Planning a once in life time trip this year? Las Vegas is top of many people’s bucket list – here are some tips for splashing a little less cash when you visit
This time last year I was excitedly preparing for and planning our honeymoon to Las Vegas and the west coast of America. I’d already saved as much money as I could on our flights and accommodation (see this post for details!) and was now planning our day to day to itinerary. We had just under a week in Vegas and there is so, so much to do there was no way we could fit it all in. We went for our absolute must do’s and then gradually worked back through to the less important stuff. We also left plenty of free time for sight seeing and general wondering around which we definitely needed.
Las Vegas can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it. We choose to do a few very expensive ‘Once in a lifetime’ things and then saved everywhere else that we could. We also set aside spending money for each day, depending on where we planned go, what we planned to eat and if we had prepaid for any activities. These were put into the rooms safe on arrival and we only took one out each day. Any leftover money we rolled over to spend on shopping or extra treats. We also took an emergency fund of $300 just to be safe and two credit cards, again in-case of dire emergency.
The ‘Big’ Things – Total Spend $900
These were our biggest spends in Las Vegas – we choose things we knew we would love doing and that we would remember forever. We chose not to scrimp on these.
Helicopter Flight over the Grand Canyon
This was one of the main things we wanted to do while in Las Vegas and while I’m aware trips only go to the west rim we felt this was enough for us having never been to the Grand Canyon at all before. The trip itself cost around $500 – we were fortunate enough to be gifted money for our honeymoon and this is what most of it went on. While it can be marginally cheaper to book directly when in Las Vegas we didn’t want to take that risk and miss out. As it was, weather at the Grand Canyon During our trip was terrible and our helicopter trip was cancelled 4 days in row. Using a reputable company meant that we were refunded in full quickly and easily, which was a relief.
Doing the Grand Canyon by Coach is a much a cheaper option if you’re on a tighter budget – this is something we looked into but the idea of spending almost whole day on a coach just didn’t appeal to us with our limited time in the city. The helicopter tour including transfers and lunch on the Canyon floor takes around 4-5 hours.
Penn & Teller Live at the Rio
I actually booked this is as a surprise for my husband – when looking through all the various shows on offer this is the one that appealed to me the most. I bought good tickets and we really made a night of it. As with anywhere, some shows will be more expensive than others, although there are nearly always ticketers on the streets selling cheap seats, they may not always be the best views or for the shows you want.
Dinner at Super Fancy Restaurant
Being total foodies and the fact that it was our honeymoon we decided to treat ourselves to one really nice dinner at a posh restraunt. As you can imagine Las Vegas offers everything imaginable food wise. From $800 dollar per head food tours, private dining at Michelin star restaurant to cheap as chips Denny’s and iHop, there really is something for everyone.
After lots of research we choose Hugo’s Cellar which is in the basement of the Four Queens in Downtown Las Vegas, with the average three course meal coming in around $100 per head it felt super fancy without completely blowing our budget. It was worth every cent. The service, the extras that were included, and the quality of the food made it the best meal we have ever eaten in a restaurant. Nothing has so far has beaten it (although some at Disneyworld did come close!)
The ‘Smaller’ Things $300
The Titanic Exhibition at the Luxor
As we were already staying at the Luxor visiting the Titanic Exhibition seemed like an absolute no brainier. It’s an area of history I’ve always been interested in and it houses the largest piece of the ship that was recovered from the ocean – absolutely awe-inspiring to see up close. Since we visited last January there has been the addition of a VR experience.
We saved on this by buying tickets through Travel Zoo – Although as this was a year ago the exhibition is now no longer partnered with them – however it is totally worth checking out as many voucher sites as you can for the activities you plan to do.
- Travel Zoo
- Groupon – Las Vegas discount codes
- Retail me not – Shopping discount app
- Las Vegas Discount Codes
The High Roller
The high roller is one of those things we weren’t 100% sure if we wanted to do before we went, so we didn’t pre-book. As our Grand Canyon trip got cancelled so many times we decided to use the time one morning to do this instead and we were so glad we did! The views from the top are incredible and breathtaking and this would be on our must do list if we ever went again. Although not booking meant we didn’t get discounted tickets, we still felt it was totally worth the money spent. We went during the day – there were no queues and we only shared our pod with one other person.
