A trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, doesn’t need to be expensive. While Las Vegas is growing in popularity due to increasing convention centers and a fixated desire to gamble, a Las Vegas getaway is not as affordable as it once was.
However, with research, I discovered how to save money in Las Vegas. Not only that, but some of these activities are also completely free. So, here are some money-saving tips from planning to staying in Sin City. As a result, you can spend more in the casino! (should you choose to do so).
While Disneyworld is considered the “happiest place on the planet,” Las Vegas could be regarded as the most entertaining. Vegas is great for couples, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or to party it up.
With its hot temperate climate, over-the-top hotels, glitzy casinos, and huge fashion malls, there is something for everyone. While Las Vegas commands high prices at certain times of the year or during big conventions, avoiding these dates can save money.
Planning On The Cheap
I recently accompanied my husband on a business trip to Las Vegas. He was attending the CES (consumer electronics show) Convention, which is the world’s largest consumer technology show.
It’s also the largest convention hosted in Sin City. With over 185,000 people attending, I quickly learned that travelling to Las Vegas during a massive conference was NOT the cheapest time to visit. In fact, it was ridiculously expensive.
When shopping for a hotel stay for four days, hotels that usually charged USD 120 had now skyrocketed to over USD 700 a night. Wow, that’s like the cost of a seven-day cruise, with food and entertainment included.
Some places like the Bellagio were charging over USD 1400 a night. In fact, we couldn’t find a hotel anywhere for under USD 700 that was within a reasonable distance of the Las Vegas convention center.
In the end, we stayed at an Airbnb, next to the Bellagio. While the location was great, it still cost a pretty penny.
So, if you want to know how to save money in Las Vegas, be sure to check the Convention calendar. Plan to travel outside of significant convention dates to score the best hotel prices.
Interesting that before I left Las Vegas, I checked the price of hotels the day after the convention ended. The Bellagio had dropped its pricing to USD 135 a night from US 1400, and some other hotels like the Luxor were as little as USD 40 a night.
Even some of the older hotels were going for less than USD 40. I found it absurd that visitors were willing to pay over USD 1000 per night for a hotel room. But I’m sure; their employers were footing the bill.
It’s also advisable to check the resort fee charged by hotels. Vegas hotels charge resort fees for Wi-Fi, swimming pool use, gymnasiums, newspapers, and other facilities. Even if you don’t use any of these extras, you still have to pay the fees.
In some cases, the daily fee can be extremely high, so factor that into the price when booking a hotel. When planning a trip to Las Vegas on a budget, an Airbnb might save money over a hotel on the strip.
Best Days Of The Week To Travel
Deciding on which days of the week to travel can significantly impact pricing. Since Las Vegas is a short drive from California, coastal city dwellers head to Las Vegas for long weekends. As with all supply and demand scenarios, pricing jumps significantly on the weekends.
Plan to stay Monday to Thursday for the cheap Vegas deals and the best pricing on buffet deals. Also, plan to travel during the shoulder season, and your pocketbook will thank you (although not during the CES Convention as I recently learned).
Some of the most attractive things about traveling in the shoulder season were the streets were less crowded, and the daytime temperatures were much more tolerable. So when trying to save money in Las Vegas, travel during times when others don’t vacation.
I do not live within driving distance of Las Vegas unless you consider a few days’ drive, “driving distance.” In Vancouver, Canada, most people travel to Las Vegas by flying.
Online discount travel sites often offer package deals to Las Vegas, which include both air and hotel for little more than the cost of the flight. Sometimes, these are “last-minute” deals, so being able to drop and go can help save money in Las Vegas.
Choosing a different departure airport can sometimes save money. Most significant airports charge higher fees for airport improvement, taxes, and additional costs. I have the option to fly out of a smaller airport outside of the city center, which can save USD 100 to USD 150 off my airplane ticket.
Avoiding a major international airport can also save money on long-term parking. When planning your trip to Sin City, consider looking at all your airport options.
To save money on flights, consider flying a “no thrills” airline where nothing is included.
Many of us have credit cards with bonuses. Some collect air mileage while others give discounts for a companion ticket. Alaska Airlines and Westjet, for instance, offer a discounted rate when a second person is flying.
During my recent trip to Las Vegas, my husband paid full fare while my return economy ticket cost a mere CAD 99 plus taxes with Westjet’s companion ticket.
Cheap Transporation In Las Vegas
During my last trip, I opted not to rent a car, although most hotels offer free parking. Not only was this a way to save money in Las Vegas but I found I didn’t need a vehicle.
I was staying in a central location (next to the Bellagio), and most things were within walking distance. If it’s your first time in Las Vegas, don’t underestimate the length of the strip. While it’s only four miles, the distance seems much longer.
