I was itching to get out of town for the night. I started pondering destinations for an overnight trip from Lancaster. I had a few restrictions; I wanted it to be a place I could do on the cheap, do solo, and take public transportation to. After weighing all of my winter getaway-from-Lancaster,PA options, I settled on Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In the past, when I really enjoyed (may have been addicted to) gambling, Atlantic City could have never been a cheap destination for me, unless I won of course. Now that I’ve grown to detest watching days or weeks of earnings swiped off of the table in seconds, I thought I’d try A.C. on a budget.
I took the train to Atlantic City from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was $45 round trip. Amtrak runs between Lancaster and Philadelphia then you have to take a New Jersey Transit train to AC. The Amtrak train is much nicer than the NJ Transit train, but it is pretty cheap. If you’re making the trip from Philly to AC, it will cost you about what you’d pay to park at a casino, $10.
I’d been searching for a cheap hotel room on Road Dog Travel and found some good deals in Atlantic City. This was a big part of my reason for picking this destination. I found rooms as low as $14/night, but decided to pay $30 for an oceanview room at the Trump Plaza. Mid-week during winter is the cheapest time to find a hotel room in AC. Over the summer and especially on weekends expect to pay much more.
First order of business after checking in, find a cheap adult beverage. This is not an easy task in Atlantic City. If you’re playing a table game the drinks are “free”. Although this seems great, I would guess if I figured out what I paid per drink while gambling in my life, it would be about $20. I’m glad I didn’t keep track. At most casino bars you’ll pay $8-12 for a small, weak mixed drink or $5-10 for a beer.
If you’re diligent, or just ask a local like I did, you can find a more reasonable priced drink. The Mountain Bar at Bally’s Wild West advertises $2 beers and happy hour, every hour. Of course, there are video poker machines in the bar at each seat which may cause your average drink price to inflate. I chose to have a beer at “A Dam Good Sports Bar” in the Tropicana. A “forty” in a bucket of ice or a margarita will cost you $5. A mixed drink will still cost you $8.
Next, I thought I’d try a little gambling. Knowing that the best bets in a casino are red or black on a roulette table or come/don’t come on a craps table, I opted for a few bets on black. After swiftly losing $40, my night of gambling was over. I know, not the most exciting gambling story ever told. I do have some, but maybe that’s for another post.
The next morning I was up early enough to watch the sunrise over the ocean and take a walk on the beach. I’ve been to Atlantic City many times, but have never been up early, or stepped onto the beach there. Before I headed home I started looking for a good breakfast deal. After a long walk, I found the best deal at the Trump Plaza where I was staying. $4.99 for steak, eggs, potatoes, and toast.
After I ate breakfast and checked out, I walked over to the train station and awaited the next train to Philadelphia. I added up my receipts while the gamblers around me relayed their “bad beat” stories to each other. I had spent about $200. My thrifty, twenty-something self would have been appalled at my attempt at a cheap night out of town. I recalled leaving for a month long trip to Oregon with $300 in my pocket.
So, can Atlantic City be a cheap destination? Bottom line: If you go when the rooms are cheap, have some will power, and are willing to look for deals, it can be. If you’re someone who can’t walk by a one-armed-bandit without giving it a pull, or pass up a $10 drink or expensive meal to look for a cheap one, probably not.
A little trivia
Did you know that the Monopoly board properties are all named after Atlantic City streets?