Las Vegas, The City of Lights, whatever you call it, you are likely aware that it has always been a highly desired destination for travelers across the globe, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In 2015 alone, over 42 million people visited Las Vegas (up from 35 million in 2003) making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of the United States. I’ll admit, Las Vegas has always been one of my favorite long weekend getaways, and I will be making my 13th trip this coming April. It’s most certainly the type of city you either love or hate. Over the years I have acquired a fair amount of knowledge about how to navigate the travel related ins and outs of the city such as when to go, where to stay, and how to save money while you’re there. Below, I have listed my favorite travel tips I feel everybody should know before their next trip to Sin City.
Plan Your Visit During Off Peak Times
Look at both hotel and flight pricing for a few different weekends before you lock into specific days. Because there are nearly 125,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas and an incredible amount of convention space, it’s the most popular destination in the world for large meetings and conventions of all types. When hotel room demand for events spikes, room (and flight) prices do as well. The last time I visited, the group I was traveling with looked at a few different dates. One of the weekends overlapped with a Physician convention that would bring 25,000 doctors to Las Vegas for the weekend. The hotel we were looking at was $250/night cheaper the weekend after the convention for the same room!
Thrifty Tip #1: Be flexible with your dates. Locking into dates before booking hotel rooms can prove to be expensive if there is a convention, boxing, or MMA event in town that weekend. When hotel room demand rises, so do room prices.
In general, you are likely able to find the best pricing for Las Vegas in July, August & early to mid December. Because Vegas is a desert, it is typically very hot in July & August which decreases demand. I have found this is a great time to visit. The heat has never been an issue with me as you are typically either in an air conditioned hotel or outside at one of the incredible pools. Winter Vegas trips are also great, but keep in mind that most of the pools will be closed. Keep an eye on Mr. TT’s flight deals as he frequently features Las Vegas deals. You can even book these with points!
Choose Your Accommodations Wisely: Earn and Redeem Points!
Historically, earning and redeeming loyalty points for stays on the Las Vegas strip was difficult to say the least. However, through partnerships, mergers & aquisitions, etc., this has become much easier in the past 5 years. There are three solid options for earning and redeeming loyalty points in Las Vegas (for stays on the strip) which I will outline below:
Hyatt & MGM: Back in 2013 Hyatt and MGM announced a partnership that is great for points & miles enthusiasts and Hyatt loyalists specifically. Through this partnership, World of Hyatt members earn points on every eligible dollar spent at the 12 participating MGM properties on the strip (such as the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Aria, etc.). Further, all stays with MGM count toward Hyatt status and members will be able to book award nights at MGM Las Vegas hotels with their Hyatt Points. Lastly, Hyatt status members will be matched to the corresponding MGM MLife tier. MLife status gets you special room rates, priority check-in lines, VIP line access to day and nightclubs among a host of other benefits.
Thrifty Tip #2: Opening the Chase Hyatt Credit Card earns you automatic Hyatt Discoverist status, which can be matched to MGM MLife Gold status.
Marriott/Starwood & The Cosmopolitan: This past fall, I touched on the completion of the Marriott & Starwood merger and some of the best sweet spots with the new partnership. One of my favorite new opportunities with this partnership as a Starwood loyalist is the ability to book stays at the Cosmopolitan with Marriott Rewards points. Redemptions can be found at 40,000 Marriott points (or 13,333 SPG points) per night. The Cosmo is an incredible property that can get very spendy if paying cash out of pocket. You will also earn Marriott Rewards points for your room rate and Cosmopolitan’s Identity points for everything else. You can later convert Identity points to Marriott Rewards. If you have a pile of either Marriott or SPG points (or both) this is a great option for Las Vegas stays.
IHG & The Venetian/Palazzo: If you have stayed at either the Venetian or its sister property the Palazzo you know how incredible they are. These properties are a part of the International Hotels Group (IHG) portfolio of hotels and can be booked with their points program. The going rate for a room at either property is typically 50,000 IHG points per night. However, IHG often runs flash sales in which you will be able to book rooms for 25,000 points per night for 24 hours or so. They typically do these in the fall/winter timeframe. Another great feature with this partnership comes with holding the IHG Rewards Credit Card. The card offers anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 bonus points for opening the card and also offers a free night at any of their properties worldwide each year. This free night can be redeemed at either the Venetian or the Palazzo. The card does have an annual fee of $49, but the free night award far outweighs this and is the reason I hold this card.
Always Try the $20 Trick At Check-In
If you are not familiar with the $20 trick, the concept is to fold some cash (typically $20) between your credit card and ID when handing it to the front desk agent who checks you in upon arrival. You kindly ask if they have any complimentary upgrades available. If they do, they will get a nice tip and you’ll get a nicer room which is often well below the normal rate. If they are not able to help you, they should give you your $20 back. This has worked for me in the past and has gotten me a much nicer room than I actually paid for. I have even heard stories of the front desk agent not being able to provide an upgrade, but offering to waive the daily resort fees which well outweighs the $20 tip. Agents in Vegas have a lot of flexibility to move guests around as they see fit, especially if there are a lot of rooms available. Kill them with kindness and you might be surprised!
Avoid Taking Cabs. Walk Or Use Ride Sharing Programs
Both Uber and Lyft are available in Las Vegas and offer a much quicker and cheaper way to commute from the airport to the strip (plus you get to avoid the dreaded LAS cab line). All of the hotel properties now have dedicated ridesharing pick up areas as well. I almost always try to walk in Vegas but sometimes it is unavoidable (nights in downtown Las Vegas). I always recommend staying at properties close to where you think you will spend most of your time. Transportation can get costly and quickly eat up a lot of your trip.
Use Tix4Tonight for Entertainment Purchases
Seeing shows in Vegas is one of my favorite things to do while I am there. However, most of them can put quite a dent in your pocketbook if you pay full price. Tix4Tonight.com is a great service that offers huge discounts on the day of the show tickets. They have booths all over the strip in which tickets can be purchased. If you are willing to wait in line for a hot minute, you can save yourself 50% to 60% off of the face value of many shows.
Play Penny Slots for Free Drinks
Drinking can be very expensive entertainment while in Las Vegas. However, it doesn’t have to be. While you are gambling, cocktails are free! Even if you are just playing the penny slots. Make sure to tip your waitress so she keeps coming back ($1 or $2 per drink) and you will save yourself a lot of cash.
Although Las Vegas is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, it is certainly not known for being cheap. It’s great to see many of the big hotel brands forming alliances with the properties on the strip from a points perspective. Follow these tips and you should be able to save some coin on your next trip to Las Vegas. Have any tips to save money while in Las Vegas that aren’t mentioned above? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.