Las Vegas is a popular destination for many travelers, even if you don't enjoy gambling. There are all sorts of music events, museums, tournaments, fine dining and sightseeing options year round. Many businesses will hold conferences there, taking advantage of the lower airfare and bulk discounts for lodging. However, the costs can really add up if you are not careful. Here are some ways to avoid spending too much when you visit.
Getting to Vegas is usually not very expensive as many airports across the U.S have regular flights. You can often save even more by bundling your airfare and lodging together but be sure to read the fine print. Be cautious of discount airlines as some charge for everything; boarding passes, carry on luggage, snacks, water and WiFi. The cheap seats can also be uncomfortable if you have a longer flight so plan accordingly.
It's also an easy drive from Southern California, Arizona and other surrounding states but you may need to pay an extra fee for parking when you arrive. The traffic on the Las Vegas Strip is always heavy so you may find it easier to use other forms of transportation during your stay.
My husband and I used the ride sharing service, Lyft and they were always very prompt and inexpensive. Our ride to the hotel was only about $10, compared to the $30 that a friend paid for his taxi. Most hotels have a place set up for ride sharing with clearly marked signs. All our drivers were professional and friendly, sharing their favorite tips and places to go.
The public transportation is also a good option. There is a monorail on one side of the Strip that will take you from one end to the other. On the other side, there are several free trams that connect properties together, as well as buses to go to tourist attractions outside the Strip, like historic Fremont Street. There are also free or low cost shuttles available at many properties so be sure to check online. Do bring your comfortable walking shoes as you definitely do a lot of walking just going from one casino to another.
Everyone wants to stay on the Strip but it isn't necessarily the cheapest option. There are all sorts of off-site casinos and hotels throughout the city, with prices being higher the closer you are to the Strip. You have the added challenge of transportation costs, although many of the bigger off-site casinos have their own shuttle services, running nearly 24 hours a day. This is a good option for families as the Strip is not a great place for kids, especially in the evening hours.
Many people do choose to stay at one of the big casinos on the Strip, to be close to the action. Regular visitors can get discounted or "free" rooms by cashing in reward points, but there will still be a "resort fee" at most places, covering WiFi and other basic amenities. Ours was about $40 a day. The pools had just opened for the season but it was a tad chilly so we didn't make it down. They can be very crowded in hot weather and many people pay extra to reserve a lounge chair or cabana.
Be cautious of the mini bar or fridge inside the rooms, or any snacks that are left in the room. In some cases, you will be charged for the items even if you only move them as they have automatic sensors. This can be a big unpleasant surprise at checkout. My Lyft driver said that he recommends people don't even open the fridge, just in case.
The prices of food and drink can give you sticker shock, especially if you are considering a meal at a famous restaurant. Be sure to check out the restaurants at your casino online so you can have an idea of the costs, and be sure to make reservations for any of the nicer places. There are lots of great restaurants in Downtown Las Vegas where the prices are more like home too.
We went to Hell's Kitchen at Caesars Palace, which was delicious and impressive but the bill at the end was more than eating out several times at home. A tip for places like this is to go for lunch instead of dinner. The portions are a bit smaller but so is the price tag.
My husband and I should have split more meals as we sometimes had more food that we could finish. Leftovers are a hassle, especially as none of the rooms had a microwave or any way to reheat the food. We generally tried to have a small breakfast, an early dinner and maybe a snack each day.
If you like to drink, alcohol costs are similar to what you see on an airplane or sporting event. You can save money by going out and buying some alcohol for your hotel room. It's a nice way to have a nightcap and avoid a hefty bar tab. You can also get free drinks if you are gambling (or with someone gambling) but the service can be slow and some of the drinks seem watered down. I opted for beer or wine to avoid this problem. Be sure to tip your waitress a buck or two and she will be more likely to check back often.
