Going to Vegas on the Cheap

I just did a trip to Vegas for $250. I didn’t go to any time share meetings and didn’t stay with anyone’s family. I didn’t drive there and I didn’t sleep under a bridge. I flew there, watched two great shows and stayed in an amazing hotel. Let me tell you how I did it.

I’m a travel addict. I somehow have managed to squeeze in trips in whenever there’s a lull in my schedule. Even if it’s a quick trip to Austin or San Antonio from my home town of Houston, I’ll take to the highway for dinner on the Riverwalk or to watch the bats fly off under the Congress bridge for their nightly feeding. I’ve stayed everywhere and done everything to the point that traveling to these places has started to feel a little like being at home. Being at home is not what I’m looking for, unless of course, I’m at home.

Two weeks ago I took a 48 hour trip to Vegas. It didn’t cost very much more than a San Antonio trip and it took about the same amount of time to get there. When I mentioned that I was going to Vegas for just 2 days many of my friends were surprised. I suppose that a lot of people look at Vegas as a “real vacation” or a place to get married really quickly. They know they’re going to spend a lot of money there, so they just mentally prepare themselves and go with pockets wide open. The truth is, if you’re a little flexible, you can take a quick getaway to Vegas for not a lot more time or money than a road trip to San Antonio.

Spirit Airlines is not exactly world renowned for it’s luxury flights. What Spirit does have going on, is extremely cheap tickets, often even at the last minute. If you join the Spirit Club you get even more discounts on your luggage and  the actual cost of the flight. So, less than one week before I decided to make a trip to Sin City, I found prices as low as $75 each way. I will tell you that the cheapest flight times do not necessarily go great with a good night’s sleep, but then again when was the last time you had a good night’s sleep in Vegas? So, I booked the earliest flight on Sunday which got me in when the town was just starting to wake up.

So, now you know how I spent $150 of my Vegas money. I gambled it. I gambled it on Spirit Airlines. This 2 day trip had me arriving early in the morning and leaving late late the next night. That gave me a full 2 days to experience Vegas and I only had to book a hotel for one night. Hotels can be pricy on a Friday and Saturday night in Vegas, but if you opt for a different night, you can save a lot of money. I use www.hotels.com to compare hotels, but I never needed to do that for this trip. I found the Palm Casino Hotel for $39 on travelzoo.com. This is the hotel that movie stars are reported to frequent regularly and is known for it’s night clubs and restaurants. It’s a great hotel and it was only $39 for a Sunday night stay. I waded through all the upgrades and booked it.

The major expense of almost any destination is lodging and transportation. Las Vegas is an exception since most people spend a LOT more on gambling. If you can have a little self control, you can still have fun and not spend a fortune. One of my favorite haunts is Fremont street. There’s a lot of Free in Fremont. It’s a hodge podge collection of roving street performers, spray can artists,elderly Elvii and saxophone players. The Fremont Street Experience is the big draw and only takes place after dark.It is something that has to be seen to be believed. A giant screen that takes up at least 2 or 3 blocks shows great original videos overhead paired with great music. You can grab a drink at an outside bar and walk down the street with it while you watch the show. If you always wanted to go zip-lining and you just never found yourself in a rainforest, don’t despair. There’s lines stretched across that will put you in flight above the crowds on Fremont. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, the casinos are lined up with all kinds of food deals from 99 cent shrimp cocktails to $9 ribs. The second coolest thing about Fremont is that you can just dodge in and out of the casinos on the street. When you go to Mandalay Bay or another strip casino, there’s a commitment. You’ve got to park and walk at least ten minutes just to get to a blackjack table. Not so at Freemont. The doors are open, the drinks are flowing and it’s easy to duck outside of one casino into the next.

No trip to Vegas would be complete without seeing at least one of the world class shows. I signed up for 2; Beatles Love and Zombie Burlesque.  I had seen the Cirque show  when it first opened but I came across a great deal on Groupon if I would attend the show on  a Sunday. I had never heard of Zombie Burlesque, but it had garnered great reviews, had 2 things that I love (listed in the title), and it was half price with a Groupon. Most people don’t think about using Groupons in other cities, but it’s very easy to pull up the site, plug in a city and see what kind of things you’ve been missing out on. I’ve flown in helicopters over the strip, shot fully automatic machine guns, and got to dig giant holes and throw giant truck tires around next to the strip on an excavator at “Dig This” from Groupon Las Vegas. I might mention that none of those activities ever even occurred to me before I saw the coupon, yet it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had there. You can also find great deals on shows at half price tickets next to the giant M&Ms on the strip.

So, there you have it. $150 for R/T air, $25 for a zombie show, $60 for a Cirque show, $39 for the Palm Casino and it just cost a little over $250. What a great vacation! During the day I had free drinks in various casinos, visited a candy factory and even did a little outing to Red Canyon. There’s lots of free things to do in Vegas for those who don’t mind a little walking. Bellagio has an amazing water effects show, Treasure Island has a pirate wench stunt show, The Forum features a weird Zeus statue robot show, and you can watch the volcano at Mirage.  Just wandering around the new hotels like Aria is amazing, having a drink in the Eiffel tower, staring at living statues at the Venetian, or watching the flamingoes at ….what’s the name of that casino….(oh, yeah, the Flamingo) can be a fun leisurely afternoon.

Finally, there’s always great hidden deals waiting to be found if you do a little research. Go to Lucky’s Hard Rock Casino and order the 777. For $7.77 you get a surprisingly good steak and shrimp dinner that doesn’t exist on the menu. Order it with a 7&7. Maybe not. That might be too many sevens. Go to In and Out burger and get your burger “animal style”. The locals do. You may not see these  items on any menu, but they’re easy to find on the web with a little effort and then you’ll feel like a Vegas expert with your new found knowledge.

So next time you want a quick getaway and you’ve grown tired of San Antonio mariachis and funky Austin watering holes, give Vegas a shot. It’s only 3 hours from Houston. You might even run into Cris Angel.

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