by Andi B.

My Mister and I recently had a great trip to Las Vegas, for very little out of pocket. It was our Vegas vacation, tightwad style.
Flight: I had a leftover flight credit that was going to expire and combined that with an incredible Ding! fare from Southwest. Keep your dates flexible if possible. We saved $20 per person by flying out Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning. The total cost for two tightwads to fly roundtrip from Portland to Las Vegas? $250. Put the word out to others for those flight credits, too. They don’t do any good if they expire and you might be able to purchase them for pennies on the dollar.
Room: We took advantage of a deal that popped up on Travelzoo to stay at the Rio Hotel for the first two nights we stayed in Vegas at a whopping $35 a night. We stayed the remaining time as planned with family, but it’s important to make sure you have relaxing time and take a vacation…when you’re on vacation. After I found the deal it seemed to disappear, but I thought it had been valid through December. I googled “Rio Las Vegas $35 Hotel” and found the offer on another website. Don’t ever give up on a good deal.
Food: Rule #1 is no minibar, no room service. We ate at some of our favorite off-strip locations, like Kobe Sushi on Fort Apache and Flamingo, Memphis BBQ on Rainbow, but we missed our favorite blood orange mojitos from Firefly on Paradise. There are always comparable, if not better, restaurants off the strip as there are on. For French food try Marche Bacchus at Lakeside, and for fine American dining, try Rosemary’s on Sahara (They have a beer pairing for goodness sake!). One of the best meals I had this past trip was a sandwich at JJ’s at the Paris, though. It was a proscuitto and provolone sandwich on a giant baguette for around $10 that was exquisite and fed both my husband and myself. If you have to stay on the strip, many fine dining restaurants are offering “Prix Fixe” menus that allow excellent food at very reasonable prices.
Transportation: Originally, we planned on renting a car. The only deals we could find were for Friday through Monday, but we were staying Wednesday through Tuesday, so we planned on taking a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. The price ranges from free to $15. From that we were going to stay close to the strip and use free shuttles to get around between hotels. Our rental car company was going to pick us up and deliver us to a $10 a day rental car deal. At the end of our trip we were going to take a shuttle, cab, or bus back to the airport. My grandmother intervened with her spare car so we didn’t have to do any of it, but the point is…we had a plan.
Souvenirs: The great thing about Vegas is all the cheap souvenir places. We went to ABC stores and got very random souvenirs for everyone for around $2-4 per person, and that’s only because we were aiming for under $5 instead of under $1 (also doable). Try the Fremont Street Experience for great little shops with T-shirts, shot glasses, playing cards and more.
Shows: Try Tix 4 Tonight if you want to get a good price on a show, but these are last minute, day-of tickets, and you may not get the exact one you were hoping for. There’s also lots of free entertainment such as the Bellagio fountains, the Sirens at Treasure Island, the statues at Caesar’s. The best show is always people watching, though. You really never know what you’re going to see. Who knows? You might see a famous person drop cocaine out of a purse that isn’t theirs.
Gambling: I really get out of Vegas cheaply because I don’t gamble. Shock, gasp, awe, I know, but I don’t. The best way to gamble in Vegas is still with the house’s money. You can sometimes get a slot or table credit deal with your hotel room, or for signing up for the hotel’s rewards programs. This is how Vegas tracks its comps and can be your best friend or worst nightmare depending on how much you play. Just remember, consider any bet you place as a gift to the house, or payment for entertainment; plan on it evaporating.