The sidewalk down the strip is not a simple straight line. In many places, pedestrians cannot cross the road and must navigate up and down escalators and across overpasses.
This continual up and down made the walk along the strip much longer. It also didn’t help that many of the escalators and elevators were out of service.
My husband needed to attend the CES Convention during our stay, and he did so by purchasing a three-day monorail pass for USD 29. His pass offered unlimited ridership in three days.
Other options for tickets are USD 5 for a single ride, USD 13 for one day, USD 23 for two days, USD 36 for four days, USD 34 for five days, and USD 56 for seven days.
During my visit, I utilized the monorail myself a few times, and I soon learned the stations are not as close to the strip and hotels as they seem on the map. In fact, it would have been quicker to walk the Vegas strip than to take the monorail.
Other than the paid monorail, which runs along most of the strip, there are three separate free trams services. The first is a tram between Mandalay Bay and the Excalibur Hotels.
The second is the MGM Park-Aria-Bellagio tram, which is convenient for visiting at the Crystals Shopping Mall. Lastly, is the Mirage to Treasure Island tram.
I used several of these free trams during our four days in Las Vegas and found they were easier to discover after a few days of getting my bearings. Using these free monorail systems was a great way to save money in Las Vegas.
Taxi, Uber, Ride Share
I took a few taxis in Sin City and learned that I was unable to flag down one on the strip. Taxis, Uber, and rideshare can only be picked up in designated areas at the hotels. It’s important to know where these are should you need a ride.
Taxis are abundant, and most times, I did not have to wait long once I arrived at a hotel. In fact, on our day and check out, we used an app to arrange for an Uber, and he arrived quicker than we could get out luggage to the pick-up area.
How To Save Money In Las Vegas When Eating Out
Arriving in Las Vegas, I immediately noticed the inexpensive buffets were gone. I quickly realized that my most considerable expense was going to be food.
While I had been to Vegas before, I knew the cost of eating on the strip was astronomical. For me, it also didn’t help that I needed to convert Canadian dollars to US dollars.
Also, since I’m celiac, I have the added difficulty of trying to find restaurants that were not only budget-friendly but also gluten-free.
This time, I spent some time looking for inexpensive eateries without sacrificing taste. This took some work but I found some good places to eat in Las Vegas on a budget.
Since I rented an Airbnb and had a full kitchen, I prepared by packing my favorite gluten-free snacks, gluten-free cereal, rice milk, and my favorite tea bags. I bought fresh fruit and bottled water at Walgreens across the street, which I stored in my fridge.
I managed to save money in Las Vegas by eating breakfast in my room and carrying a snack and bottled water during the day. Most days, I only had to purchase my evening meal in a restaurant.
If you’re traveling on a strict budget, I suggest finding a hotel that has a bar fridge in the room. Doing some homework online before your trip can often save money. Perusing sites like Social Living and Groupon can save money on restaurants and buffet food.
Should you have a car, eating outside of the strip area offers you the same pricing as you are accustomed to back home and not the over-inflated pricing of a vacation destination.
Here is a list of budget-friendly restaurants on the strip:
Ocean One Bar & Grille
Located in the Miracle Mile Shops, it’s famous for its 3-for-1 happy hour specials and all lunch items are just USD 5. I enjoyed a Greek chicken salad with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette for only USD 5.
Other items on the menu included a half-pound Angus Burger with fries or rice, a grilled Atlantic Salmon plate, and a Chicken Penne Pasta with Pomodoro sauce.
Oyster Bay Seafood And Wine Bar
Located in the Miracle Mile Shops, across from the Ocean One Bar, it had plenty of USD 4.95 lunch specials during my visit. These included a burger and fries, crispy Tilapia, and a Fried Chicken sandwich.
Dinner options under USD 25 include Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Marsala, and Fettucine Alfredo.
P.F. Chang’s turned out to be one of my favorite places to eat on the strip. The food was fresh, always delicious, and amazingly inexpensive. Favorites like sweet and sour chicken, beef and broccoli, Hokkein Street noodles, and Kung Pao Dragon Roll all come in under USD 16.
Seafood dishes include Shrimp with Lobster sauce at USD 18.95, Miso Glazed Salmon at USD 22.95, and Walnut Shrimp with Melon at USD 19.95.
We never had to wait for a table on the two nights we ate at P.F. Chang’s. The restaurant also offers a take-out service should you prefer to eat in your hotel.
If you’re looking to save money in Las Vegas but want to try a buffet, I highly recommend the Wicked Spoon. The Wicked Spoon is a fabulous upscale buffet in the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
From Monday to Friday, the buffet charges USD 29 between 8 am and 5 pm. After 5 pm, the cost rises to USD 42. However, from Friday to Sunday, brunch is USD 36, while dinner is USD 49.
