Spring Break: How to do Las Vegas on a budget

When the sun peeks out from clouds, legs creep out from pants and students burst out in celebration, it can only mean one thing: the end of winter quarter. UCR students are caught daydreaming about what follows the week they have mentally prepared for since registration. Finals week may feel like the “Triwizard Tournament” to most, but eternal glory is not what awaits at the end. It’s Spring Break. This tease of a vacation is a fantasy filled with parties, friends and zero cares. However, as college students, finding more cobwebs than cash may be an issue.

I, for example, am considered cheap. I like to say frugal. Nevertheless, I always look for fun on a budget, such as Las Vegas. Enjoyed many times over Spring Break, I have found the ins and outs of the savings of Sin City.

No matter where in California, a four hour road trip to Vegas seems like the easiest route. With high gas prices today, the smallest tank can use up to $30 a fill. With an average 40 MPG, Riverside travelers are looking at a one way trip of $180. On the other hand, have students ever considered swapping the four hour drive for a 45 minute flight? When signing up with airlines directly, such as JetBlue airways, travelers receive seasonal promotions to a number of destinations. In past years, round trip flights from Long Beach, CA to Las Vegas, NV were $120.

Not only does it save money, but traveling by air also saves travel time. Buying tickets in advance also comes with benefits, even though one must avoid the prime time flights (12:00 pm).

Once there, many turn to cab rides and pay for the “fastest” route to their hotel, when really, they are paying for the joy ride around the butt crack of Nevada. Instead, the Monorail is available at every pick up station and makes direct stops at most casinos on the strip. The Monorail costs only $1 a person.

Most view the city as one that never sleeps—yet a room reservation is a must. However, that doesn’t mean that students need to get the cheapest room that has bricks for pillows and paper for sheets. As another alternative, people usually turn to promotional sites that guarantee a cheap vacation, but continue to go broke before they even get there.

The answer is not the promotional sites. The answer lies in the hotels directly. Not to get all Yoda on the situation, but by signing up with each hotel directly, guests receive personalized coupons for not only the room, but also food, amenities and even club life. Resorts such as the Venetian, Caesar’s Palace and Bellagio have offered birthday promotions, seasonal coupons and year-round special events. The catch is to have flexible enough of a schedule to accommodate such opportunities.

The cheapest times to visit Las Vegas are Monday through Thursday. Now if this sounds like it won’t be popping because they are weekdays, during Spring Break, Vegas doesn’t care if there is work to be done at 5:00 a.m. Any given spring Tuesday would harness the exact same vibe as a summer Saturday.

Of course, the most luxurious places will inevitably be more expensive than the Motel 6 off the strip. When hotel hunting, look for hotels that are in the center of the strip or with a “sister” hotel: one that has a connected casino, such as Paris and Bally’s. Paris puts you in the middle of France with one glimpse of the Eiffel tower, but it can also put you into shock if you pay for the room. It may put its sister hotel Bally’s to shame, but with the connected casino and amenities, you can still enjoy all that is offered without going into cardiac arrest.

Just because you are in Las Vegas doesn’t mean living essentials need to go out the window. People see all the lavish restaurants that make mouths drool and wallets ache. The first plan is to seek out the cheapest eateries around you. Some resorts, such as MGM Grand, have their own 24-hour food court for any partier to grab a bite before drinking the night away. Here, one could find major fast food chains and attractive dollar menus. This could be anything from chicken soft tacos from Del Taco to bacon wrapped hot dogs from that sketchy hot dog stand. By finding alternatives to get yourself through the day, you can save up for the ritzy meal the Kardashians would eat on their reality show. Here is where those individual promotions come in handy again.

Whenever guests book the vacation using these offers, resorts send you a “thank you gift.” Most receive discounts on the casinos’ personal restaurants. For example, the nightclub and Asian bistro Tao (in the Venetian) offers food developed in dreams and prices created in nightmares. The seafood, sushi and Asian barbeque are priced from $18-$56 per entrée. However, coupons in prior months have offered up to 30 percent off an entire bill.

Another huge eating attraction is the buffet (my personal favorite). Open for each square meal, buffets embody a certain theme that shows throughout the resort. The Paris Resort buffet fills trays with classic French cuisine. But do not be mistaken for Hometown Buffet, as they can charge you $30 dollars and up per person. Cheaper than a nightclub bistro, yes, but the price can be reduced even more with coupons offered by hosted hotel.

Now, lets get into the real reason a student may read this: the unveiling secret of “doing Vegas right” on a budget. Vegas promoters are not giving up the goods that easy, though. Plus, there are many alternatives to poppin’ bottles in the club.

An emerging destination that has revived tourists is “Fat Tuesdays.” “Fat Tuesdays” has three locations on the Vegas strip, offering customers 21 and over 15 choices of slurpee style drinks. Don’t be fooled as these spiked slushies range from Tropical Itch (fruit punch, Bourbon, orange cocoa and rum) to their strongest concoction: 190 Octane (orange juice and 190 grain spirits). Not only is it a fun way to enjoy the booze, but when one purchases a souvenir jug, these drinks will never get tired when paying only for the refill price.

To be honest, I travel to Vegas to enjoy the amenities that may not draw the average visitor. When going over Spring Break, the weather creates limitless opportunities. The pool during the day gives tanners the spring glow for the night life later on. Shopping at the out-of-ordinary stores is a must. Tourists can purchase items they wouldn’t find in the Tyler Galleria, like a lighter with the flame shooting out of a middle finger. Passing the Bellagio one can gaze at the waterfall show for free, or walk to Treasure Island and witness the fiery battle of pirates over the life sized ship.

Spring Break is just around the corner, but UCR students are already feeling the butterfly rave in their stomachs like it is tomorrow. Be sure to stay safe but most of all, take advantage of the free time before Spring quarter comes.  It can be spent in the comfort of your home or the luxury walls of Las Vegas. Even if you got twenty dollars in your pocket but looking for a come up, this Spring Break will still be freaking awesome.

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