For the second year in a row, I have had the opportunity to travel with a group of AH-MAZING women to a conference where we are able to turn our focus inward for some deep, intense reflection. I honestly say that I walk away from this experience with no choice but to change even in the slightest bit, but both times the shift has been life-altering. I haven’t always been an advocate of getaways because they seemed somewhat frivolous and irresponsible as hubby and I work to continue chipping away at the student loan debt that has plagued our finances for long enough. However, in the spirit of lightening up a little I wrote out a Pro/Con list and decided that these soul-trips are well worth the sacrifice. (If you missed my post on lightening up…click here)
My dear hubby works extremely hard to provide for our family of six (but minus one as the oldest is an adult and pays his own expenses) so it seemed rather selfish for me to skip town, blow the dust off my flip flops, and leave him to fly solo for four-ish days. I am what would be commonly referred to as the Home-Economist, the CFO of our household, the penny-pincher of our empire…well, you get my drift. So, I knew the burden of tightwaddery would rest on my shoulders to meet a happy compromise between Momma getting some much-needed TLC and busting the budget. Well, I decided to make a basic list of how I managed a Vegas vacation on a budget. Ready? Here we go:
1. Commute by Auto
Bestie and I decided to team up and travel via auto from our home in Southern AZ to Las Vegas. Since there were just under 20 attending the event, a few of us traveled by plane but most carpooled. The larger the group you travel with, the less each person’s contribution will be. SCOOORE!
You can estimate the cost of fuel one-way or roundtrip by going to a website like gasbuddy.com/tripcostcalculator or fueleconomy.gov/trip and entering the departure location, arrival location, as well as the make/model/year of the vehicle you will be driving.
2. Pack Food and Enjoy a Picnic Along the Way
Not to toot my own horn but I can pack a pretty mean spread when I want to. I am a huge fan of snack-packing and meal prepping whenever possible. It saves SO much money and time while traveling if you can forego the restaurant stops and just stick to topping off the gas tank, potty-ing, and going for a walk to get the blood flowing again. Unless there is some amazing tourist sight to behold, I am laser-focused on the destination and there’s no way this girl wants to be frittering away valuable time and money on a stop along the way. Examples of good travel snacks are things like trail mixes, celery and nut butter, chips and dip, carrots and ranch, olives, anything that can survive a lengthy drive with just an ice pack and cooler works well! Oh, and I did pack two grande-sized cups of coffee for the road…priorities, people! (If you are curious on how I snack-pack, check out my YouTube video, Snack Pack With Me)
3. Bunk With Your Besties…or Some Really Sweet Friends
Between 17 of us, we rented four condos with two of them accommodating 6 ladies, one of them having 5, and the other with 2. If you are traveling with a group and are wanting to/needing to save on hotel accommodations, perhaps this is something you could consider. For this particular trip, sharing quarters with friends resulted in the largest savings amongst all categories of spending.
Side note: Yes, I understand that there are personality differences as some are introverts (YAY, THAT’S ME!), extroverts (NOT ME!), night owls (YAY, THAT’S ME!) and early risers (my poor bestie/roommate) but we are all adults and respect each other’s differences and quirks. And for introverts who don’t like people in your bubble…I HEAR YA but trust me, it’s really actually quite fun, just be sure to schedule some alone time so you can recharge your batteries. One night, after a long day of learning and taking notes, laughing, crying, and thinking, two of my condo-mates and I sat down at the dinner table with heated up leftovers, chatting and get to know one another. At first, my inner introvert was having a massive temper tantrum but I put her in check in exchange for a wonderful conversation with two fascinating ladies.
Whether traveling as a solo family or a group of people, consider staying off the Strip and asking if the hotel has a shuttle to the Strip for free or minimal fee. Even if there is a fee, it might still be less than one of the main casinos where you have to pay a daily resort fee to include parking. The first time I heard of this, I just about fell off the ground! Yep, a resort fee that includes use of the amenities and PARKING…call me a cheapskate but I thought all of that was factored into the nightly cost of the room.
