Sunday, January 12, 2020

Frugal Vegas: 50 Money-Saving Tips for Tourists

One of the most common questions tourists ask is "how can I save money on _____?"  Here's how a bit of planning and forethought can save tourists lots of money when they visit Las Vegas:

  1. To get from the airport to your hotel and back: walk (free, very slow, and not recommended in the summer), city bus (cheap, slow, and requires transfers), taxis (meh, they are known for long-hauling tourists but recently instituted a flat-rate to the Strip), Uber/Lyft (the best option for speedy service at a good price), shuttles (some hotels offer free airport shuttles, other shuttle services charge per person and can be a bit slow), renting a car (see #2), having a limo pick you up (fancy and, of course, costs more than the other options).
  2. Should you rent a car?  If you will only be on the Strip and/or Downtown, Uber and Lyft will save you money, especially on parking fees, and are much less hassle than driving yourself.  If you are staying way off-Strip or want to go around to many places, renting a car is a good option.  Some people only rent a car for a day or two during their vacation to Vegas so they can visit specific places like Valley of Fire/Red Rock Canyon/Hoover Dam since there are no public transit options to get to these places (except, of course, a very expensive Lyft/Uber ride).
  3. If you drive to/in Vegas, note that there are several places that do offer free parking.
  4. Hotels?  Calculate the total cost of your hotel to include: daily rate, taxes, daily resort fee, daily parking fee if you have a car, and cost for Uber/Lyft/taxi if you don't have a car.  Some hotels don't have resort fees, off-Strip hotels like Orleans and Sam's Town have free shuttles to the Strip (realize that Sam's Town is WAY off-Strip), and downtown hotels are good options too.  Hostel Cat is ridiculously cheap, and one of my favorite hotels is the LaQuinta Inn near the airport (no resort fee, free parking, free breakfast, and a free shuttle to the Strip).  Red Rock Resort is good if you intend to go to Red Rock Canyon frequently, South Point has loads of entertainment options, Green Valley Ranch Resort is a nice place to stay in Henderson, and center-Strip (Bellagio, Ballys, Caesars Palace, Linq/Flamingo) is where all the action is.  Other Strip hotels can range from cheap (Circus Circus and the Strat) to very very nice (Aria, Cosmo, Wynn).
  5. Consider alternative options like Air BnB and Vrbo for a place to stay as well as Turo for car rental.
  6. A few more money-saving tips for traveling here: use Google Flights to get the best airfare prices, travel with only one bag to avoid baggage fees, don't bring the kids (Vegas is a pretty adult-centric city), and leave your pets at home too (to avoid pet fees at hotels).
  7. On the way to your hotel consider stopping by the 99 Cent Store or other grocery store and buying bottled water, beverages, snacks, and even alcohol (beer, wine, and liquor is sold in grocery stores in Vegas).  This will save you a lot of money over buying these items from your hotel or at other on-Strip stores.
  8. Carry cash for tipping (tip your Uber/Lyft driver, the valet, the bellhop if they help you with your bags, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, dealers, etc.).  You can also tip when you check in to get a better room; it's called the $20 trick.
  9. If you need to get cash out of the ATM, casinos and strip clubs will charge a lot more for this service than off-Strip ATMs and banks.
  10. Speaking of strip clubs (not nightclubs on the Strip but the naked girls dancing type of clubs) find reviews of all things strip-club-related here.  And for the love of God, ALWAYS bring cash to the strip club and when your money is gone, leave.  Never bring your credit card to the strip club because bad things can happen when you do this (examples here and here).
  11. Do use your credit card to pay for your flight, room rental, car rental, restaurants, etc while in Vegas (you might as well earn cash back or air miles while you are on vacation).
  12. For entertainment, take advantage of the many free and inexpensive things Las Vegas has to offer.
  13. And if you want to see a great show, check out the Tix4Tonight kiosks around Las Vegas which offer highly discounted same-day show tickets.
  14. Bring a Las Vegas Entertainment Book with you for restaurant and entertainment discounts.
