Q: My fiancé and I would love to visit some casinos during our trip. Any recommendations?
A:You bet! In Las Vegas, our fave is the Bellagio, inspired by an Italian villa and set on a manmade lake. Nearly every half hour, fountains, submerged beneath the lake, send thousands of gallons of water into the air, soaring and swaying to classical music. Inside, wander among the high-end shops, including Fred Leighton and Hermès. Indulge in a five-course dinner at Picasso, where savory delights like truffle-crusted lamb and vermouth-poached oysters are served. Then, catch a spellbinding performance of "O," the hotel's resident water-themed circus. In addition to a bevy of slot machines, the Bellagio's casino offers baccarat, three-card poker, craps, 24-hour Keno and offtrack betting. If Sin City's artifice isn't for you, try the real deal in Monte Carlo, located in the cliffside principality of Monaco. Stay at the ultra-luxe, 55-room Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. By day, relax in the shade of a private beach cabana. At night, try your luck at the nearby Casino de Monte-Carlo. Games include roulette, video poker, Punto Banco and Trente et Quarante. Finally, if it's a tropical honeymoon you're after, take a chance on the Atlantis Resort and Casino, on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. This aquatic wonderland boasts a seven-acre lagoon teeming with exotic marine life; thrilling theme park-style rides; and world-class dining. Atlantis also has seven swimming pools and four beaches. The property's casino is not only the largest in the Caribbean, it's also one of the most beautifully designed. (Look for the luminous art glass pieces by sculptor Dale Chihuly.) You'll find over 900 slot machines, Caribbean stud poker and blackjack.
Hey, Big Spender
Q: We plan to do a lot of shopping overseas. Is there anything we should know before bringing loads of stuff back?
A: Even if you manage to stretch your souvenir-spending dollar, you could find yourself coughing up cash at the border, or having to leave your fab finds behind altogether. That's because when you return to the U.S. you will be asked to fill out a declaration form, listing the items you've bought above a personal exemption of $800 (the exemption varies from $600 to $1,200 in certain Caribbean countries). Your next $1,000 worth of purchases is taxed at between 1.5 and 3%; beyond that amount, rates vary. However, there are some Customs caveats: Antiques that are at least 100 years old are duty-free, including trinkets made of ivory and tortoiseshell (items that cannot be imported if they are new); baked goods and certain cheeses are allowed, but meat and fresh fruit are not. For more overseas shopping dos and don'ts, go to customs.ustreas.gov. Also, remember that duty-free does not mean tax-free. Some countries charge a substantial value-added tax (VAT) on merchandise. In order to receive a VAT refund, ask for a "tax-free" check every time you make a purchase, then have it stamped by Customs in the originating country before returning home. For more info, go to globalrefund.com.
Q: We've never flown first class and thought we might try it on our honeymoon. Is it worth the extra cost?
A: First class may offer cushier seats, more legroom, free cocktails, a selection of entrées, warm cookies, more overhead space…well, you get the idea. But a ticket could cost you 50 to 75% more than a seat in coach class. Still, if you don't want to fork over hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars, you may be able to get an upgrade if you're part of a frequent-flier-mile program. Earn miles through individual airlines (check websites for more information), or through some credit cards (charge wedding expenses, and you'll quickly rack up points). Shop the major credit card companies for the best deals. —Maria Zukin