Everybody’s Going To Vegas

A lot of people that I know have been going to Las Vegas lately.  I mean a lot of them, and they’re going quite frequently too.  One person in particular has been to Las Vegas 4 times in the past 18 months.  From single people in their early twenties to divorced dad’s in their late thirties, it seems like everybody’s going to Vegas lately.  So what gives?

Related: How To Save Money On Hotel Rooms

I’ve asked a few of them why they go down to Vegas and how they can afford to go so often.  The response is always the same, “It’s just so cheap” they tell me.  I’ve never been to Las Vegas before so I decided to investigate this further and see what all the fuss is about.

Fly From a U.S. Airport

Since Lethbridge doesn’t have a major airport, we would either have to drive 2 hours north in order to fly out of Calgary or else drive 3 hours south to fly from Great Falls, MT.  As Canadian Capitalist pointed out a few weeks ago, many Canadians are enjoying the cost savings of flying out of the closest U.S. airport.

For us, the closest American airport is in Great Falls, MT.  There is a discount airline that flies out of Great Falls called Allegiant Air.

I took a quick look at their website and was pretty impressed.  It’s basically a one-stop shop where you can book a complete package of flights, hotels, car rentals and entertainment.

And the flights are definitely cheap, so this must be where everyone is flying from.  But just to get an idea of the total cost for a trip down to Las Vegas I created a fake booking on their website and here’s what I found:

Dates: Sunday March 20th – Thursday March 24th

  • Gas from Lethbridge to Great Falls round trip (300 KM x 2) = $120
  • Flight from Great Falls to Las Vegas (2 people, round trip) = $260
  • Hotel room for 4 nights (Imperial Palace) = $330
  • Entertainment (2 tickets to one show) = $240
  • Meals for two (4 x Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) = $400
  • Fees and taxes = $125

Total cost of trip = $1,475

Can We Really Afford This?

As I mentioned earlier, people from all walks of life are making this trip on a regular basis.  In fact, most of them don’t really have that much in common.  But I can probably guess the one trait that they likely share.  They probably can’t afford to be doing this, certainly not as frequently as I’ve seen in some cases.

Related: Why Do We Save?

I don’t want to condemn these people, and I don’t disapprove of those who list travel as a high priority in their lives.  Some people can do this in a responsible manner by saving in advance rather than racking up credit card debt.

I do know that blowing $1,500 on an extended weekend in Vegas is not at the top of my bucket list.  That’s not my idea of cheap entertainment.  And doing this 4 times in 18 months is just going overboard in my view.

Live Now, Pay Later?

Maybe it’s just a clash of different values.  Live now and pay later vs. save now and live later.  Am I the only one who cringes when I hear that Mazda commercial state, “I will never sacrifice joy in the name of practicality”?  You need to find a balance between enjoying life and being a miserly old scrooge, but that’s going too far.

Related: 35 Ways I Save Money

That’s the consumer culture we’re living in now, and it’s a bit frightening to see sometimes.  Perhaps I’m wrong about these people and they have saved up their pennies before every trip.  Or maybe I just need to loosen up a bit and take a trip down to Vegas myself to see what I’ve been missing.

Is Vegas worth it?  Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

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  1. roger on March 7, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Just back from Las Vegas.
    Round trip from Edmonton (Tues to Sat on West Jet) About $370
    4 nights Imperial Palace (Tues-Fri) $138 TOTAL
    Tickets to shows were purchased 1/2 price or heavily discounted (easy to get cheap tickets to many top rated shows-but not all)
    Food-ate fast food,not into gourmet dining
    Clothing purchases-unbelievably cheap at the discount malls!
    You DON”T have to spend a ton of money to really enjoy yourself

    • Echo on March 7, 2011 at 8:03 am

      Hi Roger, that’s great! Did the $370 for your flight include taxes and fees?

      Perhaps I didn’t look hard enough for show tickets, but you’re right I’m sure there are discounts to be had.

  2. VanLarry on March 7, 2011 at 3:15 am

    IMO, go to Vegas once.

    It’s what some of my lady friends call it a “man’s world”. My take, it’s an adult theme park for people to blow their money. You’re there not to relax but get wasted on drinks.

    As for your expenses, I’d shave some of that down, maybe $1000 for 4 nights? I’d cut the food–Meals for two (4 x Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) = $400. You really need fancy dining for two for every night? Skip the shows, they’re impressive, but you do you really need to see them?
    Keep looking into cheaper way to travel there and back. Maybe greyhound to Great Falls?

