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.