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Knock Yourself Out

We've tried staying out all night and catching a few z's in the Caesars Palace sportsbook during the day, but believe us, it's not worth the few bucks you save. And the security guards are not nice to you when you drool on your neighbor. Let's face it, though: why spend more gambling money on a bed and bathroom?

The good news is that staying in a hotel in Vegas doesn't need to break your budget. There are many options for reasonably-priced accomodations. This section tells you how to find a good deal, when to book it, when the cheapest times to go are, and even where you're likely to find the best rates. Now, remember, we aren't talking the Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carlton. We're talking hotels with beds, toilets, and are clean enough that you don't wake up with cockroaches eating your hair.

When's the most expensive time to go to Vegas?
The most likely times for gouging are big or holiday weekends, such as President's Day, Labor Day, 4th of July, Memorial Day, New Years and the like. The city also gouges during the Consumer Electronics Show Convention in January, National Association of Broadcasters in April, during NCAA basketball's March Madness, and even if there is a big fight in town where someone might bite off someone else's ear. March, April, May seem popular with people sick of winter. September and October also seem like they fill up faster.

Look at a calendar of conventions coming to town: Las Vegas Convention Tourism Authority web site. If you see a convention planned with more than 50,000 attendees, better change your vacation dates (so you get better rates and so you aren't fighting with pushy conventioneers for a spot in the buffet lines).

When's the cheapest time to go to Vegas?
First, weekdays are generally about half the price of weekends. If you can talk your boss into letting you off in the middle of the week, do it. Second, there are two ideal times to go. The first is the two weeks before Christmas. Usually, rates are decent until mid-December because the National Finals Rodeo is in town, then it is wide open and dirt cheap until the 25th. Before Christmas, you can often get some of the nicer hotels in town for less than half the usual rates. The other great time to go is in the middle of summer, when it's about 326 degrees in Las Vegas. Actually, it will only get up to about 115, which is just warm enough to melt the lips off your face. So, look at July and August for cheap rates. One last time we seem to notice a drop in rates is the first two weeks of January. Maybe everyone is nursing their hangover, or paying off Christmas bills.

How do I shop for a great rate?
First, know that the rate for the same room on the same date changes over time. If you try to book six months ahead, there won't be many bargains. This is because the hotels figure people booking that far in advance are antsy and willing to overpay. We find that, unless it's a very popular date like New Year's, the best deals show up about two to one month before your trip. This is when the hotels have a good idea how many vacancies they are going to have and adjust prices to get the empty rooms filled. So, you can start shopping six months early, but keep shopping and don't lock yourself into a rate yet.

Now, get a pen and paper because you'll need to write down the different prices we come up with from the following sources

  • Online discounters
  • The Hotel's Internet Specials
  • Travel Agents
This guide doesn't include every possible source for room discounts, but these are the ones we use and find most reliable for bargains.

Step One - The Online Discounters
Start by getting prices from the hotel discounters on the web. Each will give you the names of many hotels and their prices. From those listed, remember the ones you want, either by price range or selection. Don't see any hotels you want? Go on to Step Two.

Step Two - The Hotels
Now we'll compare those prices to what the hotels quote you. Go to the web site for each hotel you're interested in. Or call their 1-800 numbers and give the reservation clerk your vacation dates. If you are a member of the slot club at the hotel, call the number on your card, not the general 1-800 number, and see if you can get a special rate . Whomever you speak to, specifically ask if they have any specials. Also mention the lowest rate you've seen online if the rate they offer is higher.

Step Three - Travel Agents
If you have a travel agent you like, give the agent a call and see what prices he or she can dig up. Tell the agent exactly what hotel or hotels you want because they might otherwise try to sell you on a hotel that may or may not suit you. Remember that just because you checked with an agent doesn't mean you have to book with the agent. You're just getting a price, and don't let them tell you "it's selling out quick," or "this price is so good you better book today."

Step Five - Who's Cheapest?
So, what was the best price? Now that you know, book it and feel secure that you got a good rate. If you book early, book with someone who does not have a cancellation penalty so that if you see a better rate you can cancel and rebook. If you book directly with the hotel and then later see they have dropped their rates, call them back and ask them to honor the lower rate for your reservation.

What Else Should You Know?
The discounters often have the best price, but they may charge a cancellation or change fee. So, use them when you are certain of your travel dates.

If you book through a discounter you cannot get your room comped. This is no problem for the vast majority of us who don't gamble the big bucks and get free rooms. But, if you think you'll be getting a comped room (usually for four to eight hours of about $100 or more per hand gambling action, or four to eight hours of dollar slots or VP), book your room directly through the hotel, then once at the hotel, ask to see a slot or casino host.

What are the Cheapest Hotels?
This is a question with no definitive answer. Weird things can happen, or conventions can be booked at normally cheap hotels and make them cost more than typically fancier places. Also, the cheapest hotels aren't always that cheap. On New Year's a dump may be the cheapest place in town, but they're still gonna get as much as they can out of you. So, keep in mind that the following list is just the places where we typically see cheap rooms, and is meant as a starting point for you. It is not an endorsement of any of them. Click on any hotel to read a full review and links to discounters.

Cheap and Basic

On the Strip
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
El Cortez
The D
Four Queens
Golden Gate
Main Street Station

Off the Strip
Arizona Charlies Boulder
Arizona Charlies Decatur
Boulder Station
Ellis Island
Fiesta Henderson
Gold Coast
Palace Station
Wild Wild West

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