How to do Vegas on the cheap

Las Vegas

I admit it. I'm a Vegas veteran. After moving to Phoenix and having such close proximity to Sin City, it has become my favorite getaway.

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Unfortunately, living large in Vegas isn't a luxury I have on every trip, so I've learned to cut corners on everything from dining to entertainment. It does take time and research, but it's totally worth it in the end. Here are my best tips to do Vegas on the cheap.

Southwest airlinesFlights

My favorite airline for Vegas is Southwest. They are affordable and the only airline that allows you to change your flight for a credit if the price goes down or if you simply want to reschedule (and they don't charge you a fee!). If Southwest doesn't fly out of your city, my next favorite site is Orbitz. They show you a schedule based on the cheapest price and times to fly and utilize dozens of airlines. They are totally legit too, and if someone else books the exact same flight as you, they'll pay you back the difference.

There are a few other low-cost airlines that fly direct to Vegas from a few cities too: Spirit and Allegiant. Again, they don't fly to many cities, but if you're able to take advantage of these airlines, it's totally worth it. While they are dirt cheap, they do charge an exorbitant amount for checked luggage. And Spirit charges for carry-on bags too, so do your research.

Transportation

When getting from the airport to your hotel, definitely take the shuttle. At $7 per person, it can't be beat, whereas a cab can run you upward of $30 (however, if you have a large group and will be splitting a cab, that might be your best bet). A shuttle can take up to an hour to reach your location, but for me it's worth the savings (because I once paid $60 to get to Treasure Island, a mistake I won't make twice).

If you're driving to Vegas, great, you'll have a car — and it goes without saying, don't drink and drive or you can toss your "budget-friendly" trip out the window. Plus, all the major hotels and casinos offer free valet, so you don't have to worry about parking.

While in Vegas, walk. Sure, it is true what they say — everything is further than it appears. But it's a great way to see everything on the strip! If you're going anywhere off the strip, such as Freemont Street or the Palms, a cab is the way to go.

Las Vegas hotelsHotels

Everyone knows you can get cheap hotel deals in Vegas if you're a big gambler. But what if you're not? I like to bid on my hotel room using Hotwire or Priceline. With both of these sites, you are informed of the hotel's location and star-rating, just not the exact name of the hotel until after you pay. I have a preference for Hotwire because you also know your amenities, which is important or you may end up staying in a hotel without a casino or pool. Yes, not knowing the hotel name until after you pay is a risk, but it's Vegas! You might as well start gambling now.

Alcohol

If you're a gambler, you will get free drinks. Just be sure to tip well and you'll have attentive cocktail service. Another suggestion, and one of my personal favorite Vegas pastimes, is to sit at a bar and play video blackjack. Throw a $20 in and you'll have free cocktail service from the bartender just feet in front of you. And if you take your time playing down that $20, you'll earn your money back in comped drinks in no time.

One of the best things about Vegas is carrying alcohol on the street. Because of this, it's smart to pack your own booze or stop by a liquor store on your way to the hotel. Mix your own cocktails in your hotel room and carry them along with you while you're out and about. If you order a drink at dinner but don't have the time to finish it, ask for a to-go cup.

Food

Of course there are fast food options available in Vegas, which will suit any budget. However, if you can stretch your budget a little more than that, check out Restaurant.com, Living Social and Groupon for great deals at nicer restaurants. Also hit happy hours for half-priced drinks and appetizers.

Entertainment

Walking the strip, playing slots in casinos and hanging poolside is really all the entertainment you need while in Vegas. If you're looking for something new, definitely check out Tix4Tonight, where you can find discounted tickets to Cirque and comedy shows. You can score the best tickets if you go to the ticket booth the morning of show day. There is also a long list of free attractions in Vegas. My personal faves are the fountain show at Bellagio, the Sirens of TI and the dueling piano bar at Harrah's.

Gambling

When you're on a budget, low-limit games are probably all you can afford. However, there's always a chance you can win big, too! I do know that $5 blackjack tables can be found at Hooters Casino Hotel and the Tropicana. If you really like to roll the dice, it would be worth your while to sign up for player's rewards, such as Total Rewards.

More on Las Vegas

Top 6 hotels on the strip
Things to do in Vegas if you don't gamble
Girlfriend getaway ideas in Vegas

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Tina June 22, 2012 | 3:13 PM

I love this article as I am always on a budget when travelling. Throwing a $20 bill into a video blackjack machine (at the bar, of course) is a fabulous idea!! There's a chance you could win, and if not, you atleast got your money's worth in drinks! Also, good advice to take a shuttle from airport to hotel. Why waste your money on a cab when it could be spent on entertainment!

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