Taking our RV to Las Vegas always seemed like a bad idea to Jim and I. After all, we’re frugal spenders, we don’t gamble and we prefer to spend our time in solitary places of natural beauty – something that’s clearly lacking in this 24-hour, man-made party town. But recently when dear friends from different parts of the country were about to converge in Vegas during the same week, Jim and I decided to put our prejudices aside and try our luck at blacktop boondocking near the Strip.
Blacktop Boondocking in Las Vegas
As usual, we headed to our destination with a free spirit and no reservations. Since two of our friends are full-timers and experienced at boondocking in Vegas, they knew which casinos welcome overnight RVers in their oversized parking lots. We pre-determined a mutual meeting spot to meet up, then Jim and I stopped to dump and fill our tanks – just before making the foolhardy decision to pull into Las Vegas at rush hour, 7:30 pm on a Friday night!
After recovering from the heart-stopping drive down the jam-packed Strip, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that overnight camping in a Las Vegas casino parking lot was better than we expected. The noise-level was lower than some RV parks we’ve visited, we had the reassuring presence of 24-hour security guards on patrol, and although night-time security lights cast a daylight glow inside our rig after sunset, our night shades made it possible to get a good night’s sleep. With no rent charge other than giving the casino the courtesy of daily patronage, we saved enough money to make eating and entertainment affordable – if we went to the right places.
Eating Affordably in Vegas
While searching for affordable Vegas restaurants, we were surprised to find that great buffet deals on the Strip are a thing of the past. The least expensive buffet we found at a Strip hotel was $20 a person but most were in the $25 to $40 range – way out of our frugal RVing budget! To eat affordably in Las Vegas, we headed to casinos located off the Strip since even a two-block walk in either direction would save us as much as 50 percent on meals! Yelp.com was extremely handy in finding Vegas restaurant deals.
For destinations that were out of walking distance, we bought a short-term bus pass from the Las Vegas Transit Agency, RTC. A 24-hour pass is just $8 and it took us anywhere in the heart of the city for 24-hours.
Entertainment on the Cheap
If you’re not a gambler and you don’t have the funds to see concerts from headlining superstars, fear not, there’s still plenty to do in Vegas. Head out any time of day or night to see visitors from all over the globe parading up and down the Strip, listen to street musicians bang out tunes at every corner and enjoy performances from talented dancers, singers and mimes who all beg for your attention (and spare change).
Perhaps the best free entertainment we found in Las Vegas was on Fremont Street, located in the downtown corridor. This colorful district has undergone a complete revitalization hearkening back to Vegas’ classic 1950s and 1960s eras, and is no longer the shabby, downtrodden place it once was. We spent an unforgettable Halloween night eating, drinking and dancing with street musicians and go-go dancers at this budget-friendly destination.
When all was said and done, our Vegas boondocking trip was far more fun and affordable than we anticipated. Although we don’t want to do it again anytime soon, there’s a good possibility that we’ll be back again someday.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.