  15. Also check out the reddit Vegas weekly list of things to do for info on upcoming events and community activities.
  16. The Las Vegas Pass can give you discounts on many tourist-related activities.
  17. And for those who have never met a buffet they didn't like, some casino properties offer 24-hour buffet passes which can save you money.
  18. Pre-gaming is a thing before heading out to do some alcohol-related partying.  Since drinks in many upscale clubs can cost $20 each (!), people will often buy alcohol off-Strip and consume it in their hotel room before hitting the clubs, just to save money.
  19. Las Vegas aka "Sin City" can be a hedonistic paradise but all of this hedonism will cost (a lot) of money.  Prostitution is illegal (and sketchy as hell) in Las Vegas; however prostitution is legal about an hour away in Pahrump (and expensive, at least they give you a free ride there and back).  Marijuana is legal and dispensaries are located all over town (another expensive vice).  Las Vegas nightclubs can be ridiculously expensive but it possible to get in free (it helps to be young, female, and hot).
  20. If there is a show or an event that you absolutely have to see, consider buying a full-price ticket (lines may be hours long if you are trying to get in free at a nightclub with a top headliner and concerts and shows may not offer discounted tickets on very busy weekends).
  21. If your schedule is flexible, consider coming to Vegas when it isn't super busy.  Holiday weekends and weeks/weekends with huge conventions/events tend to increase the price of everything from hotels to flights to car rentals, etc. 
  22. Get a player's club card from each casino you visit; this can sometimes net you discounts on meals and if you use the card when you play slots or table games you can earn comp points for free meals/hotel stays/etc.
  23. Realize that pretty much everything will be more expensive on the Strip (restaurants, Starbucks, stores, alcohol, souvenirs, etc).
  24. Use coupons and other discounts including Groupon, MyVegas, and other discount resources to save money on a wide range of things in Vegas.
  25. Control your gambling.  Generally the table minimums are higher at upscale casinos than at off-Strip and downtown casinos.  An hour of bingo can be a cheap way to gamble (a basic bingo package costs about $7 and you get a couple of free drinks with it).  Poker tournaments can range from cheap to very expensive.
  26. Avoid shopping in Las Vegas unless you are going for big discount shopping (like the Goodwill).  Outlet shopping often isn't the great deal it is supposed to be.  And shopping at stores in the casinos will practically guarantee you pay top dollar for items you can get cheaper elsewhere.
  27. Consider planning your days in Las Vegas to include free/cheap activities with one or two big ticket activities.  You could go to a shooting range, a five-star dinner, a gondola ride, race a sports car, go for a helicopter flight over the Strip, and finish off the night at a high-end nightclub but that will literally cost you thousands.  By choosing your activities wisely you can save a lot of money and still have an enjoyable stay in Las Vegas.
  28. The same goes for eating while in Vegas.  You can go to fancy restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but having food in your room for breakfast, eating at In N Out Burger for lunch, having an amazing steak (for half off during happy hour!) at Herbs & Rye, then capping off the night with a late night special at a casino will save lots of money over the course of your visit.
  29. Always bring the ten essentials with you, these include: sun glasses, suntan lotion, a light jacket (casinos are always cold even in the middle of summer), a bottle of water, comfy walking shoes, snacks, cash, your cell phone, a hat (if you will be walking in the sun a lot), and a bag/daypack.
  30. If you can't walk far on your own, Vegas may not be for you.  You can literally walk a mile or more from casino to casino and even though everything on the Strip looks close, when walking, everything is generally a pretty long walk.  You can always Uber/Lyft from casino to casino and most casinos rent electric scooters if needed.
  31. The Fremont area is generally cheaper than the Strip for hotels, food, bars (lots of dive-type bars), and entertainment (lots of free concerts and a great overhead light show!).