We had an early dinner at 4:30 pm, saving us the cost of dinner pricing. The selection was incredible, the food beautifully presented and scrumptiously delicious.
Located at The Linq Promenade, burger lovers can get their hamburger and fries fix for under USD 5. While I’m not a fast-food fan, In-N-Out Burger does make a fresh burger that’s full of flavour.
Las Vegas Show Deals
No matter what time of the year I visit Vegas, seeing a show is as expensive as eating on the strip. However, shopping on the strip, some places offer 2-for-1 deals or discounts on last-minute shows. Consider taking a timeshare talk to score free tickets to an evening show as well as a free lunch.
Alternatively, try shopping online sites like Groupon before your Las Vegas getaway, and you might score show tickets, at a price you want to pay.
Budget-Friendly Things To Do
Even though Las Vegas is known for its gambling, it offers a variety of activities, even for non-gamblers. When visiting Las Vegas on a budget, remember that fun doesn’t have to come at a high price.
There are many free activities that cater to both adults and families alike. I still remember my first trip to Vegas, and I was mesmerized by the extravagant hotels with crystal chandeliers, and the endless rows of casinos offering free drinks to participants.
Wandering the strip and luxury accommodations, I’ve discovered hidden treasures each visit. Here are some best things to do in Vegas that don’t cost a penny.
Take A Selfie At The Welcome To Las Vegas Sign
No trip to Las Vegas is complete without visiting the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. This classic neon roadside sign is located just south of the strip at 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard.
While the 25-foot sign is a popular tourist stop, it’s quite a distance from town. I opted not to visit during my last trip since I didn’t have a car.
Instead, I found a smaller version of the sign on the Linq Promenade, and it was void of tourists.
Interesting that the sign is not copy-righted so you’ll see the same signs at the airport, and some tourist shops in the local malls.
Watch The Bellagio Fountain Show
The Fountains of Bellagio is a must for every Sin City visitor. This outstanding fountain show is free and easily located on the strip in front of the beautiful Bellagio Hotel.
The day I arrived in Vegas, I witnessed the first fountain show choreographed to Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas.” How appropriate was that?
The showtimes change depending on the season. During my visit, the shows were often every half hour, but during the summer months, they perform more frequently. The shows last as long as one song, usually three to four minutes.
One of my favorite shows was on my last night when it was choreographed to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.” The dancing water, the song, and the water cannons created an impressive show that I was thrilled to witness.
Watch The Mirage Volcano Eruption
The Mirage Volcano is as iconic to Las Vegas as the fountains of Bellagio. While I had been to Las Vegas before, I had never seen the volcano eruption due to my lack of timing in visiting The Mirage. However, this time, I made sure to schedule a visit at the appropriate time.
The eruption show takes place every hour, starting from 6 pm to 11 pm. Showtimes may vary with seasons or be canceled during high winds. There are two good spots for viewing; the first is from the sidewalk in front of The Mirage.
The second is from the back, in front of the hotel. Be sure to arrive early to snag a front-row position. My husband, Brian, viewed from the sidewalk while I watched from the back of the volcano.
My viewing area was much closer, and during the show, I could really feel the intense heat of the flames.
Stroll Through The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
It’s hard to believe they have real flamingoes in Las Vegas, but they do. The Flamingo Wildlife habitat is found in (as you probably guessed) the Flamingo Hotel and Casino.
The relaxing oasis is free, and while they don’t have a large number of flamingoes, they also have a great selection of large Japanese Koi, turtles, pelicans, and other birds.
See The World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain
Located at the Bellagio Patisserie inside the Bellagio Hotel, the chocolate fountain was a delight to find and delectably mouth-watering to view. Jean-Philippe Maury designed this amazing fountain, which took two years from conception to completion.
The Guinness Book of Records fountain measures an impressive 8 m (26 ft 3 in) tall and circulates 2 tons (4,409 lbs.) of yummy chocolate.
The white, milk, and dark chocolate rivers flow over an intricate system of glass bowls. It’s a magnificent piece of engineering and a visual masterpiece.
Fremont Street Experience In Downtown Las Vegas
While Fremont Street is free to visit, I didn’t have a car to get there. I opted to take a taxi after a shopping adventure at the Las Vegas North Premium Outlet.
Fremont Street Experience is an exciting, entertaining, and gambling district in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. Fremont Street was the first paved street in Las Vegas and has been featured in many movies such as “Viva Las Vegas,” “Diamonds are Forever,” and “Honey, I Blew up the Kid.”
Today, downtown Las Vegas is a bustling area with a mix of old and new. The old casinos like Binion’s and Golden Nugget, haven’t changed much.
However, with the addition of the world’s largest video screen, the Viva Vision mesmerized me with its fantastic technicolor explosion of captivating graphics.
