The best way to get to Las Vegas depends on your time and budgetary constraints. If you live nearby, driving is a viable option. However, most people end up flying, as flights are relatively cheap (unless you’re wanting to travel at a busy time like a holiday/fight night/Super Bowl weekend/etc).
Fares vary by region and desired dates, so it’s hard to give definitive advice. The best thing I can advise is to track fares, avoid peak times and be flexible with your fares if possible, book when fares are palatable, and avoid vacation packages.
Full disclaimer: I fly almost exclusively through Southwest now (no, I’m sadly not sponsored by them… but if you work for SWA and are reading this, hit me up!) since I am committed to their frequent flier program, enjoy having two free checked bags, and highly value the ability to change my flights for free. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not super well-versed in other airlines, so I welcome your experiences in the comments!
I always begin my search on Google Flights. Entering the dates and departure airport usually gives a good overview of what prices to expect. You can also view a calendar view to find the cheapest fares, which is useful if you’ve got flexible dates and/or are willing to shift your schedule to take advantage of cheap deals. Additionally, you can select the option to track the fare and get emails as it changes.
It’s worth noting that Google Flights (or any other third party website) can’t track Southwest fares. So if you’re in an area that is served by Southwest, check their website directly and compare.
Price Tracking Apps
There are many websites/apps that track fares and give you an estimate for the best time to book a flight. I’ve used Hopper to track prices before, and have had success. Skyscanner is another useful website that will give you alerts when fares change.
If you’re booking through Southwest, you are able to cancel/change flights for free; if the prices go down, you can rebook and they will refund the difference. Since I’m in an area that’s serviced by Southwest, I fly exclusively through them since I appreciate the flexibility and peace of mind that comes with being able to rebook without change fees. I can also use UR points from my Chase Sapphire credit card to get frequent flier points, which I redeem for free flights.
Budget Airlines (Frontier, Spirit, Allegiant, Sun Country)
Recently, “budget airlines” have become popular. These bare-bones fares from carriers such as Frontier, Spirit, Allegiant, and Sun Country are far cheaper than other airlines. You’ll note that I called them “carriers” and not “airlines.” This is because they are literally a flying bus. Seats are small and cramped, there are no amenities, and you are nickel and dimed for everything. You have to pay for your checked bags AND carry on bags (all you’re allowed is one small personal item, which must fit under the seat in front of you), and if you don’t pre-pay for this, you get hit with exorbitant fees at the gate. Additionally, they try and trick you into paying to choose your seat assignment (however you can choose a “randomly assigned” seat for free… which usually ends up being an undesirable middle seat).
Think of these carriers as an a la carte option where you’re paying for what you want, and nothing more. If you’re looking for a traditional flight experience with free pop, in flight snacks, and checked bags, it’ll end up being more expensive to fly these “budget” carriers. However, if you’re a broke college kid flying out for the weekend and you don’t need checked bags (and are proficient in smuggling free drinks), these can be a great play and give you more spending money for Vegas.
A lot of people complain about these airlines and write horrible reviews, but if you go in with the right expectations, they can be a great value. I’ve flown Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant multiple times before for under $100 round trip.
You do get what you pay for, though. If you’re on a tight schedule (for example, a show the night you get in or limited vacation days), it may be worth springing for a more reliable airline. I’ve encountered two-hour delays on Spirit, and since the fleets are smaller, it can be harder to get there in the event your flight is cancelled. Additionally, customer service isn’t as great with budget carriers, so you’ll be SOL if you run into problems.
You can also book your flight and hotel as a vacation package. Some popular providers for this are Vegas.com and Southwest Vacations. While I will receive a small commission for any purchase you make through Vegas.com, I honestly do not recommend booking a vacation package unless you really value the convenience of booking everything at once. The biggest drawback to vacation packages is that you do not have the flexibility to rebook your flight and/or hotel if your plans change or you find a better deal, and you are always booking third party, so it’s harder to resolve any issues that arise.
Book Your Flight Separately
I recommend booking your flight separate from your hotel so that you can rebook if your plans change or you find a better deal. This added flexibility also protects you in the event that you can’t make your trip, since you are only on the hook for the flight and can (almost always) cancel your hotel reservations without charge.
Fly On Weekdays
When you track on Google Flights, you will quickly see that weekends are more expensive. If you have the flexibility to go mid-week, you will save a ton of money not only on your flight, but on hotels as well. If at all possible, I recommend flying out on Thursday (as opposed to Friday), and/or returning on Monday or Tuesday (as opposed to Sunday).
If you’re not on the 9-5 weekday grind like I am, you’re in luck; I’ve found that the best values can be had flying to Vegas on Monday or Tuesday and returning Thursday. Oh how I miss the flexibility of my college schedule…
Know What You Are (and Aren’t) Getting with Budget Carriers
If you want beverages, snacks, an aisle seat, checked bags, or a carry on, you will end up paying more with a budget carrier than you will through a big airline. Each of those
However, if you’re okay with a “randomly assigned” seat (read middle seat) on a cramped, flying bus with no legroom, no free snacks, no free drinks, and no free bags, and are capable of fitting all of your belongings into a “personal item” that fits under the seat, you can get some great values! I made it out to Vegas for $69 round trip (after taxes and fees) in college on Frontier, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Fly Southwest if Possible
I am a huge fan of Southwest, since you get two free checked bags, free pop and snacks on board, the friendliest flight attendants I’ve encountered, and most importantly, the flexibility to change/cancel flights for free. This takes all of the stress out of booking a flight, since you can buy it immediately, and rebook if you find a cheaper deal, or cancel if your plans change. I’ve received $30 and 3,000 points back when I’ve found cheaper flights. Not to mention, I can convert my credit card rewards into Rapid Rewards points which I redeem for free flights!
If you’ve got some tips for finding cheap airfare, please leave them in the comments below or email me