Hikari's Food/Japanophile and Other Interesting Stuff blog

How to visit Las Vegas WITHOUT breaking the bank; Part 1 (Choosing the Hotel)

on July 11, 2013

This turned out to be much longer than expected, so I’m breaking it up into 2 parts.

Las Vegas has a reputation. It’s not a very savory one either. There’s a reason it’s called Sin City.

However, over the years Vegas has tried to soften its image, promoting conventions and family fun. (One of these years, I’m gonna manage to get into the CES!)

With the world in financial meltdown since 2008 and Obama’s repeated Vegas bashing (Just Google it), Vegas has been struggling. Reflected in this is how the casinos and hotels have flexed and bowed to make staying more appealing.

I will explain how you can, with a little research and schedule flexibility, find a reasonably priced casino-resort-hotel on or near the strip for cheap.


But first, a story. Two years ago in the summer, Hubby and I wanted to take a vacation. We had considered doing something local (there ain’t much here, honestly!) and considered other points along the west coat that were within driving distance.

Seattle: Too expensive, not enough to do (except go visit Uwajimaya) that could justify the cost of a hotel room. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “There’s plenty to do in Seattle”, but of all the things we saw, nothing screamed at us saying “You wanna come here, like, RIGHT NOW, and do this awesome thing!” (except go visit Uwajimaya. With Daiso right next door. Yeah, I know, I have a problem.)

California, as a whole: Earthquakes, fires, smog and ridiculous traffic combined with some of the highest gas prices in the country? Why do anything there? Disneyland. ‘Nuff said. But have you seen the price of tickets??? And all the hotels around there have inflated prices.

While I was bemoaning how expensive our vacation was becoming, Hubby mentioned that he hasn’t been to Vegas in a while. Hmm, I’d never been there, but surely staying there would be expensive, right? Ha! How wrong I was!

When he was younger (and practically a completely different man) Vegas was a haven for him, and he made good money at the gambling tables. The Rio had once been like a second home to him. So, we checked out the hotel online. Hey, they have Penn & Teller! We love those guys!

Now comes the trick to finding the best prices in Vegas!

A screen-cap of their website now.

A screen-cap of their website now.

After choosing some random date within the next month, we discovered that during the week, rooms were less than what local hotels were charging! But weekends could double or quadruple the cost. Also, depending on the time of year, holiday or event happening, room prices fluctuate wildly with demand.

Then we noticed this little link:

See the area in the lower right?

See the area in the lower right?

Notice the price fluctuations for the selected dates. The Rate Calendar opens up a new realm of possibilities, including a whole month of room rates and the option to check out the price of different rooms. If you have some flexibility in your travel plans, this is an essential tool!

In our story, we poked around and selected five days with an average cost of $40 per night (similar to the first 5 days in the image). At the time, they were not charging resort fees. More on those later.

But this isn’t all. Not sure which hotel you’d like to stay? Try this:

Everything Caesar's Group owns.

Everything Caesars Group owns.

Yup, EVERYTHING this group owns in one handy drop-down. And if you click All, you get this:

Whoa, that's quite a difference in prices!

Whoa, that’s quite a difference in prices!

That’s a lot to compare! But this is just what’s owned by the Caesars Group. I do suggest being careful of the super cheap rates at the Quad. While they’ve recently been refitted, it was just the casino. The rooms are still the old ones from when it was the Imperial Palace. If all you need is a place to crash and don’t mind a room that might be a bit of dingy and possibly smelly (Seriously, check Trip Advisor), then go for it.

Want more? The MGM Group is a bit more tricky to navigate.

I’m using the MGM Grand as the example since MGM owns the attached properties. First, I clicked on “Check Rates” under Reservations.  (No pic for this, you oughta be able to figure it out.)

Then, I chose a Single Night (this helps with room availability in case they’re full one night). You can click “Search Availability” below or Check Rates on the right.

Simple system in use

Simple system in use

WARNING: MGM’s room search can sometimes be slower than molasses at the North Pole in January. Be patient. If you decided to check rates, you’ll get this:


a two month calendar of room rates, based off their cheapest room. However, if you select “Search Availability”, you eventually get this:

Yeah, you read that price right.

Yeah, you read that price for the Skylofts right.

A list of their rooms, amenities, price difference, and in the lower right, a few of the other hotels in their group. It’s not all of them, but it’s a start.

What else does MGM own in Vegas? Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Vdara, etc. You can get more info on their resorts at http://www.mgmresorts.com  You can use this link instead of the actual hotel link, it eventually takes you to the same place.

There are plenty of other hotels along the strip not listed, like the Golden Nugget, Stratosphere and others. Do some research, spend some time figuring out which hotel is where (Google Maps is your friend!), most will have the rate calendars.

Once you’ve decided at which hotel you’d like to stay, start looking at promotions. This year we stayed at the New York with a 20% discount because we selected a buffet promotion. We ended up not using the buffet tickets due to a confusing credit card hold requirement, but we still got the room at the advertised discount.

Try Hotels.com as they have a tendency to apply the best rate automatically. Then you can go to the hotel’s website or call their front desk to see how to get that discount directly from them. You can reserve directly from another site if you like, but I have a severe mistrust of third parties when it comes to hotels and travel. Too many bad experiences in the past.

Okay, you’ve chosen your hotel, gotten the best deal, applied your discounts. Wait, what’s this extra daily charge? Resort fees? WTF?!? Alas, this is something that cannot be waived at this time. During winter and spring months, many hotels will offer no resort fees. But this summer? no dice. Double-check the resort fee for the hotels you’re considering, they’re anywhere between $15 – $25 per night. Too rich for your blood? Try a non-casino hotel off-strip. We found our stay at the New York, even with the fee, was still cheaper than staying at the local Comfort Inn.

Regardless of where you’re staying, I highly suggest renting a car. This makes getting away from the Strip easier so you can find off-strip food, shopping and tourism. Plus there are plenty of things to see and do besides gamble and drink. Both times we visited, I spent no more than $10 on the machines and only had one drink near the end of our stay. There’s so much to see, why waste it inebriated in front of a card table or slot machine?

Be back with more soon!



One response to “How to visit Las Vegas WITHOUT breaking the bank; Part 1 (Choosing the Hotel)

  1. […] we’ve talked about my first driving trip to Vegas, how to find a good hotel deal and exploring Vegas on a budget. Now, here’s how we got there -in a car- this […]

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