What to Look For
Planning a gambling vacation is just like planning any other travel. In most cases, it pays to begin your planning early, at least three months in advance; if you're planning a trip to a popular destination during peak season, you might want to plan as long as a year in advance to get the best deals, particularly on airfare. Think about what kind of trip best suits your style: do you plan to spend most of your time at one casino, or do you want to try several different casinos? Are you flexible on the days and dates of your trip, or do you have a tight schedule for arriving and leaving?
Booking the Hotel
If you aren't taking the package route, be sure to ask for the casino rate when making your hotel reservations. You can save up to 50 percent off the regular posted rate, although at most casinos you have to join the player's club and may have to gamble a certain amount in that casino in order to qualify for the casino rate. If you go with a package, don't worry about room comps or discounts; you've already got a deep room discount built into the package.
Be sure to ask about the different types of rooms available during your stay. Most casino hotels have, in addition to their standard rooms, deluxe rooms or suites with special amenities, such as whirlpool tubs. The rates for these rooms are higher, naturally, but you may qualify for an upgrade on your room based on your level of play. In some cases, you might be able to upgrade your room, even with a package deal, for a fee.
Flying to Your Destination
Some gambling travel packages include charter flights, which operate under different rules than commercial flights. While commercial airlines will often compensate you for significant delays (other than those caused by weather), charter companies are not required to provide any compensation, or even alternative travel arrangements, for delays of up to forty-eight hours that are caused by mechanical problems. Check the contract before you purchase the package to find out what expenses the charter operator will cover — such as meals, lodging, or car rentals — for delays that aren't related to mechanical problems.
If you're flying with a commercial airline and you get bumped involuntarily because the flight is overbooked, you're entitled to compensation that varies according to the severity of the delay, as long as you show up for your flight on time. Under U.S. Department of Transportation rules, the airline doesn't have to compensate you if it can get you to your destination within an hour of your originally scheduled arrival time. However, if the airline can't get you to your destination until one to two hours after your original arrival time, they owe you up to $200 in cash. If you are delayed more than two hours, you're entitled to up to $400 in cash.
These compensation rules apply only if you're bumped involuntarily. Typically, on overbooked flights, airlines will first ask for volunteers to be bumped, and they'll offer travel vouchers that can be used on future flights as compensation. Depending on how many overbooked seats there are and how many people volunteer to get bumped, the airline might kick in additional incentives.
Finally, if you're booking a flight on a commercial carrier, you'll probably be more comfortable in planes that offer more leg room, at least thirty-four inches between seats, especially on longer flights. In general, the smaller the aircraft, the less space between the seats and, usually, the smaller the seats themselves. More and more airlines are using so-called “regional jets,” which usually carry between fifty and 100 passengers, for two-hour flights, and some use them for flights up to three hours long. You can tell whether your flight is using one of these smaller jets by looking for the codes “RJ” or “CRJ” in the aircraft description.
Do You Need a Car?
If you're flying for a weekend trip at a casino resort, decide ahead of time whether you'll need to rent a car. Many casinos offer free or low-cost shuttle-bus service to and from the airport, and the major gambling cities are well-equipped with taxi and shuttle services for getting around town. In fact, there's a limousine service in Las Vegas that will take you from the airport to virtually any hotel or casino for a modest fee — $4 or $5 per person — and it's more stylish, and may even be less expensive, than taking a taxi.
If you're planning a stay in downtown Las Vegas or on the Strip, you'll probably prefer to walk most places because that's the best way to see the sights. If you need a taxi, the doorman at your hotel will flag one down for you; in Vegas, most taxis will stop only for doormen. It's customary to tip doormen about $2 for this service; you should tip taxi drivers $2 to $5, depending on the length of the trip, number of passengers, and number of bags.
The sights in other gambling cities are more spread out, so you might want to consider renting a car. If you choose to do this, keep in mind these tips for car rentals:
Check to see whether your car insurance or your credit card covers rentals. If so, waive the rental company's insurance.
Choose the mileage option that best suits your plans. If you're only planning to use the car to get back and forth to an evening show, you probably don't need the unlimited mileage option. If you plan to drive to the Hoover Dam, however, the unlimited mileage option might make more sense.
Compare the daily rates with the longer-rental rates to see which option is cheaper. You might need the car for only two days, but a three-day rental may be less expensive than the daily rate.