Need a vacation but think it’s too expensive and too much of a hassle to book? If so, vacation packages, such as the ones Costco offers through Costco Travel Deals, are for you because they are as reasonable as they are convenient.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Costco is the second-largest retailer in the world behind Walmart. The company opened its first wholesale warehouse membership-only club in 1983. Since then, it has been a leader, selling everything from prime beef and wine to books and clothes. As of 2019, Costco has 776 warehouses spread all over the world.
If you’re are looking for deals on everyday goods to save money, then sign up for a Costco membership. Then use that found money to treat yourself to the vacation of your dreams.
More Than Just Food…
Costco operates a travel agency for its members, but as with most travel agencies and vacation packages distributors, there are certain things you need to know before you book a cruise or room in one of the all-inclusive resorts around the world.
To help make booking your next vacation easier, let’s untangle the policies and practices of Costco Travel Deals. If you’re flexible and willing to make a few concessions when booking a vacation, then you can see the world without dipping into your savings. All thanks to Costco.
Let’s Make a Couple of Things Clear First
We’re not talking about traditional travel agencies here. Costco provides so much more. Costco members can expect to get travel packages to destinations all around the world with fantastic arrangements for dining, activities, and resort credit (shipboard credit on a cruise). Just note that you’ll be traveling as part of a pre-arranged package, so your options in terms of accommodation and traveling are limited. There’s nothing to stop you from booking these yourself. It will mean, however, an additional expense.
Booking a Costco travel deal is worth it only if you find a package that suits your needs entirely or at least involves arrangements you can live with.
The World Awaits
Don’t be worried that your destinations are limited. Currently, Costco offers vacation deals for its members all around the globe:
- Las Vegas
- The Caribbean
- Costa Rica
- Cook Islands
- Africa (through a partnership with Lion World Travel)
You might notice that these locations are very popular with Americans in recent years. What’s more, all of your traveling needs will be covered.
Full vacation packages, theme park packages, cruises, rental cars, hotels – you can get all of these and more if you are a member. Most destinations are available year-round. Theme park deals include not just the entrance fees for the park you’ve chosen, but the hotel and flight too.
Members also receive discounts for hotels Costco partners with. Hyatt and Best Western are the most prominent chains you can choose as part of your vacation booked through Costco. The amount of savings on your trip varies considerably, so it pays to compare packages. What is clear, however, is that you’ll save. Consider the following price comparisons between Costco Travel Deals and other travel websites:
Hotel rooms tend to be $5-10 cheaper when booked with Costco. It may appear to be an insignificant amount, but consider that an additional $20 in resort fees gets tacked on to your room price. Costco includes these fees in their price. Keep these numbers in mind when calculating the savings.
The price of car rentals is about the same if you were to book directly with Alamo, Avis, or Enterprise. A nice perk of the Costco package though is the option to add a second driver free of charge. Such a service would cost you $10-12 a day if you booked a rental car directly from the company or another service.
One way to save is with cruises and theme park packages. For all those with kids, we all know how pricey it can get to entertain your children with a trip to Disneyland, for example. Ticket prices alone are unimaginably high. Add hotel, travel, food, and candy to the bill, and you might be left with no savings at all. A theme park package from Costco will drop the price significantly. Thanks to Costco, Disneyland becomes the happiest place on Earth, not only for the kids but for their parents too.
Cruises are the other great deal you need to consider. Traditionally, you book those through a travel agent. Agents give you a part of the price you pay for the cruise as an onboard credit. Costco does the same thing in the form of their cash card, which you can use on cruise lines in partnership with the company. Thanks to the onboard credit provided by the cash card, you may never have to reach for your credit card while enjoying the cruise. Food and beverage costs can be quite high on a ship, and because of this, it’s an excellent thing that Costco gives you such an option. Some packages offer free activities and even the possibility of a room upgrade under certain circumstances. That’s probably the main reason cruises are so widely accessible on the Costco travel portal.
Airfare is usually the most expensive part of any trip. Costco provides the opportunity to reduce your flight expenses in several ways. When choosing the destination of your journey, you can count on the fact that they have a partnership with an airline that services the area. The vacation package you purchase will come with a hefty discount on your plane tickets. You may have to make some sacrifices though for the reduced fees, e.g., restricted choice of seats, food, and beverage onboard the aircraft. When possible, ground transportation is used over the airfare. In those cases, you can drive in your own car and save even more money.
