How To Las Vegas Budget in Style

It’s absolutely impossible to believe, but somehow Dan and I managed to take our first trip away from the kids in 24 years!  Planning for Vegas was easy, leaving home was not … at all.  Dan, as per usual, did all the budgeting and it was very very critical that we do Vegas affordably.  A Vegas Budget was immediately put into place.  We specified exactly how much money we would spend gambling, and when we ran out, we ran out!  Surprisingly a Vegas Budget is pretty easy to adhere to, if you put a little research into it and know what to expect.

Las Vegas Budget
I love flying, it was a prerequisite for our getaway! Photo: Susie Kellogg

So, we left home on Tuesday morning, hopped on a plane and flew to McArron Airport, totally stoked and pumped to be on such a different type of adventure together.  I was over the moon, I must have looked so silly to so many, but I love flying.  I woo hooed as the plane left the ground, even.  Man, we hadn’t even been on a plane since 1998!  

Having a large family is absolutely amazing, in so many ways, but there are, obviously, sacrifices we have to make.  I mean, obviously, right?  

So, as our very first trip away from kids in literally 24 years, we chose the ever beckoning Las Vegas. I say ever beckoning only because flights there are ridiculously cheap and flying was my number one priority for our “away”. We aren’t huge partiers, but we definitely can play, I mean I’m Irish, I went to college … Dan is a Marine.  

So our idea for Vegas sprang from it being a relatively close destination and an uber cheap one to fly to.  We also wanted something outside of our typical adventures with kids, something both exciting and luringly romantic. And we have bff’s who go every year who were willing to show us the ropes.  Also, everyone we know has been to Vegas at least once and it’s kinda like we are failing as Americans to have never been.

Hence, the Las Vegas romantic getaway was born.  I bought an uber sexy dress from Lulus (literally my favorite store) for a night of dancing. And because I’ve lost so much weight, I even bought the bikini Dan has been begging me to buy for the past year.  I aim to please, so …

Dan researched flights out of Denver and found roundtrip airfare for $50/each.  Of course no carry-on’s were included.  It turned out that a checked bag was cheaper than a carry-on, so we just shared my ever amazing Ricardo Luggage and checked that bad boy in. And can I just say that for all the bitching and moaning about flying … it was crazy easy.  If we could afford to fly everywhere, we’d do it in a heartbeat!

So two $50 flights … we were already winning.  But we knew we had a long way to go to ensure that the highly inflated prices in Sin City didn’t break the bank.  Here are our top tips for a Las Vegas Budget friendly vacation!!

The Luxor

This hotel was wonderfully luxurious. We loved it. Photo: Susie Kellogg

We literally chose the Luxor because it is touted as the second cheapest hotel on the strip.  I was a little concerned by this description, but as I read the reviews, and checked out photos, my mind was put a little at ease.  But upon arrival, every worry I had ceased to exist.  First, the fragrance that emanates from the Luxor is absolutely amazing.  It is neither overwhelming nor in your face, it is a calm, peaceful, beautiful scent that felt like home, every time we returned.

In addition, even at it’s low nightly rate, the Luxor is nicer than any hotel I have personally ever stayed, and that includes the Dana Point St Regis!  It is gorgeous, clean, the staff is very friendly, the casino is just fine, the rooms are super nice, the elevator is ridiculously fast …

And then the buffet breakfast. Two words.  Holy Cow.  Maybe we just don’t get out into luxury often enough, but for the average family, or couple or whatever, this buffet was the bomb.  From made to order omelettes to Chocolate Mousse, the food is simply to die for.  I highly recommend upgrading your room to include the breakfast buffet!


Las Vegas Budget tips.
This is the best way to enjoy drinks on the house! Photo: Susie Kellogg

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is this: Play in the casino and drinks are free.  From soda to cocktails, you can ask for anything as long as you are seen playing and spending money in the casino!  Drinks are a huge Las Vegas Budget buster because everything is literally at least double the cost of anywhere else on the planet.  So it behooves you to throw some quarters in a machine or try your hand at one of the tables in exchange for a few drinks.

Snacks, Water and Energy Drinks

Las Vegas Budget vacation needs Amazon Prime.
One of the biggest budget savers … Amazon Prime!

