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Casinos royale: Our guide to planning your next gaming vacation

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Links for Booking
Las Vegas vacations
Liberty Travel
Domestic airfares
Caribbean airfares
Places to Stay

This fall, the most popular domestic vacation is Las Vegas according to a recent survey of actual bookings. Caribbean cruises topped the list for international vacation destinations. And both destinations, among several others, have made our list of the top casino hotspots worldwide. While proximity is usually the deciding factor when planning a casino vacation, entertainment options away from the gaming action should also be considered. Whether you’re looking for casino action only or a beach vacation on the side, this guide will help you sort out the details for planning your next gaming experience.

Las Vegas

Many hotels in Las Vegas have become one-stop vacation resorts with everything from casinos and headliner entertainment to dining, shopping, spas, and even amusement park rides all under one roof. One of the most recognized streetscapes in America, the Strip, has casino resorts resembling Paris, New York, Venice, an Egyptian pyramid, a Polynesian island, and the Roman Coliseum. Seventeen of the 20 largest hotel properties in the United States are in Las Vegas, the largest of which is the MGM Grand with 5,034 rooms.

Before you book, it’s important to know what type of hotel you’re looking for (budget or luxury) and whether or not you want to stay on the Strip. Also, look for extras like free meals or entertainment that could significantly lower the overall cost of your vacation. In general, the best deals to Las Vegas that we have found are through America West Vacations, Liberty Travel, and United Vacations.

Reno

Situated 340 miles northwest of Las Vegas, families may enjoy a different gaming atmosphere in Reno, Nevada. The “Biggest Little City in the World” has roughly 40 casinos and, like Las Vegas, the legal gambling age is 21 years. Aside from its 24-hour gaming atmosphere with casinos, fine dining, and headline entertainments, Reno also offers options for children and nature lovers. Top attractions in the Reno vicinity include whitewater rafting, hiking, skiing, and golfing.

Most major airlines service the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, and Southwest Vacations often has some of the best rates on air-and-hotel-packages. Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority’s website also lists many of the Reno properties with links for booking accommodations or hotel-and-activity packages.

Atlantic City

The number-two gaming city in the United States (based on gross revenue) is Atlantic City. Although smaller than Las Vegas, with only 12 casino hotels, this East Coast alternative has a similar atmosphere with headline entertainment, gourmet dining, and shopping. Boasting the world’s first boardwalk and miles of sandy beaches, Atlantic City is famous for more than just its gaming activity. Street names here may sound familiar to you as many were used as namesakes in the game of Monopoly, and the Miss America pageant has been hosted in Atlantic City for more than 80 years.

The majority of Atlantic City’s tourists come from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. Greyhound and other bus services offer transportation to Atlantic City from many of the neighboring cities, making Atlantic City particularly appealing as a day trip. Casino-sponsored buses will often give away vouchers for cash or free meals to entice visitors, but do not oblige the rider to stay at the hotel. Go to the Atlantic City Conventions and Visitors Authority’s website for a list of casinos and individual properties’ websites for more information. The Atlantic City Party shuttle offers daily service from New York City and the Atlantic City CVA has information about travel options from other areas. The Atlantic City airport is serviced by only two airlines: Delta and Spirit. Both airlines offer air-and-hotel vacations. Since the majority of Atlantic City’s visitors drive or ride to their destination, packages often include hotel-plus-activity. This varies from breakfast or spa treatment to tickets to a headline act. You can often find packages on the individual hotel’s website, or go to the Atlantic City CVA and view their discount selection.

Mississippi Gulf Coast

Biloxi, Mississippi, is becoming one of the new casino vacations hotspots. Like Reno, this gaming destination offers more than just Vegas-style entertainment. The Mississippi Gulf Coast offers visitors a variety of family-oriented outdoor activities ranging from golf to water sports and fishing. Biloxi, Mississippi, which hosts several of the area’s 12 casinos, was once home to the Biloxi Indians. Later colonized by the French and Spanish and now pocketed with antebellum and Victorian architecture, history buffs will have plenty to do outside of the casinos as well. For more information about tourism in this area, visit Mississippi’s Gulf Coast website. If you plan on visiting the casinos, keep in mind that the legal gaming age in Mississippi is 21 years.

