For a city known for its opulence and excess, you might be surprised to know that you actually can travel to Sin City without spending a lot of cash. Las Vegas has plenty of free and inexpensive things to do, and it’s totally possible to have a hell of a time even if you don’t have a high roller budget. We’re going to go through some money-saving tips so you can come up with a game plan for a perfect cheap vacation in Vegas!
Getting there (Flights)
Flights to Vegas are cheap! In fact, getting there may be one of the least expensive parts of your trip. To find the best deals, use our tips for finding the cheapest flights (Step #6). One thing to note is that Spirit Airlines always seems to have great deals, but being a discount airline, they charge for just about everything, including carry-on bags. Add up all the extra costs and before getting psyched about their seemingly low rates.
Getting from the airport to the strip: Having a car is not necessary if you just plan on spending time on the strip and downtown. Check and see if your hotel has a free shuttle from the airport to your hotel. If it doesn’t, you can get bus passes from an automatic ticket machine for inter-city bus called the Deuce (more information below)
Time it right
Weekday rates on hotels and flights can be significantly lower than on weekends, but it might be a bit difficult to convince the boss that a Tuesday to Thursday getaway to Vegas is a good idea.
To avoid the really crazy jacked up rates, avoid holidays. Everything from flights to hotels to brunch menus and shows will be much more expensive than usual. We know from experience when we naively visited a few days before the Fourth of July. Lesson learned.
Save money on hotels
Booking accommodation can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to search for the best deals. Lucky for you, we did a ton of research before our trip to Vegas, and we’re pretty sure we found the best way to find cheap hotels.
We scoured several booking sites, and even though Trivago claims to compare them all and offer you the best deals, Agoda actually had better rates. If you like planning ahead, this may just be your best bet. But if you want a really, really good deal on a hotel in Las Vegas, Hotel Tonight is where it’s at. We traveled to Vegas over the 4th of July, and being that it was a holiday weekend, prices were jacked up considerably. But on a normal weekend, you can find nice hotels on the strip for around $100. You can book up to a week in advance. Las Vegas has no shortage of hotel rooms, so unless you’re traveling during an extremely busy time, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a room you’ll love.
Bonus: If you want to save even more money, plan your trip to Sin City during weekdays, and find rooms on the strip for as little as $30 to $50 per night!
BIGGEST DISCOUNT: If you book with Hotel Tonight for the first time, we’ve got a discount code for you that’ll save ya $25! Just download the app on your phone and use our code BZWEBER for the extra cash off. You’re welcome!
Note: Don’t forget to factor in resort fees. We’re not fans of hidden costs, but it seems that just about every decent hotel in Vegas has a resort fee that is not included in the hotel rate you’ll see when booking. This fee can range from $15 up to $40 and goes toward parking, the hotel pool and other amenities. The resort fee at our hotel covered parking, Wi-Fi and pool access. Plus, we were given vouchers for 2 free alcoholic drinks (beer or well drinks), plus $12 to spend at the onsite Starbucks each day. Not too shabby.
Limit your gambling
We’re not huge gamblers, but when in Vegas, well, we’ll dabble a bit. There’s no faster way to blow your budget than to throw money on a table, but if you plan it out ahead of time, it can be worthwhile entertainment. Determine ahead of time how much money you’re okay parting with and cut yourself off there. Once it’s gone, that’s it. Practice your willpower – I know it’s in you!
Oh, and if you’re curious about which games give you the biggest bang for your buck, here are two ideas:
Craps: This social game is easy to play, and often your initial bet can last quite a while. The dealers are typically helpful if you don’t know how to play and will guide you through some of the most basic bets.
Tip: Many casinos have at least one $10 minimum bet table, but the only $5 minimum table we saw on the strip was at Harrah’s, where there were several. We by no means did a comprehensive search of all casinos in Las Vegas, but we checked quite a few. The atmosphere at Harrah’s isn’t exactly the best, but if you want to start small, it might be a good option.
BINGO: $4 will buy you a packet of BINGO sheets, and the fun lasts for about an hour. Plus, drinks are free when you’re playing. When we did a brief search, it looks as if the closest BINGO to the strip is at the Gold Coast Hotel, which boasts the biggest BINGO hall in Nevada, with 720 seats. It was far from full while we were there and we were the youngest people in the room by a good 20 years, but the people watching was spectacular and it was just a fun experience. Tip: Remember to buy a “Dabber” from a vending machine or ask the guys at the bar if you can borrow one.
There is no shortage of pools in Las Vegas. And nothing feels better than relaxing poolside with a cocktail in hand in that midday desert heat. Choosing a hotel with a pool you actually want to spend time is a good idea. You’ll be paying for it in the hotel’s “resort fee”, so you might as well use it.
But, if you weren’t able to snag a room at a hotel with a great pool, you can certainly enjoy the chlorine-laden waters at another property. But it’ll cost you. Here’s a list of some of the nicer, yet more affordable pools in Las Vegas.
Get around for cheap
If you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, you might be surprised by just how big the strip is. From end to end, it is 4.5 miles. And that’s just the main drag. If you want to make it to the old downtown to explore the Fremont experience and the original casinos (recommended!), it’s 6 miles away. Suffice to say, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, but you won’t want to walk everywhere. Especially in the desert heat. Let’s just say that traffic in Las Vegas is not fun, and especially if you plan on enjoying any alcoholic beverages, you’ll need to know how to get around town cheaply.
Transportation in and around Las Vegas is notoriously expensive, but there are ways you can avoid breaking the bank.
- Avoid taxis. They are seriously overpriced and are notorious for taking tourists the “long way” in order to tick up that meter.
- Take Lyft instead of cabs. We asked one taxi driver how much it would cost for a ride from the strip to Fremont Street (downtown Las Vegas), and he replied, “About $25 to $30.” We looked up the same route on Lyft, and it was $8 to $12.
- Take the Deuce, a double decker bus (get the name now?) that is the cheapest mode of public transportation. $6 per person will get you 2 hours of access, or for $2 more you can ride unlimited for 24 hours. Definitely go with the $8 pass because depending on traffic, the rides can take a while and you wouldn’t want to just miss the 2-hour mark. If you’re there for the whole weekend, might as well get the 3-day pass for $20 per person. The Deuce runs from the South Strip Transfer Bus Terminal (south of McCarren Airport) up to the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown and it stops at all hotels on the strip in between. The best part is that it runs 24/7 and comes every 15-20 minutes.
Buffet on a Budget
If you want to try one of the famed buffets in Vegas, but are on a budget, brunch is the way to go. Often serving many of the same dishes, they are always cheaper than the price you’ll pay come dinnertime.
Don’t go with the cheapest buffet though, we all know that cheap buffets are a bad idea. Some of the more highly-regarded buffets are not all that much more than the mediocre ones, after all.
Top rated buffets include:
- The Buffet at the Wynn
- Wicked Spoon
- Bacchanal Buffet
- The Buffet at Aria
- The Bellagio Buffet
Note: During holidays, these rates are often increased.
Opt out of the buffet
Let’s be real… do you ever feel good after eating at a buffet? Does it sound like a good idea to don your bikini or day drink after being stuffed to the max? Didn’t think so. Las Vegas has tons of amazing restaurants, and instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet, opt instead for a meal at a nice restaurant. Your taste buds will be happy, you’ll leave satisfied instead of stuffed, and your bill will be half of what you’d pay at a buffet.
Tip: Want a brunch suggestion? The Buffet at the Wynn is often listed amongst the best in town, but we opted for a regular brunch at the Terrace Pointe Café (also in the Wynn), and enjoyed Eggs Benedict over Crab Cakes and an Asparagus and Truffle Goat Cheese Omelet. Trust me when I say I could not have eaten any more.
Find cheap eats
You don’t have to go big for every meal. There’s a few In ‘N Out Burgers on the strip, and if you venture downtown, you’ll find more affordable menus. And who doesn’t like food trucks?! Here is a link to some of the more popular trucks in Vegas and be sure to check their Twitter to see where they are located that day.
If you like Thai food, Le Thai is a wonderful choice. With entrées starting at just $10, huge portions and flavorful food, you won’t be disappointed.
Tip: This tiny restaurant fills up fast. Go early and put your name on the list before exploring the Fremont Experience, or opt to eat on their small patio from takeout boxes and you won’t have to wait at all! Oh and also, you’ll tell them the level of spice you want (0 = no spice to 5 = Thai spicy). Order one level below what you think you want. Take it from two people who lived in Asia and spent lots of time traveling in Thailand. We ordered a 3 (hot) and our mouths were on fire.