  32. Many people want to hit the spa while they are in Vegas but realize this can be an expensive proposition.  Cheaper spa options include off-Strip massage places, the Imperial Spa, and off-Strip nail places.
  33. If you are into parks and nature, consider spending time off-Strip.  There are several National Parks in our area, several wonderful state parks, Mt Charleston and Red Rock Canyon have great hiking, the Henderson Bird Preserve is free as are hot springs and ghost towns, and further away, Oatman is a memorable place to visit.
  34. Depending on your circumstances, there are many free and cheap things to do in Vegas with kids, many things to do if you don't want to leave the downtown area, things to do if you enjoy particular hobbies, and many things to do if you are into the cool, weird, and interesting.
  35. Don't fall for scams while you are in Vegas (examples here, here, and here).  Seriously, if someone has to tell you three-card Monty is a scam, you probably shouldn't even come to Vegas.
  36. Always ask for discounts where ever you go.  Many places offer discounts if you have AAA, if you are a senior, if you are a veteran, if you are a first responder, etc.
  37. Don't fall for the timeshare sales spiel.  Many casinos have time share sales people who will promise a free buffet or free night's hotel stay if you go to a timeshare presentation.  These presentations take much longer than they say they will and you will get the super-hard sell from a number of sales people before you can gracefully/ungracefully extricate yourself from their clutches.  Plus if you end up buying into a timeshare, they are virtually impossible to get out of.
  38. To get around the Strip for free or cheap, consider using the free trams, the free shuttles, and the monorail.  You can also buy hourly, daily, and longer-term bus passes to get around for cheap.
  39. Las Vegas, aside from the Strip and Fremont area, is just like any other city.  Consider doing some "normal" activities while you are here which are surprisingly inexpensive like bowling, going to the movies, roller skating, ice skating, going to a drive-in movie, watching a pro baseball game/soccer game/football game (starting in late 2020)/hockey game, watching a college basketball game, etc.
  40. Consider doing research ahead of your visit, using local blogs and websites, to find the very latest news and information about happenings in Vegas.
  41. Take a quick look at this info, provided by our local police department, on how to stay safe as a tourist in Vegas.
  42. Don't get arrested in Las Vegas (it happens)! Here's what you should do if this does happen.
  43. For travels away from Las Vegas, consider cheap ways to get there like a Grayline Tour to Laughlin, and Megabus or FlixBus to get to LA or Phoenix.
  44. If you should win big in Vegas, consider the tax implications of this.
  45. If you should have some sort of crisis while in Vegas, here are several resources to consider.
  46. Bring enough money to splurge on at least one once-in-a-lifetime activity in Vegas (examples here, here, and here).
  47. If you come to Vegas to attend a big, expensive event like DefCon, the Electric Daisy Carnival, CES, etc, consider volunteering at the event; this often gives you a free pass to the entire event just for volunteering a couple of shifts.  Contact the individual event coordinator for more info on this.
  48. If you buy too much stuff while vacationing in Vegas, consider sending it back home via a USPS flat-rate box (around $15 to $20) instead of paying to check extra luggage (around $30 to $50).
  49. Lower your expectations.  People come to Vegas thinking it will be like the Hangover/Last Vegas/Casino/Oceans movies.  It's rarely so opulent (unless you have A LOT of money to spend) and getting all crazy/being continually drunk/partying 24-7 can kind of ruin your entire vacation.  A Vegas vacation is a marathon, not a sprint!
  50. My ten favorite (free) places on the Strip: the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat, the Bellagio Conservatory, Bauman Rare Books, the Guardian Angel Cathedral, watching people jump off the Strat, taking photos of all the cool things on the Strip, checking out the amazing public art behind the Aria, people watching at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, walking (this club has organized walks of the Strip), and watching the circus acts at Circus Circus.

1 comment:

  1. Check out Barx Parx indoor dog park/bar for a year round place to play with your dog, have a beer, watch the game, socialize.