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How to Visit Las Vegas on a Budget

Updated on June 12, 2013

It's not hard to lose money in Las Vegas. Remember the phrase, "The house always wins"? For the most part, gone are the days when hotels/casino heads figured that if they could get the tourists there, they'd spend so much money gambling it was worth it to sell prime rib plates for $4.99 and offer cheap entertainment. Now, buffets can run as high as $50 a person, and many shows along the strip are pushing $100 or more per ticket.

But, with proper planning, it is possible to find discounted, cheap and free activities in Vegas. Here's a short guide for those visiting Vegas on a budget.

Inside Caesars Palace
Inside Caesars Palace | Source

Hotel Deals

If you plan far enough ahead in advance of your trip, it's possible to get some great hotel deals online. These are available primarily by signing up to become a member of rewards programs, such as Total Rewards, offered by Caesars Entertainment, or M Life, offered by MGM Resorts. Sign up online several months before your trip, and discounted hotel rates for all the hotels that are part of these rewards programs will start heading your way within a couple of weeks. Once in Vegas, pick up your Total Rewards or M Life cards at your hotel and use the card whenever you gamble, buy souvenirs at the hotel gift shop or eat at eligible restaurants to earn points that can be cashed in for play money and other freebies.

Take a Tour of Hotels Along the Strip

It doesn't cost anything to explore the more than 30 hotels and numerous casinos along the 4-mile Las Vegas Strip.

Luxury hotels spare no expense in their decor and amenities and it's well worth a sight-seeing tour. A few you won't want to miss are the The Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Paris Hotel and Casino.

The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian are a special treat, where luxury meets quaint charm. Cobblestone pathways lined with street lamps and a powder blue faux sky above create a romantic atmosphere, but the best feature is the canal running through the center of the shops. As in Venice, it's possible to hitch a relaxing ride on a gondola, complete with a singing gondolier.
Cost: $16 per person, if you agree to share a gondola for four. A private gondola for one or two can be requested but will cost about quadruple the price per person!

Canal inside the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian

Source

Caesar's Palace

Put simply, Caesar's Palace reeks of class. With perhaps the classiest casino on the strip, eight pools, a luxurious shopping mall and lavish decor, it is a must see on any trip to Vegas.

Is this Italy or Las Vegas? Inside the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace

Source

Eiffel Tower at Paris Hotel

Yes, Las Vegas has its own Eiffel Tower. Exactly half the size of the original, the tower is an attraction at Paris Hotel and Casino. From atop the tower, you can get a breathtaking 360 degree view of downtown Las Vegas. Rides to the top via elevator can be taken during the day or at night, but nighttime offers the most spectacular views of the millions of city skyline and its millions of twinkling lights. The viewing deck is enclosed for safety, but there are areas where it's possible to get an unobstructed view and take pictures. Cost: $7.50 to $15.50 per person, depending on time of day and if you qualify for a discount, available for children and senior citizens.

The view from the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

Source

Bellagio Fountain/Conservatory

The dancing fountain at Bellagio is one of the best known and spectacular free shows on the Strip. Set to music and lights, the show takes place in the 8-acre lake in front of the hotel. The fountain shoots as high as 460 feet in the air and spans more than 1,000 feet.

Shows are every 30 minutes from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. After 7 p.m., performances take place every 15 minutes until midnight.

While at Bellagio, be sure to head inside to see the hotel's conservatory and botanical gardens, also complimentary. Decor changes five times a year - once for each season and for the Chinese New Year. The 13,500 square foot conservatory is brilliantly lit by natural sunlight streaming in through the 50-foot high glass ceiling and is open 24 hours a day.

Bellagio Fountain

Source

Talking Tree at Bellagio

Decorations at the Bellagio conservatory and botanical gardens change for the seasons. In fall 2012, this talking tree bellowed "Welcome to Bellagio!" to passing visitors.
Decorations at the Bellagio conservatory and botanical gardens change for the seasons. In fall 2012, this talking tree bellowed "Welcome to Bellagio!" to passing visitors. | Source

Free/Discounted Shows

In addition to the Bellagio fountain, there are other free shows along the strip. Circus Circus offers free performances by aerialists, roller skaters, jugglers and more starting at 11 a.m. daily.

Sirens of Treasure Island is a free outdoor show featuring pirates and offered at the entrance of Treasure Island Hotel and Casino. Warning: The show used to be more family friendly but has been revamped and is now geared more for adults. Performance times vary depending on the season.

The Mirage offers up a erupting volcano right on its front lawn, featuring explosions and fireballs. Shows typically begin at 7 p.m. and run every hour until 11 p.m.

The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace features a show involving moving statues that depict the fall of Atlantis.

