Is Las Vegas Still A Budget Friendly Destination?
Coupons, Clubs, and Fun Funds
Want even more coupons and discounts? Join the complimentary player's club at every casino you visit. You'd have to gamble a small fortune before they'd comp you a suite but players' clubs are your ticket to deeply discounted casino meals and attractions.
Think the $200 Challenge excludes a gambling budget? Think again! The $200 Challenge prices listed below are pre-coupon prices. Every time you use a coupon, pocket that savings and re-direct it to your fun fund!
Budget Vegas Accommodations
While writing this post, I played around with different travel dates on a third party booker to check on hotel prices for the next 6 months. I found the Golden Gate and the Riviera Hotels for $18 a night, Arizona Charlies and the Stratosphere Hotels for $28 a night, and the Four Queens, Flamingo, and Excalibur Hotels for $32 a night. These hotels are all pretty basic, but they are certainly a step up from the usual campgrounds and hostels of other $200 Challenges! (Update from Vanessa: It's been about a year since we wrote this post, so we double checked on the prices and we're happy to report that they hold firm. You can easily get a 3 star hotel for around $30 a night and, with some stealthy searching, there are some that are available for around $20 a night).
Prices in Las Vegas rise considerably on the weekends and on holidays - a midweek stay is by far the best bargain. "Resort fees" - charged in the most un-resort like of places - can sometimes cost more than the room itself! Remember to consider the final cost of your stay, not simply the advertised room cost. (PS : Be sure to budget for tips. This is important at any location, be especially in service-driven Vegas)
Cost: Let's say for the sake of argument you can get one night at a real deal ($20 and no resort fee) and the second night is a bit more at $40 (including resort fee.) $60 TOTAL.
If you are very careful and a bit lucky, you might manage accommodations for $40.
If you're an early riser, getting up as the last gamblers and party animals are going to bed, you can take advantage of the late night/early morning specials at the off-strip casinos. Ellis Island offers scrambled eggs with biscuits, gravy, and choice of meat for $4.
Tiffany's: Little more than a counter in an old pharmacy, this 24 hour diner is one of my favourite places to eat in the city. (Note: It's now rebranded as Vicki's) 3 eggs with home fries and toast is $5.40, while a pork chop, eggs, potatoes, and toast will set you back just $7.50
Einstein Bros Bagels: There's nothing like proper carbs in the morning and over a dozen bagel varieties will make you very, very happy. (Onion bagel with jalapeno cream cheese would be my first pick!) Only a few dollars a pop!
COST: If you average about $8 per person, per day for breakfast, the cost is: $32.
If you are very careful, you could manage breakfast for $16.
Lotus of Siam: In a east end strip mall sits a restaurant that Gourmet Magazine declared the best Thai food in North America. You would be crazy not to go for the $10 lunch buffet and it would make the idea location to return for dinner with a group of friends in tow so you can order endless dishes to share and swap.
Main Street Station Garden Court Buffet: Packed with locals, several of whom heartily recommended the homemade garlic bread to me, Main Street has wood oven pizzas, homemade salsa, rotisserie chicken, and a great carving station -and it's all for $8 per person. Frommer's guidebook calls this one of the best buffets in town and it's one of our favourite value picks as well.
Costs: If you average $10 per person, per day, the cost is $40.
If you were very careful (and willing to share with your partner!) you could manage lunch for $30.
Cheap dinner specials abound at the off-strip casinos, offering late night patrons cut-rate prices and hearty portions (search for 'dining bargains' at Vegas.com to learn more). At Ellis Island, you can enjoy half a BBQ chicken with beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and garlic bread for about $9. At Du-Par's, Ryan had a massive portion of chicken fried steak with all the fixings for about $10 and he's still raving about it months later!
Las Vegas Hilton Buffet: Come evening, the price of buffets rises sharply compared to the lunch time offerings. The Hilton Buffet wins the value war by offering complimentary draft beer and California wine and great desserts. (Why are homemade desserts such a rarity on the Vegas buffet scene?) Military members save an additional 25% off the $22 per person price.
Cost: If you average $14 per person, per day, the cost is $56.
If you were very careful (and really loved diners), you could manage dinner for $40.
I think the $200 Challenge would be an ideal scenario for someone who is visiting Vegas for work, a conference, or a wedding and wants to extend their trip, spend more time exploring the city, and wants to do it all at minimal cost. While I'm thrilled to demonstrate that a fun filled, delicious, comfortable trip to Vegas needn't break the bank, I have to admit that the $200 Challenge lifestyle is hard to sustain for more than 2 days or so. By day 3, I'd be ready to slightly increase my budget and enjoy some of Vegas' most special attractions, including a few great meals, a show, and maybe a bit of gambling or shopping.
Believe it or not, there is a community of Vegas bargain hunters who would consider the $200 Challenge to be an extravagance. They stay in the cheapest of the cheap motels, bed bugs be damned, know about every single $2.99 diner special in town, and can easily spend a weekend in Vegas for under $100. I applaud their ingenuity (and their resistance to scurvy) but I prefer to focus on value, not cheapness.
I'd love to hear from you! What's your favourite Las Vegas restaurant deal? What's the lowest price you've paid for a hotel room?
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