The 5 Best Florida Beaches Easily Reached From Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

Florida beach from Orlando

People fly from all over the world to go to Orlando, home of Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios amusement parks, and much more. This is a land-locked city though, so if you want a Florida beach vacation you need to drive east to meet the Atlantic Ocean or west to reach beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Both coasts are easy to reach in a rental car, however. Most of the way you will be on large highways and the roads are well-marked. The closest beach to Orlando is only one hour away from the gates of Walt Disney World, while the farthest one on this list is just two hours away.

Cocoa Beach, Florida – 1 hour

beach near Orlando
(photo courtesy Visit Space Coast Tourism)

Near the Cape Canaveral area where the United States launched most of its manned rockets into space, this is the closest beach to Orlando. Like all but one here, it’s on a narrow barrier island jutting out into the sea. Expect soft golden sand but big waves sometimes: this is one of the best surfing spots in Florida.

There are four public beach access areas with parking (for a fee), so it’s easy to come here on a day trip and return to your hotel in Orlando that night. For the kids there is also a public skate park and several playgrounds. The Kennedy Space Center has a visitors center open to the public.

Daytona Beach – 1 hour 15 minutes

Daytona Beach Florida

Best known as home of the Daytona 500 Speedway where NASCAR auto races take place, this is a beach where cars rule. You can drive right onto the hard-packed sand and park your car on the very wide beach. This makes any stretch of the beach easily accessible in your vehicle, in an area that stretches more than 15 miles from New Smyrna Beach through Ormond Beach.

Prices are reasonable at Daytona Beach for lodging, meals, drinks, and activities, so this is a good spot for a couple or family on a budget. The area has a surprisingly robust art scene, plus the region is frequently cited as one of the best beach values in the USA.

Clearwater Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

Clearwater Beach Florida

Often voted as the prettiest beach in Florida, this is a compact white-sand beach area that is only 2.5 miles long. Much of it is connected by paved walkways and bike lanes and there are plenty of restaurants and beach bars with a view of the green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The water stays much warmer here than on the Atlantic coast, with temperatures only dipping down below F20° for one month in February. The water is very calm here, making it a good choice for young children. Search on Bonwi for the best Clearwater Beach resort deals.

St. Petersburg Beach – 1 hour 45 minutes

St. Pete Beach Florida

The Tampa Bay area’s other main beach is St. Petersburg, a long stretch of sand dotted with a variety of hotels and condo complexes. There several similar barrier island beaches immediately to the north such as Treasure Island and Madeira. As with Clearwater the sea temperatures are pleasant most of the year and there are seldom waves large enough to knock down even the smallest child.

This is a beach area where you pick a spot and park or you explore by car-there’s no boardwalk or path along the sea. It’s worth heading to downtown St. Pete for restaurants and nightlife, catching a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, or exploring the Sunken Gardens area filled with tropical plants. The Salvador Dali Museum faces the Bay. Several well-regarded breweries are located here too, including Green Bench and 3 Daughters.

Anna Maria Island – 2 hours

Anna Maria Island Florida

For a taste of Florida the way it used to be before the state got so developed, head to Anna Maria Island where no building can be more than three stories high. There are no huge sprawling resorts here and the main things to do are eat seafood and lounge on the beach.

Just seven miles long and a few blocks wide, this is an easy island to navigate and there’s a free trolley to get around on once you’ve found your parking spot. There is a playground on the most popular public beach access spot and there are shaded picnic tables.

Wherever you go in Florida, you’ll earn the most points back to use for a future vacation by booking your hotel and rental car with Bonwi.com.

All photos by Tim Leffel except Coco Beach.

5 Florida beaches that are 2 hours or less from Orlando

Tips on Eating in Europe

While in Europe, food is enjoyed as much as art, language, and traditions. From sampling local hidden gems to experiencing farmer’s markets, here are some tips eating in Europe while on your travels.

Do Your Research

Scout out authentic eateries to experience the true local cuisine. Go online and spend some time writing down a list of restaurants that represent the cultural local dishes you are looking for. Most of the time authentic restaurants are not located on the touristy main streets.

Tipping is Optional

Not tipping the usual 15%-20% is okay. Don’t worry, you’re not being rude. The prevailing culture in Europe is to not leave excessive tips. You can leave a few euros if you feel inclined.

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are a good way to find high quality food at a reasonable price and an exciting cultural experience. Farmers’ markets can be found somewhere in any city just about every day of the week.

Drink in Public

Europe has fairly lax laws about drinking in public. This means it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a beer or bottle of wine in a park or other outdoor spaces.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Read more Travel Tips for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

Tips on How to Avoid Lines and Crowds

If you want to save precious time during your travels, you’ll need to steer clear of those crowds. Here is our advice to avoid wasting hours of your day standing in lines.

Brave the Weather

If the weather forecast doesn’t look great, it pays off to brave it. Bad weather tends to deter or shorten sightseer’s visits. A rainy day on a Saturday will most likely delay most people’s visit by one day. If it starts to rain, don’t run to the exit, stay while others leave.

Get in Early or Leave Last

Attractions are less crowded when 1.) People have not arrived yet or 2.) People have already left for the day. The time after the doors open and before closing are vital times to avoid crowds and lines. Do not feel rushed to leave until they ask you to, you won’t be locked in for the night.

Avoid High Traffic Hours

Every attraction will inform you of their operating hours. Take a look at the scheduled opening hours to get an idea of how crowded it might be. If the attraction is open later, they are expecting it to be busier on that day, and if the attraction is open less hours on a certain day, the attendance will be less.

Buy Tickets Ahead of Time

Look online to check if the attraction you are visiting offers online tickets. Most venues let visitors skip the line if they’ve reserved online. If you don’t purchase ahead of time and there is a long line at the ticket counter, still check on your smartphone for tickets.

By using these tips as a guideline, you can better organize and prepare for your trip. Check out our Travel Tip section for more in-depth information about the best way to travel.

New Orleans, LA: What’s Going on Louisiana’s Biggest City?

Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!
Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!
Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!

New Orleans has always been party central while at the same time, is loaded with historical significance. It may be fun to enjoy the insane Mardi Gras festivities or peruse the various ancient mansions, but there is so much more to see and do in the Big Easy.

Audubon Park is located on Magazine Street in New Orleans and has almost too many components to list. From jogging and bike paths to tennis courts, a golf course, playgrounds, and even a lagoon, this lengthy park will keep everyone and anyone occupied. Not to mention the 58-Acre Audubon Zoo is just down the road and is home to about 2,000 animals!

Why not try a swamp tour…at night. The Honey Island Swamp Night Tour gives tourists the chance to take a chilling flat-bottom boat ride at night. Whether you’re scanning your periphery for gators, listening for the sounds of wild boars or learning about the Honey Island Swamp Monster, this unique tour will have you on the edge of your seat!

Take a New Orleans Aerial tour and see the sweep of the Mississippi river and all of the sites of the city from above.
Take a New Orleans Aerial tour and see the sweep of the Mississippi River and all of the sites of the city from above.

Speaking of tours, if you’re not a fan of water or you would prefer not to be so close to snapping gators, try an aerial tour of the city. New Orleans Aerial Tours & Flight Training offers a Big Easy Aerial Tour which allows you to view New Orleans from the sky while simultaneously learning about the city.

Take a gander at the twists and turns of the Mississippi River, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Louisiana’s many bayous. The Big Easy couldn’t look any more beautiful than it does from a birds’ eye view!

Should you plan on visiting New Orleans, here are some cool hotels that you may want to consider using.

The Ace Hotel in New Orleans may not be the only Ace Hotel in the world, but it nonetheless is a stylish and unique lodging option. The Ace Hotel in New Orleans sits in a former department store and boasts a beautiful hand-painted floor as well as voodoo folklore references in each room!

