I first went to Las Vegas in 2010, for a buddy’s bachelor party. Las Vegas is a very interesting place. I watched guys drop hundreds of dollars gambling in exchange for a few drinks. I saw people walking down the sidewalk, in the middle of the day, sipping their alcoholic beverages. And yes, I even saw… let’s call them ladies of the night. Even though I’m a teetotaler and would never dream of indulging in anything more adventurous, the bright lights of Vegas left me instantly hooked. I couldn’t wait to go back.
In just a couple weeks, I’m off to the bright lights of Las Vegas again. I’m quite looking forward to stuffing my face full of delicious food and even doing some gambling or enjoy some of the best tours in Las Vegas. Because I’m kind of cheap, I want to have fun but not break the bank doing so. Luckily, Las Vegas is filled with all sorts of ways to save cash. Let’s look at a few.
Everybody is attracted to the bright lights of the hotels right on the Strip. And for good reason. Some of them are truly breathtaking. They’re all filled with cool things to do, all the hottest clubs, and humongous casinos. If you’ve never been to Vegas, you will spend a good chunk of time just walking up and down the strip and checking out all the hotels.
Guess who ends up paying for all the extravagance? If you insist on staying right on the Strip, it’s you. Yes, there are budget friendly options on the Strip, (The Excalibur and Imperial Palace come to mind) but even those hotels come at a premium because of their location.
If you’re willing to stay a few minutes walk away from the Strip, you can save all sorts of cash. I’ve booked a room at the Super 8, which is a pretty basic hotel, a 10 minute walk away from the Strip, where everyone wants to be. I’m saving $40 per night compared to the cheapest room on the Strip, plus it doesn’t have a resort fee – which can add anywhere from $5-$20 to the nightly price of a room. There’s also a Hooters hotel (which is as cheesy as you’d expect, but clean and functional) and a Motel 6 that offer similar deals, both of which are only a few minute walk away from all the action.
Back in the 1930s, when the mob was building Las Vegas casinos, (since casinos were perfect for laundering money) they concentrated their efforts on Freemont Street. It was the Strip before the Strip was ever thought of. The Flamingo wouldn’t be built until the late 1940s, and the Strip wouldn’t become a rockin’ place until well into the 1960s. So the hotels on Freemont street are older, smaller and significantly cheaper than those on the Strip.
Besides cheaper rooms, Freemont Street offers much cheaper dining options, lower gambling limits, and all sorts of other incentives to get you away from the Strip. The Double Deuce will take you up from the Strip to Freemont Street, all for about $5 a person. Admittedly, the area is a bit rougher than the Strip, partially because everything is cheaper, so it caters to a more blue-collar crowd. Be sure to stay for the light show, which is pretty cool.
My first tip is a no-brainer: if you’re going to gamble, set a budget. Allot yourself a certain amount her day, and stick to that budget. And remember, if you’re up, don’t just play until you fall back to break even. If you have the chips in front of you, they’re yours. Why not walk away when you have a profit?
If you’re a poker player, read up online beforehand before you set foot in a poker room. Unless you have many hours of practice, you’re going to want to stick to the tables with the lowest limits and the crummiest players. My favorite poker place is Bill’s Gambling Hall, mostly because of their ultra cheap $0.50/$1 blinds, and minimum $20 buy-in. Bad players are attracted to the low stakes, meaning I have a fighting chance to not lose my whole stack. I also played a little at Imperial Palace, which is a notorious gathering place for bad poker players.
On the strip, $10 minimum bets for table games are the norm. If you head up to Freemont Street or to one of the many off-Strip casinos, minimums drop to $5 on most games, with even $3 and $2 Blackjack even popping up sometimes – but expect to wait for a seat, even during slow times.
As far as I’m concerned, the food is half the fun of Vegas, but keep in mind I’m a recovering fat guy, so I may have an unhealthy obsession with it.
The buffets are outstanding, but expect to pay at least $20 for a meal on the Strip, just for average fare. The nicer spreads will set you back $30-$40, which is just too much for a cheap guy like me. You can easily save $5-$10 on a buffet by venturing off the Strip.
There are fast food places and convenience stores all over the place on the Strip, so you can by reasonably priced snacks. I don’t really like a whole lot for breakfast, so just a couple of granola bars will hold me over for lunch. Plus, if you’re there to drink, all sorts of drinks can be bought at these stores for reasonable prices.
Lots of restaurants have specials specifically for late at night or early in the morning. Spend some time online beforehand to find a list of places with these cheap eats.
The beauty of Las Vegas is there is literally entertainment for every budget. You can gamble, go to shows, or just walk up and down the Strip and marvel at all the excess. People watching in Las Vegas is fascinating, especially late at night when people are, shall we say, lubricated. Hopefully the next time you go you can do it without dropping too much money at the casinos.
So, have you ever been to Las Vegas? What kinds of things did you do? What kinds of deals did you find?
This post was written by Nelson.
It’s a long way to go from Australia, but I plan to get to Vegas one day! I’m a terrible gambler, but I’m definitely attracted to all the glitz and glamour.
Everybody is bad at gambling. The only person who wins is the house. Which is why gambling is a really bad idea. But we still do it, because it can be pretty fun, even when losing.
Great post! I’m going in August for a bachelorette party.
Damn! Why didn’t I go in August?
I like gambling on Fremont Street because it feels more old-school and authentic to Las Vegas. I’m going there in about a year for a wedding, so I have to start saving now.
I liked Freemont Street too, it’s just a little out of the way for me.
Great post! I have been to Vegas 3 times (first trip was the most economical) and took advantage of every free thing I could. There’s a great list here: http://www.vegas.com/attractions/freeattractions.html. Also, if you like shows, I’d suggest looking into half price, day of tickets, which are available at a few booths on the strip. The company is called Tix4Tonight.
I got a nice deal on a Hoover Dam tour from Tix4Tonight.
I’m a big proponent of Freemont Street gambling due to the lower limits. I must give a word of caution about the Double Deuce, however. While during the daytime it’s pretty easy to get a seat, if you’re trying to get back from the Strip between, say, 9-12 p.m., the bus will probably be filled to capacity. My brother and I ended up getting a cab back to Freemont after two rounds of the Deuce were too full to pick us up (which was irritating as the bus only stops every 20-30 minutes).
Also, if you really love the buffets on the Strip, there is a 24-hour buffet pass you can buy that allows you to eat at multiple buffets. I think it’s like $45, but if you really manage to get 3 or more meals out of it, that’s a pretty good price.
If I ate 3 buffets a day, I would probably explode. I limited myself to one per day, which wasn’t maybe the greatest for my wallet, but was for my waistline.
Vegas will be very dangerous for me; I am a compulsive gambler and I better not start. Oh, I may just watch?
If all you do is just watch, you’re probably going to end up doing quite well (at least compared to the alternative)
I love going to Vegas whenever we can. Last time we used points to fly and stayed off the strip, just south at a very inexpensive resort called SouthPoint Casino and Resort. They offered a shuttle to the strip which worked well for us. When we went 5 years ago we did a midnight bus tour that made a stop at Freemont Street. We have some cool pics of the ceiling.
I saved a ton of money staying on the strip using sites like hotwire/priceline. I still paid a resort fee, but it was still one of the cheapest rates I’ve ever paid (in the US).
As far as food goes, try going to a buffet for “lunch” about a half an hour before they switch from lunch to dinner. You pay the lunch rate and get the dinner buffet after 30 minutes if you haven’t totally gorged before they make the switch.