How to Plan a Trip to Las Vegas on a Budget, According to a Travel Expert

Because Sin City isn’t just for high rollers.

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

When you think of Las Vegas, it’s likely the glimmering casinos, flashy hotels, over-the-top entertainment, and extravagant meals that come to mind first. However, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to have a good time in Sin City — so as long as you’re savvy. From flights and hotels to activities and transportation, here are our top tips on how to plan a trip to Las Vegas on a budget, including expert insight, tips, and recommendations from long-time Vegas visitor and travel advisor Allison DePesa of Marvelous Mouse Travels.

How to Save on Food

<p>monticelllo/Getty Images</p>

monticelllo/Getty Images

It’s no secret Sin City is home to spectacular restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Picasso, the sceney Cipriani Las Vegas, and Wolfgang Puck’s beloved Spago, to name a few. However, these aren’t the only options in town. Those looking to get the most bang for their buck can — and should — take advantage of Vegas’ seemingly endless buffets, says DePesa. What’s more, she tells T+L, “Buffets are a staple in Vegas, and you can usually find a great all-you-can-eat option with bottomless Champagne, mimosas, or bloody marys if you go for brunch.” For example, you can’t go wrong at Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan, which serves extravagant all-day brunch items like bone marrow, short ribs, and even steamed snow crab — in addition to the classics like omelets — for $47 per person on weekdays and $54 on weekends; $25 extra for bottomless mimosas, Champagne, bloody marys, or Bud Light). For a more affordable option, consider the MGM Grand Buffet (from $31.99 Monday to Thursday, $37.99 Friday to Sunday), which offers an array of breakfast and lunch dishes, from fresh pastas to pancakes. If buffets aren’t your thing, the Strip is also teeming with fast-food joints and quick-service restaurants. Tacos El Gordo, which doles out wallet-friendly tacos, quesadillas, tostadas, and other Mexican favorites, is among our favorites, as is the Instagram-worthy Cafe Lola, which dishes out sweet and savory breakfast and lunch staples (think crème brûlée challah French toast).

Additionally, DePesa recommends budget-conscious travelers take advantage of happy hour specials. “Many restaurants and bars in Vegas offer discounted food and drink specials during happy hour, usually in the late afternoon or early evening. “Brera Osteria at The Venetian Resort offers 50 percent off pizza, cocktails, and wines by the glass every day between 3 and 5 p.m. Also, don’t miss sangria hour at The Cosmopolitan's Jaleo, which has sangria from $7, beers from $7, wine from $9, and cocktails from $12 — along with a selection of tapas — every day from 5 to 7 p.m. The deals continue off the Strip at local favorite Honey Salt, where guests can enjoy $5 beers and wines, $6 cocktails, and apps like fried pickles and chicken sliders between $4 and $8 apiece every Monday through Friday between 3 and 6 p.m.

Pro tip: Be sure to sign up for restaurant rewards programs. “Many restaurants, especially those located in casinos, offer rewards programs or loyalty cards,” says DePesa. “Sign up for these programs to earn discounts, free meals, or other perks.”

How to Save on Transportation

Although resorts on the Strip are typically more expensive than those a bit further away, their central location makes it much easier — and cheaper — to get around. What’s more, explains DePesa, “The Las Vegas Strip is relatively compact, and many attractions are within walking distance of each other.”

However, that’s not to say you can’t stay off the Strip and still save on transportation. While taxis and ride-share apps are available — as are rental cars, of course — DePesa recommends utilizing public transit to get around. “There's an extensive bus system in Las Vegas, including the Strip and downtown areas.” Deuce on the Strip, which runs 24/7, stops at almost every resort on the Strip, and while single rides cost $4, you can save money by snagging a multiday pass; a three-day one, for example, will run you $20. The Downtown Loop is a free shuttle service that takes visitors to some of downtown Vegas’ top attractions, including the Arts District and Fremont Street Experience. Also, keep in mind that some off-the-Strip hotels offer complimentary shuttle service to the Strip — but more on that below.

Related: 12 Best Las Vegas Hotels

<p> Ethan Miller/Getty Images</p>

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

How to Find Affordable Las Vegas Hotels

A Las Vegas hotel stay doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. For one, DePesa recommends booking well in advance, which "can often lead to better deals." She adds, "Hotels tend to offer lower rates for early bookings, especially if you're traveling during off-peak seasons." The summer months (June, July, and August) coincide with the city's low season due to the scorching heat. As such, you can find lower hotel rates. Shoulder season (September through November and January through April) also offers discounted nightly rates; according to Kayak, March is the cheapest month to stay in Las Vegas, with an average five percent drop in price. Ultimately, being flexible with your dates is key. "Midweek stays tend to be cheaper than weekends, and rates may fluctuate depending on special events or conventions in the city," explains DePesa. Finally, as previously mentioned, consider staying at a hotel off the Strip since, per the pro, properties “tend to be more affordable.” She elaborates, “Many of these hotels offer complimentary shuttle services to the Strip, making it convenient to access the main attractions."

DePesa recommends using Westgate Flamingo Bay Resort as your base. The property is home to 13 on-site restaurants and spacious accommodations clocking in at more than 500 square feet. She also suggests checking into Marriott's Grand Chateau; while it does not provide shuttle service to the Strip — though, fortunately, it’s less than a mile away — it does have a rooftop pool, two bars, and, best of all, no resort fee.

If you choose to stay on the Strip, you can save money by selecting a property with low or no resort fees, which can cost as much as $55 per night. Those craving a more upscale hotel experience may consider a stay at the Sahara Las Vegas, one of few Strip hotels with an under-$40 nightly resort fee.

How to Save on Flights to Las Vegas

<p>Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images</p>

Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Looking to save money on flights? Just like with hotels, DePesa says the key is to “be flexible with dates and book early.” She also recommends using fare comparison websites like Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Kayak to help you “easily find the best deals and set up price alerts for your desired travel dates.” Additionally, if you have the time and patience, DePesa recommends opting for a connecting flight to or from Vegas since they tend to be less expensive. “But be sure to check the total travel time and factor in potential layover durations,” she says.

It’s also worth noting Las Vegas’ main airport, Harry Reid International Airport, is considered one of the cheapest in America, according to a 2022 analysis from CivMetrics.

Free Las Vegas Activities

<p>Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure</p>

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Unbeknownst to many — especially first-time visitors — Las Vegas offers plenty of free activities, which means you can save your money in hopes of winning big at the casino.

“At the Bellagio, you can see the fountain show and Conservatory & Botanical Gardens,” says DePesa.

Alternatively, catch the volcano eruption at the Mirage or check out the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat, “a quiet oasis home to koi fish, turtles, birds, and a flock of Chilean flamingos.” The Fremont Street Experience has free live music, Silverton Casino features a complimentary aquarium with thousands of tropical fish, and Circus Circus offers exhilarating acts. Travelers can also visit Ethel M Chocolates for free self-guided factory tours; afterward, explore the three-acre botanical garden, which boasts more than 300 species of flora. Other no-cost attractions include The Arts Factory, the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, and the quirky Pinball Hall of Fame.

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