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What happens in Vegas doesn’t have to leave you broke

February 6, 2012

I'm not sure if that is my brother or not.

I was looking up at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas watching as a small screaming dot fall off the top. As it got closer to the ground, I realized they were screams of joy coming from my younger brother, Ben.

Ben and I had a great time in Vegas, although he was solo in his 885-foot plunge off the Stratosphere’s newest thrill ride, the Sky Jump. I love the energy in Vegas, which amazes me in terms of its size and the amount of money that circulates through the town. People from all over the world bring their money and spend it gambling, watching shows, partaking in food and drink, and in a variety of other gluttonous ways.

It can be easy to spend a lot of money in a hurry, but there are ways you can save money while in Vegas (you didn’t think I would write about going to Vegas if I didn’t have some penny-pinching tips, did you?)

The first key is to decide what you want your Vegas experience to be. There are a hundred of things to do and it is important to decide what you really want to do while there. You might be interested in seeing shows, eating well, pampering yourself in a spa, relaxing by a pool, or losing your money gambling.

There are a lot of deals, but if you want the best, sometimes you need to pay a little more. You can see a cheap show, but it will not compare to a Cirque du Soleil show. You can find a cheap hotdog and beer, but it won’t be the same dining experience as eating at one of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants. When you decide what you want, you can allocate your vacation money to spend it on what you’ll enjoy the most.

When traveling to Las Vegas, keep an eye on airline prices. I use a website such as Orbitz.com to see a range of prices, and then go to the individual airlines to see what deals they offer. If you are flexible in your dates, sometimes you can find special flights for cheaper prices. I’ve yet to fly on it, but Allegiant Air flies out of Ft. Collins to Las Vegas. At times right now you can fly midweek for just more than $100 roundtrip, which includes taxes and fees.

We were traveling over the weekend and couldn’t fly on Allegiant, but we were able to fly out of Denver on Southwest for $150 roundtrip. We departed really early on a Friday morning and flew back on a late Monday night flight, so it really gave us four full days to be in Las Vegas. We followed airline prices for about a week and prices did go down about $20 from one day to the next. Usually, the earlier you can buy and shopping for a ticket between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning will give you the best prices.

When you arrive in Las Vegas, depending on where you are staying, there are a variety of options to get from the airport to the hotel. It may appear that shuttles will be your best option, but if you have at least two or more in your group, it is as cheap or cheaper, as well as quicker, to take a cab. If you have a large crew traveling together you can get a limo together from the airport for about the same price per person as you can take the shuttle.

Las Vegas has around 150,000 hotel rooms. There are a wide variety of options from some of the best rooms in the world to some of the worst, with all price points. I would recommend staying on the strip. You can find cheaper options downtown or off the strip, but most of the action is going to happen on the strip and what you save in a hotel room, you might spend time and money in transportation to the strip.

If you don’t mind e-mail and direct mail marketing, sign up for all the player’s cards you can that the casinos offer. The casinos use these cards to keep track of how much you gamble. Even if you don’t gamble, many casinos offer bonuses and discounts at the hotels and restaurants in the casinos.

I definitely am not a high-roller, but I had a Total Rewards casino playing card that can be used at eight different strip casinos. By using it, Ben and I were able to stay at Bally’s in the middle of the strip for an average of $70/night. The rate was around $110/night without the card.

The last time I went to Vegas with my dad, we got our rooms for free at Bally’s because we stayed midweek. Ever since the recession, business has been down in Las Vegas and the major casinos offer good details to attract people to stay, play, and spend in their casinos.

Sometimes transportation and lodging can be your two biggest expenses on a trip to Las Vegas, so if you can save significantly on this part, you have more to spend on what you really want. Next week, I’ll give you some tips on how to save money once you are there. If you have some Vegas travel tips, let me know at andrewlong@fastmail.fm and I’ll pass on the best to my readers.

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