The Catahoula Hotel, a 35-room Creole townhouse, makes for a luxurious and authentic stay in New Orleans. The hotel’s café, rooftop terrace, and boutique coffee program may make you forget that the building has been standing since 1845, and will also make you want to stay in the hotel forever! 

The best thing about booking a New Orleans Hotel on Bonwi is that you get more nights free, using your Bonwi Points!

Anchorage, Alaska: Go Dogsledding in Summer

Summer Dog Sledding Alaska
A future dogsleg puller and her master in Anchorage, Alaska.
A future dogsled puller and her master in Anchorage, Alaska.

The first thing you probably think of when someone says dog sledding is snow, correct? What if I told you that you could go dog sledding, in the middle of summer, without the snow?

Well in Anchorage, Alaska you can go on your very own Summer Sled Dog Adventure, thanks to Girdwood Mushing Company and Gold Mine Safari Tours.

Bring the family and meet the 4-legged crew as they bring you across Alaska’s beautiful and scenic landscape. The ride starts with an eight-mile trek up the historic Iditarod trail in an open air high-mobility all terrain vehicle. A tour guide will explain the area’s gold mining history while you take in the phenomenal views.

After arriving at the Girdwood Mushing’s Company’s kennel, you will meet your musher, and of course, his dog crew. Leap into the sled dog cart and allow the Alaskan Huskies to escort you through one of the most picturesque spots in Alaska. You might even get a chance lead the dogs yourself.

Of course, you cannot leave without visiting the Puppy Petting Pavilion. The name even sounds great. Here, you can play with the future athletes and check out your musher’s award memorabilia and trophies commemorating “The Last Great Race”.

Learn about the gear mushers need to survive in such harsh climates and why Alaskan Huskies are natural born sled leaders.

Mushing doesn't stop just because there is no snow in Alaska!
Mushing doesn’t stop just because there is no snow in Alaska!

This one of a kind trip allows you to consume the knowledge and history of the area, all while taking in the feeling, sights, and smells that Alaska has to offer its visitors. Kennel tours and training rides are also available no matter what the season is. Visit with dogs that have Iditarod bloodlines…who knows, you could be petting a future champion.

The journey, which takes you to an elevation of 1200 feet, takes about 2.5 hours. Rides cost $148 for adults and $98 for children age 5-12. Tours are rain or shine, so dress appropriately! To find out how to book your own tour, visit http://www.alyeskatours.com.   

Plan your visit to America’s great wilderness and find the best hotels in Anchorage using Bonwi Points!

How to Rack Up Points for Free Hotel Stays or Flights

free stay at luxury hotel

luxury free hotel stay with Bonwi

Are you getting a big rebate every time you stay at a hotel? Are you turning every few nights that you pay to stay into a free hotel night or flight down the road?

Traditionally it took a lot of stays to make that happen. The only people earning enough points to get rewarded were the road warrior salespeople on the road each week or those who were putting lots of expenses on a hotel credit card. After 10, 20, sometimes 25 stays (or spending $25,000 on their card) they finally had enough points for a mini vacation with that spouse they kept leaving at home.

Now there’s a way to make those freebies happen much faster. If you book through Bonwi instead of the big-name online agencies or the hotels themselves, the rewards add up three or four times faster. A free hotel night or even a flight can happen after just a few nights you’ve paid for yourself. This video shows you how it works:

In that video I run down how much I earned for one specific two-night stay—enough to get a hotel night elsewhere for free. You’ll also see some real point earning rundowns of what you’d get from staying at hotels in Las Vegas,, Atlanta, and Dallas. In the scenario we picked, you would easily earn enough for a few nights in a European capital city during a vacation or for a domestic plane ticket in the USA.

