Las Vegas, the City Where Things Used to be Free

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Ahhhh, Las Vegas. Bright Light City. The city where anything is feels possible. The city where parking, even valet parking, is was free. The city where the free drinks flow used to flow. The city where virtually free food and rooms are available for those who gamble even a little. The city where resort fees of up to $39 per night can cost now more than a nightly room charge.


A couple of years ago when I wrote a break-up note of sorts to Las Vegas I blamed myself for changing and growing apart from the city I once really, really liked, if not loved. I liked it so much I got married there. But let’s be real, this city has changed, too.

Vegas Love photo by Chelsea Nicole

In Las Vegas where once virtually everything was a loss leader just to get you to the slots and tables, now virtually everything from parking, to resort fees, to even drinks at an increasing number of spots costs extra! You can’t totally blame Vegas for this as the spending patterns of tourists has shifted a bit away from gambling and towards others types of entertainment and activities, but that doesn’t make the nickel and dime feeling any more exciting.

As an example, yesterday I was helping my parents book a night in Las Vegas on The Strip for an upcoming budget trip they have to Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It just so happens that their one night in Las Vegas fell on a weekend night, which is traditionally one of the priciest nights to stay in Las Vegas. While they have done a great job as always at keeping costs low on the trip, things still add up, and by the time the final night of their trip rolls around, not having to shell out more cash for a hotel will probably be a good thing.

They could have stayed downtown or off the Strip for a reasonable amount, but if you only have one night in Vegas, you might as well spend it on The Strip. When I heard they were finding pretty high rates, I first looked at using points via Hyatt Gold Passport to stay at an M Life property such as Luxor for 12,000 points + the resort fee. However, since the rates weren’t too high at some spots, they settled on using some of their Ultimate Reward points at 1.5 cents each via their Sapphire Reserve Card to pay for a night at The Mirage via the Chase Travel site. They love location as much as anything, and The Mirage has a premier location on The Strip.


The first price for The Mirage looked fair enough at around 8,500 points per for the night…but then when you go to book it jumps up a bit when taxes are added. Then we got to talking about how that’s really just the entry fee as there will still be the resort fee you pay to the hotel directly during your stay, oh, and don’t forget the self parking charges that are now in play for the M Life properties for those who don’t have M Life status. Let’s not even start with the fact that Mirage is one of the properties that has tightened up on free drinks at some machines such as the video poker machines at the bar.

Don’t feel left out Caesars folks, your hotels now have valet parking charges as outlined below, and self parking charges are reportedly on the way in “early 2017”, though parking remains complimentary for Total Rewards members at the Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars levels.

Valet Parking Charges at Bally’s, Caesars Palace, The Cromwell, Paris and Planet Hollywood

  • Up to 4 hours: $13.00
  • 4 to 24 hours: $18.00
  • Over 24 hours: $18 for each additional day or fraction thereof.

Valet Parking Charges at Flamingo Las Vegas, Harrah’s Las Vegas and The LINQ

  • Up to 4 hours: $8.00
  • 4 to 24 hours: $13.00
  • Over 24 hours: $13 for each additional day or fraction thereof.

No Valet Parking Charges at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

  • Valet parking at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino will remain free.

Vegas is ever-changing, so this new fee-for-all version of Vegas that is coming into play shouldn’t be too surprising. I’m sure it won’t be surprising to my parents as they have even written about how Las Vegas has changed in their decades of visits here and here.

However, if you were planning to use your 2,500 Spirit miles to fly into Las Vegas hoping to land in a city where lots of things are free or darn close to it, I advise you to recalibrate your expectations. That land is as gone as the theme park that once graced the backlot of the MGM.

Whether you are paying with points or cash, the first price you see for your hotel in Vegas is likely just the entry fee, and “fun” additions like taxes, resort fees, and parking fees can just about double your nightly rate at some properties. Not much is free in Las Vegas anymore, but hopefully their upcoming trip is a winner all the same. How has the rise of the fees for everything in Vegas impacted your trips to that bright city?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Honestly between the monorail and influx of Lyft/Uber drivers I don’t see why tourists staying on the Strip feel the need to rent a car. As someone who used to live there,I feel the parking fees hurt the locals much worse than tourists.

    • In my parents case they will be driving all over three states, so they will already have a car when they get to Vegas for the night. Personally, I rarely ever rent a car in Vegas.

      • Could they change the car reservation to the next day? The savings they get from the car rental plus the lack of paying to park would probably more than make up for an Uber ride RT to the airport (~$30 RT depending on where in the strip).

        • This is at the end of their trip. Like the brainstorming, but just guessing it is probably more trouble than it would be worth to turn the car in at the airport, get back to the hotel, then get back to the airport the next day for the flight without the rental just to save on a night’s parking and such. I’m betting their per-night car rental fee is pretty low, though obviously a lot would depend on that.

          • Not trying to beat a dead horse, but some of the rental car agencies have locations on the strip/at hotels. Quick google maps search says Avis and Dollar are located at the Mirage.

    • Very true I live in summerlin and would head to downtown or the strip for lunch or spa or maybecjust playing tourist. more now I stay closer tie home and have just as much fun

    • In the last 15 years we always rent a car, because we visit Sumerlain, Henderson, Downtown, and the Strip. Oh, wait, take the Strip off the list. More and more it’s downtown, M Resort, Red Rick, etc……

  2. I’ve stayed at the Monte Carlo for like $60 a night and gotten a $50 a day food comp just by googling Monte Carlo hotel deals. I loved staying there bc the tram takes you to Aria or Bellagio in 5 minutes. It took less time for me to get to the lobby of the Bellagio from the Monte Carlo than from my room at the Bellagio! Enjoyed dinner at Andre’s at MC more than dinner at Le Cirque at the Bellagio too!

