Las Vegas is often referred to as “Lost Wages” for a reason: Most who visit to win big often lose bigger. Despite Vegas’ keen ability to empty its visitor’s wallets, the former pioneer trail town and current self-proclaimed Entertainment Capital of the World can be an affordable weekend getaway destination if you play your cards right.
My one-stop, Continental flight from Boston was $270 RT, and JetBlue and other carriers fly non-stop for under $500 RT. Stopping on your way to Vegas can be fine, but having to switch planes on your way back after a long red-eye can induce suffering for obvious reasons – plan accordingly.
Vegas hotels can be very cheap, especially if you travel during the work week. I booked my room at the MGM Grand through Expedia, which cost just over $600 for four nights -though my Saturday night rate was much higher than all other nights. If you don’t mind more casual accommodations, you can find a hotel (Tropicana, Sahara, etc.) at a less-ideal location from $25-60 each night. Rest assured that you won’t spend much time in your room anyway.
The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is located very close to the airport (less than five minutes in a cab) and is home to everything you expect to find in Vegas; a massive casino, fine dining establishments, nightclubs and a revolving string of performance art, concerts, and the best in show.
After taking a moment to process everything and unpack, we headed down to the casino floor to explore. I’m not much of a gambler, but did enjoy the few slot games I played and the huge Sportsbook near the back of the casino.
Next we escaped to the MGM pool to catch some sun. Wet Republic, the MGM’s poolside club, had a huge line, but there were plenty of other pools with space to lay out. Cocktail waitresses, masseuses and a decent soundtrack helped us relax under the burning hot sun.
After a few hours by the pool we decided to head back inside for some drinks and dinner. We stopped at one of the many concession areas to grab two frozen margaritas, which were huge (32 oz.), but cost $20 each after tip. If you want to drink cheaply in Vegas, buy from the ABC store and other convenience stores, or catch a happy hour like the super cheap noon-7p.m. offering at Diablo’s Cantina near the Monte Carlo.
For dinner, we chose Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill at the MGM. I tried the ricotta gnocchi with sweet fennel-sausage Bolognese and my girlfriend had the organic chicken with Yukon gold potato puree and sautéed mushrooms; we both loved every bite. Dinner entrees at Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill range from $28 to $38.
We had already purchased tickets to Carrot Top after reading rave (albeit surprisingly rave) reviews, but wanted to check out at least one more show while in town. We came across numerous half-price day-of-show ticket sale centers, and instantly noticed that Carrot Top tickets were selling for half of what we’d paid on Ticketmaster.
Half-price outlets can be cheap, but know that you’re actually purchasing a voucher, and you’ll have to bring it to the venue box office to redeem your actual assigned seats. To avoid being gouged for Vegas show tickets, call the box office and see what’s available before you hop in line to purchase tickets that may or may not be half-off.
For more Sin City travel tips, check out our Las Vegas travel guide.