If you fancy combining your trip on the High Roller with a few drinks then Travel Zoo have this offer (correct as of 30/12/17) The value you get depends on how drinks you can stomach while hundreds if feet in the air.
- Daytime Rides
- “Happy Half Hour,” ages 21+ … $35 (reg. $40), includes open bar
- Ride only, ages 13 and older … $20 (reg. $25)
- Ride only, ages 4-12 … $8 (reg. $10)
- Nighttime Rides
- “Happy Half Hour,” ages 21+ … $47 (reg. $52), includes open bar
- Ride only, ages 13 and older … $32 (reg. $37)
- Ride only, ages 4-12 … $18 (reg. $20)
- Redeem for rides through December 30, 2018
The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
Again, this wasn’t something we booked but just something in the back of minds for a rainy day or day with no other plans. It’s true that Vegas never sleeps and having travelled from the U.K we were usually awake and raring to go by 7am Las Vegas time. Most of the main attractions don’t open until 10am and we didn’t really want to be gambling or drinking that early in the day!
So this was another thing we ended up doing on a morning when our helicopter trip was cancelled. Tickets are between $15-$20 for adults and kids under 3 go free. While it was okay, the aquarium is much smaller than most I have visited in the U.K, we were there for less than hour and that was with really taking our time. When I look online I couldn’t find any discount codes but it is a relatively cheap activity anyway.
Cheap Eats Vs. Fancy Restaurants from $4 to $250
As I mentioned before – food in Las Vegas can cost anything from a few dollars to thousands and everything in between. Las Vegas is also famous for it’s incredible buffet restaurants and again these vary enormously in price and quality, depending on which you choose. We mixed things up a lot on our trip – from $2 breakfasts at Denny’s to a $250 meal at Hugo’s Cellar and $100 meal at one of the more high end buffets to late night $8 box meals from Pick Up Stix.
Our favoruite Cheap Eats
- Denny’s – cheap, cheerful and delicious Denny’s is a popular American chain that serves mostly breakfast plates as well steaks and chicken. The 2,4,6,8 menu is excellent value and includes unlimited pancakes for just $4 perfect if you’re on a budget! Find the menu here
- California Pizza Kitchen – This is the American equivalent of a Prezzo or Pizza Express and we found the food quality and pricing to be about the same. Great for a nice lunch or dinner if you don’t want to spend too much but don’t want fast food. We visited the one located in the Fashion Show Mall.
- Strip Burger – Also located at the Fashion Show Mall Strip Burger was one of favourite places we ate in Las Vegas and we returned the following day just get fries and two more of the Baileys & Salted Caramel Milkshakes (I don’t even like Milkshake but these were incredible!) The burgers were good too. The seating is all outside and we spent a happy hour watching the world go by along the strip. 10/10 for location too! Go early for extra discounts and to nab the best people watching spot.
Of course there are plenty of other cheap places located up and down the strip and in most hotel complexes – such as Mcdonald’s, Five Guys, KFC, Burger King, Pick Up Stix, Starbucks, Ihop and many, many more.
Our Favourite More expensive Places
- As mentioned above, Hugo’s Cellar at the Four Queens. While not cheap, Hugo’s Cellar certainly provided excellent value for money. Starters and Main courses are expensive but there is so much else included in the whole experience it’s totally worth the money. All ladies are greeted with a fresh red rose on arrival. Bread, a salad course, a sorbet pallet cleanser and fruit dipped chocolates to finish off our meal were included with our mains, as well our first two alcoholic drinks. The $250 we paid included a 20% tip for the fantastic service.