Executive Costco Membership
As an Executive Costco Member, you can get more resort credit, exceptional food and beverage credits, room upgrades for the hotel and cruise stays, and better vehicles through car rentals at the same price. Contact your local Costco office to learn more about becoming an executive member. When you enroll in the program, you will have many of the advantages highlighted below:
Another way to save money on your vacation, especially if you’re interested in a cruise, is to book last minute. The so-called “Last Minute Cruises” offer you the chance to book your trip if you are ready to set sail in less than two months. The money you save doing it this way is substantial.
Kirkland Signature Travel Deal
Another option is the Kirkland Signature Travel Deal, which gives you access to more activities in the travel packages offered by Costco. There are also other perks, such as a cash card. You can use it when traveling instead of your credit card.
The majority of travel packages and cruises you can access via Costco come with tons of perks that will help you save money. It’d be quite foolish of you not to make use of them. In addition to saving you money, those exclusive extras will complement your vacation experience nicely. Most of the time, the extras are mentioned in the descriptions of the travel packages on Costco’s website. When that’s not the case, or if you want more information, simply contact the company’s local office.
Common extras include:
- Complimentary daily breakfast
- Fee waived from travel purchases and hotel stays
- Resort credit
- Spa discounts
- Round-trip flights
- Free activities on site
- Discounts for kids under the age of 12
Taxes and fees are often included in the Costco prices, but double check when booking for your travel vacation.
Also Read: 8 Family Budget Travel Tips
Costco Travel Deals: Membership Type
Depending on the type of membership, you can get some impressive discounts. No matter what type, however, you always purchase a package for someone who is not a member. Conversely, if you aren’t a Costco member, then someone who is can book your vacation package under their membership. That makes it easier to plan budget-friendly vacations and cruises without having to go through conventional online travel agents.
Gold Star Member
The most basic type of Costco Membership costs $60 per year. It doesn’t come with any exclusive perks or rewards, but it still gives you access to the travel program. You can even purchase a membership for another person, which makes it the perfect gift. Do you have a friend or relative who likes to travel at least a couple of times a year? Thanks to this thoughtful gift, you can help them save a few bucks, which they can then use for other travel purchases.
A similar type of membership is the so-called “Business membership.” It costs the same and comes with the same conditions as the Gold Star one. The only difference is that you need to be a business owner to hold a “Business membership” card.
This one is a little steeper in terms of price. It costs $120 a year to maintain an executive membership, but if you use it to access the exclusive travel perks it gives, it will be well worth it. Perfect for seasoned travelers who like to make two or more trips a year, the Costco Executive membership comes with the option of room upgrades at hotels and cruises, credit for food of up to $100, and much more.
Executive membership cardholders are also eligible for 2% cashback on all purchases they make in the Costco system, which includes travel and vacation packages. When you compare the additional cost of this membership ($60 more) to all the money saved booking travel, it becomes a “no-brainer.” We strongly recommend purchasing executive membership if you like to travel in style on a budget.
Further Travel Options
There are two major categories for Costco travel vacation packages: guided vacations and cheap cruises. Whether you like to travel solo or as part of a group, you’ll find something tempting in either of these categories.
This option is one of the most popular out there. Under the Disney umbrella, Costco offers guided vacations to more than 25 locations all over the world. A guided vacation means that your group travels in the company of an experienced and knowledgeable guide who knows the area’s culture, history, and landmarks. The guide will tell you where and what is worth experiencing. Disney guided tours are currently available in the following locations:
- Costa Rica
- European river cruises
They are the perfect way to get to know new, exciting places you’ve only read about or seen in a movie. Note that airfare is typically not included in the final price. You’ll need to make separate arrangements. However, you can use the points on your credit card or frequent flier awards to get a good deal to your chosen destination.
Trafalgar is another tour operator who partners with Costco. They have 70 years of experience arranging tours in Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. If comfort and a proven track record are important to you, then you can’t go wrong with a Trafalgar travel package brokered by Costco. Executive membership cardholders receive a Costco Cash card on these tours giving you the best possible value.
Lion World Travel
Africa is the only continent that Trafalgar and Disney do not cover. Exciting safaris, Savanna adventures, and exotic culture are still possible; however, for Costco members. The company has a close partnership with Lion World Travel, which can arrange for all of these things and more. Be on the lookout for offers of guided vacations in Africa on the Costco website. You might be surprised how cheap your dream trip to Africa can suddenly become thanks to executive membership.
Cheap Cruise Options
Even a world cruise doesn’t have to be too expensive, as numerous Costco members attest.