The overhead 1,375-foot screen kept me captured in its mind-blowing graphics the entire time I was there.
I visited during the day and found it a bit off-putting that there were so many homeless people panhandling for money. During the evenings, this technicolor street offers a variety of free concerts and street entertainers.
Stroll Along The Canal At The Venetian Hotel
While I haven’t yet been to Venice, I could enjoy the next best thing, the Venetian Hotel. Outside, the meandering canal and intricate architecture draw you into the opulent Italian-style hotel.
During my visit, the outdoor gondola ride was closed, probably due to the colder weather. Heck, it was 16 to 17C most days; almost tropical climate for us Canadians. Hahaha, I was only joking!
Inside the hotel, it’s a shopper’s paradise to wander along the winding pathways and enjoy the sites of the gondolas gliding by in the canal. The Grand Canal Shoppes may be expensive, but it doesn’t cost anything to shop with your eyes.
Be sure to stop by St. Mark’s Square for a little taste of Italy. It’s a replica of the famous San Marco Square in Venice. While often overcrowded, the atmosphere is still fantastic, so grab a latte and enjoy the entertainment as you sit beneath the Venetian sky.
Stroll Through The Bellagio Conservatory
No visit to Las Vegas on a budget is complete without strolling through the Bellagio conservatory. Even though I’m not a gardener (I confess, I don’t have a green thumb), the display still blew me away.
With each holiday or event, the conservatory transforms into an indoor floral oasis of enormous magnitude.
I remember my first time visiting Las Vegas in October. The Bellagio conservatory came alive with colourful pumpkins, an animated tree, and giant fall leaves suspended from the ceiling.
During my last visit in the first week of January, the conservatory was closed as a large crew was dismantling the lavish Christmas display and replacing it with a Chinese New Year décor.
It takes the team an entire week to remove one display and assemble another. Cranes were used to haul the giant rats (Year of the rat) to the top of a staircase while 10,000 potted plants adorn the spectacular display.
Of all the places to see in Las Vegas, the Bellagio conservatory was one of my favorites. The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are open 24 hours and are free to visit. The floral extravaganza is a must for everyone visiting Las Vegas.
Watch A Rain Storm At The Miracle Mile Shops
If you’re looking to escape the scorching heat of Las Vegas, why not watch the rainstorm inside the Miracle Mile Shops? From Monday to Thursday, the storm happens every hour and from Friday to Sunday, every half hour from 10 am to 11 pm.
While the storm is only a few minutes long, it features fog, lightning, thunder, and rain from the ceiling.
Watch The Fall Of Atlantis Show At The Forum Shops
The free shows continue with the Fall of Atlantic Show at the Forum Shops inside Caesars Palace. The animated show takes place every hour from 10 am to 10 or 11 pm each night, depending on the night of the week.
The show is set above a giant aquarium, which is a treat to view even if you can’t make the show. This free show includes plenty of special effects, including balls of fire.
A little dated now (hence, that’s why it’s free), children tend to be fascinated with the animated show, even when you can’t understand the dialogue.
Get Your Chocolate Fix at M & M’s World
Who can resist free chocolate and four floors of delicious chocolate treats? Well, head on over to M & M’s World on the Las Vegas strip. At M & M’s World, I could be a kid in a candy store…….literally!
While the store is a chocolate lovers’ delight, I was a little disappointed that NONE of their chocolate was lactose-free, even their dark chocolate. However, they do sell Skittles.
During my visit, I enjoyed wandering all four floors of fun, and snap pictures of the M & M characters, and marveled at the Nascar race car. The “sweetest wall of all” allows shoppers to purchase M & M’s of every color, by the pound.
On one of the upper floors, chocolate lovers are invited to personalize their M & M’s by adding cute messages. This idea is perfect for the one you love, Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion. However, personalized chocolate comes at a hefty price.
Enjoy More Chocolate At Hershey’s Chocolate World
Right across the street from M & M’s World, is Hershey’s Chocolate World. How convenient that they put two chocolate stores so close together so that we can travel to chocolate heaven in one outing.
Inside, a sales associate greeted us with a free chocolate sampling as we viewed the giant chocolate Statue of Liberty. Like M & M’s World, the store is full of chocolate merchandise from giant chocolate bars to cute Hershey’s syrup money banks.
How can you not resist a piece of KitKat Cheesecake or Reeses Brownie while browsing the store?
Las Vegas On A Budget: Final Thoughts
Las Vegas is a popular getaway for all budgets. It caters to the very wealthy as well as the budget-conscious traveler. With careful planning, I’ve scored my Sin City vacations at a price I want to pay. Follow my trips, and you too can visit Las Vegas on a budget!
Happy travels ~ Karen