Start looking on Expedia for flight and hotel packages now, and check frequently. Last time I went (2012) we bought tickets in May. $650 included flight (1stop) and hotel room booked on double occupancy at the MGM for Thurs-Sunday.
I highly reccommend Expedia.
If you find something that you think will work for your budget, if you have one, book it, cause for all you know, prices could jump the next day!
Try searching all sorts of date combinations (ex: thurs-sun or mon-thurs etc), to see what would be cheapest and what would work for you. Direct flights will be more expensive, but I think worth it, stopping gets annoying.
I really enjoyed my stay at the MGM, they had autograph signings, the NRS shopping deal was attached to the MGM, its on the stip, but at the end, so even though its still busy, its not as busy as the middle of the strip. Also booking with MGM we got a free show at New York New York which was across the street.
Friends of mine have gone to the NFR about 6 times and they have stayed at Harrahs which is right on the strip, almost every time, and they love it. Ask around and check out pictures etc for what you would like best.
South Point is a 30$ cab ride from the strip, its small, its quiet, but its where they do the Gold Buckle presentations each night. I have stayed here twice, only because while there, the stock stayed there (Barrel Jackpot & PBR) I personally would NOT stay there for NFR, but I want to be where the action is, which is the strip.
If you like Chinese food, I highly reccommend the Red 8 which is at the Wynn. AMAZING. Joes Rock Crab at Ceasars Palace was also great, a little more pricey, and the Rio has an awesome all you can eat seafood buffet. Dicks is fun, its at Excalibur across from MGM, but you have to have a sense of humor.
Shopping; you could go to NFR and not see anything else in Vegas and just get caught up in shopping every day. ITs INSANE. if you have been to vegas before then maybe thats ok, but the 2012 trip was my first, and I wanted to see more than just booths. I cant remember which hotels had the best booths, I apologize.. I am sure someone else can help ya here! The convention centre had the biggest. Its a whole day in itself. Mandalay bay has one it was decent..
If you really want to go to the NFR to see if live and in person go ahead. We did. Tickets were about 140$ea and we were literally the last row in the place, and everyone looked like ants haha. The NFR is played everywhere, even on the ceiling in Fremont street, which I reccommend any Vegas traveler to go to. So thats another thing to decide on!
Hope some of this was helpful. IF I think of more I will come back and edit this post.
See ya in Vegas!
You get what you expect out of yourself, so always expect the BEST! - Lee Ann Rust