One of the biggest draws of Las Vegas are the shows. From Cirque du Soleil to magicians and musical acts, there’s something to tickle anyone’s fancy. But don’t pay full price for tickets! Vegas.com guarantees the best rates on shows. Plus, you can get an extra 10% discount with the code: STOP.
While clubs and higher end restaurants serve hand-crafted cocktails with prices that’ll make your eyes water, there are plenty of inexpensive drinks to be had in Las Vegas. Take advantage of happy hour specials, head to O’Sheas for famously cheap beers, or drink for free while (slowly) playing penny shots. (Don’t forget to tip your cocktail waitress, or she’ll mysteriously disappear.) And for the cheapest possible drinks, buy beverages at one of the many liquor stores near the strip (or even the CVS). You can walk with open drinks, after all, so take advantage.
Free things to do in Las Vegas
There are plenty of money-sucking activities in Las Vegas – from zip-lining at the Fremont Experience, to helicopter tours over the city and, well, gambling…. It can seem like this city’s sole purpose is to flatten out your wallet. But there are actually a ton of free (or seriously cheap) things to do in and around Las Vegas. You just gotta know where to find them!
Just like the event’s name suggests, if you happen to be in Vegas during the first weekend of the month, head up to the Arts District for food trucks, art and live music. It’s free to attend, and you can find some reasonably priced bites!
You don’t have to buy tickets to a show to enjoy live music in Vegas. In fact, you’ll find it around just about every corner – from street performers to shows in bars and casinos on the strip to free concert series in Fremont, your musical cravings can be satisfied at no charge!
Free Sights in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is sensory overload. The good news for any traveler on a budget is that many of these sights are free. Here are just a handful of free things to see to get your started. (And if your senses are not pleasantly overwhelmed after this list, you might want to see a doctor…)
- Iconic water fountain show takes place every 30 minutes during the day and every 15 minutes at night until midnight.
- View the Bellagio’s blown glass art installation in the hotel lobby’s ceiling
- Next to the blown glass, experience a flower garden unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
- Head to Circus Circus and watch as acrobats, clowns and jugglers perform a show every half hour in the hotel lobby
- Watch a volcanic eruption at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. outside of the Mirage. An additional eruption happens at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
- View pretty pink flamingos at none other than The Flamingo in a little oasis.
- Treasure Island has a live “pirate show” in front of their hotel at 7:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
- Take selfies in front of the “Eifel Tower” at Paris, next to skyscrapers at New York New York and the Sphinx at Luxor. Who needs to travel around the world when you’ve got Vegas? Only kidding…
- Watch people zip-line through the neon-lit ceiling of the Fremont Experience. And if that’s not enough, do some quality people-watching and enjoy all sorts of street performances – from amateur magic to spray paint artists to scantily clad girls who’ll pose for a picture.
Calling all yogis (or just anyone who wants to sweat out that hangover!), there are plenty of opportunities to get your downward dog on in Las Vegas, and many of them are free! (Though donations are always welcome and appreciated.) Check out this list here.
Get just outside of Vegas for some epic (and cheap!) sights
If you drove to Las Vegas (or have a rental car), there is plenty to do and see just outside of town.
Go for a hike
If the bass-bumping music and neon lights of the strip are making your head spin, get some quality time in nature for an instant refresh. Red Rocks canyon is just a 30-minute drive outside of town and the hikes are pretty epic. Calico Tanks Trail is one of the more well-known trails rewards hikers with some pretty epic views. Cost: $7 per car to enter
Gold Strike Hot Springs
If the desert isn’t hot enough for you, raise your body temp in a nearby hot spring. This 4.5-mile hike is only for the truly adventurous, and the trail is only open from September until May. Be prepared to traverse large boulders and use fixed ropes with steep climbs. Despite all the challenges, Gold Strike Hot Springs is said to be epic, and it costs nothing to enjoy!
If you venture out to this iconic feat of engineering, be sure to leave early to avoid crowds. Parking on the Arizona side (after you cross the dam) is free, while the closest parking lot costs $10 per vehicle. Entrance to the Visitor’s Center is $10 per person, and those damn tours (see what I did there? Griswold Vegas Vacation, anyone?!) cost $15 per adult. Plan out in advance what portions you’d like to do. All of it? Or just park and take in the sights for free?