Vegas without breaking the bank

January 5, 2016 - Money

Bright lights, big names, a sense of adventure and extravagance and the knowledge that someone not far away is about to win a fortune – there really is a lot to get excited about when you start to think about a trip to Las Vegas.

But the thing about Vegas – and it is something that is easily lost sight of amidst the glamour and the glitz – is that it is designed with the express intention of relieving you of your hard-earned money. That is not to say that you won’t have a good time while you are parting company with the contents of your wallet, merely that it is as smart to keep a keen eye on your finances before, during and after you make a trip to The Strip. Even if you do manage to generate a credit card bonus when you book, Vegas can still be expensive.

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A savvy traveler’s perspective
But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are savvy with your savings and keep a check on your loose change you can have all the fun that Sin City has to offer and still be able to afford to enjoy the high life.

It starts with knowing your budget. In a city where the default setting is always “just a little bit more,” it really pays to stick to your limits. Plan your work and work your plan is not a bad motto for negotiating your way around what is still one of the world’s most iconic destinations.

That can start with your accommodation – we’ll leave the question of travel aside for now other than to point out this voucher code for $20 off a shuttle from McCarran Airport to The Strip itself. There is a huge supply of hotel rooms in and around Vegas – most of them are subsidized to one degree or another by the casinos. That means that there are some serious savings to be made – if you know where to find them.

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The $20 trick
There is an established $20 trick that gives you a decent shot at a free room upgrade. In fact it is a much a recognized Las Vegas tradition. In a nutshell it involves tipping the hotel clerk $20 to look after you – and the good news is that the way it works is that if they can’t actually do anything for you, they won’t take your twenty. Wouldn’t it be great if everything in Vegas worked on that basis?

Sadly they don’t and that’s why you need to do your homework; know what it is you are prepared to play with and how you are going to play. Depending on just how serious a gambler you are, the least expensive and most immediately accessible form of gaming fun is to be found in the huge slots malls. Just about every casino on the strip devotes significant floor space to what can be hundreds of different slots.

Lots of slots
Whilst slots historically used to be played with loose change for bits and pieces pay outs, they have been significantly upgraded over the years. Firstly, the need for small change has largely been replaced by credit tickets that you load up in advance and then cash out after you have finished playing. For one thing it’s a whole lot easier to handle than buckets full of nickels and dimes, and on the other it is not a bad way to keep a formal track on how much you are playing with.

On the other side of the deal those slots have also massively ramped up the amount that it is possible to win. The famous Megabucks Jackpot machine paid out prizes of $21.1 million, $27 million, $39 million, and $34.9 million between 1998 and 2005. And it is still paying. Those wins are some of the biggest in the entire history of slots, but there is obviously potential to win without getting anywhere near those figures.

The wealth of themed slots – an innovation that only really took off once International gaming Technology introduced their Wheel Of Fortune game in 1997 – means that entertainment value is not restricted to the simple matter of winning or not. Because of the invention of electronic slots in 1963, which use random number generators rather than old fashion reels, punters can enjoy playing slots based on their favorite TV shows like Jeopardy, Deal or No Deal or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The merging of slot machines with pop-culture has truly been a game changer in the world of gambling, and playing slots is a fun and relatively inexpensive way to pass the time in Vegas.

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Know your cards
If you are determined to cut it with the high rollers and venture onto the card tables then the least you can do is make sure that you are fully up to speed with the rules and conventions of the game you choose to play. If you are going to learn games such as blackjack at the tables, you will have to pay for your education. The guys who don’t know what they are doing rarely win. Preparing yourself with a solid immersion in an online version of the game, and making sure you’re aware of any local variants – and what they mean – well in advance of making your trip is an exercise that will pay for itself every single time.

Do the math
As they say, doing the math before you set out is not just about planning how much you are going to spend on accommodation and meals – as well as how much you are going to allow yourself to play with. Getting up to speed with the different odds that apply when you’re at the tables is a sure-fire way to get the most out of the experience. In the same way you would be wasting your time to go on a ski trip if you didn’t get into some sort of good physical shape, making sure your brain is match-sharp is a key consideration. Practice makes perfect.

Eat cheap
When you’re away from home it is all too easy to overspend on the simple business of keeping yourself fed and watered. However, there is no shortage of cheap eateries on and around The Strip – and there are plenty of sites offering good advice on where to go. One really good tip is to look out for Players’ Club memberships. These are usually free to join but they offer subsidized dining as part of their pitch.

The bottom line is – as always – that they’ll want you to spend what you save on their slots or at their tables, but in Las Vegas that pretty much goes with the territory.

Vegas isn’t a town where you’ll ever get something for nothing, but if you do some homework, stick to your budget and keep an eye out for value, it is also a town where you can have a really memorable stay without breaking the bank.

› tags: Casino / cheap eats / Jeopardy / las vegas / McCarran Airport / Megabucks Jackpot / Wheel of Fortune /

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