Las Vegas - Weekend on a Budget

Las Vegas, Nevada
Last updated 
January 7, 2020 
by Ashley Ellefsen

Vegas: The Entertainment and Gambling capitol of the world. The City of Lost Wages. Sin City.

Whatever you call it, you better be calling it a good time! I’ve got some hot tips to help you make the most of your visit on a budget!

A short 5-ish hour drive from Salt Lake City, Vegas is our go-to for a long weekend getaway.  Because of it’s proximity, we visit several times a year, almost considering it a stay-cation. So, to say that we have this one dialed in….is an understatement.

When budgeting for any vacation, you inevitably have the same basic categories: Transportation, Accommodations, Meals, and Entertainment. Let’s tackle each one.

Transportation

For the 9th straight year, McCarran International Airport (LAS) has set records in passenger volume increase. 2019 saw 51.5 million passengers passing through the gates.  That’s good news for airlines and travelers alike! More demand equals more options and more routes, which in turn equals lower prices for the traveler! Multiple low cost airlines fly into LAS and are beginning to dominate the traffic.  These carriers include Spirit, Frontier, Southwest, and Jetblue.

Although we often see fare specials from SLC-LAS (sometimes as low as $39 each way), we prefer to drive to Vegas. We like having a car with us.  Time wise, by the time we could drive the one hour from home to the SLC airport, board a flight, land and get to our hotel….we could be pretty close to arrival. Money wise, to pay for flights, airport parking plus an Uber to/from airport….we’re definitely ahead by driving.

You can easily get around Vegas without having or renting a car. There are taxis and Uber/Lyfts readily available.  Before a trip, I’ll update my ride share apps and do a quick search for promos.  Often times, I can find a deal running for $3 off my next 10 rides!

Note: Ride share pickup/drop off locations are not in the same location as the taxi line at the front of the hotel, they are now designated areas strictly enforced by the resorts, and usually a little bit of hike to get to.  I don’t suggest calling your ride until you are en-route to the designated area (these resorts are huge and its not uncommon for it to take 10 minutes to get to your car and most drivers will only wait 2-3 minutes for you). The locations are usually pretty clearly marked, but you may want to ask where it is when you check-in to avoid confusion later.

Accommodations

Accommodations in Vegas can be pricey but they can also be very affordable.You can find great deals on and off the strip HERE. We’ve tried airbnb-ing in Vegas to make the trip more affordable but found that we end up spending more on Ubers, so it was actually a draw (yes, we have our car but don’t like to drive in the evening - because we drink responsibly!). A few things to consider when choosing a hotel:

    • The closer to the heart of the action - the more expensive the hotels. Walking distance between resorts is ALWAYS farther than it seems so choose wisely! 
    • Always find out what the resort fees are. Hotels often add on $20/day for wifi and housekeeping. Ask if parking is included! Most of the resorts are now charge daily fees for parking.

HOT TIP: The Linq waives parking if you present a military ID. Ask your property if they have any similar military/first responder benefits!

You’ll also want to sign up for the resorts rewards before booking! EVERY hotel in Vegas has a program…swipe your card before any purchases and gambling to rack up points that can be applied towards free rooms, upgrades, meals and entertainment!

Food & Dranks

Easily one of your greatest travel expenses and one that can really sneak up on you since it’s not a one-time charge. Because we drive to Vegas we always stop in Mesquite, about 45 minutes outside the city, for food and alcohol.

Lee’s Liquor Store is our go-to, and the good news is that there are about a dozen in Las Vegas.  Open containers are not only legal but perfectly normal so pack a collapsable water bottle or grab some easily disposable red solo cups. Vegas is notorious for expensive drinks…$18-$30 for a drink at the pool or in a night club is the usual. To keep our spending down, we normally grab champagne for morning mimosas, and a case of White Claws to drink as we walk.

A couple of tips. 1) If you plan to drink excessively, write down your room number or take a picture of the card when you check in. The resorts are massive and it’s really easy to get turned around or lost. 2) They’ll offer you “free” drinks when you gamble but be careful - you want to remain clear headed, so I suggest sticking to beer or champagne at the tables!

We also make sure to have some food for our rooms.  When booking, I try to get us a room with a mini fridge and microwave . Because part of the Vegas experience is the incredible food, we’ll only grab breakfast and some light snacks to satisfy those late night munchies. 

A couple other ways to save money on your food and beverage are:

    • Eating off the strip - check out my blog about the 5 Restaurants You Have to Try off the Strip, HERE
    • Check Groupon for some really great deals
    • Plan ahead and take advantage of Happy Hours
    • Make sure you’re using you resort reward cards and earning points towards discounted and free meals

Entertainment

Vegas isn’t called the entertainment capitol of the world for nothin’! There are loads of shows you can take in, activities to experience, and tours you can take! One of our favorite ways to spend an evening is people watching on FREEmont street.  Old Vegas has one heck of a night life - live concerts, light shows and street performers…make sure to take some singles with you for tipping the street performers.

The larger resorts often have free attractions as well - everything from live music to flower gardens to aquariums. You can always find interesting deals on Groupon as well: food tours, museums and exotic car racing to name a few.

Here’s a list of free must-do Vegas activities!

Heading out for a Vegas vacation? check out how you can save money on your travel expenses HERE.

What are some Vegas money savings tips that you’ve discovered? Drop them in the comments below!

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Hey there!
I’m Ashley...'American Made' because I was born in the incredible US of A and proudly raised in a military family. I’ve enjoyed living and traveling around the world since I was a child. I’ve explored over two dozen countries and always have a bag packed, ready for my next adventure!
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