If you are staying at a different Marriott every week and you’ve gotten to a high elite status in their loyalty program, then you may already be getting big benefits from staying loyal. For the rest of us though, the loyalty seems to help the conglomerate corporation more than it’s helping us. With Bonwi bookings, you could stay at four different hotel chains on four different occasions and still probably get to a reward night much faster than the loyalist.

Remember, there are no blackout dates on your bookings: if the hotel, airline, or rental car company has inventory available, you’re in. What you see on the screen is what’s available. No surprises. No gotchas.

Get 1,500 points just for signing up if you’re not already a member. See how it works here.

The Best Shopping Experiences in Orlando, Florida

name brand shopping Orlando

orlando shopping

Orlando, Florida is best known for its theme parks, of course, but many visitors take some time to find a bargain outside the cartoon character stores. With most of the world’s major brands having a retail store or outlet in Orlando, this has become a premier shopping region for name brand clothing, shoes, purses, and electronics.

Here are a few Orlando shopping destinations where you’ll find lots of options under one roof

The Florida Mall

This is central Florida’s largest shopping mall. It’s the best place to go if you only have time to visit one location. The hundreds of shops here run the range from high-end department stores like Macy’s to branded stores from the likes of Apple, Adidas, Coach, and Michael Kors. This is a great choice for families as it includes stores from Disney, American Girl, M&M’s, and Crayola crayons. It also has typical mall staples such as Banana Republic, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and A/X Armani Exchange.

Florida Mall Orlando

The Florida Mall is near the international airport, so you can use it to kill some time on the way out before you return your rental car. See a full store directory here.

The Mall at Millenia

If you’re looking for the latest items from luxury stores and name brand designers, The Mall at Millenia is the top choice. The 150 stores are like a who’s who of respected international brands. For high-end clothing and accessories there’s Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Bulgari, Kate Spade, Versace, and Cartier. Other apparel options include Brooks Brothers, Under Armour, lululemon athletica, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, and Anthropologie. There’s also an Apple store, Pottery Barn, and Sephora. Department stores include Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.

The Mall at Millenia also offers a range of typical sit-down dining chains such as P.F. Chang’s The Cheesecake Factory, Panera Bread, and California Pizza Kitchen.

name brand shopping Orlando

The Mall at Millenia is a half hour from the airport or most theme parks, so get directions here then see the directory for more store information.

Orlando International Premium Outlets

If you’re looking for deals on name brand merchandise, this location provides 180 stores to choose from. Orlando International Premium Outlets is the largest outlet shopping destination in all of Florida.

For fashion you can browse sale items from Diesel, DKNY, J. Crew, Kate Spade New York, Tommy Hilfiger, Cole Haan, LACOSTE, Michael Kors, and Polo Ralph Lauren. For athletic wear there are stores from Under Armour, Quiksilver, Columbia Sportswear, North Face, and Champion. For shoes you can shop Nike, Adidas, Reebok, UGG Australia, Kenneth Cole, Johnston & Murphy, Clarks, Timberland, Crocs, Vans, and Puma. Other popular brands include Movado, Sony, L’Occitane, Levi’s, Bose, and Guess.

Orlando Premium Outlets Store is close to the Universal Studios theme parks. Get directions and more information here.

Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets

Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets presents itself as a Mediterranean inspired outdoor village. It has almost as many shops as sister mall International Premium Outlets, with 160 instead of 180. There you can find a wide range of familiar brands for 25-65% off the regular prices.

Vineland Orlando shopping

There’s plenty for men, women and children on the clothing side, with Armani Outlet, Burberry, DVF, Nike, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Coach, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Tommy Hilfiger. Stock up for growing children with Gap Kids, NauticaKids, Carter’s, Gymboree, and Oshkosh B’Gosh. Watch brands Tag Heuer, Movado, Citizen, and American-assembled Shinola all have stores at Vineland.

Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets is located close to the Disney resorts and Sea World, right next to Interstate 4 highway. See a map and full store directory here.

Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores

Located just two miles from Walt Disney World at Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa, this is a smaller factory outlet center to visit after a day at the Magic Kingdom. This location focuses more on everyday brands rather than luxury ones and it has the only Old Navy Outlet in central Florida.

Most of the best-known name brands are here, such as Aeropostale, Calvin Klein, Carter’s, Eddie Bauer, Gap, Izod, Justice, Levi’s, Nike, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger, and Under Armour. This is also a good place to buy an extra bag for carrying back your purchases: there are stores from Samsonite, Travelpro, and Wilson’s Leather.  See the official website here.

Disney Springs
Photo by Tim Leffel

Disney Springs

The outdoor commercial area owned by Disney is a recently revamped destination for dining, playing, and shopping and is popular with families. There are plenty of options to delight children, such as Build-a-Bear, The Lego Store, a Coca-Cola store, a Star Wars store, and about 15 different outlets connected to the Walt Disney empire. There’s also a Rainforest Café restaurant and a Haagen-Dazs ice cream store.

It’s not all meant for children though. There are many brands here you don’t see in every mall, such as Sanuk, Alex and Ani, Pandora Jewelry, Unode50, Harley-Davidson, Oakley, and The Art of Shaving. The 52 restaurants include chef-inspired options such as The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck, Morimoto Asia (of Iron Chef America), and the excellent Homecoming southern cooking outlet from Chef Art Smith. Get directions and see a full directory with photos here.

Orlando has an abundance of hotels in every configuration and price range. Find a place to stay near your favorite theme park or shopping outlet and get lots of points back here: Orlando Hotels from Bonwi.

All photos courtesy of the individual shopping destinations unless noted.

The Hotel Zones of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Beach

The Atlantic Ocean coastal city of Fort Lauderdale is part of a 23-mile stretch of beach in Broward County, so there are plenty of places to stretch out on the sand. Then there’s the Intracoastal Waterway, a gay travel zone, and chic Las Olas inland, so sorting out the best place to book your hotel can be a challenge.

Fortunately, the various hotel zones of Fort Lauderdale are relatively well-defined. Once you know your objective, you can narrow down the options from 100+ properties to find the best place to stay in your budget. Be sure to check Bonwi for the best hotel deals and the most reward points back no matter which area of the city you choose.

Northern Beach Area

If you’re looking for a quiet, more residential area, the stretch of beach going from Lauderdale by the Sea down to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is going to be the best bet. There are fewer hotels in this area and they’re more spread out, though of course the surf and sand are going to be just as enticing.

Southern Beach Area

The bulk of the areas hotels and resorts are clustered in the area between the state park and the turnoff to the convention center. Here you’ll find the largest range of options, from 5-star luxury resorts to small family-run hotels with a kitchenette. Just remember that none are directly on the beach no matter what: there’s a public walkway on that side and no buildings directly next to the sand—unless you count lifeguard stands and public bathrooms.

walkway along the beach in Fort Lauderdale

Gay Fort Lauderdale Hotels

This destination is frequently touted as the top LGBT place to visit in the Eastern USA, with around 20 gay-exclusive guesthouses, a robust nightlife scene, frequent same-sex weddings, and several dedicated museums.  Guesthouses that cater to same-sex couples and groups are primarily clustered in the blocks between Vistamar and Riomar streets  and will have “Gay” or “Gay-friendly” in the description.

Hollywood, Florida

Although technically not Fort Lauderdale, this is so close that it might as well be, plus the water taxi heads down here on its last stop. If you’re planning on parking yourself at the beach most of the time, this can be a good alternative.

Convention Center and Cruise Port

If you’re just spending a night before or after one of the many cruises that depart from here, you want to be at the southern end of Fort Lauderdale, near the street that quickly changes names from Seabreeze Blvd. to SE 17th Street to A1A. Some airport and downtown hotels will also shuttle guests to the cruise port, so check the descriptions when you book.

