When it comes to how we book our flights, hotels, and vacation packages, there are almost too many options to keep up with. You can book airfare directly with airlines and may receive special incentives for booking hotels direct, but you can also utilize travel discounters like Expedia, Travelocity, and Priceline to book individual plans or package deals.
Costco Travel is yet another option available, although this travel booking website can be hit or miss and is geared to Costco members who shop in their stores.
Here are four tips that can help you maximize Costco travel and save money on your next flight, rental car, hotel, or package deal:
Become a Costco Member
According to the website, Costco Travel sells “exclusively to Costco members who reside in the United States.” In other words, you need to buy a Costco membership to use the travel website and can’t take advantage of the deals if you don’t.
If you live near a Costco store and want to buy in bulk or have a Costco membership already, you’re in good shape. If not, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of buying a membership for the purpose of using Costco travel.
Costco memberships can be purchased for individuals or businesses. The Gold Star membership is $60 annually, and the Executive membership will set you back $120 per year. Also keep in mind that the “Executive” level comes with 2 percent cash-back on completed travel for members, which could make splurging for the higher tier membership a deal if you use Costco Travel for all your travel plans.
Use Costco Travel to Compare Airfare, Hotels, Rental Cars, Cruises, and Other Prices
Once you’re a Costco member, you can use Costco Travel as resource when you book any component of your trip. Compare prices for airfare, rental cars, hotels, and vacation packages just like you would with any other travel website.
Better yet, use Costco Travel in addition to other travel discounters, or even Kayak.com—a discount aggregator that lets you view pricing from hundreds of travel sites at once. By comparing prices across all potential vendors, you can ensure you’re getting the best price possible.
Remember That Costco Isn’t Always the Cheapest
Costco Travel is often very hit and miss, meaning that prices can be higher or lower depending on the travel deal you book. That’s why you should never assume the bulk retailer has the best deal. Do your research and compare pricing with at least three vendors. Only then can you decide which is best.
Let’s say you’re booking a rental car in Orlando for a Disney trip in June of this year. A quick search on Costco Travel for your dates shows that the cheapest option—a weekly rental with Alamo for an intermediate car (Hyundai Elantra or better)—starts at $278 per week.
A similar rental via Expedia.com (Toyota Corolla or better) through Nu Car Rental starts at $212 for the week, however. In this case, Costco isn’t cheapest at all.
But your rental pricing may work completely opposite on different dates or for a different destination. For example, let’s say you decide to go to Denver, Colorado instead. For the same dates, an intermediate rental with Alamo through Costco Travel starts at around $291.
However, a search on Expedia shows that even a smaller economy car starts at $349 for the week with Alamo. For an intermediate car, prices surge to almost $400. For these dates and destination, Costco Travel is a much better deal—and it’s not even close.
Get a Killer Deal on Cruises and Rental Cars
While Costco Travel can offer lower prices on nearly any component of your trip, many users swear the website offers the best deals on rental cars around the globe. Cruises are also a big deal through Costco Travel since prices are competitive and you may get other perks like an onboard credit or cabin upgrade.
Let’s say you want to take a Caribbean cruise this upcoming November. Searching for a 7-10-night cruise to this region with “any cruise line” in November will bring up a range of options with various cruise lines.
Perks can include a “Costco Cash Card” customers can use to purchase Costco gas or merchandise in the store. Costco customers can also qualify for additional perks like free beverage packages and shipboard credits.
Like any other travel deal, you’ll want to make sure you compare prices for cruises through Costco with other sources to make sure you’re getting the best price over all.