My family just returned from a long weekend in Las Vegas. It's a day's drive from our Utah home and it's a fun warm-weather destination, even for families.
We have vacationed in Las Vegas with our kids (ages 11 and 14) a couple of times during school breaks. It's also a convenient stop on Southern California road trips. We've stayed in a variety of hotels, tried a lot of fun family activities and eaten more delicious food than was good for us. We have picked up a few tips that help us save money in Las Vegas. I hope that they will help your family too.
Here are my top ways to save money in Las Vegas.
Stay Off the Strip
There are more family-friendly activities on the Strip than you might expect, and plenty of free things to do. However, we have found that hotel rooms, food and activities all cost more in this world-famous tourist district. You don't need to get more than a few blocks away to start seeing prices drop.
Watch for hidden fees when you book a hotel. Some hotels apply hefty “extra guest” fees when you have more than two per room – especially on the Strip. Resort fees are common. Parking and other fees are less common, but watch for them. Click the blue button to get all my tips for booking a family hotel in Las Vegas.
We most recently stayed at Tahiti Village, a couple of miles down Las Vegas Boulevard. It's a non-gaming, non-smoking resort with a lazy river that is popular among families. We had a full kitchen and complimentary parking, shuttle and family activities, which gave us more control of our vacation budget. Click the red button to check rates and availability for Tahiti Village on TripAdvisor.com.
Play Off the Strip
Activities tend to cost less off the Strip too – especially if you have your own car. Two of my favorites are Hoover Dam and the Pinball Hall of Fame. Both are free to visit and you can choose to pay for parking, tours or games. My family spent around $40 on both activities combined, which is less than we would pay for one ride on the Big Apple Roller Coaster at New York-New York on the Strip.
Plan a Mid-Week Trip
There isn't a clear off-season in Las Vegas, but you can save 50% or more on the same room if you book in the middle of the week instead of a weekend. All those hotel rooms fill faster on weekends – especially long holiday weekends – so those are more expensive times to visit.
When is the best time to visit Las Vegas? Spring and fall. The weather was perfect during our mid-October trip. It was warm enough to swim in our resort's heated pool, but not too warm for other outdoor activities. Summers are very hot. Winters are mild in Las Vegas, but expect cool weather.
Avoid Major Events
Las Vegas hosts major sporting events and conventions that draw attendees in the thousands. If you pick a week where nothing much is happening, your odds of finding a deal go way up. Major sporting events may include a big fight, NASCAR or the Super Bowl.
Las Vegas hosts a dozen or more conventions every week. Small conventions won't make a big dent in demand, but a convention that draws 100,000+ attendees is a big deal. You can check the Las Vegas Convention Calendar at www.vegasmeansbusiness.com.
Book in Advance
I'm a planner, so I enjoy hunting down exactly what I want for the right price in advance. When you start shopping early, you have more time, more options and more information to help you get the best prices.
I'd seen several recommendations for Tahiti Village before our trip, and that's where I wanted to stay. I started watching rates early, and thought they were too high on my first search. I researched other places and checked again a couple of weeks later. Rates had gone down significantly, and that's when I booked the resort.
You'll get the best available seats, plus more price options if you buy show tickets in advance. The least expensive seats for a must-see show will often sell out early, and you won't find the most popular shows at discount ticket booths. Cirque du Soleil and others currently offer an early booking discount. These shows are amazing, but not cheap. When you are purchasing tickets for a family, every little bit helps.
Book at the Last Minute
If you're more spontaneous, there are certainly last-minute deals to be had in Las Vegas – probably more than anywhere else. When a hotel has empty rooms, they'd rather give them to you for a discount than get nothing at all.
Same with shows and activities. We saw employees all over the casinos whose job was to hand out discount coupons for shows and activities. Your hotel concierge may be able to help as well. There are discount ticket outlets up and down the Strip.
Another strategy is to book your room directly through the hotel's official website. Many hotel sites guarantee the lowest rate. Consider calling the hotel by phone. The front desk or reservations staff may be authorized to negotiate a better rate.
I wanted to try a few family activities on the Strip. I felt a little sticker shocked when I found that it costs $30+ per person to visit Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. It was going to be an expensive trip if we didn't find a better way.
I found that there are at least three better ways to bundle and save on activities in Las Vegas. They include:
- Go Las Vegas Card – Admission to 30+ popular attractions. Choose number of days or number of attractions. Save up to 60%.
- Las Vegas Pass – Admission to 50+ popular attractions for one set price. Choose 1, 2, 3 or 5 days.
- MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer – Save 30% when you choose any 3 attractions on the list. You have seven days to use your tickets.
My family only wanted to do 2-3 activities, and I had my eye on some specific activities in the MGM Resorts 3 for $57 Package Offer. So that's the bundle we chose. We saved about 30% on Shark Reef Aquarium, CSI at MGM Grand and Big Apple Roller Coaster at New York-New York.
Groupon.com has a lot of deals for Las Vegas hotels, dining and activities. They include well-known places like the High Roller at the LINQ and a few interesting offers you probably hadn't considered. Axe throwing, anyone? It's a thing now.
Use the “Local” tab to find restaurants and things to do. Use the “Getaways” tab to see hotel deals. Remember that you pay when you buy the Groupon, not when you do the activity. Read the fine print before you hit “Buy.”
Click the button to get all my tips for finding smart travel deals on Groupon.
Focus on Free Activities
I recommend that you pick one or two splurges like a show, activities pass or delicious restaurant and fill the rest of your itinerary with free and inexpensive activities. I'll be publishing my list of favorite free family activities in Las Vegas soon!
Be sure to build in time to enjoy the included amenities at your hotel. The outdoor swimming season in Las Vegas lasts nearly all year. My family spent a full day by the pool and lazy river at Tahiti Village and it was our favorite day of the trip.
There are lots of ways to enjoy Las Vegas with kids, and the right way is your way. Hopefully, these tips will help you plan a wonderful and affordable trip.