November 14, 2003 -- Thanksgiving and Christmas are family-oriented holidays, and Las Vegas isn't much of a family-oriented place. That's why airlines and hotels always put big discounts on trips to Vegas over the holiday period.
Southwest Vacations, America West Vacations and Allegiant Air are all serving up cheap Vegas packages this holiday season, and the prices can make even the stingiest Grinch smile. One thing to watch out for: the lowest advertised prices are for Monday and Tuesday departures. Expect to pay an additional $30 (or thereabouts) per person for weekend trips.
Both Southwest and America West cover so many cities and so many hotels, we simply won't list them all. We encourage you to comparison-shop on the two airlines' Web sites to find the best price at the hotel you like the most.
Then compare their deals with others' by searching for only airfare on a major travel-agency site and using Travelaxe (www.travelaxe.com), a downloadable program that searches Vegas hotel Web sites and travel agency sites to find the lowest prices for your dates. You may be able to find prices cheaper than these packages.
Of the two big discounters, Southwest's (www.swavacations.com) prices are the best. They offer the entire run of Strip casinos and a few in downtown Vegas, with surprisingly low prices for the more run-down older Strip joints, like the Westward Ho and the Imperial Palace. (Cheap Vegas tip: stay at the Imperial Palace, but hang out at Caesar's Palace.)
On-Strip prices for two-night stays over December midweek dates start at an unbelievable $74 per person. Here's a quick rundown:
- $74 from Burbank
- $209 from Houston
- $121.50 from Oakland
- $169 from Portland, Oregon
- $109 from Sacramento
- $214 from St. Louis
These are truly great rates. To get them, book by December 4 for travel between Dec. 7 and February 10.
Scrappy little Allegiant Air's vacationing arm (800/432-3810, www.allegiantair.comAV.html), based in Las Vegas, has some great holiday deals for people lucky enough to live in one of seven cities: Colorado Springs, Denver, Des Moines, Fort Collins (CO), Fresno, Lansing and Wichita. We reviewed Allegiant a few months ago and found them safe, honest and good-natured, even though they seem to have trouble with delays because of their small fleet.
If you buy an Allegiant package for two people to Vegas before Nov. 18 for flights through Feb. 28, you'll get half-off the airfare -- the second person flies free. This twofer applies only on certain days of the week, which vary from city to city -- for a full list, see www.allegiantair.com/pckg_disclmr.html. They have 20 hotels available, too. The deal makes Allegiant the best buy right now for Vegas trips from their cities.
Sample per person cost from trips from Dec 21-26 before taxes:
- From Denver, $198 at the Boardwalk, $219 at the Riviera, $296 at the Flamingo, and $309 at the MGM Grand.
- From Wichita or Des Moines, $228 at the Boardwalk, $249 at the Riviera, $278 at the Tropicana, and $316 at the Luxor.
Allegiant is charging the same price for five nights from Denver that America West is charging for two -- that's pretty amazing.
America West (www.americawestvacations.com/v2/spc/las_vegas.html) offers about a zillion hotels with their Vegas packages, from the downscale Orleans to penthouse suites at the Bellagio. There's nothing wrong with the Orleans, where I've stayed before on business; it's just a smaller, older casino-hotel that's slightly off the Strip.
For December midweek dates, we found two-night stays for two people starting at $372 from Austin; $186.50 from Burbank; $199.50 from Denver; $166.50 from Oakland and $133.50 from Phoenix.
Whichever of these packages you choose, it'll be a sure bet for holiday fun. For our full guide to Vegas, see www.frommers.com/destinations/lasvegas.
Are budget-priced hotels on the Strip decent places to stay or do you have a different idea? Discuss the issue on our Message Boards.