14 Ways to do Las Vegas Right (and Cheap!)
I don’t often find myself homesick anymore, but my mind does frequently wander through the various places back home that I love best. Recently, I found myself thinking about — and yearning for — Las Vegas. My fondness for the place is a bit strange considering I’m not really one for wild clubs or blacked out adventures, and the idea of “Sin City” frightens me way more than it entices me. However, I took a lot of family trips to Vegas as a kid, so the place has a special soft spot in my heart, and I’ve had a blast the times I’ve been back with friends as an adult.
There are definitely different ways to do Las Vegas, from the extravagant, expensive, and outrageous to the equally fun and incredibly cheap way I love to do it. Including gas, food, drinks, lodging, and other incidentals, I can do a Vegas trip for under $50 pretty easily. Here are 14 tips I have for enjoying the city to the fullest while still saving tons of money by taking advantage of the best cheap things to do in Vegas.
Las Vegas on a Budget: 14 Tips
1. Come mid-week
If your work schedule allows it, come to Vegas mid-week, preferably around Wednesday. The place is still alive and kicking, but you’ll avoid overwhelming crowds and save tons of money on hotels and clubs.
2. Stay on the strip for less than $10 per person per night
Think Vegas sounds expensive? Think again. Mid-week, even in the summer, you can easily get a hotel room on the strip, like at The Excalibur or even smack dab in the middle at Bally’s, for around $40 a night. Reserve a room for two guests, but comfortably split it between four in two large beds, or bring more if others don’t mind a night on the floor. (Just remember to only have two people check in!) Don’t bother with tacky motels off the strip when you can stay right in the heart of things so inexpensively.
Or if you’re visiting at a time when hotel prices are spiking, Las Vegas has several well-reviewed hostels that are clean and modern, plus offer you a chance to meet other young travelers. In all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve found that hostels often provide better travel experiences than traditional hotels because they’re social and offer amenities like kitchens, common rooms, fast wifi, and more.
3. Eat off the strip
Again, Vegas doesn’t have to be nearly as expensive as it seems. Grab a nice, sit-down dinner off the strip for under $10-15, or even pick up fast food a few blocks away. The buffets in Las Vegas are a must for many, and they definitely provide good bang for your buck. If you’re considering how to do Vegas cheap, save money on your other meals by eating away from the scene.
4. Bring a sweater, even in the summer
Even (especially?) when it’s 110 degrees Fahrenheit, don’t forget your sweater. Air conditioning at hotels and casinos can make you feel like you’re in Antarctica, so prevent frostbite by layering up.
5. Go sightseeing around the world
Vegas gets a lot of hype for being a fabulous place to party, but I love it for its Disneyland-esque-ness. Spend some time walking from casino to casino, stopping in Paris, Venice, New York, Egypt, and more. You can spend days exploring the silly themes of Vegas hotels, all for free. And if you tire of that, you can even jump off the city’s tallest building!
6. Park for free
Don’t forget that parking — and even valet — is free at the hotels. [2021 update: many hotels have begun charging for parking, but free parking is still an option! Check out a list of current rates here.] Walking from hotel to hotel is great, but, if you’ve come by car and want to pay a visit to another casino, hop in your car and park for free, especially when summer temperatures make the place feel like an oven.
7. Go swimming at another hotel
Swimming and sun tanning are some of the best activities to enjoy in Las Vegas. If you aren’t satisfied with your hotel’s pool, many of the hotels don’t enforce restricting use of their pool to guests, so find one of the nicer hotel pools to spend a day.
8. Stick to the free shows
Las Vegas is famed for its shows, from Cirque du Soleil to Wayne Newton concerts, but these can be incredibly expensive. Unless you’re dying to see a specific show, stick to the free ones, like the Bellagio fountain show or the Treasure Island outdoor pirate show. Actually, the wild personalities that flock to Vegas provide entertainment enough.
9. Get your free drank on
Casinos provide free drinks to gamblers, so, even if you aren’t planning to feed thousands of dollars into slot machines, take a seat at one, play a few rounds (even if you stick to the penny slots!), and wait for the cocktail waitresses to come by and take your drink order. Tip them $1, and you’ve got yourself a drink for almost nothing! And, hey, there’s always the option of using your charms to encourage free drinks from admirers. Who needs to spend even a penny on drinks in Vegas?
10. Pregame with your own drinks
Don’t spend absurd amounts on cocktails and bars and clubs when you can BYOB. Pick up alcohol at a grocery store off the strip (or on the way there if you’re driving), pregame in your hotel room with friends, and carry your drinks as you wander around the strip. But, hey, do treat yo’self to one of those tacky yard drinks from Fat Tuesday. You deserve it.
11. Skip the heels
Okay, I get that Las Vegas is supposed to be all about looking hot and stylish, but, seriously, consider skipping the heels. Or at least bring comfortable ones or a pair of flip-flops you can stash in your purse. You’ll be walking up and down the strip, and nothing ruins a night out like blistered feet. You can still look cute in flats, really.
12. Avoid the clubs
If you’re looking to experience Las Vegas on a budget, stay away from absurd cover charges, angry bouncers, and douchey guys by skipping the major clubs and visiting smaller bars or simply wandering around people-watching. The lights, sounds, and sights are enough to make any night exciting, and if you’re there with great friends, anywhere you go will be a blast.
13. Keep your trip short
If you’re flying from across the country (or overseas), I understand wanting to make your Vegas trip longer, but try to keep it short. There are plenty of cheap things to do in Vegas, and the city is amazing, but it’s also exhausting and overwhelming, so get out while you’re ahead. From L.A., it’s about a 4-hour drive, so I usually just go overnight, a perfect amount of time to get my fix. If you’re flying in, spend some of your time in the west visiting other nearby destinations like the Grand Canyon.
