I've been to Las Vegas more than a dozen times -- and enjoyed it in many ways.
I've done the frugal guys trip with five in a room in a worn-down budget hotel casino called San Remo, which no longer exists.
I've gotten engaged in Las Vegas while on a trip with my girlfriend and two other friends after a night of massive beer consumption.
Yes, we both stuck with the engagement despite our altered states that evening on The Strip, and we have been married for 10 years.
In fact, we got married in Las Vegas -- surrounded by friends and family who made the trip for the destination nuptials and celebration -- and spent the night at a posh wedding suite at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino.
In between, we have stayed at all other types of resorts and evolved in how we like to spend our time, now leaning more toward outdoors activities, shows and fine meals and away from the gambling and drinking (well, heavy drinking at least).
But two things have always been the same about our trips to Las Vegas: We go to relax in the sun and aim to save a little money along the way.
Over the years, after sifting through multiple properties and trying out all sorts of casinos and restaurants, we've discovered some of our favorite places to eat, drink, gamble and stay that won't break the bank.
Try some of these tips and tricks on your trip to Las Vegas, and you can have a bit of fun, too, without stressing out about busting your travel budget. Because, while you'll spot plenty of high rollers and wannabe high rollers in Las Vegas, you can still uncover money-saving deals in this pricey city.
Airport shuttle: We used the Airline Shuttle service, available at the taxi stand area at McCarron Airport. Go to the counter outside the baggage claim area and pay $15 per person to get a stamped coupon book that serves as your roundtrip ticket to your hotel. Call the night before you depart to let Airport Shuttle know when you need to be picked up to return to your hotel. This will save up to $10 or more per person off your total roundtrip cost. In fact, on one stay, I discovered an easy Las Vegas Airport walking route that you might love if you like to get in a little exercise. It doesn't get any more frugal than a free way to get from the airport to the Strip.
Stay Mid-Strip: You will be at the heart of the action and able to walk to almost everything if you stay in the Mid-Strip area of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Strip encompasses roughly the Stratosphere Hotel at the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard to Mandalay Bay at the south end about four miles away. Mid-Strip is located approximately around the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road and is where you can find the Bellagio, Mirage, Harrah's, Bally's, Planet Hollywood, Wynn, the Venetian and other popular casinos as well as tons of fine restaurants options at all price points.
We have stayed at the Flamingo Hotel Casino a few times, including this latest trip (we get wonderful deals booking early through price-monitoring website Tingo, FYI). The resort traces its heritage to 1948 as the first luxury hotel on the main Strip and was once run by Bugsy Siegel and mobsters from the notorious Murder Inc. outfit.
While some of the rooms are definitely run down, the location is ideal, right across from the Bellagio and Caesar's Palace. The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas has other prime attractions, too. These include all-day $5 blackjack tables at the Margaritaville Casino (right next to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Restaurant), the fantastic swimming pool that features waterfalls and the nature habitat on the property. The 3-acre habitat is a fantastic place to sit outside in the sun, stroll around or find a spot of shade to read and enjoy an adult beverage, all in lush surroundings that include ponds with koi, catfish and sturgeon, ducks, resident flamingos, pelicans, macaws and other varieties of birds. If your room is just where you sleep at night and not an important factor in your vacation enjoyment, this type of hotel is ideal.
Overall, it's hard to find $5 blackjack tables or other low-roller gaming options unless you go to Downtown Las Vegas on Fremont Street, which is an older, quainter area that is worth a visit, too. We usually schedule one day to spend on Fremont Street during our trips (if we aren't staying at a hotel down there to begin with).
While at the Bellagio Hotel, go inside to the lobby and look up at the Murano glass sculpture works adorning the ceiling. Just amazing! Also, head back to the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens beyond the lobby area to check out the latest installation; this horticultural display rotates throughout the year.
Head north from the Mid-Strip area and drop by Circus Circus to watch free circus acts performing throughout the day under the Big Top.
These are just a few of the most popular spots we have picked out as favorites to check out when we visit or when we are showing the city to a Vegas virgin. You'll find more to check out while you're on your casino crawl looking for a bite to eat or the hot craps table.
Cheap eats: Make sure you grab those coupon books you'll see all over town. People hand them out on the streets, and you'll see racks with them at your hotel lobby and probably a book or two in your room. They are loaded with 2-for-1 deals and other discounts worth considering -- depending on what type of meal you have a hankering for and what part of the city you might be in when it's meal time. (I certainly wouldn't alter my itinerary for some of these random hot dog or shrimp cocktail deals, but carry along a coupon book because you never know when it might come in handy where you happen to be.)
Our absolute undisputed favorite meal deal is the "Special Steak Dinner" at Ellis Island Casino on Koval Lane near Flamingo Road. It's less than a mile off the Strip, and the secret is out about this one. A 10-ounce top sirloin steak, baked potato (or mashed or fries) with a fresh veggie and a side salad, as well as a 20-ounce beer from the casino's own selection of on-site microbrews for $9.99. You have to sign up for the player's club (it takes two minutes with a driver's license) and print out a voucher. If you play $5 at the slots, you get the deal for $7.99. We paid $40 for a dinner for four people at Ellis Island. Compare this for a drink order we made at the Bellagio after we went to see the Cirque du Soleil show "O" (which was awesome, by the way, and worth our one splurge of the trip). Two beers and a forgettable margarita at Bellagio tallied a ridiculous $37.
Ellis Island also has a separate barbecue restaurant and offers amazing prices for succulent ribs and chicken dinners with a player's club voucher.
Cheap drinks: At Planet Hollywood, check out the Sunday brunch at Spice Market Buffet. For $18, you can get a massive range of delicious breakfast and lunch items as well as all-you-can-drink mimosas or Champagne. Another favorite of ours -- and many others -- is the $1 Michelob beer bottle offer at Casino Royale, just down the Strip to the north and on the same side as the Flamingo Hotel. This little casino also offers $1 Michelob Light bottles and $0.75 Coors Light drafts as an enticement to play there. You really can't beat those prices, and it's worth the stroll down for a couple cold ones and a spin or two of the roulette wheel.
Cheap tables: Casino Royale also offers $1 roulette, $3 craps and $5 blackjack tables, making it popular for low rollers like us. Be careful not to down too many $1 bottles of Michelob before sitting down to gamble, though, or you might start making unwise decisions with your chips. Trust me, you can get caught up in the fun pretty easy there!
You'll find lower table limits and fun atmosphere, as well as cheaper meals in downtown Las Vegas. The casinos down on Fremont Street in Las Vegas run deals all the time to entice tourists to come down off the main strip for visit. The Fremont Street Experience is the enclosed 1,500-foot-long pedestrian mall lined with shops, casinos and eateries. You'll see street performers and live musics acts, and at night, the video screen on the ceiling of the enclosed mall dazzles with a spectacular music and light show.
Going to Vegas for the first time? I hope some of our Las Vegas tips and tricks to save you money help you have a good time.
Been to Vegas? Tell us about some of your favorite spots and Vegas hacks in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.