Las Vegas on a budget

You don't have to have big bucks to have big fun in Las Vegas. In fact, a few days in Sin City can be a vacation value if you play your cards right.
BY SEAN CHAFFIN Published: July 14, 2013
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A few days in Sin City can be a vacation value if you play your cards right. For the budget conscious, it's a great idea to shop around and plan ahead.

Stay and play

Let's face it, a trip to Las Vegas doesn't mean a lot of time in your hotel room. A decent place to crash is all many of us need. Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and lasvegasadvisor.com, recommends looking beyond the Strip to find high-quality hotel casinos that won't break the bank.

“If lowest rates are all that matters, you should look downtown or at the outliers, local casinos well off the Strip. But the best overall deals tend to come from the places that are near, but not on, the Strip,” he said. “Examples are the Gold Coast, Orleans, and Palace Station. They are big like Strip casinos, but can't charge as much even though they are just a few minutes away.”

Even a few Strip casinos can be lower cost options, depending on the time of year. Hotels in the middle of renovation might offer lower rates if you can stand a little construction. For example, the Quad (formerly known as Imperial Palace) is undergoing renovation with some nice changes already completed. A recent search found a five-night stay for $106 through an online site. But act quickly when you find a deal; this price doubled within a day (but still a nice deal). Another option is to book a hotel in conjunction with airfare. These bundling options offer considerable savings. When booking airfare, check out all air options and consider Monday or Tuesday flights to save. When in Vegas, use the commuter bus systems and free shuttles offered by many hotels to save on costly taxi rides.

For a budget vacation, the two best months for low rates are July and December. Weekdays will obviously offer better values than weekends. There are a plethora of budget stays in Las Vegas (Curtis's newsletter reported 59 casinos offering stays at $50 and under in June), and those can improve when casinos add on drink and food credits and other promotions.

Entertainment, dining

From magicians and circus acts to comedians and big-name singing acts, Vegas has something for everyone. But not everyone may be able to pay top-dollar for a top-notch show.

“Unless you want the highest-end shows, you should never pay retail,” Curtis said. “Use promo codes or go to the half-price ticket booths on the Strip. Look for afternoon shows and comedy clubs for lower base prices. The lounges still have lots of free entertainment, and you can check out things like the Bellagio fountains, the Treasure Island Pirate Show, and the Fremont Street Experience light show.”

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