- Wicked Spoon Buffet – The wicked Spoon Buffet was pretty awesome – while the odd dish wasn’t quite up to standard the majority of the food was excellent – the best thing I ate was the Beef Rib Ravioli and they have lots of high end dishes such as bone marrow. You can find Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan hotel located mid strip. Prices are Between $36 – $49 depending on when you go. There is also the option to add bottomless alcoholic drinks for around $15.
If you’re heading the Las Vegas then pack comfy shoes! The strip alone is huge and while it’s fun to explore on foot for the first day or two we soon ended up with blisters from the walking. There are lots of options for getting around Las Vegas with some being substantially cheaper than others.
- Taxi – There are queues of taxis outside almost every hotel and you can also book them in advance. Rates obviously vary depending on where you’re going, the few trips we did cost around $20.
- Uber – We didn’t use uber during our trip but a ride from LAS Airport to the Strip is around $13 and a cheaper option than a taxi
- Bus – There are two buses that run along the Las Vegas strip – The Deuce and the SDX. The Deuce runs along both sides of the strip every 15 minutes and stops outside most of the big hotels. The SDX only stops at a few hotels and then carries on to downtown Las Vegas. They are the cheapest way to travel in Las Vegas and a great way to see the strip. Fare for the Deuce and Strip & Downtown Express is $6 for a two-hour pass, $8 for a 24-hour pass and $20 for a 3 day pass. Bus is also the cheapest way to get to the outlet mall north of the strip.
- Monorail – The Las Vegas Monorail runs along the back of some of the big Hotels on one side of the strip, from the MGM Grand to SLS Las Vegas. There are seven stations: MGM Grand, Bally’s / Paris, Flamingo, Harrah’s / The LINQ, Las Vegas Convention Center, Westgate Las Vegas and SLS Las Vegas. A Single Ride Ticket $5.00, 24-Hour Pass $12.00 Two-Day Pass $22.00 Three-Day Pass $28.00
Gambling $500 Spent – $1700 won
While there is undoubtedly enough to keep you going in Las Vegas with out the need to spend a single penny on gambling, it can is also easy to see why people are tempted when the entire strip is made up of Casinos. Being the money conscious lady I am I found it really hard to get my head around dedicating any part of our budget to gambling. However, my husband loves a flutter and as it was his honeymoon too we agreed on a set amount to gamble to with. We also came up with a few a other rules with regards to gambling and for us, they worked, helped us stick within our budget and stop when we needed to.
Here’s what we did . . .
- Set a strict gambling budget and agreed no other money would be spent on gambling once it ran out (for us it was $500 – while this is small fry to some, we wanted an amount we would be okay with losing) We also agreed not gamble when the other one wasn’t present, although being our honeymoon we stuck together the whole time anyway.
- We agreed to immediately cash out any big(ish) wins, keep them separate and not gamble them away – I took a separate purse solely for this purpose. I would then reimburse hubby with whatever stake he had had remaining when we won. Example. If we put $10 in slot machine and the first $1 spin wins $20 we we would cash out the $29 I keep $19 and give OH $10 to carry on playing with (usually rounded up or down for ease but you get the idea)
- This helped me feel like we weren’t needlessly gambling away our winnings when were lucky enough to win and hubby still got his gambling fun. Of course we didn’t win every time but after a 6 days of playing slots for a couple hours each evening we were around $250 up in the winnings purse by our last day.
On our last night we were actually lucky enough to have a huge win – over $1500 on a $0.75 spin. Our last $10 of gambling money and we were passing some Walking Dead themed slot machines my husband had want to play earlier in the night (he’s a big zombie anything fan!) which we’re now available. Spin one, nothing. Spin two the machine went crazy! We had to get security staff over to process our winnings and even fill forms to avoid paying tax. Very lucky indeed and a great way to end our trip.
A few more tips on Gambling in Las Vegas. . .
- Drinks are ‘comped’ (free) if you’re sat gambling for more than a few minutes – I honestly didn’t think we’d qualify for this as we usually only spending the minimum per spin but I don’t think we paid for a single drink while in any casino. A waitress will take your order and bring them to you at the machine your playing on. Just remember to tip – the better you tip the more often she’ll come over, but remember the Casinos want you to get drunk and be stupid with your money. You can ask for bottled water and soft drinks too.
