How to visit Las Vegas on a Budget
Las Vegas is a city know for outrageous excess - lavish resort hotels that feel like the size of a small town, Michelin star restaurants, designer boutiques and of course, the casinos. But what if we told you it was very easy to have a real Vegas experience without blowing a high roller’s budget?
Here are our top tips for a Sin City stay that won’t break the bank:
Download and play MyVegas
This is our number one, must do, top tip for saving money in Vegas. It’s so simple that it seems too good to be true. MyVegas is an app for your mobile phone, where you accrue loyalty points for playing free slot machines and other games. The more you play, the more you level up and the more loyalty points you get. You can then cash these in for actual things! From hotel stays to show tickets to buffets, you can save yourself SO MUCH MONEY just by playing this game!
Now this isn’t something you can just start to do the week before your trip, as it takes time to accumulate enough points for the good stuff, but if you have 6 months or more to play with, and don’t mind committing a little bit of time each day to the game (on your commute to work, while you watch tv in the evening, easy!), you will thank yourself so much!
You can only redeem 3 rewards within 3 months, but if you’re travelling as a 2 or more then you can decide who goes for what and gain more treats between you. We would also advise using your points to pay for the most expensive things on your trip – hotels, food and theatre tickets. We managed to get 2 free nights (only had to pay the resort fee) at the New York New York, 2 half price buffets including the Bellagio, and $25 freeplay in a casino (which then won us $70 on the slots!).
Be warned, the game will tempt you with cheap packages of game chips and loyalty points in order to level up faster, but obviously if you pay for these, it kind of defeats the object of winning freebies! So don’t do it!
Choosing a hotel
Las Vegas is famous for its extravagant hotels, like the Bellagio, the Wynn and Caesar’s Palace. However, you don’t need to stay in them in order to visit them! Choose one of the lower priced Strip resort hotels like the New York New York or Tropicana, which gives you all the fun of a themed Vegas hotel experience, and puts you right in the middle of everything so that you can walk to the other hotels. Luxor is also a good option price wise but it is that little bit further away down the Strip. You can visit any other hotel’s lobby, bar, casino, buffet without being a guest. The only thing you can’t do is visit other hotels’ pools, so be sure to choose a hotel for yourself that has a nice one! New York New York’s is great, plenty of sun loungers, a nice big pool, and you can watch the rollercoaster rattling overhead.
That said, it’s not worth going super low budget on a hotel (avoid Circus Circus, Excaliber and Stratosphere!) - unlike many other city breaks where your bed is just a base camp, a massive part of the Las Vegas experience IS the hotel, so by scrimping too much you’ll actually find that you’re cheating yourself out of one of the highlights of the Vegas lifestyle for the sake of $20!
It never hurts to ask politely how much it would be to upgrade your room when you check in. Vegas is always looking to fill its rooms, and if they can offer you the next tier of room then you’ll probably be offered a much cheaper rate than if you’d just booked it online in the first place, especially if it’s a special occasion – as it was our honeymoon we could upgrade from a standard basic to an amazing spa suite (hello hot tub in the bedroom!) for an extra $20 per night, way cheaper than the full price room online.
Oh and while you’re budgeting for your trip, be sure to factor in the resort fee that every hotel adds on, to cover wifi, gym/pool use etc. It’s annoying and non-negotiable, but you don’t want any nasty shocks when you’re checking in and it costs more than expected!
Top Top – it’s much cheaper to stay during the week than at weekends, and by avoiding major holidays you can save a ton of money as well.
The joy of Las Vegas is that many of the famous attractions are actually free! All you need are some comfortable walking shoes. Our favourite free things to do and see are:
· Have your photo taken at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.
· The actual flamingos living in a jungle habitat in the middle of the Flamingo Hotel
· The Rialto Bridge and singing gondoliers at the Venetian.
· The gorgeous Bellagio lobby, with its ceiling covered in multicoloured glass flowers
· The Bellagio fountains! Incredible gigantic displays timed to music, every 30 minutes in the day time and every 15 minutes at night. If you’ve seen Oceans 11 you’ll know about this!
· The Bellagio Conservatory - free botanical gardens, with themed flower displays.
· The Eiffel Tower outside Paris
· The Statue of Liberty, and skyscrapers of New York New York, and cross the Brooklyn Bridge
· The gigantic pyramid and Sphinx at Luxor
· The erupting volcano outside the Mirage
· Walk the Strip at night to see the lights
· Take a taxi down to Fremont Street in the evening and check out the historic old casinos and their vintage neon signs. You can spend hours watching the wacky street performers and people whizzing overhead on the Slotzilla zipline.
For more things to add to your itinerary, check out our blog: 24 unmissable things to put on your Las Vegas bucketlist.
Check at your hotel to see if you get any guest discounts on their attractions, for example we could get half price tickets for the rollercoaster at New York New York if we showed our hotel key.
Las Vegas is a partying capital, and depending on where you go, drinks can either be ruinous or cheap.
A good way to get cheap drinks is by (slowly!) playing the slots machines in the casinos – waitstaff will come around and take your order for free drinks, but be sure to tip them a dollar or two to make sure they keep coming back! Obviously don’t bet too high on the machines or your night will quickly become much more expensive…
Keep an eye out for Happy Hour deals.
