One of the few benefits of the floundering U.S. economy is that Las Vegas is now more affordable than it has been in the past 20 years. People are jamming fewer coins into the slots, and rooms are tougher to book. There is a price war going on in all sectors of the tourist industry with hotels scouring to fill vacancies, airlines struggling to stay afloat, and restaurants and buffets fighting to capture their share of the pie that has recently shrunken by 40%. I am always amazed at the deals I have been seeing lately and have decided to keep track of the best ones here just for you.
Although many sites like Expedia are offering some nice package deals with air and hotel included, if you do your homework and book everything separately, you’re bound to save even more. High end 4-star hotels that used to rent for $400 a night are now about $120. Your one and two star hotels that were $70-$120 are now more like $25-$50. Economy cars can be rented for as little as $12 a day and many companies are offering free upgrades during the weekdays. Yes, it is truly a buyer’s market if you have the cash to spend.
Entertainment venues vary greatly, so do a little research and read some reviews before paying for shows which may be all hype and marketing, but end up costing you more than your hotel room.
1. Arrive on a Weekday
The best rates on rooms and dinners are usually Sunday – Thursday. Sometimes, I book a room during the week and then convince the management to let me keep the room over the weekend for the same rate. In desperate times it’s all the same to them as long as they fill their rooms.
2. Book Your Car Online
I take a cab to pick up my car that I have already booked online. I talk to the cabbies and someone usually knows where the best shows are for the week and where I can get cheap tickets or free VIP passes to clubs discounted rate ($5 as opposed to $20-$40 cover at the door).
3. Use the Many Free Coupons Available
I pick up two free magazines: “Las Vegas Weekly” and “What’s On”, as well as the local paper known as “The Las Vegas Review.” These publications are available in hotel lobbies, liquor stores, car rental companies, and near bus stops. Here you will find a gold mine of coupons for shows, tours, dining, clubs, massages, golf, and just about anything else you can think of.
4. Drinks on Them
I drink for free when I’m in the casinos even if I’m not playing. There are two ways to do this. One way is to find a waitress who is near some cheap nickel slot machines find a seat and put a nickel or two in the machine and call her over to order a drink. Waitresses tend to be scarce around these machines however, because, as you might have guessed, nickel slot players don’t tend to tip all that well. Another way is to stand behind someone who is playing and cheer them on as they win. When the waitress comes by tip her as you order, and you are sure to get your drinks fast.
5. Cheap Food Without Coupons
So here’s the official list of cheap finger food to hold you over until your next meal.
The Cheap Burgers at the Wild West on Tropicana for $1.49. The Corned Beef and Pastrami Woody Allen at the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage (2 lbs of beef for $14) A hot dog, shrimp cocktail and a beer for under $5 in Downtown Pancetta, Huge slice of pizza at the Casino Royale($3) or at Uncle Joe’s Pizza (505 East Fremont St.) get two pieces of pizza and a drink ($3.99) or a large portion of Spaghetti with garlic bread ($3.95). The sourdough Café at Arizona Charlie’s DecaturHotel and Casino is the place to go for the steak and eggs special all day ($3.99) Four Queens Hotel and Casino – (99¢) shrimp cocktail specials on a bed of lettuce with lemon and sauce. Gold Coast Hotel and Casino offers up a steak dinner with a few extras for around ($8) Hard Rock Hotel and Casino offers dinner twilight specials every day for around ($6). Ellis Island Casino and Brewery. Behind Bally’s. steak special ($5.99) that includes a pint of beer, a soup or salad, choice of potato or veg, and a 10 oz sirloin steak. Also,$1 pints of microbrewed beer (made on site) everything else is super cheap too. ($1.50) bottles of domestic and mixed drinks for a couple bucks. Slots-A-Fun 1/2 pound hot dog for ($.99), lime margaritas($1), Heinekin beer for ($2) and beer of the month bottle ($1).
Crown & Anchor offering Free Lunch with ($20) Video Poker buy-in or Free appetizer after 3pm. Sahara has ($1) hotdogs and shots (you keep the shot glass). Golden Gate Hotel/Casino currently has a nice shrimp cocktail- 11 am-2 am (99¢) – with club card ($1.99 without).
6. The Skinny on Buffets
In my quest for the ultimate deal on buffets I came across many contenders who where cheap in price, but deplorable in quality. The Sahara was one of these. Boasting the lowest price buffet on the Strip; the food was so bland,my dog would probably refuse it.. The only thing remotely edible was the salad; although the premixed bacon bits were as touch as leather. I would much rather drive 10 miles to Henderson and scoop up the $4.99 lunch buffet at the Gold Rush casino with everything from ribs, to soups, to fish, to pizza.
More and casinos are offering the all day, all-you-can-eat buffet to keep gamblers from leaving in search of food choices. Let the lambs feed at the trough before being lead to the slaughterhouse, is their philosophy.
