July 18, 2010

Saving Money In Vegas : Food

Food prices in Vegas have been gradually going up over the years.   It used to be that most places offered  dirt cheap just to get you into their casino.  But nowadays the casinos make a hefty profit off of their dining operations.     Eating when you travel can be pretty pricey since you're often stuck eating out.   Vegas isn't as cheap as it used to be, but you can still find some pretty good deals on food.

Note:  All prices are current as of writing and are likely to change in the future.   

All You Can Eat Buffets

All you can eat buffets are a mainstay in Vegas and can be found at most every major casino hotel.  Prices vary widely from around $10 at the low end to about $40.   Vegas.com has a list of buffets.   The buffets can be a very good deal for a meal as they offer a wide selection of food at a pretty reasonable price.  I'm particularly fond of the buffets that have crab legs.   The quality of food at Vegas buffets runs the whole spectrum from mediocre to fabulous.   The Buffet at the Golden Nugget has seafood for $21 and I've also been generally happy with the More buffet at Luxor which is $20 for dinner.   If you want to splurge then the Bellagio buffet is very good but its around $30-35.

All Day Buffet Deals

Taking the all you can eat idea one step further some buffets have recently started selling a ticket for all-day dining that gives you access to their buffet all day long for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   The RoundTable Buffet at Excalibur or the More Buffet at Luxor both currently have an all-day long price of $29.99.   The Circus buffet at Circus Circus is $25 for adults or $20 for kids.

Buffet of Buffets

If you aren't satisfied with unlimited food all day at a single buffet then you can get unlimited all day dining at seven buffets for one price.  Right now several of the major strip hotels are offering a deal called the 'Buffet of Buffets'.  This is a one price deal that lets you eat at any of 7 different buffets.     Buffets included are : Paris, Planet Hollywood, Flamingo, Harrah's, Caesar's Palace, Imperial Palace and Rio.   Currently it costs $34.99 for rewards members or $39.99 for non members.    The Buffet of Buffet's is an easy way to get a lot more variety than just getting an all-day buffet pass at a single buffet.

Discount Food Deals 

It is a long tradition for Vegas casinos to offer deeply discounted food prices to entice gamblers into their casino.   While this isn't as common as it once was there are still many casinos offering great bargains on food to tempt you into their establishment.   There are numerous deals on meals at the casinos and hotels around Las Vegas.     The major destination hotels on the strip are less likely to have great food deals.   You're more likely to find such discounts at the off strip and downtown casinos. 

The Vegas.com website has a list of food specials.   You can find breakfast deals for $2-4 at half a dozen spots, shrimp cocktails or hot dogs for $1-3 at several places, steak or prime rib dinners for $7-10 currently at nine restaurants.   If you manage it and plan your eating right you could get a $2 breakfast, $1 hot dog for lunch and a $7 steak dinner and eat for about $10.   The major drawback to these deep discount deals are the travel involved.   If you don't have a rental car then that much travel will cost you more than you'll save making it impractical.   Even if you do have a rental car the amount of time spent driving around time will cut into your vacation fun time.   You can also find some recommended cheap eats at CheapoVegas.com.

Free Food Credit From Hotel

Vegas hotels will periodically offer specials where you can get promotional credits or discounts when you book your hotel reservation.  Food credit good for use in their restaurants and buffet are one of the things they sometimes offer.  For example the Palace Station is currently offering a hotel package with 2 free breakfast buffets per day.  

Coupon Deals

There are a number of discount coupon deals offered by hotels and casinos in Vegas.   Its fairly common to get discounts on dining through these coupon offers.   When we checked into our hotel on our last trip to Vegas we were handed a sheet of coupons including at few for discounts at the hotels restaurants.   For example the Sahara has a special currently offering a coupon book when you book with them which has $200 worth of discounts on food and entertainment at their hotel.   The Harrahs hotels are currently offering a coupon book which has discounts on shows plus : "$5 off half a dozen Buffets, and lots of dining discounts and free drinks"   But be warned, take the advertised value of this kind of discount packages with a grain of salt.   If they advertise a large discount total dollar value like "$900 in discounts" since that really means a lot of 2-for-1 show tickets and 20% off coupons that are worth "up to" a total of $900 if you were to use all of them.

Restaurant.com gift certificate coupons

You can use discount gift certificates from Restaurant.com at several Vegas locations.   The restaurants in Mandalay Bay take the coupons.   These might work if you want to eat at one of the restaurants in question.  But you have to get the gift certificate in advance, you have to generally spend a minimum amount and a 18-20% gratuity is often mandatory.   It might be a good way to get $25 off a $75 meal at a high end place, but its not a super bargain in general.

Research Reviews Online

Cheap food isn't a very good deal if the food is poor quality.   Some of the buffet's in Vegas may have very cheap prices but the food isn't very good.   To help identify the poor quality dining and buffets in Vegas you can do a little research online first.   Yelp.com has user reviews on restaurants and buffets in Vegas.   If you go to Yelp.com and search for 'buffets' in Las Vegas you can sort the list and add filters for price.    For example I did a quick search for 'buffet' in 'las vegas nv' and then filtered for Las Vegas itself, '$$' price level and 'buffets' category.  The 3rd option there is the Garden Court Buffet at Main Street station with 4 out of 5 stars average from 39 reviews.   On the other hand the Sahara Buffet only has 2 stars average.   You can also view the list of reviews for restaurants at Tripadvisor.com   and then sort their list based on price and filter it to show buffets or other options.

Visit a Grocery Store and Make Your Own Food

Eating out at restaurants is more expensive in general than cooking your food at home.   If you rent a condo or motel unit with some cooking facilities then you can save a lot on food by preparing your meals at home in your own kitchen.   You don't have to cook everything in your room, simply having a box of cereal and a half gallon of milk in a mini-fridge can save you a lot on breakfasts.  Major downside for this strategy is that most hotels in vegas do not have any kitchen facilities in room even minifridges or microwaves and most don't even have a coffee maker.  And of course it can take time away from your vacation fun to prepare your own meals.   This is a good way to save on in between meal snacks or water.  Simply dropping by a grocery store at some point to get yourself some snack food and bottled water can save you a fair amount versus the prices you might pay for such things on the strip.

Free Comped food

You may have heard of 'comps' in Vegas where the casino gives free stuff to gamblers.   If you do much gambling then you can get yourself free things from the hotels and casinos.  Let me be clear : I would NOT recommend gambling just to get the rewards, but if you're gambling for entertainment anyway then you may as well get the free comps.   This doesn't work very well for me since I never gamble that much.   But if you are a gambler then you should take advantage of the gambling comps you may be offered.   Casinos usually have a club card of some sort that will track your gambling and get you free stuff based on a reward system.  When you sign up for the casino club card you can often get some free discount coupons as well.  You may have to gamble a LOT in order to get comps of any significant value.     For example the Grazie club would take 2500 slot points in order to get a $10 gift card which means you'd be gambling $2500 on slot machines to get $10 free product.  

Bottom Line : There are a zillion different food options in Vegas with everything from $1 hot dogs to $40 buffets.   If you do a little research in advance and take advantage of deals you can keep your costs down and get some very good food.

Photos by prayitno and lbshopgirl 

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