Cruise companies serve all the top maritime regions Costco has a close partnership with – Alaska, Bahamas, Asia, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.
Booking a cruise is the most hassle-free travel booking Costco offers because it includes everything. You only have to choose your destination, the type of room you wish to book on deck, and the room configuration. Costco takes care of the rest. You may, however, want to take the time and do a little research of your own. Ask the cruise companies Costco works with for independent quotes for the same trips. Even if you get similar prices, remember that executive membership gives you a cash card, room upgrade, and activities.
Debunking the Myths
Some people say that Costco doesn’t work with the high-quality cruise companies out there. This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. The wholesale retailer has contracts with Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Uniworld, and Viking. You’ll notice every significant name on cruise vacations on this list. If you prefer small, boutique cruise experiences, it’s a different question. That’s the only case in which we do not recommend booking a cruise through Costco Travel Deals.
Ports of Departure
This topic is the last important one to cover when planning your cruise. The most popular and highly-rated ports of departure in the United States today are Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral. They account for almost 50% of all cruise traffic in the country. Costco-brokered cruises start from Seattle, Vancouver, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Tampa, Galveston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Diego. It doesn’t matter whether you want to use one of the three top ports or start your cruise somewhere closer to where you live, you have a choice.
The benefit of booking a cruise that begins closer to your home is money. You’ll save a lot on travel (flights, car), hotel stays, and other expenses needed to reach the destination that isn’t typically included in the price of the cruise your membership card provides. The drawback is that your desired port of departure may not host cruise ships that are leaving to your preferred destination. Consider this factor in advance. Check your savings to determine whether you can afford the additional expenses you’ll incur, or check the condition of your credit card.
Costco has a solid reputation for customer service, so if you experience any issues or during your trip, you can count on their support. They keep themselves informed about problems currently experienced by their partner companies, including hotel chains, cruise ships, and airline carriers. If they know about a problem, they will inform you when you’re booking your trip.
You can either change the details of your travel booking or proceed on the voyage. In the event of a problem occurring during your trip, do not hesitate to contact Costco. They’ll arrange compensation. You can get perks, have a fee waived, a hotel room upgrade, and much more. It is nice to know you can count on Costco to look after your comfort and satisfaction. They want you to enjoy your vacation and do everything possible to ensure it happens.
When Shouldn’t You Book Through Costco Travel Deals?
Although there are many good reasons to book your upcoming vacation Costco, there are some instances in which you might want to consider other options.
One of the main reasons people are discouraged from booking a vacation with Costco is that the company doesn’t have all possible brands and destinations in its inventory. That, however, is true for almost all online travel agencies out there.
People also do not want to go through the Costco Travel portal because they don’t accumulate points on hotel award programs and frequent flier miles on those trips.
Canceling or Rescheduling
Once you’ve booked a travel package, especially a guided vacation or a last-minute cruise, you need to be confident you can go. If something happens and you cannot travel on those days, rescheduling or canceling your trip altogether can be difficult. You can end up losing a substantial amount of money. Some insurance companies (Travel Guard, for instance) offer travel insurance specifically designed to protect you from such unpleasant circumstances. It needs to be purchased separately though. Travel insurance adds to the cost of making your trip. Do, however, be very careful because in some cases, buying travel insurance may lead to losing the money you save through your Costco membership.
The structure of Costco’s travel packages and guided vacations is a general package. That way, you won’t have a single travel agent to communicate with while preparing for your trip. You’ll probably talk to a different person at the customer support center every time you call. Such an arrangement is not a problem for the majority of experienced travelers, but those with less experience might find it unsettling.
Consider the pros and cons carefully, especially if you are about to experience a cruise for the first time. Costco tries to mitigate this potential discomfort by providing extensive information for first-time cruisers/travelers in their online brochure.
It is your decision whether you’re willing to sacrifice communication with a single travel agent to benefit from the reduced price vacation packages offer. There might be other, better ways to save money.
The Final Destination
Travel booking on the Costco travel portal not only opens up the world for you but also costs you considerably less than more conventional travel. And it’s not just the hotel and flight discounts; it’s all of those PLUS all of those perks your executive membership offers.
You’ll save a lot of money thanks to cash cards, free food and beverage coupons, room upgrades, and activities. Moreover, Costco Travel Deals operates with travel agencies and cruise companies all around the world. Thus, no matter where you want to go, Costco can help you get there comfortably, enjoyably, and cost-effectively.
Have you traveled with Costco Travel Deals? Was your experience positive? Was it reasonable? Please share your responses below.