The Excalibur this year started offering an unlimited, all day buffet for $25. The MGM Grand currently offers an all-you-can-eat pass for breakfast, lunch and dinner for $29.99 per person, Monday through Thursday. The price for Friday, Saturday and Sunday jumps to $39.99. Prices without the new pass are $13.99 to $27.99 for each meal.
Players club card holders at the Stratosphere are eligible for the all day buffet pass for $19.99. The price goes up to $24.99 on Sunday mornings, and also Friday evenings for the seafood buffet. Regular prices without the pass are $11.99 to $20.99 per buffet meal. The Luxor offers deal packages for buffet with tickets various shows and includes access to other hotel amenities.
7. Crash the Pools
I always crash at least one hotel strip pool while I’m there; it’s a time honored tradition. Either by acquiring an expired card room key, or simply by ordering a drink from a pool boy and paying cash rather than charging it to the room, the key is confidence. My favorite way to pull the wool over the attendant’s eyes is by walking a few steps behind someone of the opposite sex who has just flashed their key to him. I simply run up behind her shouting, “Honey I left my key in the room.” loud enough so the pool boy waves me by as I glance at him for approval. It works almost every time. The toughest ones to sneak into are the Hard Rock pool parties (Rehab $30 cover), the Palms (Friday Ditch Party), and the Mirage with it’s waterfalls and under water cove. The main thing is to have fun and save your money for the real deal at the blackjack table.
8. Next to Nothing Entertainment
A trip to Las Vegas does not have to leave you impoverished. Surprisingly, there are a wide variety of things to see and do which won’t empty your wallet. While you may wish to do some gambling, that doesn’t have to be the all encompassing purpose of a sojourn in Las Vegas.
Lets just take one example. The incredible fountains outside of the Bellagio go off every fifteen minutes and are free. Did you know that they dance in time with the music? The best time to visit them is at night.
If you can control your inner spender, the Forum Shops have plenty to see and do for free as well. The mall is massive, and the talking statues can be quite entertaining. It is also a great place to eat or get souvenirs for your trip. The Cheesecake Factory, Spago, and Bertollinis all offer excellent meals at affordable prices, often with portions big enough to share. Unfortunately, the cost of shopping may be rough on your pocket book, so try to limit yourself to just browsing whenever possible if you are trying to stick to a budget.
If you have come to Vegas for the gambling, consider Slots of Fun Las Vegas. The gambling, food, and drinks are cheaper here than at some of the other casinos. Limit yourself to the lower limit tables and you may be able to walk away without leaving behind half of your life’s savings.
If you are in downtown Las Vegas at night, be sure to see the Freemont Street Experience. It is a free light show that comes to life every half hour. Downtown also has lower room rates and lower limit tables than some of the bigger hotels up on the Strip.
Another great free show is the Masquerade in the Sky at the Rio. The show goes on nightly, and if you sit near the buffet you can also watch the entertaining antics of the flair bartenders at the same time.
If you enjoy a more relaxed, natural atmosphere, take a break in the Gardens at the Bellagio. The gardens are beautiful and give you a nice, quiet break from the fast paced workings of the casinos and gambling. At the same time, speaking of fountains, wander a little through the ground floor, and you’ll enjoy seeing the world’s tallest chocolate fountain in a rainbow of colors.
Another nice mall to walk through is the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel. You can browse the shops, watch the gondolas go buy, or sit and just enjoy the music and the people. The Postrio and the Canonita both offer menu items for dining that will not totally break the bank as well.
If you have kids, there are inexpensive things for them to do as well. The Lied Discovery Museum has a childrens museum that encourages children to touch, seek, and explore. Located just a few blocks from downtown, it offers a chance for families to do things together at a relatively low cost.
Another relatively inexpensive thing to do with the kids is to spend an afternoon at Circus Circus in the Adventurdome. There are a number of thrill rides inside the indoor theme park that the kids are sure to enjoy, as well as arcade games, miniature golf, and a rollercoaster.
If you can keep the kids from wanting to buy everything in sight, another free destination can be the FAO Schwarz store inside of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Besides toys galore, the talking statues and giant fish tank are sure to be a hit. There are also motion machine rides available for a low cost as well.
9. Discounted Rooms and Meals on Your Next Trip
I get tons of offers for free or deeply discounted rooms and meals from casinos every few months because they have me in their database. All you have to do is sign up for a free Player’s Card and use it a little when you’re playing slots or table games. Some casinos send me offers even though I’ve never gambled there at all. On my last trip to Vegas, I stayed . Sign up for a Player’s Card at every casino you visit and if you play there, be sure to give them the card before you sit down so they can track your play. The more you play whether you win or lose will entitle you to various offers. It’s kind of like frequent flier miles with the airlines.