Liquor stores on the Strip and CVS Pharmacy also sell inexpensive alcohol, and in Vegas you can drink on the street as you walk!
Some buffets such as the one at the Mirage include unlimited beer and wine, so it’s a great place to have your dinner while grabbing a few drinks for cheap, before going out and treating yourself to a more expensive cocktail or two.
If you do want to treat yourself to a couple of Vegas-y nights out then we would recommend the 107 Sky Lounge at the Stratosphere, and the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan.
Unlike many Las Vegas pubs and clubs, The 107 Sky Lounge has no cover charge, and it has a daily happy hour from 4-7pm. It’s worth sticking around until sunset because the views are phenomenal – high up the 107th floor of the Stratosphere Tower with 360 degree panoramic views, the bar looks out over the Strip all the way to distant mountains, and you can watch the sun go down as the Casinos light up. Outside of happy hour drinks will set you back about $17 for a cocktail and $7 for a beer, but the location is just fabulous. This was one of the highlights of our trip!
Back on the main Strip, the Chandelier at the Cosmopolitan is another cover charge free bar, and very “decadent Vegas”. Three floors of shimmering strings of pink crystals surround velvet seating. Again, it’s around $16 for a cocktail, but where else can you drink INSIDE a giant chandelier?
We’re not going to lie, it’s much easier to get free club entry or drinks vouchers if you’re a girl. Sorry chaps. Try to be at least in a couple, or ideally a group with more women than men in it. Club promoters sometimes tout on the street, but it’s easier to search on Instagram for their accounts (or start tagging your own posts as #LasVegas and trust us, they’ll find you!) and ask them to put you on the entry list. This should help you get around the cover charge, and if you’re a group of girls, you might even get some free drinks thrown in!
Eating cheaply in Vegas
Eating in Vegas can be incredibly expensive. The city is full of gourmet dining experiences and world famous Michelin Star restaurants. However, it is possible to eat there without a 3 figure check. Of course there are the usual fast food joints, and places like CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens which are handy for grabbing food on the go, and hotels all have delis and food courts: New York New York sells pizza slices and fish and chips for under $10.
Casino buffets vary in price depending on time of day – going for lunch will be much cheaper than going for dinner! And be sure to use the MyVegas app for 2for1 buffets. As before, this app is a life saver. If you’re travelling in a 2, you can get 2 buffets for the price of 1, effectively making them half price. This makes the fancy Bellagio much more achievable, and the Mirage with unlimited beer and wine a steal! Having a casino buffet in the middle of the day and then a smaller cheap dinner is a great way to save money on food.
Eating off the Strip is much cheaper than on it! There are plenty of cheap eateries downtown on Fremont Street as well.
Las Vegas Shows on a budget
What would Vegas be without it’s shows? From Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas to feathered showgirl revues to Donny Osmond in residence, there is something for everyone! If you’ve followed our advice and downloaded the myVegas app, there are often 2for1 deals on Cirque du Soleil shows on there.
Queues for the discount ticket booths on the Strip can be very long, and you can usually find better discounts online – try Bestofvegas or Travelzoo.
Getting around Las Vegas
Las Vegas is big. The Strip itself is about 4 miles long, and old school Fremont Street is a further 5 miles away. While you can walk a lot to see most things, if the desert heat gets too much for you, or for getting out to the Stratosphere, Fremont Street or the Designer Outlet Malls you will need a taxi. We found that Lyft was so easy to use in Vegas and very cheap! Metered taxis will charge at least double the Lyft fare so avoid them! There is also an inexpensive 24/7 bus service that runs along the Strip as well, the Duece, which you can buy 24/48/72 hour passes for, but with the traffic it is veeeeeery slow.
Be aware you can’t hail cabs in the street so use the wifi in a hotel lobby to order a Lyft.
Limit your gambling!
Yes it’s Vegas, but the fastest way for you to blow your budget is by throwing it all on the tables. Set yourself a budget and stick to it! Even if it all goes in 10 minutes, walk away. After all, building those fancy hotels wasn’t funded by winners…
Another money saving gambling tip is to play in the casinos down in Fremont Street where the minimum bets are lower ($1 or $2 compared to $10 to $15 in the Bellagio), and apparently the odds are kinder…?
Wander along the Grand Canal of the Venetian, the Forum shops of Caesars Palace or the Bellagio lobby and you will see every high end superbrand imaginable, from Hermes to Chanel. However, unless you’ve done incredible well on the slot machines, your shopping will probably be more of the window variety.
If you are looking to treat yourself to some designer threads, there are a couple of outlet malls a short taxi ride from the Strip which stock all kinds of brands at great prices – we bought a Coach bag and a Michael Kors bag which were cheaper in total than one bag in the UK.
For souvenirs, best bet is to avoid the Strip. Your wonderfully tacky Vegas t-shirts and shot glasses will be much much cheaper down on Fremont Street or in the malls off the main drag.
So there you have it! You can stay in a Vegas hotel, eat, drink and be merry Vegas style without breaking the bank but also without feeling like you missed out on the real Sin City experience.