    I really suggest to go outside Vegas and do sight seeing of the Hoover dam, the Canyons, etc,. Specially if you’re not into gambling, drinking, partying, blowing your money for stuff for no good reason, going crazy, etc,. Trade your show tickets for tour tickets?

    Travel is always expensive, but for your original question, I don’t think Vegas is worth it. I’d rather go some place exotic and do sight seeing then spend my time gambling and getting wasted in Nevada.

    • Echo on March 7, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Hi VanLarry

      Maybe in my younger days that trip would have sounded better (a boys trip, as you say). I think we’d rather go to Europe or go on a cruise now.

      I’m not sure that I could shave down the expenses much more though. I factored in $10/$15/$25 per person per day for breakfast/lunch/dinner.

      What I forgot to include was parking at the Great Falls airport, alcohol, shopping, and casino money. So I’m sure if you saved $100 on meals you could easily replace it with something else.

  3. Gary on March 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    You would also need a hotel room the night before your flight as the weather might be unpredictable and you wouldn’t want to miss your flight. If you gamble enough( say $200. ), the casinos send you offers for free rooms so it is a never ending lure. They try to make you feel special and they lure you into doing things you probably would not normally do. The cruise idea is much, much better.

    • Echo on March 7, 2011 at 8:49 pm

      Good point about the hotel room Gary. Depending on what your priorities are when you’re down in Vegas I’m sure you could save from one category and just as easily spend it on another.

      I’m with you on the cruise, just have to figure out where 🙂

  4. Financial Uproar on March 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I went to Vegas a year ago for a buddy’s bachelor party. I stayed a week and it cost about $1000, but part of that was splitting a hotel room. Plus, I actually managed a small profit gambling. The guy getting married actually ran out of money on the second to last day. We stayed at Hooter’s (which was cheesy but suitable).

    Going to Vegas is basically an excuse to go party for an extended weekend, so it’s not really my scene. I did get to watch the Blue Jays’ minor league baseball team while I was there, so that was fun.

    You know what’s cheaper than going to Vegas? NOT going to Vegas. I’d suspect your friends would be much better off putting that $1500 away.

    • Echo on March 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm

      My brother and I spent a fair bit of money on a trip to Chicago when we were younger, but it was a once in a lifetime trip where we saw the Bears vs. Browns at Soldier field and then saw the Cubs vs. Reds at Wrigley.

      I don’t need to fly to Vegas to get drunk, that’s what family functions are for 🙂

  5. Mike Holman on March 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Everything is “cheap” when compared to something more expensive (or if it’s amortized over 30 years).

    Some people just have different priorities – they don’t worry that much about employment and figure that retirement will take care of itself and just go with the flow.

    • Echo on March 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

      Mike, I know a lot of people who are just “going with the flow”. And some others I know can afford to do this and still have money in the bank. You’re right, it’s about priorities and I’m not too interested in this lifestyle.

  6. CnC on March 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    When you’re talking in terms of a vacation, Vegas is absolutely a cheap way to go. If you’re already planning on spending money to go somewhere that is.

    Last summer BF and I went to Vegas for 5 days 4 nights. We flew out of Bellingham WA with Allegiant Air and the total for the two of us for flight and hotel was $400 CAN. That price is hard to beat. We are lucky in that we had a ride to and from the Bellingham airport and while we were there we toured all the free attractions so our food and spending money probably tallied in at no more than $300 so I see the lure but really there’s only so much to see and do in Vegas so multiple trips a year are just not for me.

    • Echo on March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      You’re right CnC, if you already have the money saved and were planning to go somewhere I can see the lure of going to Vegas for the experience.

      I must say that I’m finding Allegiant Air to be incredibly popular amongst Canadians. I will definitely keep them in mind for future flights.

  7. Canadian Couch Potato on March 10, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Paul Sameulson, Nobel Prize-winning economist and advocate of index investing, once said: “Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.”

    Who am I to argue with a Nobel laureate? We leave Sunday. 🙂

    (For the record, paid cash, no credit card debt.)

    • Echo on March 10, 2011 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Dan, have fun in Vegas next week! If I were an index investor I guess I’d need some excitement in my life too 😉

      • Canadian Couch Potato on March 11, 2011 at 8:26 am

        @Echo: Actually, I’m a Couch Potato gambler, too. I go to the roulette table and put $10 on every square. 🙂

        • Echo on March 11, 2011 at 8:34 am

          I have a hunch that you are more of a no-limit Texas hold ’em poker kind of guy.

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