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Saving Money In Las Vegas

Because I come from cold, cold, Canada, I like to go down somewhere at least once a winter that’s warm. From Alberta, the cheapest way to do this is flying down to Las Vegas, which is just a short 3 hour flight. Sin City obviously features all the glittering casinos, but they’ve diversified their offerings to appeal to the non-gambler as well. The buffets are legendary, the shows feature familiar names, and each different casino has a somewhat unique idea of what will attract visitors. Vegas still offers plenty of adult entertainment, but it’s very possible to have a good time without breaking the bank at a gambling table.

Considering how I just came back from a trip there, I figured I’d give you guys some tips on how to save money on your next trip. I’d recommend not using your savings to increase your gambling budget, since gambling is for suckers. Which brings me to tip number 1:

Don’t Gamble

You’re not going to listen, are you? In fact, you’re probably going to gamble extra hard just to spite me.

Okay fine. But if you have to gamble, do it smart. Table games generally offer better odds than slot machines. Poker is probably your best bet, since you’re playing against other people, not the house. Assuming, of course, you know how to play the game. Blackjack and roulette are okay too, with the house only having a slight edge. Certain low-stakes blackjack games will only offer 6-5 on a blackjack, compared to the normal 7.5-5. Avoid those tables, even though they’ll usually have lower stakes.

Slot machines are generally a sucker’s game, but you can at least even out the odds a little bit by playing in off-strip casinos, either downtown or at the smaller casinos that cater to locals. Instead of paying out 80 cents for every dollar they take in, you can expect closer to 90 cents. The locals’ casinos are generally a little more generous with their comps, meaning you might actually earn a free meal.

Lodging

This one’s simple as well. Just stay off the Strip.

I’ve personally stayed at both Hooters (yes, it’s as cheesy as it sounds) and Super 8, two smaller hotels just a block off the Strip. Both these hotels will offer rooms at $30 a night during the slower times. There are also a Motel 6, a Travelodge, and a America’s Best Inn within walking distance of the action, all reasonably priced with rooms that aren’t roach infested.

If you’re looking to stay on the Strip, try Hotwire. Both the Luxor and Circus Circus are known to be aggressive users of Hotwire, and I could have snagged a room at the former for under $50 a night for my recent stay.

One last tip, and that’s to call the hotel to see if they’ll beat a rate you found online. It’s worth a 5 minute phone call if you can save $10 a night, isn’t it?

Food

Oh baby, Las Vegas buffets are probably the best thing ever. If I lived there, I’d weigh a thousand pounds.

If you want to save cash on food, just wait until about 2 o’clock and go for a late lunch. You’ll pay lunch prices for the buffet, the food is still hot and good, (dig to the bottom of the warming tray though, just in case) and you can eat enough that you won’t need to have any dinner.

My personal choices are the spreads at MGM, Planet Hollywood, and The Flamingo. Sure, the buffet at the Bellaigo is delicious, but it’s not worth the extra $10. But really, you get what you pay for when it comes to the buffets.

If you’re going to venture off the Strip, try the buffet at Terrible’s. It’s less than $10 for dinner, and it’s surprisingly edible, considering the name of the place. If buffets aren’t your thing, try the steak special at Ellis Island or some of the places downtown. They are some decent cheap eats.

Drinking

One of the things Las Vegas is famous for is free drinks while you play, but you need to be playing decent stakes in order for the drink girl to come around more than once an hour. If you’re looking for value, free drinks while gambling is actually a pretty poor way to go.

Instead, just hit up one of the many drug or convenience stores up and down the Strip. If you look hard enough, you’ll find stores that sell beer for a little more than $1 per can. Considering you’ll have to tip the cocktail waitress $1 at a minimum per drink if you want her to come back, it’s much cheaper to just go buy your booze.

It’s even cheaper if you don’t drink, but that’s just unreasonable, isn’t it? Thought so.

Final Thoughts

Las Vegas can be an incredibly cheap holiday, especially if you find a cheap room and cram 4 people inside of it. And if that’s not your thing, you can still stay somewhere nice and just spend your time people watching, which doesn’t cost a dime. There’s something for every price range, and it’s easy to make a few small sacrifices to save some cash.

[Editor’s note: I’m exceptionally cheap when I go to Vegas. I check out all of the free stuff like the water show a the Bellagio fountains, the pirate show in front of Treasure Island, and of course the circus at ah, Circus Circus.  If you’re staying at a decent hotel, they might provide you with brochures in your room or in the lobby with things to do while in Vegas.  Many of the brochures also have coupons for the fabulous buffets that Nelson mentioned.  If you’re even cheaper (like me) consider venturing off the strip and eating where the locals eat.]

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