Vegas are the casinos, which all compete to be the flashiest spot on the Strip. Spend a day walking casino to casino, enjoying the over the top themed decor and free attractions to get the lay of the land and begin your Vegas trip off right.
Some casinos especially stand out and are worth a special visit.
The Bellagio offers a number of fantastic free attractions. Start off by wandering through the seasonally changing Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. From butterfly terrariums to spectacular floral displays, the wizards at the Bellagio never cease to amaze with their innovative and evocative natural exhibits. Then, head outside to marvel at the utterly awe-inspiring water and music fountain show.
TIP: The mood of the show shifts from day to night, so try to catch it during both times of day to get the full experience.
Take a sensationalized walk back into history at the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. Even if you’re not looking to go shopping, a stroll through the cobblestone streets, past replicated Roman landmarks like the Trevi Fountain, is well worth the time.
TIP: Don’t miss the hourly Fall of Atlantis fountain show complete with animatronic figures and impressive special effects.
For animal lovers, there are a few good, free animal attractions along the Strip.
The glass enclosed Lion Habitat inside the MGM Grand lets you get up close and personal with the gigantic (and fiercely adorable) cats as they play, sleep and roam around the space. If you can, try to be there for one of the feeding times, at 11:15 and 4:30 pm daily.
Also, the Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo offers fish, turtles, birds and –yes!- Chilean Flamingos in a beautifully lush outdoor environment.
Vegas campiness at its finest, the Sirens of TI show is an 18 minute live action production located on the street outside of the Treasure Island hotel.
Telling the tale of beautiful sirens as they lure pirates into their cove, the show features singing, dancing, sword fights, acrobatics and giant moving pirate ships as part of the elaborate set. With 4 shows a night, this is one free attraction that you shouldn’t pass up.
Right next to Treasure Island is another nighttime attraction, the Mirage’s famous Volcano. The Volcano is a heart-stopping experience that brings the action of the Strip to a stop every hour in the evening.
In 2008 the popular attraction had a $25 million redesign and now sound, light, music, heat and fireballs raining down on the outside lagoon complete the over the top experience.
And don’t miss the new kid on the block, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, located in the City Center area. Perfect for all Go! Girls, glamour is the main theme on display at this luxurious casino.
Head to the 3 level Chandelier Bar where over 2 million Swarovski crystals drape to create private nooks, and enjoy a cocktail in the oh-so-flattering light.
TIP: Try the Fire Breathing Dragon cocktail for a special, smoky experience…
It’s Ladies Night!
In Las Vegas, every night is ladies night, and if you’re lucky enough to be of the fairer gender, club promoters will be practically tripping over themselves in an effort to get you into their club.
With perks such as free admission, priority access and tickets redeemable for free drinks, you might think it’s all too good to be true.
But I can tell you from extensive personal research that there’s no catch… just an honest desire to get more lovely ladies into their establishment.
Try going to your selected venue and requesting to get on the list or to get a VIP pass.
They will usually have a set number of passes available, so your best bet is to show up early in the day while they’re still available.
Or, if you’re trying to get into a club in the hotel you’re staying in, try talking to the concierge.
They will usually be able to hook hotel guests up with passes and priority access.
Enjoy the free casino booze… but exercise caution
In Las Vegas, there’s certainly no shortage of alcohol. While you’re out roaming the Strip, you’ll find a million places to pick up everything from a giant (and costly) daiquiri or yard of beer.
Besides the aforementioned nightclub drink tickets, there’s another way to get free alcohol as well, but you should be prepared in advance with a few key tips or else those “free drinks” could end up being very costly.
All casinos want you to come and spend your evening at their slot machines or tables. One way that they entice you and get you to stay is by offering free drinks from the roaming (and highly costumed) waitresses.
While it may sound appealing to have drinks magically appear as you spend some time in front of the slots, keep in mind that it can sometimes take quite a bit of time to be able to place and receive your order, especially on the weekends.
If you have are only gambling for the free drinks- the key tip is don’t.
It’s 99% certain that you’ll actually end up losing more money than the drink actually costs! You’d be better off just ordering something at the bar and paying for it the old fashioned way.
However, if you’ve decided that you want to gamble for a little bit, and wouldn’t mind getting a drink while you wait, in order to get the most bang out of your buck be sure to order something a little more premium… and avoid ordering sodas, bottled water, coffee, or cheap beer.
TIP: When you start to feel tipsy, immediately stop with the free drinks… or you’ll just end up sitting there gambling away your hard earned money, while your $5 beer takes 20 minutes to arrive.
How to score discount show tickets
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, you will most likely want to take in one of their world renowned shows. From Cirque du Soleil to comedy acts to famous musical artists to Broadway productions, there’s really something for all interests.
If you just show up on your trip and get a ticket directly from the presenting venue, you most likely will pay a premium full-cost price for your ticket.
However, if you put in a little planning before you arrive, you may be able to score majorly discounted tickets to one of your preferred shows.
If there is a show you’d like to see at the hotel you are staying at, call the concierge immediately to see if you are able to qualify for any discounts. Or, there may even be a reservation package that includes show tickets and maybe even dinner in the room rate.
You never know unless you ask, and many casinos offer these popular theater packages as an option.
If you arrive and decide at the last minute that you’d like to take in a show, head to one of the 5 Tix4Tonight booths on the Strip.
Boasting tickets from 20-50% off, you may not have the absolute best selection, but if you try to get there promptly at 11 am when the booth opens, then you’ll at least get the best pick of what’s available.
TIP: The available shows are posted at 9:30 am each day. Call their hotline at 877-849-4868 so you can figure out your options before you wait in line.
However, if you really want to see one of the hottest, most in demand shows, be prepared to potentially pay full price. The concept of “Supply and Demand” is one of Vegas’ most valued governing rules.
TIP: The best time to find reduced ticket prices for the premium shows are for performances during the week.
Skip the fancy meals
If you’re a foodie, Las Vegas can end up being very tough on your wallet.
With establishments from famous chefs such as Thomas Keller, Joel Rubuchon, Bobby Flay, Michael Mina, Tom Colicchio, Emril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Todd English, foodies are constantly enticed with high end (and expensive) food literally around every corner.
The good news is that for every expensive restaurant, there are even more reasonable and delicious dining options available, and many of these options are pioneered by top chefs as well.
Competition fuels the Las Vegas economy, and hoteliers know that food at all price points need to be held to the highest standard or else people will just move on to the next hotel for their meal.
If celebrity chefs are your passion, some reasonable dining options include Thomas Keller and his Bouchon Bakery on the ground floor of the Venetian, Tom Colicchio and his ‘wichcraft sandwich eatery in the MGM Grand, Hubert Keller and his Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay and Jose Andres and his unique China Poblano concept in the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas… just to name a few.
TIP: If you really are dying to try one of the highest end restaurants, but you don’t want to shell out a lot of cash, try going for lunch when the prices often are much cheaper.
Or, go in the evening for just appetizers or a late dessert. You’ll still be able to sample your favorite chef’s food, but at a fraction of the price.
Have you done Las Vegas on a Budget? Share your tips with us in the comments!