The majority of Biloxi visitors drive to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which means hotel packages are quite common. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi is about an hour east of New Orleans. However Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is serviced by AirTran, Delta, Continental, and Northwest airlines, some of which will package air-and-hotel vacations for you. Biloxi is 2004’s most affordable large metropolitan area as ranked by Business Travel News based on daily accommodation, meal, and rental car costs.

Caribbean

Between cruise ships and island-based casinos, the Caribbean is among the top international gaming hotspots. The area even has a casino game named after it: Caribbean Stud Poker originated in Aruba in the late 1980s. While many islands in the Caribbean have at least one casino, Aruba, Curacao, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico have 10 or more casinos choices each. Most cruise lines and many islands, including Aruba and Puerto Rico have a legal gaming age of 18; other islands, like Curacao, regulate 21 as the minimum gaming age. The U.S. dollar may be used in many casinos; however some islands have strict rules on the import and export of currency that high rollers should be aware of before entering the Caribbean.

The arrival of low-cost air carriers like JetBlue and Spirit to some of the islands, including the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, has caused competition among airlines to offer low rates to the Caribbean. In addition to low airfare, JetBlue also offers good rates on accommodations in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. TNT Vacations also has a good selection of Caribbean vacations for travelers who do not live near a JetBlue gateway. If you are more interested in cruise casinos, the Ocean Players Club website has information about the gaming news and promotions on several of the major cruise lines.

Monaco

Often considered the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco offers world-class casinos for those interested in trying their luck at a European venue. The Principality of Monaco is one square mile in size, and centered around Casino Square with its four casinos. Monaco is host to several major sporting events including the Monte-Carlo Rally, Tennis Masters Series Monte-Carlo, and the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix. Its location on the Mediterranean Coast also adds appeal to travelers looking for a beach getaway. Monaco draws five to six million visitors each year, and is primarily considered a day trip destination for European tourists. With its average visitor’s age ranging between 40 and 45 years, the principality lacks child-friendly activities.

The closest airport to Monaco is the Nice Cote d’Azur International Airport in France. To travel the 15 miles that separate Monaco and the Nice airport, you can take a seven-minute helicopter ride for $91, a 35-minute taxi for approximately $86, or a 45-minute bus ride for $16 (all fares are one-way).The likely reason Monaco is considered a day trip is due to the extravagant cost of accommodations. European gaming laws do not permit casinos to directly “entice” clients, thus discouraging perks that are available at other casino destinations. However, if you are interested in making Monaco more than just a day trip, Monaco’s official tourism site and MonacoAuction.com both offer a variety of packaged options, excluding airfare.

Macau

The future of international gaming may be in Macau, a small Chinese enclave 40 miles southwest of Hong Kong. Although gambling is prohibited in most parts of China, Macau’s gaming industry has existed since 1847 under Portuguese rule. When the territory reverted to China in 1999, the gaming license remained. Earlier this year, after four decades of a monopolistic gaming industry, Macau welcomed Sheldon Adelson, operator of Las Vegas’ Venetian, and his opening of The Sands. Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts also received a license to operate in Macau and will open a new casino there in the future. There are plans to make this peninsula and two-island segment of China into the Las Vegas of Asia. The legal gaming age for foreigners in Macau is 18, though local residents must be 21.

The Hong Kong International Airport services Macau and is located 45 miles to the northeast. Look to SmarterTravel.com’s Asia airfares page for sale rates to Hong Kong. Hovercrafts and ferries offer transportation between Hong Kong and Macau, however travel (including a return ticket) should be booked well in advance, as Macau is particularly busy on the weekends and holidays. For more information about gaming in Macau or its individual casinos, visit Top Casino Offers’ website.

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