Located off the strip in downtown Vegas, the Fremont Street Experience offers free nightly light shows featuring 12.5 million lights. An overhead canopy spanning the length of five football fields features animation and video set to music. Shows run from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Street performers abound in Vegas, and many are very skilled. You're free to watch them perform, but if you watch for a while and like what they do, it's courteous to put $1 or more in their tip jars/hats/guitar cases, etc.

Hint: Be on the lookout for the statues at The Venetian. Are they really statues?

It's possible to get discounted tickets to shows at various half price and discounted ticket sales kiosks and stores located throughout the Strip. These sellers typically purchase tickets that didn't sale, so usually, they aren't available until the day of the show, or sometimes a day in advance, and there is a limited quantity, so get there early. Discounts vary but can be up to half price off. Some of the more popular shows, like "O" at Bellagio and Donny and Marie at The Flamingo, usually aren't available at these sites. Discount tickets can also be purchased from a variety of online retailers as much as 30 to 60 days before the show, but remember that sales from these vendors are typically final, meaning no refunds in the event you need to cancel. Also be sure to check and make sure there are no hidden fees when you reserve your tickets. Some venues charge a "live entertainment fee." Coupled with tax, this can add a significant amount to the total charge.

Save Money on Food

There are some fabulous buffets in Vegas, and they carry a fancy price tag. To save money, consider purchasing the Buffet of Buffets, a 24-hour pass accepted at several hotels: Caesars Palace; Flamingo; Planet Hollywood; Bally's; Imperial Palace; Paris; The Rio; and Harrah's.

The cost is $44.99 for Total Rewards members- signing up for Total Rewards is free and can be done online or at any Total Rewards hotel - and $49.99 for non-members. Although this may seem pricey, these buffets run around $20 to $50 per person per visit, and the pass allows you to eat as many times as you want in a 24-hour period, so it's possible to save start money after just one or two visits. The pass expires 24 hours after it is purchased, so it's a good idea to purchase it prior to breakfast, then try to eat that day's three meals and attend breakfast before the pass expires the next morning. That's four meals for about $50, including tax. Not a bad deal! It should be noted that there is an extra charge to eat at the newly opened Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars. The charge used to be $10, but the Buffet of Buffets website now states that it has increased to $15. This may seem like an annoyance, but the buffet at Caesars blows away every other buffet on the Strip, with more than 500 dishes and beautiful presentation of genuinely scrumptious fare. Plus, Bacchanal was named the No. 1 Buffet in Vegas by USA Today. There truly is something for everyone: Mexican, Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese, seafood and a deli are offered.

It's still possible to get a steak or prime rib in Vegas for under $10, but you have to venture off the Strip, to places like Ellis Island Casino and Brewery or Market Street Cafe downtown, a few miles away.

There's also a McDonald's right in the heart of the strip, if you're craving cheap and fast.

It's also worth noting that drinks - soft drinks, beer, wine and some cocktails - are free while gambling at most casinos, but it's expected that servers should be tipped at least $1 per drink.

Tours

Tours are available from Las Vegas to a variety of area attractions, such as the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Research tours ahead of your trip so you'll be well aware of what deals are offered. Sometimes, certain discounts are only available online. The concierge at your hotel can suggest a tour company, but those recommended by hotels are often more expensive and you can find the same tour for half the price if you do your research. Sometimes booking online in advance isn't wise, as many companies won't refund your money if you have to cancel. But it is wise to compare tours and companies, read reviews on sites like tripadvisor.com and have company names and phone numbers handy when you arrive in Las Vegas ready to make your reservations. Hotels typically charge for wifi use, so this will save money.

Check and double check - meaning ask a human being on the phone, don't just rely on the description on the Internet - to make sure the tour does not include hidden fees, such as a fuel surcharge. Also be aware that gratuity is expected and not usually included in the tour price.

© 2012 Crystal Tatum

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I hope this hub does well, Crystal. You did a great job of highlighting Las Vegas and handing out useful tips and suggestions. With winter coming I can see many views for this hub. I happen to hate that city, so I won't be going (LOL) but I do hope you get a ton of views. Good job!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Billy. I didn't think I would like Vegas so much, but it turns out I absolutely loved it. There's always something going on and it's a bit of a fantasyland. I will say that the trip reiterated for me that my lifestyle preferences are way above what I can actually afford, hence the idea to write the hub about traveling on a budget!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing. My wife loves Vegas (but hates to gamble). There seems to always be a deal for Vegas in SF.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      There's plenty to do in Vegas without gambling, that's for sure. Thanks for stopping by Mhatter99!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      This is a great hub and I am sure I will be back to reference it ... we were just in Vegas last weekend and we had a blast. This is our 4th time we have been there and I have to admit, we have done hardly anything. But I guess that is the perks of only going for a night. That means not much time to get in much. Last weekend we did catch a show and we got the tickets for 20 bucks. Not to shabby. I enjoy walking the strip and just people watching. I told my husband we would need to go just by ourselves and really enjoy it. After all, much of the stuff that you mentioned here, I wasn't even aware of! Thanks for the info! :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      There's plenty to do in Vegas for sure. I know a lot of people who go for one or two nights, mainly to gamble or see a show. We stayed five nights and I could have stayed longer. My motto is, if I'm going, I want to get as much in as possible and really soak it all up. Of course, money is an issue - that's the reason for this hub. So glad you found it useful! Thanks for reading.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      This is a great, useful and informative hub. Thank you for taking the time to share. Up, interesting and useful

