How and when to find bargains

Once you've decided to make a trip to Vegas you may wonder about the ways to make the most of your travel budget. In general how much you spend will depend largely on three factors: What time of year you visit, which part of town you stay in and what sort of accommodation you want. It breaks down like this...

What time of year to visit?

There's no bad time of year to make your Vegas run but there are times when the city is much more crowded that usual, meaning hotels and gambling tables get more expensive. In general you can count on giant crowds and higher costs around these annual events:

  • New Year's
  • The Consumer Electronics Show (and the unrelated porn convention usually held at the same time), January
  • Super Bowl weekend
  • The March NCAA basketball tournament
  • The National Association of Broadcasters convention, April
  • The National Finals Rodeo, early December
  • Major boxing or UFC matches

You can also search the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority's calendar of convention to check for anything that may be scheduled at the same time as your visit. Keep in mind that it'd take a convention of at least 30,000 -- maybe even closer to 50,000 -- before you'd notice much difference.

Spring and fall tend to be very popular, because the weather is usually warm but without the ungodly heat that comes with summer. Summer holidays that extend the weekend -- Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- also boost the number of Vegas visitors.

While it's more difficult to find a really good room rate during these peak times, you can find exceptional bargains if you go during slow periods. Once the annual rodeo championship ends, you can find some fantastic deals in December, up the last few days of the month. During that time of year even very nice hotels usually have rooms dirt cheap. You can also save money by taking your trip in the middle of the week instead of over a weekend. Room rates are generally about 25 percent to 50 percent less expensive Sundays through Thursdays.

What part of town?

For most visitors Vegas can be thought of as having three main areas: the Strip, Off-Strip and Downtown. The areas are described in detail elsewhere on the site, but, when it comes to cost, the short version is like this:

The Strip is where most new visitors stay -- it's our standard recommendation for first-timers -- and has the greatest variety of prices, but in general rooms are a little more costly on this main tourist area. Even bare-bones hotels tend to be a bit more expensive than, say, Downtown. The Strip has many more mid-range choices than any other part of town.

Downtown is Old Vegas. It has one very nice hotel and one pretty nice one. Everything else is in the mid-range to lower-mid-range category. Rates are usually noticeably less expensive than the Strip, but the tradeoff is that you're a cab ride away from all of the nightlife on the Strip.

For our purposes we use the term "Off-Strip" to describe four places: the Palms, the Hard Rock, the Rio and the Stratosphere. Of those hotels, the Palms and the Hard Rock are hip, party places, with rates on the higher third of the scale. The Rio is an all-suite hotel and is often a bargain for visitors who require extra space. Very good rates can often be found at the Stratosphere, as they have to work to lure visitors to a hotel/casino that is nice, but suffers from a location in a sort of No Man's Land between the Strip and Downtown.

Which type of hotel to book?

Here's what it comes down to: Is the hotel going to be simply a place to hang your clothes and go to sleep, or do you want to bask in total luxury? Or, like most visitors, do you want something in the middle?

Finding bare-bones accommodations on the cheap isn't hard -- several bargain spots are listed on our Recommended Hotels page -- and it's easy to find spots for ultra-luxury. It's the mid-range hotels where it becomes harder to decide. The best suggestion is to decide first on when you're going to visit and in which part of town you wish to stay, then scour our list of recommendations to find a few candidates that fit your own bill. Best Hotels. Best Shows. Best Prices.