A Cheap Kentuckian Shares Five Tips to Save Money on the Las Vegas Strip
The first time I visited Las Vegas, I wasn't a Kentuckian. Well, I was by birth, but I had moved to San Diego and was officially a Californian. And, like a lot of Californians, I used to visit Las Vegas pretty routinely. It was a quick 5-hour drive from me, so I used to visit when friends flew into southern California and wanted a dose of Sin City. That was the mid 90s and MUCH has changed in Las Vegas since. Back then, if you didn't gamble, Las Vegas was a pretty cheap vacation. Today? Well, not so much. Vegas can be REALLY expensive whether you're throwing money into the slots or onto the tables or not.
Today, I'm living back in Kentucky. I still travel a lot despite the fact that I am notoriously cheap. I've seen much of the world and I have done it wisely by finding cost-saving opportunities. I use these tricks while I am planning my travel and while I am traveling. I am always on the lookout for a deal.
I flew into Las Vegas Thursday night for a few days. The sole purpose of the trip was seeing Kelly Clarkson at the Bakkt Theatre. She recently announced a limited, 10-concert run and we wanted to see one of them. So, we got tickets for Chemistry and flew out for the show.
I will preface the rest of this post with this admission. Those tickets were NOT cheap. But, that's okay. I saved in a variety of other ways- ways that will save YOU money too.
TIP #1- THERE ARE AFFORDABLE FLIGHTS TO VEGAS OUT OF KY
I flew to Vegas just two-and-a-half weeks after getting back from a two-week vacation in the Middle East. Because of that trip, I wanted our trip to Las Vegas to be as economical as possible. That meant I had to find reasonably priced flights. And, lo and behold, I ended up taking advantage of Allegiant's direct flights to Vegas from Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. This time of year, those flights run Thursdays and Sundays. PERFECT! I booked the outgoing flight for Thursday and the returning flight (from Harry Reid International) on Sunday. I booked early and got those outgoing flights for $64 a seat.
There are multiple airports you can search for deals- Louisville, Lexington, Northern KY/Cincinnati and even Nashville. Take your time to shop around and find the best price.
TIP #2- DON'T ASSUME UBER IS CHEAPER THAN TAXIS IN VEGAS
Guess what? Sometimes, Uber is actually more expensive. And look! I have used Uber all over the world- from Rio de Janiero to Nairobi to Greece. More often than not, Uber will save you money. However, depending on the time of the day that you land in Las Vegas, you actually may save money by taking a cab.
See, Las Vegas has divided its popular tourist hotel destinations into zones and you will pay a flat cab fare that corresponds to the zone your hotel lies within. This past weekend, we stayed at Treasure Island. When I went to book an Uber, the charge for Uber X was $47. I checked the zone rates and they were considerably cheaper. Our taxi to Treasure Island cost us just $30- a $17 savings right off the bat to start the trip. SCORE!
TIP #3- IF YOU'RE STAYING ON LAS VEGAS BOULEVARD ("THE STRIP"), BOOK A PROPERTY BETWEEN SANDS AVENUE AND HARMON AVENUE.
Las Vegas is not an easy city to walk around in. In fact, unless you're staying on the famous strip, you're going to have to use taxis and Uber to get around. However, if you're planning to pretty much stick to the strip, stay somewhere in the middle of it. Can you walk the full length of the strip- from The Strat on the north end to Mandalay Bay on the south end? SURE! But it's almost 4 miles. I know because I walked it. In 100 degree heat!
But, there's a great strategy for staying in the middle. That section of Las Vegas Boulevard between Sands and Harmon is home to some of Vegas' most popular resorts- Caesar's Palace, Mirage, Treasure Island, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Harrah's, the Venetian, Palazzo and the Flamingo.
This section of Las Vegas Boulevard is totally manageable on foot and there's a lot to see and do. There are some tremendous shows at these resorts, iconic Vegas scenes and LOTS of people watching.
Plus, by walking, you save yourself considerable taxi and Uber fare. And, sure! It won't break the bank if you hire a cab or ride share to go from one end of the strip to the other. However, if you do it repeatedly during your trip, it's going to add up quickly. My mantra anytime I travel- if you can get there by foot, I'm walking. You'll see even more of the city you're in and stumble across hidden gems if you make the choice to hoof it.