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for stopping by CyberShelley!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      I do remember when LV was a cheap destination. We never went and I never had the desire, but after reading this hub it sounds like a lot of fun. You never know! Maybe we will go someday. Thank you for sharing the highlights with us.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading vespawoolf. I was never keen on the idea of visiting Vegas but I was surprised at how much I loved it. There's plenty to do, that's for sure!

    • ZandaDee profile image

      ZandaDee 4 years ago from Sydney

      Last time I was there, we would save money by playing the 1 cent slot machines to get free drinks from the waitresses. Sure you were likely to start spending more the more you drank, but it still felt like we were getting a good deal!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Love the free drinks! You have to be careful on those "once cent slot machines" though. I got fooled a couple of times, because on some the minimum bet would be as high as 60 cents. I lost money very quickly that way!

    • alisharenee profile image

      alisharenee 4 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

      Great information here! I have family members that live in the Vegas area so I don't have to front hotel costs, which means more money for entertainment and shopping. I've been visiting Vegas since I was little and my favorite attraction has alsways been Fremont Street.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Alisharenee, how great to have family there and to be able to save money for the fun stuff. Unfortunately, we did not get around to going to Fremont Street, but I have heard it's great.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      I wish I had this info before I visited Las Vegas but that was several years ago. Now I'll make sure I check out these tips before I plan a visit there.

      Many thanks for sharing this wonderful information.

      voted up and useful.

    • Tashaonthetown profile image

      Natasha Pelati 4 years ago from South Africa

      I would lve to go to Vegas! Looks amazing

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for stopping by rajan jolly!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      I really think you'd enjoy it Tashaonthetown!

    • Tashaonthetown profile image

      Natasha Pelati 4 years ago from South Africa

      Ive always wanted to go there and will definately have to plan a trip!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      It's a super fun town, even if you're not a big gambler, there is plenty to do. Thanks for reading!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Good advice. I live here and when some people think of Vegas, they only think of gambling but aside from The Strip- there is so much to do and a lot of outdoor activities. I've written a hub on places to see/hike outside from The Strip as it truly is beautiful!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks epbooks. I agree, there is so much to see and do in Vegas. The strip is only a portion of the fun!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a fantastic hub about Las Vegas and ways to save money while visiting there. UUI votes, pinning, tweeting and going to add a link from here to my hub titled Secret Garden in Mirage Hotel ~ White Tigers and Lions ~ Las Vegas, Nevada. Will be a great addition for people wishing to learn more. :)

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Peggy! I'll also link to your hub!

    • profile image

      Vickiw 3 years ago

      This is such a thorough travel documentary - great work on this, and your photos are wonderful. Definitely increased this Canadian's interest, although I don't gamble! Sounds as though the sightseeing would be pretty interesting though, just before I came back here to small town peace and quiet!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Vicki, there is plenty to do in Vegas other than gambling, trust me! Hope you make the trip some day!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Reading this hub on Las Vegas attractions was like revisiting it after many years. I wish I had this info years earlier when I visited it. Missed out on some attractions mentioned here.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Maybe you can go back rajan jolly!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting and useful hub, Crystal. I don't want to gamble, but I'd love to see the sights at Las Vegas and visit the Grand Canyon. Your description and photos makes the sights sound and look wonderful! Your tips for saving money and enjoying the buffets as cheaply as possible are great, as well.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks Alicia. Even if you don't gamble, a trip to Vegas is worth it. There is plenty to do.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      How to Visit Las Vegas on a Budget I am not a gambler but definitely plan to visit this well talked about fun place, and your tips are most useful.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks DDE. You really don't have to be a gambler to enjoy Las Vegas. There's loads to keep you busy even if you never set foot in a casino. Although I would walk through just to get a look!

    • LisaKoski profile image

      LisaKoski 3 years ago from WA

      I've been to Las Vegas once already but I'm considering going again sometime soon so I will definitely use some of your advice and save a bit more this time.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image
      Author

      Crystal Tatum 3 years ago from Georgia

      Glad you found this relevant Lisa. I hope you enjoy your trip!

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