Hotel map Ft. Lauderdale

Las Olas and Downtown

If chic shopping and fine restaurants get you more excited than body surfing in the waves, then Las Olas is the place to stay. This mile-long retail street is full of interesting shops, some of the top restaurants in the area, and fun nightlife options.  Downtown Fort Lauderdale is the cultural magnet of the area, with the county’s main performing arts center and multiple museums.

Fort Lauderdale Airport

If you’ve got an early flight or are just on a business trip, there are multiple hotels near this busy airport served by multiple international carriers and serving as a hub for Spirit Air. Most provide some kind of shuttle service and don’t forget that the South Florida Tri-Rail system has train service up to Palm Beach and down to Miami.

If you need to get from one zone to the other in Fort Lauderdale, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for getting around, even without a car. Besides taxis and rideshare services, there is a water taxi system, a city bike share system, and a malecon sidewalk running the length of the beach that’s great for walking.

Ready to book a vacation? See the Fort Lauderdale hotels at Bonwi.com, where you’ll find guaranteed low rates and generous points back you can use for your next hotel stay, flight, or rental car with no blackout dates.

Explore the Distilleries and Breweries of Washington, D.C.

Washington DC distillery

Want to sample some local hooch after you visit the Smithsonian and snap photos of D.C.’s monuments? Here’s a rundown on a few notable local distilleries and breweries in the city.

Among the revolutionaries that moved to Washington, D.C. in the late 1700s to start the USA’s first government, quite a few were were brewers or distillers. So it’s fitting that the nation’s capital has some production facilities of its own nestled into its limited land area. I got a tour of some of the options with City Brew Tours and here’s what we found.

Cotton and Reed Rum

Washington D.C. Distilleries

Cotton & Reed
Although rum played an important (and often unsavory) role in the Americas in the 1700s and 1800s, there was never a rum distillery in Washington. Cotton & Reid Distillery changed all that when they opened in a revamped 1929 factory building in 2016. They make two kinds of rum for now, white and spiced, because nothing has had time to age. So the attached bar serves lots of cocktails—really good cocktails. They’re serious about the craft though, using Lousiana cane sugar and distilling with a botanicals basket that includes the cane itself. One of the founders, Reed Walker, was a NASA engineer so they’ve got the chops for the science part.

Jos. A. Magnus & Co.
Taking the name and recipes from a midwest distiller that ceased operations during prohibition, Jos. A Magnus is a company that takes the best from the past and reworks it for the modern age. (One poster from the original days says, “A staunch friend from sunrise to sunset.” Another says it’ll cure your marital ills.) They make several styles, with their excellent Murray Hill Whiskey, a bourbon, already winning awards. Their Vigilant Gin is made exclusively with American ingredients. It’s a bit sweeter than most, in an attempt to lure in new fans to the spirit.

Heading up the operation is Nicole Hassoun, who mixed cocktails at D.C.’s top gin bar before striking out on her own. The company also makes Royal Seal Vodka, which tastes like…vodka. Good stuff all around.

Joseph Magnus liquor DC

Washington D.C. Breweries

Atlas Brew Works
Downstairs from Jos. A. Magnus in the Ivy City neighborhood is Atlas Brew Works, probably the city’s best-known brewery. Two of their three most popular beers are ones you would easily predict: the easy-drinking District Common and a Ponzi American pale ale. The third one, Rowdy, is kind of a wild card though: a hop-forward rye beer that doesn’t taste quite like anything else I’ve had.

Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to linger here, but did find out that Atlas is a 100% solar-powered brewery. How many breweries can say that? There’s a great pub vibe here, so make a night of it and go down the row for a flight.

Atlas Brew DC

Blue Jacket Brewery
Located walking distance from the Nationals baseball stadium, Blue Jacket is a new-build brewery inside the walls of an old boilermaker factory, in an area that’s gone from closed-factory-desolate to gentrified glory in just a few years. Because they could plan it all out from scratch inside, this brewery has set up operations in the traditional style, letting gravity take its course. Brewing starts at the top level and then works its way down to the bottom. There modern science takes over and beers are served in the brewpub at the ideal temperature: lagers at a colder temperature than stouts, for instance, all temperature controlled from the back.

