April 17, 2017

Costco Travel: What You Need to Know to Save Money

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Let's face it, traveling is expensive. If you are anything like us, you look high and low for travel deals. If you are a Costco member, your hunt is over. Yes, the same warehouse where you shop for granola bars and organic cheese in bulk offers travel discounts. In fact, they offer some of the most valuable discounts in the industry. Combined with the high quality Costco offers, you have the recipe for a fabulous vacation.

Don't worry, you don't have inexperienced agents helping you book an expensive vacation. You still get the same level of professional help you would get at any other travel agent. All travel employees are trained travel professionals. Using Costco gives you the expertise of both a well-known price negotiator with a well-versed travel agent. It's like getting the best of both worlds.

Before we dive into the reasons we love Costco Travel, keep in mind that you must be a Costco member. However, you can see the plans and prices without entering your Costco credentials. Even non-members can view the travel prices. If you decide the $55 membership is worth the savings, you can then join and book your trip.

Following are the reasons we like Costco Travel and often choose it over any other travel agent option.

Vacation Packages

If creating a vacation package gives you anxiety, you will love Costco's vacation packages. The site walks you through the packages with simple choices. You aren't transferred to multiple other sites before making a choice. Costco lays everything out for you in a simple format. For me, this is huge. Navigating page after page and following the pop-ups is enough to make me stay home.

Costco even takes it a step further. You can let them choose everything for you. Simply choose the "Included in Package" choice. Most travelers prefer at least a little customization, though. If you want choices, scroll down for more options. Vacation packages include flights, hotel stays, transportation (transfers or rental car), and activities. Some vacation packages include specific activities, but most offer add-ons. And they are usually priced lower than purchasing directly from the provider.

Some vacations, such as Disney World packages, do not directly include the airport transfers. However, in this case, Costco provides discount coupons. They send it directly to your email. You then purchase the transfers directly with the transfer company. You still get the Costco discount, but you don't purchase it through Costco. I love how Costco thinks of everything, covering all of the bases for any vacation package.

Included Extras

When you book through Costco Travel, you may receive what they call "Included Extras." Essentially, they are bonuses. The type of bonus differs by vacation type and package. My favorite is resort credits. Think of them like gift cards you can use at the resort. We all know we spend more at the resort once we are there. I think of it as cash back on my purchase.

Other bonuses you might see include:

  • Free breakfast
  • Discounts on spa services
  • Free activities, such as a round of golf

You know from the start the freebies you will receive with the package. There is no need for negotiations. The final page before entering your login credentials has a section titled "Included Extras." Read through them to see what they offer. This is great for travelers who hate negotiating or asking for freebies from their travel agent. Everything is there for you - what you see is what you get.

Buyer's Choice

I love booking travel on the Internet because of the access to reviews. Reading honest opinions people have about their trip often helps travelers make choices. Costco takes it a step further, though. With their "Buyer's Choice" packages, you know you will receive a quality vacation at a spectacular price. Buyers rate the packages based on the special touches received throughout the vacation. These are outside of the standard Costco savings.

Take, for example, a 5-night vacation package to Hawaii at the Fairmont Orchid. It includes more than the airfare, hotel, and rental car. Costco members also receive:

  • Free daily breakfast buffet
  • A free bottle of champagne
  • A Costco Cash Card (the amount varies on the length of your stay)

Hot Deals

Costco's Weekly Hot Deals offer even more savings than their regular packages. You have a limited time to book the deals, but travel is often good for a while. For example, a limited-time package to Cancun is good for travel dates through December 23, 2017. In this particular package, you receive a resort credit based on your length of stay. This is in addition to a Costco Cash Card. The minimum resort credit is $500 for a 3-night stay. $500 towards any service, excursion, or dining can really help make your vacation more affordable.

Affordable Cruises

Booking a cruise is slightly less complicated than booking a vacation package. Everything comes with the package. The few options you have include stateroom type, deck number, room location, and bed configuration. If you shop cruise prices between various travel agents and Costco, you may find similar prices. Cruise lines typically restrict the discounts they allow on the cruises.

Where Costco stands out, however, are the extras they provide. They offer onboard credits and/or Costco Cash Cards on almost every cruise they offer. Figure these bonuses into your comparisons if you shop around. Where Costco does stand out on cruise packages, however, are added airline tickets. Their airline prices are often lower than purchasing them elsewhere. Combine the airline savings with the exclusive Costco credits and you reap savings on your cruise.

Kirkland Signature Options

Costco also offers signature vacation options you will not find anywhere else. With these options, you usually receive a Costco Cash Card as well as other exclusive benefits. For example, on a Winery Cruise, Costco offers:

  • A hosted reception on board
  • A private, four-course luncheon with wine tasting
  • Two additional private wine tastings

Add to this the included beverage package and you receive many benefits you would not receive elsewhere.

Executive Member Options

Another perk I love, despite the fact that it costs more, is the Executive Member benefits. The Executive Membership costs $110 versus the standard $55. Therefore, for $55 more, you can obtain some serious benefits on your vacations. You can decide if it is worth it or not. For example, some stays offer a $25 credit per day of stay. This does not make the Executive Membership worth it. However, others offer a one-time credit of $100 at a specific restaurant or complementary room upgrades. Sometimes the extra $55 is money well spent.

Notification of Issues

Costco has the reputation of providing quality in everything they offer. They stay apprised of all issues occurring at the hotels and other amenities they offer. If they know of any inconvenience, such as hotel maintenance, they provide a pop-up during the booking process. By clicking "I understand," you acknowledge the slight inconvenience you may experience. If the issue is serious, Costco may even change your reservations for you. You can expect even better accommodations or benefits in cases like this.

Why We Choose Costco Travel

Overall, Costco Travel offers the most benefits. Even in cases where I could find the cost of the vacation slightly lower, I choose Costco Travel. I love the benefits they offer. I also trust their guarantee. Booking a vacation to a place I have never gone is nerve wracking. What if I choose a bad hotel or miss an incredible activity? Booking with Costco Travel leaves those worries behind. I feel they leave no stone unturned with their program. They stand behind their quality choices and offer great options. I always go on my vacations knowing exactly what to expect.

Don't forget about the added bonus of resort perks, Costco Cash cards, and specific member benefits. There is something satisfactory about using a $250 onboard credit on a cruise. I also love receiving a room upgrade that I could not otherwise afford. These perks make Costco Travel worth it for me.

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