  3. I did see higher fees when staying at Bellagio at $35/night, but since they were comping two nights I couldn’t complain. Part of that is coming from play and part from being Hyatt Diamond and matched to MLife Plaintum. All from getting an Amex, being “matched” at Hyatt Diamond to SPG Gold and then to MLife. Of course they got their money back from me at the tables! I do think the base rates are lower than they would be without the resort fees, so I’m not sure it’s truly a 100% add.

  4. For starters, my wife and I just visit less often. As you said, this nickle and dime at every turn stuff just takes a lot of the fun away. When we do visit, we stay downtown now, since it’s a much easier walk to another casino/restaurant/whatever, you don’t need to pay for parking, because you can walk the area easily and don’t need a car, the prices on everything are much better and the resort fees are no worse. We tend to do one night up big, with a really nice dinner and a show on the strip, but otherwise avoid the strip like the plague, between traffic, sprawl, and prices. Downtown also tends to feel at least a bit more old school Vegas.

  5. This is but one more example of how travel is changing and NOT for the better! Love Josh’s Las Vegas wedding tuxedo in the photo —-

    • Ha ha! This as technically a “day after” picture in the Neon Bone Yard. He did have an actual suit on for the wedding, but it is Vegas, so you never know…

  6. @Summer, super open-ended question. My best friend is getting married in Vegas this summer. Any Vegas wedding pointers? Literally anything that you can think of that you wish you had done differently? Wedding is at the Tropicana. I’ve been to Vegas 3 times (once in the past 1.5yrs), so I’m fairly familiar with the city.

    • I loved our Vegas wedding. It was at Mandalay Bay in a suite with 40-50 people there. We had a real minister and after the ceremony we re-arranged things to have the party in the suite with a bartender we hired, food, drinks, etc. and eventually even Elvis. It was great and wasn’t cheesy…well, until Elvis. We didn’t go through a little chapel or hotel chapel or anything, just used The Knot website (is that even still a thing?) and hired really well reviewed vendors and folks that we had gone and met on a previous trip to the city. Happy to answer any questions – we really had a great multi-day event!

  7. I’m 32 and have gone to Vegas countless times in the past 10 years. During my time, I’ve learned that “Vegas” and “cheap” should never be used in the same sentence. However, I learned a few strategies to lighten the blow as much as possible:
    Book a suite – Squeeze as many friends into it as you comfortably can (Fire code be damned). If you split it enough ways, it is cheaper than multiple standard rooms, especially after the resort fee is factored-in. This also gives you a great place for partying where drinks don’t cost $15/each.
    Speaking of drinks – When driving from the airport to the hotel, ask your cab driver to take you to a liquor store on the way in. His meter will be running, so he doesn’t mind. It will be cheaper than buying booze on/near the strip.
    Vegas was built for the Amex Platinum Card – Superficial, prestigious, lucrative; Vegas and the Platinum card go hand-in-hand. Between FHR benefits and the amazing LAS Amex lounge, the annual fee pays for itself in one pilgrimage.
    myVegas Points – Earning points costs time, redeeming them costs pride, but it saves you money. You can make 3 redemptions per trip, which means 3 free buffets, which means all the food you need on a 3-day trip (if you do it right).

    I’ve had a limited chance to witness Vegas evolve over the years, but from what I’ve noticed, it seems that the Strip is changing into a glorified outdoor food court. I like fast-casual dining as much as the next guy, but if I wanted Chipotle, I would stay at home.

  8. I booked a Fri/Sat night stay 2nd weekend in May at the The Venetian via CSR UR in a king suite for 13K points/night and it includes free parking. There’s a sale going on right now in the UR portal.

  9. Yeah, we were in Lost Wages maybe 5 years ago, and the Magic was totally gone. The MGM Lion Habitat had just closed. Playing a $10 min bet Craps table at the Venetian, we asked several times for the cocktail waitress to come by and they just ignored us. They didn’t even bother to say no, they just didn’t do anything. A least back then the valet parking was free.

    The Cirque shows were so sad, not like they used to be. Very mediocre performers and crude tasteless “jokes” (sic), and on a Winter weekend evening the showroom was maybe a third full. I could see why, as it was just so disappointing.

    The real headliners are only on weekend nights, when even the way out of the action Circus Circus is $200 a night for a basic hotel room when you add in taxes and resort fees. The cheapest room at the Bellagio for a Saturday night in Feb is running almost $500.

    And if you are there on a weekend when there is a major convention in town, driving from one end of the strip to another, by yourself or in a cab, can easily take a mind numbing full hour.

    Don’t even get me started on the hotel clubs, with sky high admissions, and sky high drink prices ($1,000 bottle service plus 20% tip anyone?). And then you queue up for a hour or two to even find out if they will eventually allow you to come in, or not.

    I imagine if you are a ‘whale’, who drops $20,000 + on a weekend, it’s a whole different matter, as they will totally cater to you. It would be nice if that was us, but of course it’s not. We have no plans to go back, and aren’t missing it at all.

    • Were you seeing Zumanity or Criss Angel by chance? Those shows were not my favorite. I do still want to see O though!

    • Indeed – sadly they don’t have that one. Like the way you think though! Sounds like the fees are actually making them re-think staying there. #goodjobvegas

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