How to Plan Your Casino Gambling Trip (From Start to Finish)
Planning a casino gambling trip can feel overwhelming. After all, you need to set a budget, decide where you’ll stay, make travel arrangements, and deal with unexpected headaches.
But the good news is that you can make the process easier by breaking it down into simple steps.
That said, I’m going to discuss how you can plan a casino gambling trip from start to finish. This includes everything from setting up your gambling bankroll to deciding where you’ll eat.
Step 1 – Plan Your Budget
Setting up a budget is the backbone of any successful gambling trip. Knowing how much you want to spend on airfare, the hotel, meals, and gambling is crucial and eliminates many of the headaches.
During this step, you’ll also need to decide how much money you can put towards gambling. But let’s start with budgeting for the main aspects.
The first thing you want to do is decide how much disposable income you want to put towards your trip.
Odds are that you won’t put your entire savings into a gambling extravaganza, but you also need enough to make the journey worthwhile.
Let’s say that you have $10,000 in savings, and you figure that you can safely put $3,000 toward the gambling trip without causing any harm.
The next move involves deciding what you’ll be spending money on. Main categories include airfare, hotel stay, dining, transportation, shopping, tips, entertainment, and gambling.
The key is budgeting enough for the main areas, while still leaving some leftover for your gambling bankroll. Here’s an example of how I budget for the essentials with $3,000:
- $700 towards a hotel room (5 nights).
- $300 towards dining/groceries.
- $300 towards airfare and transportation.
- $300 towards entertainment.
- $300 towards shopping.
- $100 towards tips.
- $1,000 left over for gambling.
You may have more categories on your budget, but this covers all of the primary areas for non-gambling expenses.
Step 2 – Create a Bankroll Management Plan
Based on the example in the previous steps, I have $1,000 to gamble with during a trip.
Now I can spread my bankroll out over the five days that I’ll be staying. After all, nobody wants to blow through their bankroll on the first day.
Of course, you may need to adjust if you’ll be spending a day away from the casinos on a side trip. For example, many Las Vegas visitors take a day to visit the Grand Canyon and Arizona.
I don’t plan on doing anything like this, though, so my daily bankroll budget will be $200 (1,000/200).
The next order of business is to decide how long your bankroll will theoretically last based on the games you play.
This is a tough step for anybody who plays multiple casino games that feature different house edges. Nevertheless, it can be done with a little math.
I enjoy playing blackjack, mini baccarat, and slot machines. Here are my bankroll plans for each game ($200 total per game):
- $100 daily bankroll.
- 1% house edge.
- $10 bets.
- Average 80 hands per hour.
- 10 x 80 = $800 bet per hour.
- $800 x 0.01 = $8 in hourly losses.
- 100/8 = 12.5
- My bankroll will theoretically last for 12.5 hours.
- $50 daily bankroll.
- 06% house edge.
- $10 bets.
- Average 150 hands per hour.
- 10 x 150 = $1,500 bet per hour.
- $1,500 x 0.0106 = $15.90 in hourly losses.
- 50/15.9 = 3.15 hours.
- My bankroll will theoretically last for 3.15 hours.
- $50 daily bankroll.
- 10% house edge.
- $0.25 bets.
- Average 600 bets per hour.
- 600 x 0.25 = $150 bet per hour.
- 150 x 0.10 = $15 in hourly losses.
- 50/15 = 3.33 hours.
- My bankroll will theoretically last for 3.33 hours.
- But slot machines are more volatile, meaning my money probably won’t last 3.33 hours.
Based on the math above, my daily bankroll should give me more than enough time to gamble. But losing streaks can and will occur, making it possible that my daily bankroll will run out earlier than expected.
The key is to have the discipline to stop when you reach the loss limit on each game. Just remember that you can always come back the next day and continue playing.
Step 3 – Book Your Airfare, Hotel, Car & Attractions
The reason why I bundle all of these things into one step is because you can package them on websites. Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, and Trivago have made setting up a trip easier than ever before.
You can put your plane tickets, hotel room, car, and attraction tickets into one bundle. This saves you the hassle of using multiple websites to set up your trip.
If you’ve traveled in the past, chances are that you’ve already used one of these sites. But just in case you haven’t, here are the simple steps to navigating a travel site:
1 – Create an account at the chosen site.
2 – Select your destination and the trip date(s).
3 – Choose your hotel.
4 – Select your flight.
5 – Pick a rental car if needed.
6 – Look at attractions if you’re interested.
7 – Check package deals to save more money.
8 – Enter your credit card info.
9 – Make the payment.
Now let’s input all of these steps into my proposal trip:
- Airfare: choose a round trip, where you’ll be flying to and from, flight dates, and how many tickets.
- Hotel: choose the city, check in and checkout dates, and how many people will stay.
- Cars: choose pick-up and drop-off dates, location where you’ll pick up the car, and where you’ll drop off the car.
- Attractions (a.k.a. things to do): choose location and dates.
After selecting your desired options, choose “search” to finalize each aspect of your trip. For example, the airfare section shows me all of the available flights, times, and prices after I run a search.
