Travel Nevada: Visiting Las Vegas on a Budget

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Travel Nevada: Visiting Las Vegas on a Budget

By Erinn Sluka

Travel Nevada: Visiting Las Vegas on a Budget by Erinn Sluka.

Travel Nevada: Visiting Las Vegas on a Budget by Erinn Sluka.

Las Vegas is a great getaway for the family and especially as a couple. There are shops, shows, eateries and adventures all in walking distance. My husband and I frequent Las Vegas a few times a year and what I love most about our Las Vegas excursions is that we land in the city and never need a car the rest of the trip!

There is so much to do if you stay on the strip and even if you decide to stay in downtown Las Vegas (Fremont-Old Town), there are several ways you can get back and forth to the strip. Every time we go, we choose to do about a 4-day getaway as we find that is the perfect amount of time to stay. It allows us travel times on day 1 and day 4 and time to visit the strip in stages and get to downtown for a happy hour visit one of the nights. We also have time to see a show a different night and that leaves 1 additional night to have no agenda. Las Vegas can be done on a budget and if you do not gamble, you can essentially fill up your trip with spending nothing more than food money!

Booking Your Trip

Like most vacations, timing is everything! Las Vegas is home to many popular conventions and shows and if you plan ahead and choose days that DO NOT interfere with any major events happening, you can avoid the spike in hotel and airfare rates for these events.

Annual extravaganzas dates you will want to stay clear of (unless you plan on actually attending them) are NASCAR in March, the popular SEMA show in November, World Series of Poker Events in the spring and fall, Las Vegas Marathon in November, Fremont Street Mardi Gras celebrations to name a few. Also, many times you will see fantastic one-way deals so if you are really adventurous in your booking capabilities, you can save big booking flight that way.

You will also save by joining major hotel clubs by signing up online such as M-Life for MGM resorts which include 15 different hotel and casinos, or Total Rewards that include many other popular hotel and casinos; a great way to learn about hotel stay promotions and you will get special coupons and rates. Pair those club specials with your 2 one-way airline tickets and you can travel fairly cheap especially if you go when no major event is happening. As for us, we tend to use Travelocity or Orbitz and get some great deals. We just play around with dates until we find a price we like.

Food & Drinks

There are many ways to save on your food and drinks in Las Vegas. Before you purchase bulk packages, remember to be realistic with your time. There are many great deals where you can eat at up to 4 or so buffets in 24 hours for one low price, but how many buffets can a human consume in 24 hours? Las Vegas buffets will blow any local buffet you are used to out of the waters in terms of food choices and size! I always keep an eye on Las Vegas area Groupon or Social Living deals and find some of the best offers here. Buffet prices change from lunch to dinner, so you can eat cheap by having a cheap breakfast, skipping lunch and doing an early dinner so to hit the buffets at lunch rate before they change to dinner rates around 3pm. We do that most often! There are some Las Vegas coupon books you will find in taxis and rooms that have some buy 1 get 1 deals.

A favorite spot for us at happy hour on the strip, that gives you great drink prices and huge food portions, is Diablo’s (right next to the Monte Carlo). Their nachos are amazing and you can get some great drinks under $5! In downtown, the best happy hour in my opinion is the Triple 7 Brewery at Main Street Station. Great food, sports and drink prices and their microbrews are fantastic and about $2 during Happy Hour. We make this brewery a must-stop every time we go to Vegas!

The buffet at Main Street Station is one of the best breakfast buffets as well if you stay downtown at all and are nearby in the mornings and it gives the best value of all! And remember, while you play your basic drinks are free (or $1 if you consider the tip you’ll give your server). However, be patient as they do not visit you too frequently if you are not in a high traffic area.

One more Hotel/Casino worth mentioning even though it is off the strip is the Texas Station. A cab would be cheapest if you catch it from the Rio as it is more relative to that location, but if you have a car you may want to head here for dinner. The Pasta Palace is one of the best Italian places in Vegas. Meals are dirt cheap and delicious! There are a few Pasta Palaces in Vegas, but the one at Texas Station is outstanding and no one makes an Italian Margarita better than they do!

One more breakfast stop to mention on the strip is Cantina’s between the MGM Grand and M&M store. Before 11am you get breakfasts and breakfast drinks for cheap and the food and service is great!


Once you arrive in Las Vegas, you can have a great time without driving anywhere! Besides, who wants to navigate the strip by car and find parking anyways! Here are some tips to get you around:

  • Taxis: From the airport – if you are traveling as a couple then look around for another couple in the taxi line as most cabs take 4-5 passengers. If they are heading your way share the ride! We have done that. But all in all if you are the south end of the strip you will pay about $12-$14 for the cab ride and downtown will be about $20.
  • Airport Shuttle: There are several shuttle companies that will offer round-trip rates and get you back to the airport for one low price and they can still be pretty close to a cab fare which is quicker than a shuttle full of other passengers who may need to be dropped off before you. As you book, research your hotel, many may offer a guest rate for a shuttle to and from the airport.
  • Double Decker: Once in Vegas, 2 of the best ways to get back and forth from Fremont (downtown) to the strip is about a $15-17 cab ride or the Double Decker at about $7 each way that stops many places along the way so catching the bus is easy from anywhere on the strip. However, you will stop MANY times before getting to your location so if time is not of essence, it is the cheapest way.
  • Hotel Shuttle: There is also a free shuttle from Harrahs that will take you to the Rio and back(home of the Carnival Buffet-the largest)! From the Rio you can walk to the Palms and Gold Coast as well.
  • Free Tram: At the other end of the strip, there is a free tram that connects you from Excalibur to Luxor and then Mandalay Bay and back.


Many mini shows are free and some go for hundreds of dollars. Right now the higher priced shows worth the money to see are One: Michael Jackson. Of all the shows I have seen I am in love with this show. Absolutely amazing! My second favorite is Mystere! My kids loved it too. Of the smaller price-ticketed shows that is a must see is the V-Variety show. It is a blast and a great value. If you can find it and you have to book fast because it will sell out is a deal you will see in the coupon books I mentioned above from the cabs and rooms. It is the Nate Burton show that comes free with the buffet at Planet Hollywood. The buffet is around $19.99 and you get the show tickets free in the bundle and the show is great! These coupons are to be redeemed at Planet Hollywood the day of the show and go fast so get them by lunchtime!

Free spectaculars are everywhere so here is a rundown: the Thunderstorm at Planet Hollywood inside the shops (M-Sa), the Mirage Volcano outside nightly 5pm-11pm on the hour, the Bellagio Fountains water show outside nightly every 15-30 minutes, Caesars Fall of Atlantis show in the Form Shops inside daily on the hour, the Treasure Island Pirate Show outside nightly every 90 minutes to name a few.

There are several half-price ticket outlets in Vegas you can stop at on the day you want to see a show to get great prices, but crowds start forming fast the later in the day you wait. So have some breakfast and head to a half-price ticket booth and find some shows early and save big! Also remember that if you plan on using any discounts or coupons, these will always only be redeemable at certain locations and usually by a certain time so read the fine print carefully and never expect to show up at a ticket counter for major shows 30 minutes before doors open expecting to get tickets. Rare if you score them that way! Some shows show Dark days which means they do not perform at all those night so if there is a show you really are looking forward to seeing, know what dates they are dark according to your travel dates.

There is so much more to discover and learn so always keep searching online for those deals and plan on being flexible. Things happen fast in Vegas and deals change very fast.

Erinn Sluka is the name behind and a contributor Author at She lives near Seattle, Washington and stays home with her boys. Her blog focuses on healthy living and parenting advise, as well as product reviews.

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