Las Vegas is a chameleon in lights, assuming a new identity with each new attraction. If you're going to consort with Lady Luck, need a place to stay and want to try a Vegas buffet while in Sin City, choose a casino loyalty program that will let you reap some rewards. Meanwhile, secure those show tickets early, and plan a trip you'll never forget.
Check out these 6 GET.com tips for more Las Vegas fun:
Finding Cheap Flights
In 2015, more than 42 million visitors descended upon the City of Lights, so it's little wonder that more than 2 dozen airlines serve McCarran International, budget airlines Southwest and Allegiant among them. Southwest has direct flights from many hub cities while all of Allegiant's flights are nonstop. We wanted to see how they measured up for mid-week, Wednesday basic economy round-trip fares to Vegas.
From Florida: Southwest's nonstop Wanna Get Away fare out of Orlando International totaled $409 and had easy morning takeoff times for both legs of the trip; Anytime fares ran about $1,250, and Business Select averaged around $1,300. Although Allegiant flies to both locations, the airline doesn't connect the 2. However, Southwest's fare was a keeper, as the best nonstop fare we could find on Kayak started at $480 on Frontier. Otherwise, our next-cheapest deal was a $271 American fare; it had one 4½-hour layover going and 5 hours returning, stretching a 5-hour trip to 11.
From Washington state: Spinning 180 degrees, Allegiant flew out of Bellingham while Southwest had direct flights out of Seattle. Checking Allegiant first, we could choose flights from $57 to $103 each way. We stuck to our Wednesdays, bringing our total under $200 with fees. In comparison, Southwest had nonstop Wanna Get Away fares out of Seattle for as little as $199 if you could tolerate one red-eye; otherwise, the next nonstop fare was just $28 more. Anytime fares averaged about $700 while choosing Business Select increased fares to $800. Comparing, a nonstop fare on Spirit Airlines totaled $137. The next-best was a $176 fare on Delta with inconvenient takeoff times. Interestingly, our Allegiant Bellingham fare was on Kayak for just $144.
From the northeast: Delta Airlines had our winning fares, coming in at $341 out of LaGuardia while Southwest tailed with $384 for a Wanna Get Away fare out of Newark; a Southwest Anytime fare ran $1,245 while Business Select was nearly $1,300. However, on American, only one flight was nonstop, and basic economy wasn't an option. Still, we managed our trip for $360 on a main cabin ticket versus a Delta Comfort fare that averaged $500 to $600 or a first-class fare of $900 to $1,000. Unfortunately, although Allegiant flies in the northeast and offers flights to Las Vegas out of many cities in the West, South and Middle America, the airline isn't an option for northeastern flights to Vegas.
The miles you earn with your travel credit card are an obvious saver, but also check into whether your credit card gives you free travel insurance, and what coverage you actually get. Get more ideas in our full guide to finding cheap flights.
Finding Cheap Hotels
Las Vegas is a TINSTAAFL city – "There's no such thing as a free lunch" – or breakfast. When we searched for a room for 2 and filtered for free breakfast, nearly all the little dots on our map winked out. Abandoning breakfast and asking for free Wi-Fi restored a few, but many facilities add it into a daily resort fee surcharge, so check listed amenities carefully.
For luxe-bugs, we tracked down a $258 room at the 5-star Bellagio for $232 on Expedia; it slept 4, but bed types depended on "availability at check-in." A king room was regularly $278 but marketed at $250; with $250 in resort fees, a week totaled $2,210.
If you want to stay in a casino hotel, Planet Hollywood had deals starting at $120, Paris $122, Monte Carlo and Treasure Island $136, New York New York $141, Excalibur $157, the Luxor $165 and many others upward from there. Most offered 1 king or 2 queen beds, but count on additional surcharges and fees, with self-parking the only freebie.
For a hotel sans casino, the Hampton Inn Tropicana on Dean Martin Drive had a king room for $117. It included a hot breakfast buffet, Wi-Fi, free airport and casino shuttles, free self-parking and other amenities like a fitness center and waterfall pool.
The Orleans Hotel and Casino, also west of the Strip, caught our eye with a king or 2-queen room "with view" for $77 a night, $844 a week. Wi-Fi was $10 a night, and refrigerators were $15 per stay. Self-parking and "area shuttle" were included, but only 2 rooms were available at that price, and the next "deal" started at $250 a night.
If you're interested in Nevada's natural beauty, you may want to search private rentals on Airbnb. While properties on the Strip are expensive, we found quality 2-bedroom, 2-bath properties toward Paradise that ran $200 a night. Not bad when you consider you'll have your own kitchen and laundry.
Navigating hotels and casinos while finding food you want to eat can be tricky, but we found some good food for good prices:
- On the Strip, in Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Earl of Sandwich "gives new meaning to the term wrap royalty" and also serves up hot sandwiches, soups, salads and sweets, including breakfast fare.
- On South Las Vegas Boulevard, East Charleston Boulevard and Losee Road, Tacos El Gordo serves "the best tacos in the U.S." Count on "handmade corn tortillas, top grade meats and the freshest ingredients."
- For a third Strip restaurant, try Viva Las Arepas. Their Venezuelan cuisine includes handcrafted arepas, wood-fired and shredded meats, black beans and rice, plantains, pastelitos and more.