#4- LOOK FOR DISCOUNT SHOW TICKETS
If you've ever been to Times Square in New York City, you've likely seen the TKTS Booth, which allows tourists and theatre lovers to buy discounted day-of show tickets for Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals and plays. Las Vegas has its own version of that booth. There are several of them situated along Las Vegas Boulevard and they offer some terrific discounts on Las Vegas entertainment. Now, don't get excited. You're not going to find tickets to Adele at the booth.
However, you can snag discounted tickets to some very popular shows- including a wide variety of Cirque Du Soleil shows like Michael Jackson One, Mystere, Mad Apple, KA and O at The Bellagio. There are also tickets to stand up comedy, variety shows and magic shows like Shin Lim's Limitless at the Mirage.
We saw that show and found our jaws on the floor multiple times. It was mesmerizing.
Quick note for you. The booths were long known as Tix4Tonight, but have recently rebranded to Tix4Vegas. If you want to check out the website to get more information about the kinds of shows they broker tickets for and to find out the exact locations of the booths, CLICK HERE!
#5- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE ENTERTAINMENT
There is plenty of entertainment in Las Vegas that you don't have to pay for. One of my favorite spectacles (and the fave of visitors from around the world) is the intricate, hypnotic, beautiful and powerful fountain show at the Bellagio.
The Fountains of Bellagio offer multiple shows daily and nightly. Here's the schedule:
MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY
Fountain display is every 30 minutes from 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Fountain display is every 15 minutes from 7:00 PM to midnight
SATURDAYS, SUNDAYS & HOLIDAYS
Fountain display is every 30 minutes from noon to 6:30 PM
Fountain display is every 15 minutes from 7:00 PM to midnight
Some other FREE entertainment options you can enjoy include:
The Mirage Volcano Show
*Quick note- rumors are swirling the volcano show's being replaced in 2024.
And enjoying the sites inside Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile Shops.
Important to note here. This FREE entertainment is all within the walkable center of the strip and there are plenty more sites to explore including the magnificent grounds of Caesar's Palace and The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace.
BONUS TIP: HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON FOOD
I won't lie to you. Food in Las Vegas, particularly in the tourist trap that is Las Vegas Boulevard is EXPENSIVE! It didn't use to be though. Back in the 90s, I could visit Vegas and never pay for a single meal. Back then, the resort casinos were competing to get you through the doors, so they would offer coupons for free buffets just to get you inside. For me, I'm not a gambler (yet another way to save money), so I would just go for the food. In fact, I distinctly remember visiting the former Aladdin, which is now home the Planet Hollywood. I had a massive buffet lunch there absolutely free of charge.
Those days are long gone and the Las Vegas Boulevard resorts are now home to costly upscale steakhouses and specialty restaurants. Sure, there are fast food options too that are far less costly, but there are ways to save money at the "finer" choices.
Here's the easiest way. Las Vegas, in so many ways, is the land of excess. Portions at some restaurants are HUGE and way more than most people can eat. So, don't hesitate to split appetizers or a meal. Some restaurants, including a popular choice at Circus Circus, offer up a "Family Meal." The one at Circus Circus, for instance, features pizza, chicken tenders, drinks and more and it's less than $50. Not bad.
This isn't either. For an early lunch one day, I popped into Maggiano's Little Italy at The Fashion Show complex. When I walked in, I noticed that two women had already received their plates of pasta. The plates were ENORMOUS and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to eat that much for lunch. After all, it was 11am and I was planning to spend my afternoon walking the entire length of the strip.
So, I noticed Maggiano's offered "side" salads and they had a "side" of spaghetti with marinara under the list of side orders. So, I asked the waiter if that would be okay to order and he said, "Sure!". My total lunch bill for those two items was about $16. It was fantastic and PLENTY of food.
And one more pro tip. Las Vegas is HOT and bottles of water on the street are expensive. So are soft drinks. If your hotel room has a mini-fridge, get to a CVS or a Walgreens on the strip and stock up. You'll save yourself considerable money and save yourself the agony of buying a small $5 bottle of water out of some random person's cooler on the street.