How to Do Vegas on a Budget
Contrary to popular belief, a trip to Sin City doesn’t always have to be a splurge. With these tips and tricks (ahem, free alcohol anyone?) you can take Vegas in high-roller style without breaking the bank. Here’s how to hit the jackpot.
Set gambling limits
We can’t stress this enough. Only bring what you’re willing to spend (or lose, if you’re one of the unlucky ones). And don’t even think about flexing that plastic—leave all your cards in the safe box in your hotel so you never have to worry about waking up to a massive bill in the morning.
Take advantage of free activities
Did you know you can walk the strip, see shows and rock out to a band without spending a cent? Start off by skipping Cirque du Soleil for Circus Circus’s Carnival Midway, where unicyclists and acrobats perform above the casino floor starting at 11 a.m. In the daytime, hit the Strip for entertainment like the famous Bellagio fountains, or wait until evening to check out the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block fest with a light show, three stages of live music, and a 12-story zip line.
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Don’t buy alcohol
If you haven’t heard, alcohol is free in Vegas casinos (no wonder why there’s so many booze-fueled Hangover shenanigans!). And although the fancier drinks are typically served at the high-stakes tables, you can still get your cocktail by playing the slots. Just don’t forget to tip the waitress a few bucks.
Find the best deals
Nothing is worse than paying full price for a show and realizing later that you got scammed. Avoid buyer’s remorse by scouting Smarter Vegas for promo codes and Vegas2Go, which has a matching coupon book that you can find at kiosks on the Strip. Or you can find seats for up to 50 percent off at the Tix4Tonight booths (there are a plethora of locations around town). But go early—they open at 10 a.m.—or you could be waiting in line all afternoon.
Budget for resort fees
When something is too good to be true, we’re always left wondering what’s the catch. In Vegas, it’s almost impossible to avoid resort fees—expenses for the hotel’s pools, bars and casinos that are tacked onto your bill. So if you don’t want to have a heart attack at check out, make sure to read the fine print before booking. We love lower-priced but ultra-luxe stays like the SLS, where rooms start at only $99. And we’ll happily pay the nightly $32 resort fee for all the over-the-top extras: Philippe Starck-designed suites, three high-octane nightclubs, and eight restaurants, including one helmed by celeb chef José Andrés.
Invest in a Players Club card
Want to know how to get the penthouse for pennies? Get a free Players Club card. Casinos use these to keep track of how often you gamble. The more you play, the more points you rack up, which can then be redeemed for discounts, comped dinners and casino rates for rooms. Hence why high-rollers get the premier crash pads, plus perks like personal limo services and private butlers.
Skip the cover charge
Fun fact: You don’t have to be friends with the bouncers to get through the doors for free. (Although it doesn’t hurt!) Most of the swankiest pool scenes and parties are at hotels, so if that’s your top priority—this is Vegas, after all—then stay at those resorts and show your room key for VIP guest access. You can also book a table at restaurants like Tao and Lavo at the Venetian, where your reservation acts as a hand stamp into their respective clubs. Our favorite night out? Head to the Wynn for a Pan-Asian meal at Andrea’s at Encore before passing through the red rope for bottle service at Surrender.
Use public transportation
Yes, Ubers and cabs may be super convenient, but they’ll seriously set you back with how much you’ll be party hopping (don’t kid yourself, you know you’ll be up until dawn!). The Strip is four miles long, so walking in stilettos is out of the question. Instead, buy a monorail card to save time, cash and sore feet. There are tons of options to choose from, with the $22 two-day pass being the most popular among weekend warriors.
Eat on the cheap
Time it right, and you’ll find it’s easy to dine on a dime. Tables are packed between 8 and 10 p.m., so snag a pre-show seat from 4 to 7 p.m. for lower-priced menus. MGM Grand’s just-opened L’Atelier (the casual spinoff of fine-dining restaurant Joël Robuchon) and the Cosmopolitan’s Greek spot, Estiatorio Milos, won’t disappoint. Feeling thirsty? 107 SkyLounge at the top of the Stratosphere Hotel is the place to sip half-price cocktails while taking in sweeping views of Sin City. (Bar-goers get the same view as the hotel’s observation deck, one floor above, without having to pay the $20 admission.) Also, after 10 p.m. many bars serve “reverse happy hour” with light bites and drinks starting as low as $5.
Visit during the slow season
Although summer is usually peak vacation time, it gets so blistering hot in Vegas that crowds actually disperse in July and August, meaning you’ll have the place to yourself. Cool off in one of the city’s sexy hotel pools or explore all the indoor (read: air conditioned) activities on offer. Early December is also a good time before the holiday rush—and who knows, you may even win yourself some Christmas money.
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