Of course, you’ll need to look up reviews if you want to see more in-depth information on the attractions and hotels.
Expedia and Kayak aren’t going to show you that the Skylofts at MGM Grand are among the most luxurious rooms in Las Vegas. Instead, these sites are about matching you up with the available dates and desired prices.
But the good news is that there’s no shortage of sites dedicated to reviewing casino resorts and surrounding attractions.
Step 4 – Figure Out Your Transportation
I’ve discussed renting a car up until this point. But this may be a luxury that you don’t need, depending upon the location of the gambling trip.
Rental cars run anywhere between $70 and $120 per day. This would be between $350 and $600 in the case of my trip.
Las Vegas is a perfect example because they have busses, free shuttles, the monorail, Ubers, and taxis.
The double decker bus and monorail are really cheap because they cost $3 and $5, respectively, for a single ride.
Compare this to the average cost of an Uber, which is around $10 per ride. But even an Uber is cheaper than renting a car if you’ll only make a few trips per day.
One thing to be wary of when riding in either an Uber or taxi is long hauling, where drivers take you on unnecessarily long trips to run up the fee.
This is why it’s good to have Google Maps and check the destination yourself so that you can see the quickest route. If the driver isn’t taking this route, then you know to call them out on long hauling.
You always have the option to walk where you want to go. And this can be fine in big casino destinations, where casinos and attractions are clustered together.
But the downside to walking is that you can really wear yourself out. You not only have to account for walking to and from casinos, but also around the casinos themselves.
Las Vegas’ Venetian, for example, has a casino floor that measures 240,000 square feet.
You also have to take the weather into consideration when walking. Walking around Atlantic City in the bitter cold of January isn’t any picnic.
Step 5 – Decide Where to Gamble
Once you have all the main aspects of your trip set up, it’s a good idea to decide what casinos you want to gamble at. Here’s some criteria for doing so:
- Game selection
- House edge
- Surrounding attractions
All of these factors are important, but I especially care about the house edge and stakes, because I like giving myself the best possible chance to win.
Vegas presents another good example here, because Downtown and Boulder Strip casinos actually offer better odds than Vegas Strip venues.
Let’s compare the blackjack stakes and house edges for a few Vegas casinos:
- Treasure Island – 0.255% house edge w/ $100 minimum bet.
- Bally’s – 0.285% house edge w/ $100 stakes.
- El Cortez in Vegas – 0.30% house edge w/ $5 stakes.
- Arizona Charlie’s Boulder in Vegas – 0.34% house edge w/ $5 stakes.
- Boulder Station in Vegas – 0.34% house edge w/$5 stakes.
- SLS Las Vegas – 1.554% house edge w/ $10 minimum bet.
- Cosmopolitan – 1.830% house edge w/ $15 minimum bet.
Another factor that many players consider when choosing casinos is the comps.
I never value rewards as highly as the house edge because good comps don’t make up for poor odds, but some gamblers really love getting extra freebies from their play.
I suggest visiting websites for prospective casinos and looking for more information on their rewards programs. You can also Google topics such as “best Vegas comps for low rollers.”
Step 6 – Pick a Few Restaurants Beforehand
Another thing that eases the stress of a gambling trip involves deciding on a few restaurants beforehand.
I’m not saying that you have to plan out every single meal in advance. But it helps if you at least have a few places in mind before leaving.
Here’s an example:
- You’re going to Atlantic City.
- You decide to eat at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant on Monday night.
- Dock’s Oyster House on Wednesday night.
- Knife & Fork Inn on Friday night.
Remember that eating out every night in a casino destination is expensive. Those looking to save money should mix this up with groceries and/or fast food.
Step 7 – Learn How Much to Tip for Each Service
It’s standard to tip for many of the services that you receive during a casino trip, but some gamblers don’t know how much they should tip for every service.
You can see standards for each casino resort and gambling service below:
- Bellman – $1-$2 for normal sized bags, and $3-$5 for heavy bags.
- Cocktail waitress – $1 for every drink.
- Casino dealer – $5 per hour.
- Drivers – 20% of total fare.
- Limo drivers – $10-$15 per ride, because this is a luxury service.
- Maid – $5 per night for a relatively clean guest; $10-$15 for messy guests.
- Valet – $2 when dropping your car off; $2 when picking your car up.
These are merely guidelines for how to tip. And you may offer more or less, based on the employees’ attitudes and what kind of resort you’re staying at.
For example, those staying at the luxury suites at The Venetian generally tip more than somebody staying at El Cortez.
As for employee attitudes, most people will be courteous to you because they rely on tips for their salaries, but you’ll occasionally run into rude people who don’t deserve anything extra.
The seven easy steps presented above will help you better map out your casino gambling trip and feel more at ease.
I especially stress the first two points about creating a budget and gambling bankroll. Having a plan for how you’ll spend money is far less stressful than winging it as you go.
The nice thing about setting up travel and hotel arrangements is that certain websites make this much simpler. You can quickly hammer out your travel plans in a matter of minutes, then add a hotel and car.