Tips for a Fabulous Budget Las Vegas Trip

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From sharks to martinis to concerts, these tips will help you get the most bang for your buck in Las Vegas.

A trip to Sin City doesn’t have to end with a visit to “Pawn Stars” to aquire money for a ticket home. There are many free and cheap things to do in Las Vegas — some family-friendly, others not so much.

You don’t have to partake of the 99-cent buffet to get your money’s worth. If you play your cards right, Vegas can be done swanky on the cheap.

Leaving (for) Las Vegas

Like all destinations, getting the best deal to Sin City involves going off-season and during the week.

Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air offer sweet deals. But be careful with the hidden fees. Many of the budget airlines charge for not only carry-ons but also your seat selection.

The plus with Allegiant is that it has nonstop flights from smaller airports. But you have to be flexible because they fly limited days and times.

Swimming with sharks

Look for hotels with amazing pools.

Golden Nugget has a shark tank in the middle of its pool complex. A three-story water slide glides you straight through the tank — but don’t worry; there is no chance of getting bit. The pool is free for hotel guests but $20 a person if you’re not staying there.

Mandalay Bay boasts an honest to goodness beach. You could easily spend all day at the wave pool with a lazy river and 2,700 tons of real sand.

All you can eat

If you plan on indulging in a few buffets during your stay, the Buffet of Buffets 24-hour pass is a great option. This gives you access to six different buffets and you can visit as many times as you want. The clock starts at your first visit, so you can easily get breakfast, lunch, dinner and breakfast with one pass. The cost starts at $49.99 for one day and varies with holidays and weekends. It includes the famous Carnival World Buffet at Rio.

My pick of the six is Le Village Buffet at Paris. The made-to-order crepes alone are worth the price. Add to that the all-you-can-drink mimosas for $10 and it’s my own personal heaven.

Happiest hours

Indulging in vittles and cocktails created by celebrity chefs doesn’t have to break the bank. Happy hours are a great way to get a deal. Here are two of my picks:

  • Table 10 by Emeril Lagasse has one of my favorite martinis on earth. The Sand Dollar is a delectable mix of Sammy Hagar’s Beach Bar Rum, elderflower liquer, orgeat syrup and fresh lemon juice. And even better it’s only $7 from 3 to 6 p.m. daily.
  • American Fish at Aria has another fabulous happy hour. The Michael Mina establishment runs its deals from 5 to 7 p.m. daily. It is a great opportunity to munch on lobster rolls and truffled mac and cheese for only $5 a plate Get a few and you won’t even need dinner. Upping the ante is their drink creations for $7. Award-winning bartenders pick their choice each day alongside staples such as Manhattans and Moscow mules.

BYO, brown bag optional

It is legal to sip a cocktail or beer while strolling the Strip. Save money by mixing your own. Visit a store off the Strip to pick up your adult beverages so you don’t get price gouged. Las Vegas Advisor says casinos don’t mind if you bring your own, but bars and clubs do.

Freebie sightseeing

Bellagio offers two wonderful sights. The outdoor water fountains, which dance along to an array of music, shoot higher than a 24-story building. The breathtaking show begins every 15 minutes every night. Inside the hotel, the conservatory never disappoints. The displays change each season. Right now, it’s a lush floral exhibition featuring oversized sunflowers, colorful kites and live birds. offers tips on many more free adventures.

“Free”mont Street Experience

Visit Downtown Vegas for a bit of old-school feel mixed with the latest technology. While Vegas Vic doesn’t greet passersby with his “Howdy Podner” anymore, fans of the retro will enjoy the cool old neon signs being restored.

Then when the sun goes down, the street comes alive with lights — 12.5 million of them, to be exact. The Fremont Street Experience is a mix of a twinkling display with a booming sound system. Every hour the downtown blocks are overtaken with tributes to acts like Bon Jovi and Queen.

If live bands are more your bag, the Rock of Vegas Summer Concert Series might be for you. On weekends through the end of August, rock bands such as Everclear and Presidents of the United States of America are playing for free.

Pay to play

If you have your heart set on a restaurant or enjoyed that happy hour so much you want dinner, check Tix 4 Tonight locations throughout the Strip and Fremont Street. You can get deals for places like Table 10, Brazilian steakhouses and buffets. The options vary each day depending on what’s available.

Show tickets are here too. I’ve gotten killer deals on The Beatles LOVE, Penn & Teller and Absinthe through these booths.

There’s usually a line, but it’s definitely worth it.

Stacy Johnson

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