- Capriotti's Sandwich Shop has numerous Vegas Locations. A national chain, it's inexpensive, and quality is consistent, regardless of whether you order a veggie cheese steak, Slaw Be Joe, homemade ham sandwich or Black & Bleu Cap's Salad.
- The Habit Burger Grill takes honors as having the "Best Tasting Burger in America." On Hughes Center Drive, the Grill serves its charburger variations, pastrami sandwiches, chicken clubs, Caesar salads, and shakes and malts.- Nearby, Pieology is an artisan pizzeria dedicated to "the study of custom pizza." You can choose your favorite combination, certain that you'll have your order within 5 minutes. Try a Mad To Meat You, Smokin' Buffalo Chicken or Classic Margherita; they have salads, too, as well as another location in Summerlin.
- Mr. Mamas Breakfast and Lunch on South Jones Boulevard serves traditional American breakfast, brunch and lunch. Scratch-made pancakes, 4-egg omelets, breakfast wraps and biscuit gravy are just the start. With 17 different burgers, 8 different entrée salads and at least 20 different sandwiches, Mr. Mamas will hold you until dinner.
Using a restaurant credit card and taking advantage of coupons are 2 sensible ways to get more good food for less dollars.
In Vegas, you have 2 options for admissions to multiple attractions and one for meals:
- A Las Vegas Power Pass for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days grants admission to participating attractions and tours. Costs range from $85 per adult and $55 per child for 1 day to $212 per adult and $147 per child for 5 days.
- Smart Destinations also offers a Go Las Vegas Card. Choose 3 or 5 participating destinations for an Explorer Pass that allows up to a 55-percent discount; 3 attractions cost $75 per adult and $65 per child, and 5 cost $109 per adult and $99 per child. You can also build your own pass for up to a 30-percent discount.
- Covering breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Las Vegas MealTicket is valid only at the participating locations for 1- to 5-day durations. Costs range from $55 for 1 day to $220 for 5 days.
- Don't neglect to check Groupon online or those touristy brochures like VEGAS2GO. Sin City wants your business and issues the coupons, discounts and freebies to prove it.
Free Things To Do
Casinos, hotels and showmanship have long been Vegas' lifeblood, but don't miss out on freebies. Check websites for display and performance times:
- The Bellagio. Enjoy the Fountains of Bellagio, or walk the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden in the Arcadia. Check out the hotel lobby's handblown glass ceiling, the largest glass sculpture ever made.
- The Venetian. Tour St. Mark's Square, "faithfully re-created in every detail," while gondoliers float past or street performers entertain. Look up in the Colonnade to wonder at the Venetian frescoes, or visit the Palazzo's lobby waterfall.
- The Mirage. Winds permitting, the Mirage Volcano erupts nightly in explosions and fireballs choreographed to "driving music."
- Caesar's Palace. Inside Caesar's Forum, appreciate Italian architecture, the huge aquarium, and theFall of Atlantis and Festival Fountain shows.
- Wynn Las Vegas. Enjoy 4,000 lights, music, puppetry, holography and a 40-foot waterfall at the Lake of Dreams show.
- The Flamingo. Visit the oldest resort and its free 15-acre wildlife habitat full of streams, waterfalls, exotic foliage, Chilean flamingos and other assorted residents.
- Sam's Town. Each day, the Sunset Stampede Laser Light and Water Show washes the 10-story spaces of Mystic Falls Park in light, sound, music and water.
- Golden Nugget. For curiosities, visit the lobby to see the 61-pound gold nugget, purportedly the largest ever found by a metal detector.
- The Silverton. Gape at the 117,000-gallon reef aquarium complete with more than 4,000 species of fish and performing professional mermaids.
- Circus Circus. Circus acts perform daily at 11 a.m. on the Carnival Midway center stage; while the show is free, the Midway games and associated theme park are not.
- Town Square Park. The adjacent Children's Park has a tree house, hedge maze and pop-jet fountain as well as performance stages, toys and play features.
- Fremont Street Experience. Spend 6 minutes in awe of the light spectacular set to music on a huge Viva Vision screen canopy suspended 90 feet above you.
If you need to escape the lights, noise and press of the city, don't forget Red Rock Canyon to the northwest or the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead areas to the east. Hike, bike or boat to burn some calories and enjoy Nevada's natural beauty.
While listed as a free attraction associated with the New York New York casino, Hershey's World is a 13,000-square-foot, 2-story retail space with a bake shop to boot. Candy and merchandise are everywhere, and the location can be terribly crowded. M&M's World is twice the size, offering 28,000 square feet in which you can purchase merchandise, design and print custom M&M's, and "create a moment of joy." However, almost all of it is readily available at any discount or grocery store or online.
Along the same lines, before you pay for buffet breakfasts, brunches, lunches or dinners, consider whether you'll eat your worth in even half of what they cost and if you do, how you'll feel afterward. Breakfasts typically start around $20, brunches $30 to $50, lunches $25 to $40 and dinners $25 to $60. If you must indulge, check online reviews to be sure you'll enjoy paying as much as the casino or hotel will enjoy collecting.