14. It’s all about good company
Ultimately, your trip will be all about your friends, so the best way to do Vegas right is to bring your favorite people! Go with people who make you the happiest and have the same ideas and expectations about your trip, and there’s no way you won’t have a fabulous time.
Interesting take on Las Vegas. I’ve been there once and I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it. I was right! You are right when you say it is like Disneyland but for adults. It was too tacky for me, everything too bright and just too many people. Walking down the strip is so jam packed, it took us about half an hour to walk one block! We stayed at the Paris themed hotel and I hated walking through the casinos. There are no windows and it’s so easy to lose track of time. My favorite part of staying in Las Vegas was everything that we did outside of it haha! We visited Red Rock Canyon which is about a fifteen-twenty minute ride from it–it is AMAZING. Consider checking it out when you are there. It’s also the perfect base for a day trip out to Death Valley which we also did.
The one thing I did like about Vegas–seeing O by Cirque du Soleil. It was my birthday gift from my parents and we were seated in one of the very front rows and had a perfect view of everything. It was amazing.
You’re definitely right that Vegas is insanely tacky! I don’t think I could take it for long periods of time, but going just once or twice a year makes the tackiness amusing more than anything, I think. Even though I’ve lived in California all my life, hours away from places like Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, or the Grand Canyon, I haven’t done any of it! On my bucket list!
Nice post! You can definitely do Vegas on the cheap, I’ve done it a few times. I’d also suggest looking for hotel deals and only checking in 2 people – you can stay at some great hotels really cheaply that way (we got a great deal on the Venetian). There are also a bunch of promoters and guest lists for the fancy clubs, so ask friends who’ve been before to see if they know anyone who can hook you up. It’s not so hard if you’re a girl (sexist but true).
Going out in general is way easier/cheaper as a girl! I’m all for gender inequality in some cases, as long as I get to save money that way 😛
Finding awesome deals for your trip to Vegas is quite easy if you know how to find them! Great deals on hotels, entertainment, airfare and food is the best way to have an amazing trip!
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Great tips! There’s definitely a misconception that travelling to Vegas has to be expensive. There are so many other things to do, thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks, Madi! Definitely a lot of ways to have an inexpensive trip. Now I’m eager to go back!
Thanks for the tips! My friends and I are going to vegas for a girls weekend. We wanna know what budget friendly hotels you would suggest that is on the strip?
The inexpensive ones I’ve stayed at in recent years are the Excalibur (on the far side of the Strip but still close enough to everything else) and Bally’s (super central!). I’d recommend either. Have fun, and let me know if you have any other questions!
The Sunday papers have a treval section where they usually have a page full of ads for package tours. Also check with the airlines directly. Last time I went to Vegas from NY, we found a great package through American Airlines. The package with hotel was actually cheaper than just booking the same flights alone without hotel.
Great tips, Jeniffer!
Girls and Boys, one of my favorite things is Caeasars Palace Bacannal, half off the best buffet, mimosas, with up front VIP seating. People at other tables were asking us how we got the attention from the waiters. Check out your Groupons.. Do your research as far as where you are staying, and make your trip full of things close to you to make your trip great. For some reason concierges even have an agenda. There are things going on right next to you, and they can’t tell you or just don’t tell you. I would love for people to ask me what to do around them, so they can have the fun that I have, but I think that would be daunting. One last favorite thing was a food tour at Caesars. For the slow down time it was a wow factor. I’m not at VEGAS to drink and not remember. I’m there to drink, have a great time, and gamble with no regrets because I’m in control.
Some great tips, Jillish! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing your useful ideas here. Enjoy Las Vegas guys for this holiday season.
Glad you found them useful. Thanks, Angelica!
After bring on the strip I couldn’t agree with you more about Avoiding the clubs if you want to save some cash. But that being said there is still a big part of mean that feels that if I already made my way out to Vegas then I “Need” to go to a club of 2 : )
What are the resort fees like for staying at Excalibur?
Hi Sab, sorry, I don’t have any information on this, but any booking site should be able to provide that info. Good luck!
It’s the same as about all the others $30+ a night and you have to pay to park here that’s $10 a Day
Very good feather … See you in the road.
Also, Plate share. If you find yourself in a $$$ establishment Plate share dinner with a friend. IIt is usually cheaper to take the Plate share fee than 2 order to meals, leave half on the table ( face it , you aren’t going back to the room soon) and you both wil save money
That’s a great idea! Thanks, V.W.!
Parking isn’t always free. A few hotels charge for it even if you stay there. I learned this just a few weeks ago when I booked a hotel and didn’t realize I had to pay for parking. It put a damper on the trip
That’s frustrating! I’ve never had that experience, but it’s been almost two years since my last visit, so things may have changed.
Hey, thanks for sharing this. these tips are really helpful.
Thank you! I’m glad you found them useful!
Hi, I have wanted to go to Vegas on my buckey list forever. I have been there to get married but left shortly after or disneylandand Knotsberry Farm. Now I am 65 and I want to go and hit all the scary rides. I want to also save money as I don’t drink much and I don’t eat much. I just want a nice place to lay our head and RIDES. Suggestions??
Hi there, sorry for the late response after missing this comment! Hopefully the tips in this post help! You may be happy staying off The Strip. If you’re looking for scary rides, you may be a bit limited in Vegas, but you can always hit up Circus Circus and the roller coaster at New York New York.
Great post! Very interesting to read. I would like to read some more updates from you. Thanks for sharing your post.