The other gem piece of wisdom that was offered to us was the usage of Amazon Prime for all extraneous purchases.  

Rockstar Energy Drinks, which are normally $1.50 are $5 in Vegas along the strip!  My poor addicted to energy drinks, husband, was blown away.  The morning after a crazy night of dancing and playing craps, he went searching for a Rockstar and was very displeased.  Immediately after, we followed the advice of our savvy Vegas friends and used Amazon Prime!!

We ordered these and bottles of water and some snacks and had them sent to our hotel room.  We absolutely saved over $100 in 3 days just doing this little trick as my dear husband eats constantly and needs hourly rations.

MLife Card

Las Vegas Budget starts the minute you check into your hotel.
Don’t buy anything without this card or one from the hotel you are staying at. Photo: Susie Kellogg

This is quite the Vegas hack and helps tremendously with the Las Vegas Budget.  And, truth be told, we wouldn’t have even known about it if we hadn’t gone to Vegas with two very savvy friends.  I’m excited to let you in on this little secret.

Every major hotel in Las Vegas offers a “gaming” club that you can join. With this you’ll get immediate access to discounted room rates and exclusive promotions and deals.  

The Luxor is part of MGM and all the MGM casinos and hotels are hooked into the same MLife network, hence we signed up for MLife.  

Basically, everything you purchase at an MGM property should be prefaced with this card.  This card offers discounts at stores and restaurants, as well as racks up points to be used for Free Play (actually free money to be used in the slots), future stays at any MGM property and we even were given a $50 credit off our hotel bill at check-out.  I can tell you we aren’t high rollers, but we did play some slots and the Las Vegas Budget was buffeted slightly by this card!

Uber or Lyft

Uber and Lyft are great ways to save money on transportation. Photo: Susie Kellogg

Taxis in Vegas are off the charts expensive, whereas Lyft and Uber are cheaper alternatives.  The only issue with Lyft and Uber in Vegas is pick-up locations.  Be aware that you cannot call from the front or back of a hotel and expect to see Uber or Lyft appear right there, like in NYC, or literally anywhere else Uber and Lyft exist.  

There are specific locations at each hotel where these drivers will wait.  Ask the doorman or a hotel employee where Lyft and Uber pick-ups are and be sure to know exactly where your ride will wait prior to calling.  Both these companies are extremely fast and before you know where you are going they will have waited their required 5 minutes and be gone. There is a cancellation fee, so watch out and be sure you know exactly where they pick up. We know, we learned the hard way!!  

Off Season

Las Vegas Budget is easy in the off season.
As with all travel, vacationing in the off-season saves a ton of money. Photo: Susie Kellogg

We, Dan and I, do most of our epic travels in the off-season.  We can afford to as our kids are homeschooled, so we are not governed by a strict schedule of holidays and teacher workdays. Both Dan and I work on the road, hence, no approvals of vacation days needed, so freedom is our biggest commodity.  Vegas is cheap-er in the off-season. Mostly, I’m assuming, because it’s Africa Hot and the majority of tourists don’t believe walking the strip in degree weather to be all that enjoyable.  

What this means is two-fold.  One, hotels and flights are cheaper and some discounts on activities can be found, if you are bold enough to ask.  Two, the crowds are minimal.  For instance, the casino’s were less than packed.  And seats at he Carnival Bar on Wednesday night were easily acquired.  Our friends, who go to Vegas every February, were shocked.  

All of this works beautifully for us as I’m not a fan of crowds and Dan loves a bargain more than most.  

Truly, Vegas was a different type of trip. It’s not somewhere I’d be particularly fond of bringing children, but many many people offer accolades to Vegas as a family destination.  Whereas I see it more of a getaway, where you can enjoy luxurious accommodations, lounge in a gorgeous pool, have a few drinks, catch a show, try your luck at winning the BIG money all the while recharging your parenting batteries!!  It was incredible to have 3 full days of Dan all to myself.

I did have a bit of a breakdown the second day we were there and researched switching our flights to fly out one day early, but Dan stood firm.  I’m glad he did.  We really had a great time.  Of course, the minute I walked in the door I promised all the little kids that we’d never leave again.  But now we are talking about a romantic and luxurious beach vacation for our 25th anniversary next May.  Connections, anyone?  HA HA