Thrifty Living: Rosie Millard
Camping En Famille In Vegas? A Gamble That Paid Off Nicely
Saturday 18 November 2006
Las Vegas. Home of gambling, twinkling casinos and Steve Wynn, the hotelier who is so wealthy that even putting his elbow through one of his Picassos didn't overly worry him. Not the obvious destination for Thrift Queen Millard, but I'm here, with Mr Millard, the Junior Millards and our nanny, on a travel commission, and it seemed a shame to bypass it.
However, we haven't checked into a grand hotel on the Strip - we are camping. Yes, camping in Las Vegas. We are living in a 30ft RV motor home, which Mr Millard gingerly backed into a parking slot behind Circus Circus, a hotel/ casino/theme park and, er, campsite. It's ideal! While other tourists are eating hydrogenated fat at Wolfgang Puck, here we are, cooking up spag bol in the motor home, while sightseeing helicopters buzz around overhead and giant trucks power past on the freeway.
There's a swimming pool, a bit of grass, and a tree around which the children play Grandmother's Footsteps. It's not quite the Vegas of Caesar's Palace or the MGM Grand, but experience tells me that if we venture into a commercial venue, the Junior Millards will turn into cheeping baby birds, mouths wide open for expensive treats. So, it has to be swimming and Grandmother's Footsteps.
Opposite us is parked a giant motor home, festooned with satellite dishes. It belongs to Mike and Michelle, a retired couple from New Jersey who now live most of the year in it. Perhaps intrigued by Grandmother's Footsteps - surely a first in Las Vegas - Mike calls us over. From a hot tub. With bubbles.
The tub is hooked up to the motor home, and Mike, who sports a grey ponytail and tiny Speedos, is sitting in it. Michelle, in a leopard-print swimsuit, floats alongside him. They explain that they live in this car park for seven months of the year. "It's worth it," explains Mike, rubbing his fingers together to express millions of dollars. "I spend about 40 hours a week playing poker. The rest of the time, I spend on my Harley."
Wow. Does Michelle play alongside him, I wonder. "Oh, no," she says, splashing playfully. "I just do the slots. I never win!"
But Mr Millard and I need to win. My credit card has just died on me (same old story) and we need some spending money before I get back to reality. So, that night, we leave everyone sleeping in the motor home and hit the casinos. With a balance of $100.
Standing behind a fellow-punter at the ATM machine in the Mirage Hotel is a sobering experience. He puts his card in and requests $500. It's declined. I've been there, mate. And we all know that you can't be overdrawn in America. Interestingly, however, he is offered something else: cash from a secret account, which requires a secret PIN. (Blimey. Maybe this is how Americans get around being overdrawn. I wish the Clydesdale Bank offered such a facility.) He taps in his secret PIN. "Are you willing to pay a supplementary fee?" asks the machine. Yes, he is. He wants to hit the tables with $500 in his pocket. "You will be charged an additional $105," says the machine. Twenty per cent extra! I'm now grateful the Clydesdale doesn't offer such a facility. But our friend taps in "Yes" and waits. The machine responds. It declines again. Defeated, he walks off.
Meanwhile, Mr Millard and I ventured towards a poker table. Naturally, neither of us has a clue about how to gamble - we met while working at the BBC, remember. However, adding up a bunch of cards to 21 looks about right for our entry level, so we settle down at the 21 Table.
The croupier shuffles her cards and flips them down on to the baize. We gingerly push forward a stake of $10. It's hardly high-rolling, but I just couldn't bear the thought of actually losing money I don't really have in the first place. I know that in maths, a double negative makes a positive, but I doubt very much whether it works the same way with my current account.
Amazingly, however, we start to win. And keep on winning! This is more like it. Money for nothing. I start to pile up our chips: $100 for our original stake, and the rest is pure profit.
After about an hour, we have made $67, which seems alright to me. It's the cost of the campsite. So we pocket our winnings and walk out into the night, where the lights are burning so brightly, it is like day.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
iJobs Money & Business
£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...
£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens