Money-Savin’ Mama’s Vegas Vacation

Money-Savin’ Mama went to Las Vegas last weekend, and promptly had her mind blown.

Bright lights, big bucks

I hinted at the weekend getaway in my last Parenting Perspectives column. The hubby and I needed to get away, just the two of us. The kiddos had a blast at Papa’s farm. And while the trip did allow us to relax and hop off the hamster wheel for awhile, the sheer expense of Vegas stressed my frugal ways to the max.

It started in the Tropicana lobby, when we were informed our flight and room package didn’t include “resort fees,” which would be another $20 per day. The mind explosion culminated as I perused the room service menu. “THIRTY-THREE DOLLARS FOR A PIZZA?!?!?!?” I shrieked.

Our last two big trips had been all-inclusive affairs: a Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon and a friend’s destination wedding in Jamaica. It sunk in after we booked our Vegas vacation that food, drinks and entertainment would be separate expenses.

I scouted some Groupon deals in advance. I read an article in The Forum about Sin City on the cheap (though the recommendations didn’t seem all that cheap at the time). A friend who took a recent trip there gave me a coupon book, but warned me about the high cost.

Forget the 99-cent buffets of lore. On the strip, we paid $26 per person our first night for a decent (but not spectacular) buffet at the Monte Carlo — the cheapest with good reviews we could find on Yelp. An amaretto drink cost $11 at a comedy club.

I was able to exercise frugality on a few occasions. I’d bought a half-priced certificate on Groupon to Carlos and Charlie’s at the Flamingo, so dinner that night cost just $20. We found some 2-for-1 drink deals during happy hours. We gambled only on $5 minimum tables (versus $25), paying attention to the house rules and odds. We skipped the headliners for a smaller/quieter comedy show and magic act at our hotel. I even got called up on stage!

I was the audience volunteer for a card trick involving a sketch pad — I still don’t know how he did it! The magician is Michael Turco, from Season 6 of America’s Got Talent, who performed a sort of intermission act during Murray Celebrity Magician.

We walked, a lot, while enjoying beverages purchased at a Walgreens or ABC Store, to see noted free attractions: the fountains and conservatory at the Bellagio (amazing), a performance at Circus Circus, and the spectacular display of Vegas itself — crazy costumed street performers, iconic buildings and neon, neon, neon.

I was awed by the fountains — the water literally danced.

I tipped a dollar to get my photo taken with Cleopatra and company at Caesar’s Palace. (Apparently I’m quite short compared to the Roman empire)

An added bonus: I actually left Vegas with a bit more cash than when I arrived. The penny slots weren’t kind to us, but I did well on one visit each to a blackjack table and roulette wheel — $5 minimum, of course.

2 thoughts on “Money-Savin’ Mama’s Vegas Vacation

  1. Your article was interesting and right on about the cost of going to Las Vegas for a long weekend. I have spent the last two days searching for a good deal but kept coming up empty. I was surprised at how expensive it has become. The least expensive deal I could come up with for flight + hotel + car leaving from Fargo was over $2000! Not to mention that the flight times were terrible especially coming home! That would have left little for entertainment. I did catch the extra resort fees clause…..not all resorts have them.

    In the end I gave up and booked a trip to Nashville. Flight + rental car is $1000. I was able to use my Hilton Honors points for the hotel…..we will be staying at the Hilton in downtown Nashville within walking distance of all the main attractions. I am really excited! The only drawback is that we will be flying out of Minneapolis, which saved us about $400.

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