Vegas is great for people watching. People come from all over to enjoy themselves and take in the sights. Most casinos have a feature or attraction to draw people in. Some famous examples are the Bellagio fountains, the flamingos at the Flamingo, and the Mirage's volcano show, which will be gone soon, replaced with a giant guitar for the new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. You can feel like you visited New York City, Paris, Venice, Egypt and Ancient Rome, just by walking along the Strip. There is fabulous shopping options too but impulse shopping is definitely not the way to save money so try to keep it to window shopping. I'm from Oregon where we don't have sales tax so that was another incentive to buy as little as possible.
Many people will try to hand you flyers or get you to stop to interact with them. It's best to avoid the flyers entirely as many of them are advertising "escort" services or other things you might not want to see. The showgirls are always in pairs, wearing feathers and little else. If you want a photo as a souvenir, be sure to find out the price up front. Avoid people trying to give you jewelry as they will want money too, usually more than the item is worth. And, be on your guard for timeshare pitches, which will take up a great deal of your valuable vacation time with little reward.
The one exception to accepting flyers is if you are interested in going to a nightclub, which often have guest lists. We were put on the guest list at Omnia, the nightclub at Caesar's Palace. It was an incredible place with a world class DJ playing, but it was also very crowded. The drinks were extremely expensive, even by Vegas standards. Afterwards, we received texts inviting us to pool parties or other nightclub events. It was a fun adventure but not for everyone.
Many visitors enjoy going to Fremont Street or "Old" Vegas. It is has an impressive lighted roof over the entire street at night and lots of street performers, show girls and other entertaining sights. The Golden Nugget is a fun old fashioned casino that feels like you have been transported through time. People also like to go to the Mob Museum and learn about the history of the area.
Las Vegas is also a place of natural beauty and has many state and national parks nearby. Hiking and boating are popular with people who want to escape the lights and noise of the Strip. If you have time, you can take a day trip to Hoover Dam, Zion, the Grand Canyon and many other beautiful places. There are old ghost towns and museums throughout the area. You can even take a tour of Area 51.
As soon as you land in Vegas, you will see slot machines right in the airport. You will walk past banks of slots on your way to your hotel room and every time you go anywhere. What I like to do is set myself a daily budget in cash for each day. When that day's money is gone, I'm done until the next day. This last visit worked out well enough that I still had money leftover every day and was even able to pay for some meals and drinks with my winnings.
If you enjoy table games like roulette, blackjack or craps, be sure to pay attention to the table minimums. The nicer casinos will have a $25 or more minimum for the popular games My husband loves to play baccarat, but the minimums were way too expensive. He did find an electronic version that had a $5 minimum and he did pretty well.
There is also sports betting, which can be fun if you are with a group and want to watch a game. It's nice to have a place to sit down for awhile. I parked my husband there and went to play some slots while he waited for the outcome of his soccer match. Keep in mind that your city's game might not be shown on a big screen or at all, depending on what else is going on.
One trick is to make sure to sign up for whatever rewards program your hotel and casino is affiliated with. The two major ones are MGM and Caesars, with the cards working at all the sister casinos. Other ones, like the Venetian have their own separate system. You are usually given some free credit to start off your gambling. Caesars gave us each $20. This is also the system that will give you credit for a future vacation, although the points add up slowly unless you are a big spender. Be sure to use your card for any meals or purchases in the casinos too. You can watch for special promotions that offer extra points too.
Avoid the casino cash machines, which can charge as much as $20 for withdrawals! And when cashing out your winnings, be sure to go directly to the cashier window rather than using the machine option as they generally won't give you any change, just dollar bills. Over the course of a weekend, the small amount of change lost can really add up, especially if you are going to casino to casino. And be sure to cash out your slips before leaving the casino, even if you think you are coming back later. It's easy to get distracted and find the slips when you arrive at home with no way to withdraw the money.
I hope some of this will help you save some money when visiting, or at least be prepared. If you have any Las Vegas advice to add, please share it with us too.
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