How to plan a Vegas vacation


It's not all about gambling in sin city. Pauline Frommer, author of the Pauline Frommer Guides to Budget Travel, shows you how to plan a vacation in Vegas that includes art, culture, outdoor adventure, and low-priced hotel rooms. Who knew?

How to plan a Vegas vacation
  • Pauline recommends going to Las Vegas without your children. Although there are some child-friendly activities like amusement parks and museums, the city really is geared toward adults.
  • For side trips, try The Hoover Dam, The Valley of Fire, or Red Rock Canyon.
  • Museums in Las Vegas include The Atomic Testing Museum, The Guggenheim at the Venetian, The Las Vegas Art Museum, and the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History. And, of course, the Liberace Museum.
  • To get the best hotel rates in Las Vegas, bargain for your rooms. Visit to find out what customers are paying, and then call the hotel to ask for an even lower rate.
  • To get discounts on show tickets, use the ticket booths on the strip called “Tix For Tonight” which offer half-priced tickets for the current evening’s performances.
  • For the best bargains overall, be flexible about when you go. Visit to find out when conventions are scheduled. You will want to avoid travel on dates when more than 10,000 conventioneers are expected in Las Vegas because prices will inevitably spike due to heavy demand.

LAUREN: Hi I'm Lauren Pressley for Today we're talking with Pauline Frommer, the creator of the Pauline Frommer Travel Guides and today we're going to Vegas. Hi Pauline.


LAUREN: What's the expression--what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?


LAUREN: Well, you're bringing Vegas to us and we appreciate that. It's an exciting place to travel, but I'm not sure I should bring my kids. What are you thoughts on that?

PAULINE: I don't think it's a very family-friendly destination, although you can take kids there. There are amusement parks, kid-friendly shows, and of course the desert side of Vegas in spectacular and really great for kids. 

LAUREN: Oh I would love to touch on that a little bit--places to go besides the city and the casinos. Is Hoover Dam still a great place to take a trip to?

PAULINE: Hoover Dam is a great place. The Valley of Fire is fabulous to see filled with ancient hieroglyphics by the Native Americans who lived there. There's also Red Rock Canyon which is one of the top rock-climbing destinations in the world. And believe or not, Vegas now has some very good museums. If you're a culture mave then you can go to the Atomic Testing Museum which is an off-shoot of the Smithsonian and tells the fascinating story of all the atomic bomb testing that was done in the vicinity of Vegas. And you can also go to the Guggenheim, the Venetian which has wonderful exhibits. There's also a terrific contemporary art museum. There's a spectacular museum devoted to the history of the area. It's not all gambling there.

LAUREN: And there's also eating. Tell us about the great package deals. You always hear about Vegas that there's these wonderful deals where you get free food as well as housing and gambling money. Do they exist?

PAULINE: I'm not that big a fan of the food in Vegas. I'm maybe a New York snob, but I find it over-priced and not all that good all the time. There are some excellent food values in Vegas, but they tend to be where the locals eat off the strip. On the strip it's getting harder and harder to eat for less than $30 a meal. And because everything has to be flown in there, you're in the middle of the desert, in terms of freshness and quality, I don't think it's worth that pricing. 

LAUREN: There are so many great deals for Vegas that you told us about. How can we save on our housing the best way?

PAULINE: Well, you know, believe it or not, you can often bargain for your rooms in Vegas and get the price down. 3 % of all the rooms in the United States are in Las Vegas. And so at quiet times of the year, prices plummet and a savvy traveler who asks the right questions can really get a good deal. How much do you know you want to save your room for? There's a great website called and it's for people who bid on Priceline go and spill the beans about how much they paid and what hotel they got. So, you go there, you find out oh Harrah's is only going for $49. Call the hotel, ask to speak to a manager and say, I know that you're giving it to Priceline for $49, will you give it to me for $40 a night. 

LAUREN: In your Las vegas guide, Pauline, you mentioned the shows and how you can get around to the best ones in the least expensive way. Tell us a little about the shows in Vegas.

PAULINE: Well every type of show you can imagine is available in Vegas from the circus spectacular of Cirque du Soleil to the headliners such as Wayne Newton. He still has it I have to say. To Celine Dion, to small magic shows, to strip tease shows. Any interest you have it's going to be fulfilled in Vegas. Because there are so many shows, it's actually pretty easy to get a discount on shows in Vegas. There are several booths along the strip called Tix for Tonight which sell half-price tickets the day of shows. If that makes you nervous you can go such websites as and get discount codes in advance. It'll allow you to call the box office and get a discount that way. 

LAUREN: Good to know. So we've talked about a few things from Vegas, the gambling, the food, the side trips, the shows. If I were to budget my vacation to Vegas, where would you suggest I focus most of my money on?

PAULINE: You know it's not where you focus most of your money on, it's when you go. If you can be flexible in when you go to Vegas, you can save literally hundreds of dollars. Vegas is the largest convention destination in the world now and there are times when literally 50,000 conventioneers will pour into town and prices will spike. So if you go to the Las Vegas Conventions Bureau website, you'll find a list of every single convention. I'd say if there are more than 10,000 people coming and they will list those numbers, stay out of town. Prices will rise. And the difference can be between saying getting a $69 room at the Paris to a $249 room next week same room.

LAUREN: Well thank you so much Pauline it's been nice going to Vegas with you.

PAULINE: Thank you.  

meet theexpert
  • Pauline Frommer

    Pauline Frommer Travel Expert and Author Pauline Frommer, is the daughter of travel legend Arthur Frommer and is the author of a new series of guidebooks for budget travelers called the Pauline Frommer Guides. more about this expert »