Last week I wrote about planning a trip to Las Vegas, and my efforts to minimize cost, and ended up with a 10-day completely comped string of hotel bookings. This week, I’ll take a bit of a look at food. This will be a bit less structured, like last week’s post, but there won’t be as many outcomes, as the food situation tends to evolve as things go.
I also am not a food snob and don’t go to Vegas to experience expensive, delicious dinners at Michelin-star-chef restaurants or anything like that. I actually tend to lose weight when I go on a trip like to Vegas, from a combination of more moving around and less stops to do things like eat. So you won’t see high-end restaurant recommendations here. What you will see are some utilitarian recommendations for some solid food choices while in Vegas in the midst of my identifying good deals and managing spending while out there.
Baseline: Comp Dollars
Virtually every casino company lets you earn some sort of comp dollars. Each trip a portion of my food eating will be paid for by the comp dollars I earn at the main casino operators. Since my trip this time will largely consist of staying at Mlife and Caesars properties, the earnings at each of them matter most:
- Mlife: For every $3 in (most) slots or $10 in video poker, you earn 10 tier credits, but you also earn one penny of express comps. If you are a higher level player, you earn a bonus multiplier (I’m currently Gold), so I earn 20% more.
- Caesars Rewards: For every $5 in slots or $10 in video poker, I earn 1 Rewards Credit, equal to a penny in comps.
So if I do a few thousand in coin-in at each company, I should see about $20 in comps. Not much, but it at least gives me a couple of fast meals at places like Earl of Sandwich at Planet Hollywood, or perhaps a food court on the Mlife side.
Resort Credits and Other Saved Perks
Aside from the tier earnings, I’ll have a total of $200 in resort credit to use during my two Luxor stays. I also tier matched to Diamond during my May/June visit, which nets me a $100 Celebration Dinner as well. So that’s $300 to spend. I have $90 in express comps banked at Mlife as I write this, and I will likely visit my local MGM property, MGM Springfield, at least a couple of more times before December. So let’s presume I end up with another $100 there. That’s now $400.
Aside from Caesars and Mlife, I have monthly offers coming downtown from The D and Golden Gate due to my previous play there – that’ll net me $40 in food during my visit should I use to use it. And the Plaza has been offering me some basic food comps which may extend to when I get out there. So a day downtown could net me an easy go of it.
My various apps have plenty of saved up perks and points:
- MyVegas: I have 3 million LPs and can redeem for buffets and restaurant credits. I can use up to 4 “premium” rewards though, and I may opt to use other things that are free like MyKonami freeplay.
- Binion’s: As of this writing I have about 2800 hats, good for $35 worth of comps. So another meal could be found there. I can earn 10 hats a day for the next five months, or about 1500 hats, just for collecting bonuses every day, so I should reach more than $50 in comps easily before I get back to Vegas.
- Four Queens: Right now I’m at 800 crowns, about $10. With a similar 10 crowns a day for collecting bonuses as a floor, I will have over $30 in comps accumulated by the time I get there.
Ways to Make the Comps Work
So with all this, what can I do with everything?
- Mlife Resort Credits: My friend Gabor, who I mentioned last week, tipped me off to the all-day wristbands you can get at certain properties for buffets. During the week you can eat all day at Luxor and Excalibur buffets (go to either one you want, as much as you want) for $40 (Friday-Sunday is $5 more). Going three times, this works out to about $13 per visit and is solid accordingly. I did this twice in my May/June trip and found the breakfast/lunch options OK, but dinner was great at Excalibur and alone made me happy I did the wristband.
You can also opt for all-day at the Aria buffet for $60 (available only Monday-Friday). I did this once, since I was transitioning my stay last trip to Planet Hollywood that day. Aria’s buffet is excellent at all hours of the day. They even had shrimp out at 7 a.m. if you wanted to maximize the seafood while eating buffet. At $20/meal for three meals, this too felt like a good deal. Best part is if you have a $100 resort credit and two or three nights to stay, you can do one all-day pass of each and basically be covered for basically the entire stay.
Doing an all-day buffet avoids the need to feel like you need to stuff yourself, since you can get back in later. The wristband is also an awesome line-cutting mechanism; there is a special line at Aria to cut even past the high-tier-card line, which meant the wait was always very short. I was the only one with a wristband waiting each time and since I was flying solo, I got seated quite quickly. Meanwhile, the buffet line at Aria was huge each time.
- Caesars Rewards Celebration Dinner: Caesars offers its own buffet pass, called Buffet of Buffets. Theirs is $60 on weekdays and $70 on weekends for Caesars Rewards members and gets you into basically every Caesars buffet in Las Vegas. If you wish to access the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace, there is a $25 upcharge for brunch/lunch and/or $35 for dinner. Since the celebration dinner is a one-use $100 option, doing the BoB and upgrading to one Caesars visit seems like a great use of it.
One big difference with Caesars’ pass is you get unlimited visits for 24 hours, and the clock starts with your purchase of the pass. So if you time it out right you can actually get four visits (for example, lunch and dinner on day one, and breakfast and lunch on day two). You also have six buffet choices. You do not get line cutting privileges unless you are a higher tier card or buy it separately in the case of Bacchanal Buffet, not a problem in my case since I have the Diamond card.
- Mlife Express Comps: Starbucks and other food outlets will take your Express Comps and use them instantly, so you don’t even have to bill it back to the room and take it off later. This can be good for snacks or other purposes. Express comps can’t be used at gift shops, though, even if you’re buying food.
- The D/Golden Gate Food Comps: During my May/June visit I ate at the grill upstairs at The D and had a tasty meal that was well priced. I could easily eat there twice for the $40 in food comps plus some leftover comps I have on my card in general.
- Binion’s / Four Queens Apps: Cumulatively I could get a few meals out of what will accrue.
The buffet passes just using the resort credits and celebration dinner voucher alone will cover more than half my needed eating. Earned comps will cover another third. I anticipate needing to pay for a handful of other meals. The Laughlin day of my stay will leverage coupons from the ACG/LVA books (I didn’t get into Laughlin here but that’s the least organized/planned of my stay thus far). So along with my hotels, my baseline planning has largely factored in much of my eating.
Why do I go through all this? If the baseline needs are covered, it takes the pressure off. The money I travel to Vegas can be used for whatever else, knowing that my food and hotel expenses are already covered. If I want to gamble a bit more, take in a show or an event, I have more leeway since I don’t have to figure out how much I need to set aside for food.
Do you eat well on the cheap in Vegas? Share your experiences in the comments!