I just did a trip to Vegas for $250. I didn’t go to any timeshare meetings and didn’t stay with anyone’s family. I didn’t drive there, and I didn’t sleep under a bridge. I flew there, watched two great shows and stayed in an amazing hotel. Let me tell you how.

Two weeks ago, I took a 48-hour trip to Las Vegas. When I mentioned that I was going there for just two days, several friends were surprised. I suppose people look at Vegas as a “real vacation” or a place to get married quickly. They know they’re going to spend a lot of money, so they mentally and financially prepare themselves and go with pockets wide open. The truth is, if you’re flexible, you can take a quick getaway to Vegas for not a lot more time or money than a road trip to San Antonio or Austin.

Spirit Airlines is not exactly renowned for its luxury flights. What Spirit does have going is extremely cheap tickets, often even at the last minute. If you join the Spirit Club, you get even more discounts on luggage plus the actual cost of the flight. So less than one week before I decided to make a trip to Sin City, I found prices as low as $75 each way. I will tell you that the cheapest flight times do not necessarily pair well with a good night’s sleep. But then again, when was the last time you had a good night’s sleep in Vegas?

So now you know how I spent $150 of my Vegas money; I gambled it on Spirit. The trip had me arriving early and leaving late the next night. That gave me a full two days to experience Vegas, and I only had to book a hotel for one night. Vegas hotels can be pricey on weekends, but if you opt for a different night, you can save a lot of money. I use hotels.com to compare hotels, but I never needed to do that for this trip. I found the Palm Casino Hotel for $39 on travelzoo.com. This is the hotel that movie stars frequent regularly, known for its nightclubs and restaurants.

The major expense of almost any destination is lodging and transportation. Las Vegas is an exception since most people spend a LOT more on gambling. But if you have some self control, you can still have fun and not spend a fortune. One of my favorite haunts is Fremont Street, and there's a lot of free in Fremont. It’s a hodgepodge of roving street performers, spray-can artists, elderly Elvis impersonators, and saxophone players.

The Fremont Street Experience is a big draw and only takes place after dark. It is something that has to be seen to be believed. A giant screen that takes up at least two blocks and shows unique original videos paired with great music. You can grab a drink at an outside bar and walk down the street with it while you watch the show. If you always wanted to go zip lining and you just never found yourself in a rainforest, don’t despair. There are lines stretched across that will put you in flight above the crowds on Fremont.

The neon signs on Fremont Street are one of the marvels you can see in Las Vegas, without breaking the bank.

Image: Bill Wiatrak

If you’re trying to stick to a budget, the casinos are lined with all kinds of food deals from 99-cent shrimp cocktails to $9 ribs. The second coolest thing about Fremont is that you can just dodge in and out of the casinos on the street. When you go to Mandalay Bay or another strip casino, there’s a commitment. You’ve got to park and walk at least 10 minutes just to get to a blackjack table. Not so at Fremont. The doors are open, the drinks are flowing and it’s easy to duck out of one casino and into the next.

No trip to Vegas would be complete without seeing at least one world-class show. I signed up for a pair: Beatles Love and Zombie Burlesque.  I had seen the Cirque show—Beatles Love—when it first opened but I came across a great deal on Groupon for the Sunday show. I was unfamiliar with Zombie Burlesque, but it garnered great reviews and it had two things that I love (listed in the title).

Most people don’t think about using Groupons in other cities, but it’s very easy to pull up the site, plug in a city and see what you’ve been missing out on. I’ve flown in helicopters over the strip, shot fully automatic machine guns, and dug giant holes and throw giant truck tires around next to the strip on an excavator at “Dig This” from Groupon Las Vegas. I might mention that none of those activities ever even occurred to me before I saw the coupon, yet it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had there.

So, there you have it. $150 for round-trip air fare, $25 for a zombie show, $60 for a Cirque show, $39 for the Palm Casino. All added up, it cost barely $250. What a great vacation! During the day I had free drinks in various casinos, visited a candy factory, and even went on an outing to Red Canyon. There are lots of free things to do in Vegas for those who don’t mind a little walking.

Bellagio has an amazing water effects show, Treasure Island has a pirate wench stunt show, The Forum features a weird Zeus statue robot show, and you can watch the volcano at Mirage.  Just wandering around the new hotels like Aria is amazing or having a drink in the Eiffel tower, staring at living statues at the Venetian, or watching the flamingoes at—where else?—the Flamingo, can be a fun leisurely afternoon.

So next time you want a quick getaway and you’ve grown tired of San Antonio mariachis and funky Austin watering holes, give Vegas a shot. It’s only a three-hour flight from Houston. Hey, you might even run into Criss Angel.

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