Casino Travel Planning
We’re in Tampa, enjoying a mild winter and planning our 2009 travels. In the continuum of planning styles we fall somewhere around the middle. We know some people who never plan at all and just decide where to go when it’s time to break camp. At the other extreme, I met a guy who plans meticulously knowing 12 to 18 months in advance where they will spend each night.
We have a general plan for the year, with anchor points that we commit to ahead of time. Everything in between these anchor points is set in Jell-O. We often stay longer, leave early, and change destinations as we go. This holds true for our casino-based travels too. We have long range plans for where we want to be; “Las Vegas”, “Gulf Coast”, “Midwest” for example, but we usually wait to make specific plans until we receive all our casino mail and offers for the month.
This process for us includes both objective and subjective decision making. I’ll tell you how we go about planning, and maybe this will give you some ideas you can use. Here are the major things we consider:
1. Free RV parks with hookups, or free overnight and longer term parking
Some casinos have RV parks and they will comp an RV site the same way they would a hotel room. Many without RV parks allow dry camping for one or more nights. We plan to use these along our way. Of course, we reference www.CasinoCamper.com to help us find them (wink).
2. Casinos where we have status
These are places where we have played enough to achieve a higher tier level in their player’s club system. We visit these locations for two purposes; first, to enjoy the benefits of our higher tier level (free shows, VIP lounges, etc.). Second, we’re giving them play so we can maintain our status.
3. Casinos where we want to achieve a higher status
Casino players club benefits change often, and we try to be aware of the changes so we can play where we get the greatest benefit. Because we travel nationally we’ve found it advantageous to have status with casino chains that operate many casinos around the country. Two examples are Harrah’s and Boyd’s. We also drop casinos from our list each year based on reductions in benefits and tightening of comps. Casino Del Sol in Tucson is an example. They’ve eliminated discretionary comps at our level of play and it’s far more difficult to get comped food than previously, so they’re off our list.
4. Casino offers; free play, tournaments, gifts etc.
Items 1-3 can be planned far in advance. Then, as we get within 1-3 months of arrival we start looking at offers that casinos send us in the mail. These include extra nights of free hotel rooms, free entry into tournaments, gifts that are worth picking up, and coupons for additional free play and free food. Naturally we try to plan our visits where we get the most benefits.
Free play is our favorite! It varies greatly, and during slow times a casino might give you many times more free play than usual. We’ve see our free play jump from $20/week to $20/day and back again.
We also enjoy free food offers. These are sometimes in the casino mailer, but also found in coupon books such as the Las Vegas Advisor “Pocket Book of Values” available online, and the “American Casino Guide” found in most bookstores, try www.amazon.com for discounts. Sometimes you’ll find coupons in the local newspaper too. Ask the locals what day has the best ones.
5. Casino Promotions; point multiplier days, contests, new player signup bonuses
These are usually announced by mail, or by email, but sometimes we only discover them by reading online forums; the vpFREE forum on Yahoo, the Las Vegas Advisor forums, and Midwest Gaming and Travel are our favorites. You’ll even find prominant gambling writers participating there, such as Jean Scott, Bob Dancer, and Linda Boyd.
Casino promotions can be some of the most profitable plays. For example, a casino we started visiting last year had a 10x points promo about 2 times a month. They also had 5x points once a week. Their best video poker game is 8/5 Bonus Poker, paying 99.2% return. At 10x points we received 1% cash back on all our play, plus 1% comps in their restaurants. So that adds up to a 101.2% play!
Now you might say that can’t be real, that a casino couldn’t offer that and stay in business. Oh yes they can! Many casino customers won’t take the time to learn basic strategy so they can achieve the 99.2% return, and their return might be as low as 96%. Others will choose to play games with lower average returns. So the casino makes money, and a handful of knowledgeable players do well, while the average casino patron contributes to casino profits.
So many casinos – so little time
We can’t do it all, so we plan ahead and we try to be flexible to respond to the best offers when they’re available. We stay several months in Las Vegas each year, and we do great there. Las Vegas locals have the best of it! We maintain a mailing address there so we can be “locals” when we’re in town. Each month we get dozens of mailers, and I use a calendar to map out our schedule to take advantage of the best plays. I also have an expanding file folder with a pocket for each casino we visit and I keep coupons and players cards in this so they’re easy to find later.
So that’s a quick overview of how we plan our casino travels. For us it’s a balancing act. The best casino values are in Las Vegas, hands down, and if that’s all we wanted we’d move there and buy a house. But we love to travel, to visit family, and to live in mostly nice climates, so we look for the best casino plays along the way.
Happy travels, and good luck in the casinos,