A Frugal First-Timer’s Guide to Vegas

Blog | September 9th, 2013

A Frugal First-Timer’s Guide to Vegas

Kelly Kehoe is a staff writer for Money Street Smart and works with, a site full coupons and coupon codes. 

It’s often said that “What happens in Vegas, stays in
Vegas,” but that’s no excuse to let the tantalizing hint of a good time obliterate
your wallet while you’re there. If you’ve never been to Vegas before or you
simply want to explore the Strip without dropping hundreds or thousands of
dollars on your vacation, then check out the following tips for combining fun
and frugality in Sin City:

Getting There

First things first: how are you getting to Las Vegas? If
you’re flying there, try to plan your Vegas vacation around the city’s low
season (usually summer months) in order to get the best airfare (and hotel room
rates). If you’re driving, be sure to fill up on gas before you get to the
Strip (though prices at gas stations on the Strip are still cheaper than what
you’d see in California).

Where to Stay

Frugal travelers should probably avoid the $100+/night
hotels like the Venetian, the Cosmopolitan, Encore, and the Bellagio, but there
are plenty of cheaper alternatives that are still located on the Strip.
has a great list of Vegas hotels and their pricing to help you get started.

Getting Around

Pack some walking shoes for your trip to Vegas because
walking up and down the Strip—especially at night—is one of the best ways to
explore what Vegas has to offer. If walking isn’t your cup of tea, an
alternative is to get around on the Las Vegas monorails (a one-day pass is normally $12 but is currently offered at a 10%
discount: $10.80). There are also taxis galore, but these aren’t the best
options for frugal travelers. For those who are fortunate to have their own car
while in Vegas, parking is free at most hotels (you should tip the valet
drivers, however).


There are plenty of cheap eats around Vegas (even on the
Strip!), and the hotel you’re staying at will probably throw in a free buffet
pass or two for you to use during your stay. has an extensive list of
dining bargains and deals, but even if you’re trying to be frugal, there’s no harm in a
one-time splurge on a buffet at one of the pricier hotels. Many buffets offer
discounted pricing for lunch hours, so consider eating a big meal earlier in
the day and have a snack or light meal in the evening.


There are always drink specials in Vegas, particularly on
the Strip. Happy Hours tend to occur between 3-6pm (cheap beer, half priced
cocktails, etc.—it depends on the bar) and 2-for-1 deals are not uncommon. Like
the buffet we discussed previously, it’s okay to splurge a little here and
there on drinks and don’t be stingy with tips for the bartenders, either.


Clubs tend to have lower cover charges for the ladies, though
you can still have a good time by going to a club off-Strip and pregaming
beforehand. This is Vegas however, and if you’re into the nightlife scene then don’t
let costs stop you from having a memorable night out at the clubs and bars with
your friends (try to avoid recreating The
, though).

Tourist Attractions

There is so much to do in Las Vegas that you’re unlikely to
see everything in the span of a weekend, but if you want to hit up the biggest
attractions while you’re there, either find coupons online or ask for discounts (AAA, military, Nevada or California
resident, etc.) while you’re there. If you’re not sure where to start, check out
these fun attractions without paying full price:

  • New York New York
    Roller Coaster:
    New York New York’s website says the roller coaster is $14 per ride, but there
    are 2-for-1 coupons online (that aren’t just limited to local residents,
    either). Note: there is a sign at the ride that says you
    must print out coupons, not just show a digital version on your
  • The Eiffel Tower
    Paris-Las Vegas offers visitors the chance to visit the
    observatory deck on the Eiffel Tower outside of the hotel. To access the
    breathtaking views of the Strip and Bellagio fountains, you could pay as much
    as $16.50 for an adult’s admission in the evening ($22.50 if you want to bypass
    all the lines). To save money, consider going between 9:30am – 7:15pm, when
    you’ll pay the “daytime prices” of $11.50 for adults and $7.50 for children or
    seniors. Sometimes 2-for-1 coupons emerge online, and there are also discounts
    for families.
  • Pools: If you
    visit Vegas during the warmer months, you’re probably going to want to visit a
    pool. Hotels offer free entry to guests staying with them, but you don’t have
    to limit yourself to your hotel’s pool!
    Vegas Advisor
    has a great list of Vegas pools open to the public, including details such as pool hours, cover
    charges (if any; usually cheaper for women), pool events, contact information,
    and more.
    Tip: You may want to call
    in advance and find out if the pool offers discounts to guests at the hotel
    you’re staying at. For example, I recently stayed at Circus Circus and got free
    admission to the Monte Carlo’s pool, which normally has a $10 cover charge.
  • Free Attractions: Don’t
    forget to partake in the many free attractions offered around Vegas, such as:the spectacular
    Bellagio fountains, the volcano at the Mirage (don’t forget the Atrium and the Aquarium, too!), the Sirens of TI
    show outside of Treasure Island, the
    Fall of Atlantis at Caesar’s Palace, the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, and more.


If you want to be truly frugal, then either avoid gambling
altogether or stay at the penny or quarter slots. However, gambling is one of
the most popular activities in Vegas so if you’re there to gamble, just
remember to set a limit for yourself and don’t go past it no matter what.

Final Word

Vacationing in Las Vegas can certainly be fun without being
too extravagant. By following the tips above, you could have a blast in Vegas
without destroying your finances in the process.