Brewery near Washington Nationals baseball

They’re not afraid to experiment at Blue Atlas though, brewing wild yeast beers that sometimes work and sometimes don’t, and having two dozen house-brewed beers on tap at any given time. The Mexican Radio spiced stout is a typical example. It’s not like anything you’re ever going to actually find in Mexico, but it’s yummy. This is a bustling restaurant too, so get some food in you between samplings.

There are a few other breweries and brewpubs in D.C. proper. You can check out the whole list of what’s there, in Virginia, and in Maryland nearby at DCbeer.com.

Find the best deals on Washington D.C. hotels and earn far more points for your stays than you would anywhere else—go to Bonwi.com DC.

How to Hit the Savings Jackpot in Las Vegas

Las Vegas hotels at night

An experienced gambler can tell you how to avoid getting fleeced at the Las Vegas casino tables, but there are also ways the cards are stacked against you as a visitor spending vacation money. Whether you’re betting or not, you have to play the Vegas visitor game correctly to keep the odds in your favor. Here are some of the best ways to shave hundreds or even thousands of dollars off your tab.

Avoid the Weekends

You may think a weekend trip to Las Vegas is a good idea, but so does everyone else. The city is driving distance to Los Angeles and a short direct flight from many other markets. That means huge crowds converge on Friday nights and leave on Sunday. Bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, anniversaries, birthdays, guys/gals weekends away, and on it goes. If there’s a reason to celebrate, this is a natural destination for the occasion.

That means prices double or triple most weekends. If you can come on a Sunday instead or leave on a Friday, you can still find unbelievably low rates in these massive hotels. Just remember to factor in the extra “resort fee” that gets you what’s normally included in the rates elsewhere: this hated practice is a common one at area hotels.

Avoid Major Convention Periods

The USA’s biggest convention city can absorb a lot of visitors at once: MGM Grand Hotel alone has more than 5,000 rooms. When a massive conference is in town though, even the biggest properties can fill up and rates rise accordingly. If the Society of Medical Diagnostic Sonography is town (1,700 attendees), no big deal. But when the Consumer Electronics Show brings in 165,000 people, you probably want to change your plans. See this Vegas convention calendar for details.

Widen Your Hotel Horizons

downtown Las Vegas hotelSure, it’s fun to be at a famous hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and you can find some legendary choices there, but there are literally more than 100 places to choose from. Prices in the prestige hotels are inflated for nearly everything, so browse around to find the best value. You may want to spend at least part of your time downtown. There you’ll find a revitalized area that’s walkable, filled with fun bars, restaurants, and the Container Park. Hotels such as the Golden Nugget, Plaza Hotel, and California Hotel have poured millions into renovations and their pool complexes in recent years.

Watch for Promotional Deals

The days when Vegas was a bargain-hunters paradise started fading when the corporations started gobbling up all the hotels and casinos. There are still plenty of great values around though if you keep your eye out for coupon books, loyalty sign-up bonuses, and off-peak buffets. Casinos still want to get you in the door and any restaurant that’s not full regularly will do what they can to pull in the crowds. If you’re flexible with your plans, you can score free bets and great meals at a discount. (And hey, it’s okay to just hang out by a beautiful pool all day.)

Las Vegas swimming pool

Use Public Transportation, Uber, and Lyft

Las Vegas taxi drivers have seen it all, but unless you want to pay for a good story there are better ways to get around the city. The overtaxed (and quick route-challenged) drivers aren’t usually the best option anymore to get from A to B. A bus runs from downtown through the strip, a monorail is a block off the strip, and the usual rideshare services are always on the move.

Get the best rates on Las Vegas hotels and get the most points back by booking with Bonwi.