4. Eat at Restaurants That Serve Large Portions and Share
The first evening, we went to a restaurant that served large…NO, HUUUUGE…portions. Some ladies teamed up with a buddy and shared a meal while others (ME) chose to order from the nightly special and take half the meal back to the condo as leftovers for the next night. Can I get an AMEN for leftovers, please??? The Monday night special was a delightful meatloaf covered in white sauce over a bed of homemade mashed potatoes, with roasted veggies as a side, and cost $10. Well, let me tell ya that such a meal gave me dinner Monday and Tuesday, and still had some potatoes to spare…not to mention that it was delicious each time I ate it! Wednesday night, we decided to take the free shuttle to the Strip and eat at Buca di Beppo inside the Excalibur. Everyone kept saying, “It’s family style dining.” Well, that’s great but what does that mean, exactly? It means that the portions feed 3-5 guests per plate. Each row of tables ordered a few plates and shared. Once again, we had piles of leftovers with bellies and hearts equally full for a fraction of the cost. AWESOME!
5. The Trip IS the Souvenir
I know some would love to throw a state magnet, a shot glass, or some other collectible trinket at me for this one. While I’m by no means a minimalist (I wanna be one when I grow up), I am very guarded about what I choose to bring into my house. Hubby and I have a wee-little house for our family of six but DON’T WORRY–I like it that way most of the time! However, the reality is that we simply don’t have the space to keep a ton of goodies and also don’t have the desire or energy to maintain a ton of belongings. Whether it’s a family vacation or a road trip with the gals, I like to consider the trip and the precious moments captured in pictures to be my souvenirs. This was a tough habit for me to break as I have always loved little trinkets but the truth is that they would just sit on a shelf or even worse, get packed up in a memory box that would take up space in my closet or garage. I’d much rather take the money I would’ve spent on a souvenir and put it toward a photobook from Shutterfly.
So, this one is not for the faint of frugalness as this is what I would consider to be a tip for the proficient. If you have a smart phone, you can download the MyVegas app, MyKonami app, or Pop! Slots app to earn tokens that can be used for freebies and discounts at specific casinos on the Strip. On a previous trip to Vegas, I used some of my tokens to get a BOGO (buy one, get one free) coupon for a sandwich at the Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. One sandwich was enough for Joel and I to split and the free one was enough for all three of my children to split. So, as each sandwich was approximately $20, that means that all five of us filled out bellies for around $4 per person. (We got water for drinks) CAN I GET A HIGH-FIVE????? I’ve also cashed in my tokens for a $25 FreePlay credit at a one of the casinos as well. Let’s just give me another high-five for walking away with a small winning from the video poker machine when I essentially didn’t even gamble any money? Yes, please!
Now, I am fully aware that not everyone is wanting to penny pinch in such ways, but I am hopeful that at least one of these money-saving hacks speaks to you in some way. My husband, for example, lets me work the number magic as he’s a free-spirit in nature and doesn’t like to feel confined. I understand that and absolutely respect our differences, it’s just a matter of presonal preference.
I could go on and on for hours about all the ways to have a Vegas vacation on a budget, without feeling restricted, but these were my top five favorite ways to save money on this past trip. If you have any other hacks, feel free to leave them in the comments. Let’s share our best tips for traveling, no matter where the destination! I am planning our trips for 2019 (yes, already) and I’d love to learn your most favorite way to save money while traveling!
Finally, a great, big, giant shout out to all the ladies who made this year the best yet…such sweet times with sweet ladies. Love you all! (Kelley, Aimee, Becky, Yolande, Kara, Denisha, Debra, Ashley, Rhonda, Lindsey, Nancy, Tency, Jennifer T, Maggie, Brittany, Jenny, meeeee, Carolyn, Abby, and Ari)
As always, God bless and have a wonderful week!