- Gambling in Downtown Las Vegas is much cheaper than on the strip. The oldest Casino in Vegas, The Golden Nugget has slots from as little as 5 cents a spin so if you want to gamble on a tight budget you’ll get much more for your money here.
- Many of the Casinos run relaxed, informal classes in the mornings for FREE – so if you want to brush up on your skills before trying for real these could be great for you. More info can be found here.
Things to do for FREE $0
One of the best things about Las Vegas is the amount of stuff there is to do, completely free. Often just walking the strip can be entertainment enough, but below I’ve listed a few other of our favorite free things we did in Las Vegas.
- Hotel Hopping – In Vegas you can walk in and out of every hotel, whether or not you are staying there. Many hotels are themed to the extreme and spectacular to look at both inside and out. In particular, The Luxor (Egyptian themed) The Excalibur (Castle/Knights) New York, New York (Themed to look like the New York Skyline) Paris (complete with miniature Eiffel Tower) Cosmopolitan (Contains the worlds largest Chandelier) The Venetian (Italian Themed) and Caesars Palace (Ancient Rome theme). You can pretty much take a trip around the world without leaving the strip!
- Of course the Bellagio has the world famous fountains with the show taking place several time each evening – but it’s also worth entering the hotel. The lobby ceiling is covered with beautiful glass flowers and just beyond these are the botanical gardens which are themed in accordance with the time of year. The Bellagio also contains the worlds largest chocolate fountain.
- The Mirage hotel has a volcano themed show each night and isn’t much farther along than the Bellagio, meaning you could easily see both in one night.
- The Flamingo Hotel hosts a small wildlife habitat which is free to enter and contains various animals including Flamingos and Koi Carp.
- The Freemont Street experience can be found in Downtown Las Vegas and includes various bands, performers and a free light show.
What not to do
As with any trip not everything went to plan – while we had an amazing time there are definitely something we would have done differently too.
We booked indirect flights for our journey our and this is one of biggest regrets. We flew from Gatwick via Calgary with four hours between our flights. Four hours is a really long time with not a lot to do in an airport. Because we were flying on to the USA we were in the USA lounge rather than the main airport which really limited the choice of shopping and places to eat. We were also ushered straight from the flight, through American Customs and the onto the lounge which offered no smoking facilitates. My husband doesn’t smoke but he does vape. After almost 12 hours with no nicotine he was rather grumpy and with the lounge being so small there was no pharmacy to even buy patches or an E-cig. By the time we finally arrived in Las Vegas we had been travelling for 20 hours and were completely exhausted. Vowed never to do a stopover again unless there was absolutely no way around it.
Overestimating how far you can walk
Looking at google maps in our hotel room The Rio hotel, where we were watching Penn & Teller on our first night didn’t seem too far away, around a 40 minute walk. It was actually much, much farther than we had anticipated and really far off the strip. Having not really explored much at this point we just didn’t realize how far out it was and we ended up wishing we’d got a taxi. Not being the most well travelled of people, while we loved Las Vegas, as soon as you step of the Strip the streets are deserted and in all honesty we didn’t feel 100% safe.
Don’t Forget to Tip
If you’re traveling from the U.K remember that in the USA a 15% – 20% tip is standard in restaurants expected unless service was dire, in which case it should be reported to a manager and the reason you’re not leaving a tip explained. Servers in America are often not paid a living wage and often need their tips to just to get by. Don’t forget to budget for this when allocating spending money, even if you’re on a tight budget. Also remember to tip Bellhops, bartenders and drivers, or anyone else who serves you in some way.
Stay Too Far off the Strip
Cheap deals at hotels like the Stratosphere and Circus Circus can be tempting but these hotels are really far from the main area of the strip. We stayed at the Luxor which is the complete other end of town – it was manageable but if we went again we would definitely find the best mid strip budget option we could and save our feet!