Thursday, July 21, 2011

4 Ways to Save Money in Las Vegas

I realize that I'm talking a lot about Vegas on here lately, but I've just come back from a vacation, so who can blame me? It's fresh in my mind.

I've heard people describe Las Vegas as being a Disneyland for adults, and I think that's a pretty fair description. For a lot of people, Vegas is a place to go to indulge and to forget their troubles for a while. These indulgences come with a price tag, and not everyone will have the fortitude to say "no" when they've reached their limit. In a city in which a multitude of businesses that are made to extract money from adults are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it came be difficult to even recognize what that limit is.

In general, I'd say the most important rule in Las Vegas is to set limits for yourself and then stick to them. It's also a good idea to have somebody you're travelling with hold you accountable; it's a very easy thing, for example, to try to chase money that has been lost at the blackjack table. Whether that limit is a dollar amount that you won't lose more than if you gamble, a number of drinks that is too much, or whatever it may be, setting limits is important to maintain your financial, physical, and relational well-being.

Who's the buzz-killer? This guy, right here.

That said, here are a couple of ideas for ways to save money on your next trip to Sin City. Additionally, I'll add at the end of each point how much I estimate that I saved on my recent trip from each of these tips.

1) If you gamble, it's worthwhile to get a player's card: Player's cards are plastic cards, similar to credit cards, by which the casino can monitor how much you're spending. Generally, even by signing up for a card (the Harrah's company give you a fat book of coupons upon signing up for a card), a casino will start to send you promotional mail that can include anything from discounted or free rooms to coupons that can go towards food expenses, gambling, or show tickets. If you plan on making a subsequent trip to Vegas, free rooms especially take a big part of the cost of the trip out of the equation. Also, while you're gambling, your beverages are free.

Savings: $264 -- I got three free nights at the Orleans (@$80/night). This hotel also charges an $8/night service fee which was waived.

2) Take advantage of your hotel's coupons: Frequently, I've noticed, hotels will give out coupon books upon check-in. While these generally only offer reduced rates to amenities within the hotel itself, if there happens to be a restaurant that you'd like to eat at at the hotel or a service (such as a spa service), you may as well take the fifteen or twenty percent off.

Savings: ~$20 -- We got 15% off of two meals at TGI Fridays, free popcorn when we saw a movie, and a free candy apple for Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

3) Bring a cooler: My wife and I live in Southern California, and so it's only about a 5 hour drive to get to Las Vegas. If you are driving to Las Vegas (TSA frowns on bottles and cans coming through security checkpoints), it's not a bad idea to take an ice chest full of waters or sodas to drink on the ride as well as in the room at the hotel (vending machines aren't getting any cheaper; in fact, I actually saw a soda machine in Las Vegas this trip that has a place where you could swipe your credit/debit card!). For the more hard-core, you could also pack the fixings for a couple of meals, which would save more money.

Savings: $15 -- I am a thirsty person, and I was glad to have stuff to drink readily available in the room.

4) Don't pay full price for show tickets: As El Guapo might say, there are a plethora of pinatas stage shows available to see in Las Vegas. If you don't like to see shows, then certainly, stay away, and that's more money you'll save. However, every time my family goes to Vegas, we like to see at least one big show. This trip, we decided to go see the Blue Man Group (tickets for which, in the cheaper section we were looking at, go for $105). However, after some internet research from my mom, she found a coupon code through Ticketmaster that gave us 40% off, so each person's seats ended up only being $65. $65 is still a good chunk of change, but as going to a show was something we were planning on doing anyways, I was pretty happy to save that ~$40/person. Even if you aren't able to research online in advance, there are numerous "half-price" ticket selling booths around the city that sell discounted tickets on the day of the show (the rationale being that casinos are making no money for empty seats, so they may as well sell seats for cheaper through these distributors to make up part of the difference). My family actually saw a second show (a singing celebrity impersonator show called Legends) that we had a coupon good for two-for-one tickets, so we saved money we might have spent on that also.

Savings: $280 -- There were five of us who got the discounted Blue Man Group* tickets ($40 x 5), and there were four of us who went to see Legends, two of which got free tickets ($40 x 2).

Grand total trip savings: $579 -- This is pretty much all money that we would have spent if we didn't take advantage of the various items listed above. Sure, we could have saved more money had we not gone to shows at all (or even gone to Vegas for that matter), but it was a family trip, and it was great to spend time with my parents, my brother, and my wife.

What do you think? Is my math fuzzy? Can anybody really ever "save" money by taking a trip to Las Vegas? Let me know in the comments.

*Anybody else really miss "Arrested Development"? Ah, Tobias.

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