When it comes to spending a weekend under the glow of neon and the music of chiming slot machines, you usually think of how much money you need to save to go. Sure, it’s a great time, but it sure gets expensive, right? Not necessarily. From Las Vegas to Macau and Lisbon and Monaco in between, there is always a way to travel to the cities of sin on a budget. Some have special deals with airfare, some have accommodation discounts, but there is a way to cut your expenses no matter which one you choose. The point is to save that money for the things that matter – luxury spa treatments, new party wear, next holiday and why not – the tables! Here are some helpful tips to save money on your casino vacations.
Las Vegas is by far the easiest city-that-never-sleeps to visit on a budget, especially if you are coming from someplace else in the USA. Las Vegas has the wiles to lure anyone in, any day of the week, and weekdays are the best time to travel for less. Remember, Friday and Saturday nights are always at a premium in big cities, and Las Vegas is no exception. Airfare and accommodations will often double or triple for arrivals on those popular days.
If you can manage to take some time off during the week, many airlines offer specials to Vegas. Driving is always a fun road trip as you come over the hill and see the lights, but there’s nothing like flying if you can swing it.
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Hotels are also much less expensive on weekdays. In 2007, there were already 133,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas. 2008 saw 9,000 more added to the Strip and 2009 saw an additional 14,000. There are really more luxurious rooms in that town than anyone knows what to do with. There’re a variety of ways to save in the casinos whilst in Vegas, such as booking in advance and paying online. At least shop around online and call the hotels to see if they will beat the online price.
If you can, check in late; and we mean late. Most hotels will save the extra nice rooms for the pit bosses to give away to the high rollers, and if they are still available by 8PM, they are released back to reservations. Check in after 8 and slip the reservation’s specialist a $20 and you are likely to get a room worth twice what you paid.
Prime time eating is also between 8 and 10 in the evening, so most great restaurants offer happy hour specials to entice people to come in earlier – some even do “reverse happy hour”. Be one of those people. Often you will get chef’s specials that they are trying out for the evening.
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There are discount ticket places all up and down the strip to get show tickets, as long as you are willing to wait until the last minute. And what is one of the nicest things about gambling in Vegas during the week? On weekdays, most tables have a lower minimum, making it way more affordable to gamble.
Magical Monte Carlo
Booking flights to the sun drenched beaches of Monaco will never be inexpensive. There is a fine line between prime time and low season. While prime time (such as during the Cannes Film Festival or the Monaco Grand Prix) seems like it would be more expensive to travel during, there are often more flights offered as well. More flights mean more possible empty seats and you could get a great fare.
When you are thinking of accommodations, think outside the box; or outside the city limits in this case. You will not find a cheap hotel within the city limits. However, neighboring towns Beausoleil and Ca d’Ail have far more reasonable overnight stays. Both are on the French border about a 5-10 minute drive and at times, you can find a nice B&B for about 18.50 euro a night.
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Other than the casinos, much of your pleasure can be taken for little cost or even free. The Plage du Larvotto is a lovely public beach and quite a great place to people watch during the warmer months. Wear white, as everyone who is anyone always does!
Dining can be as inexpensive as you make it as long as you get off the main drag. There are quite a few pizzerias and bakeries, featuring delicious baguette sandwiches, and most of the supermarkets offer very reasonable sandwiches, salads and croissants to go.
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When it comes to gambling, you have to pay to play. Not only is there a dress code for the Casino Monte Carlo unlike Las Vegas, but there is also an admission fee of 10 euros per person. From 9 AM to 12 PM you can even get a tour of the historic casino included in your admission. While the gambling hall may be full of calm, professional, well-dressed billionaires, you are always welcome to try your luck if your budget allows. But that’s the whole point of this article: to save on everything else so you can play all you want.
Moneymaker of the Orient
Macau was virtually unknown about a decade ago, but now it is like Las Vegas on steroids. While Las Vegas boasted a nice $6.5 billion in gambling income in 2013, Macau reported over $45 billion. Las Vegas hotel icons Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson (Venetian) were just two of the giants who saw the opportunity to build their masterpieces in Macau.
Is it expensive? Oh yes, it is. How do you go on a budget? We suggest you commute! While hotel prices in Macau are usually over the top every day of the week and flights in and out can be pricey, Hong Kong is merely an hour away by Turbojet Ferry. For about $35 roundtrip, you can stay in Hong Kong for a fraction of the cost and take the scenic trip into Macau. However, you will have to call it a night a little early as the last ferry can leave as early as 10PM. Flights into Hong Kong cost considerably less than Macau as well.
There are plenty of cultural sights to take in during the day for free or minimal costs, including the famous Ruins of St. Paul and the Macau Museum. If you have a little extra to spend on adventure, try the AJ Hackett Skywalk or Bungee Jump on the Macau Tower; or just ride to the top for an epic view for free. Take plenty of photos on your smartphone!
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Eating is easy as long as you are willing to eat like a local, which is quite a good idea in itself, if you’re gastronomically adventurous. Street vendors sell fresh local fare for $3-5 a plate for lunch and $5-10 for dinner and can include a seafood bowl, kebab plate or the like. Taxis can get expensive but buses are not and can pretty much get you anywhere you want to go. If you really need to stay the night in Macau, there are some options that can be less expensive than the casino; plus they will definitely be a cultural experience.
Gambling in Macau is entertainment in itself. The Chinese bring many interesting superstitions to the tables that can be fun to watch, and mild mannered businessmen can turn to giddy schoolboys on the roll of the dice. Plus, the big casinos are pretty much like an adult’s Disneyland!
An Unexpected Delight
Our final destination is not one you would expect. However, if you want to get a little glamour of gambling, culture and history and stay on a tight budget, Lisbon, Portugal is the way to go. Lisbon is known to be one of the most affordable capitals in all of Europe. Close to a river and the ocean, Lisboa, as the Portuguese call the city, boasts a mild climate, great cuisine and lovely architecture.
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It is easy to get flights in to the capital city and anytime other than May and September seems to be pretty reasonable prices. Once you get there, public transportation is everywhere. Lisbon is loaded with buses, metro, trams, and boats. There is also plenty of budget accommodation to be found both downtown and also in the less historic touristy areas. If you are into hostels, you can find nice ones for under $10 a night!
Spend a day getting on and off Tram 28, which winds the 10 kilometers through the most scenic areas of the capital. You will find inexpensive eats at almost every stop as Lisbon is loaded with restaurants and cheap corner bars serving local cuisine.
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The best part is, since you’ve barely spent anything staying and eating in this culturally delicious city, you will truly be able to take in the Casino Lisboa with freedom! Claiming to be the largest casino in Europe, this old world meets futuristic neon gambling hall boasts 1000 slot machines and 26 tables to play at. You wont find the billionaires of Monaco here, so feel free to stop and play with the comfort of people just like you. You don’t have to gamble on a tight budget as long as you find other ways to save on your Vegas/Monaco/Macau/Portugal vacation.