What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but it’s better if you don’t leave all your money there, too.
Luckily, fun and frugality are not mutually exclusive in Sin City. Before you book your flight and hotel room, read our tips for having a cheap weekend in Vegas.
Make your timing lucky
Las Vegas is North America’s top convention destination, so it pays to visit when there are few or no conventions scheduled. Otherwise you’ll face higher hotel prices and competition for limited rooms.
Check the Vegas Means Business convention calendar to look for a slower time to visit.
For example, a current search shows that there are no conventions scheduled between December 17th of this year and January 5, 2017. So mid-December, before Christmas, would be a great time to plan a weekend in Las Vegas.
Other traditionally slower times of the year include late July through August. The intense heat tends to deter travelers, and that time of the summer is not popular for conventions. The Fourth of July can also is also a prime time to visit Las Vegas, as it’s the one holiday weekend that doesn’t bring a spike in tourism.
You can save even more by planning your “weekend” in the middle of the week. Las Vegas hotel prices are always lower between Sunday and Thursday. If you’re considering holiday travel this year, the weekdays before Thanksgiving are especially opportune for deals.
Don’t sleep on the strip
If you’re willing to stay downtown, which is only a few minutes from The Strip, you’ll find better rates on hotel rooms. And travel booking sites make it easy to figure out where a particular hotel is so you can search for accommodations in downtown Las Vegas and on The Strip.
My Expedia search for downtown hotels on the weekend of 12/16-12/18 turned up mostly rates under $100/night and as low as $39/night. When I searched again for hotels on The Strip, most of the prices were between $100-$200. However, perhaps because it’s a slow time of year I also found some great sales on famous brands like Harrah’s ($64/night instead of $316) and Caesar’s Palace ($172 instead of $480).
Over on Priceline.com there are even lower rates to be found if you’re okay with not knowing the hotel’s name in advance.
The bottom line: it’s not impossible to find a great price on a Las Vegas hotel room, even some of the bigger names on the strip. You just have to look around and book far enough in advance to beat the competition.
Ditch the rental car
Unlike some big cities, Las Vegas’s airport is only 10 minutes from most of its hotels. You can take a taxi and save money by skipping the rental car.
Once you’re in the city you can walk and take public transit. Shuttles are available for off-the-strip attractions like the Hoover Dam and other national parks.
Drink for free
As long as you’re gambling (yes, slot machines count) you can drink for almost nothing. Cocktail waitresses pass out free drinks—but you’ll need to tip your waitress if you want her to come back with more.
Many bars and restaurants also offer happy hour specials between four and seven and a “reverse happy hour” after 10, which is geared toward performers but open to the public.
Fill your belly at brunch
Many Las Vegas restaurants offer all-you-can-eat brunches and some also come with bottomless drinks. So fill up in the morning and eat a smaller dinner to cut your dining expenses. Happy hour food specials and pre-show dinner menus offer a taste of fine restaurants without the hefty check.
Besides its casinos, Las Vegas is famous for its clubs. You can save money on nightlife if you understand how the scene works. First, be prepared to wait in line. Follow the club’s dress code and try to arrive early enough. Look for other club-goers to form a group with. Mixed-gender parties have a better chance of receiving discounted admission.
Promoters who hand out flyers during the day can give away free entry vouchers. If you’re a hotel guest or eat at a hotel restaurant beforehand you can gain priority entrance to the hotel’s nightclub.
Look for discounted show tickets
Tix4Tonight offers discounted tickets to a variety of shows and attractions—everything from comedy to Cirque de Soleil to bus tours. Peruse the day’s listings online and then call or visit one of their stores to score cheap tickets to the show of your choice.
Use comparison booking sites like Kayak and Google Flights to find a good price on a plane ticket. I spotted a $235 round trip ticket from Philly to Las Vegas on Kayak. I always search for flights on Southwest’s website, too, since they aren’t listed on the marketplace-type sites, but in this case the Kayak deal was nearly half the cost of a Southwest base fare.
Make a gambling budget
Yes, gambling can provide free drinks and other perks, but you don’t want to come out behind. Decide before your trip how much you can spend on gambling. Turn that into a daily budget and bring only that amount to the casino floor. Then you can enjoy some games without the temptation to push your luck too far.
Many casinos have free player’s cards that act as reward programs. You can use them to track your spending and in return you’ll earn free perks ranging from merchandise to a free night’s stay.
All that glitters doesn’t have to cost as much as gold. Las Vegas may have a reputation for glamour, but with some research and planning you can find more than one way to enjoy a weekend in Vegas cheaply.
Share your Sin City memories—and tips—in the comments.