July 22, 2024

Adventure Destinations League

Navigating Travel Wonders

Does Costco Travel Save You Money? [2024]

When you hear “Costco,” chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the big-box warehouse, a gigantic market where you can get wholesale prices on groceries, cheap home goods, affordable gifts, clothing, and alcohol. Did you also know Costco has an in-house travel agency?

Costco Travel offers vacation packages, hotel rooms, cruises, and rental cars to Costco members.

By taking advantage of the same bulk-purchasing power that it uses in retail, Costco can secure group rates when putting together vacation packages and bundles.

In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Costco Travel and whether or not it can save you money on your next vacation.

Costco Membership

There are 2 levels of Costco membership, and you must be a member to use Costco Travel.

  • Gold Star: $60 per year
  • Executive: $120 per year

Costco Executive members receive 2% back annually on qualifying Costco purchases, including Costco Travel purchases, up to $1,000 per year. This 2% reward comes as a certificate that can be redeemed for most Costco in-store purchases.

If you spend at least $3,000 per year on Costco purchases, including Costco Travel purchases, you’ll earn enough through the 2% yearly reward to negate the extra cost of the Executive membership.


Bottom Line:

A Costco membership is required to book vacations through Costco Travel. Costco Executive members can earn 2% in rewards on qualifying Costco purchases, including Costco Travel.

Costco Travel

Costco Travel is an online travel agency available to Costco members only. It offers vacation packages, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and theme park and specialty bookings. Interestingly, you can’t book a flight through Costco Travel unless it’s included in a vacation package.

You can access Costco Travel by selecting Travel on the Costco website or by visiting costcotravel.com.

Costco Travel
Costco Travel is only available to Costco members. Image Credit: Costco Travel

To view prices, you must be a Costco member, and you need to create a Costco Travel account, which is separate from your Costco.com account, before you can book anything. To do this, you just need your Costco membership number and an email address.

Create a Costco Travel account
You’ll need to create a Costco Travel account to use the service. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Costco Vacation Packages

A Costco Travel vacation package includes a hotel stay with a flight and/or a rental car. Searching for a vacation package works like any other online travel agency you may be familiar with. First, you need to input your travel destination, number of travelers, dates, and departure city.

The search results list, which defaults to Costco recommendations first, is easily filtered and sorted to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The total package price is displayed along with any included extras, such as a Costco digital shop card.

Costco Travel vacation packages

After choosing a package, click on View Deals & Customize. You can see what’s included in the package and select different flights or choose an upgraded room. The cost of your package automatically adjusts based on your choices. Remember that the price and extras, such as the Costco shop card that comes with many travel packages, may change as you alter your options.

Upgrading hotel room on a Costco travel package
You’ll have the option to choose different flights and hotel rooms. Notice the Costco shop card value may change based on your choices. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Once you finalize the details of your Costco Travel package, you can select whether you want just to pay a deposit or pay for the entire trip. Payments can be made with a Visa or Mastercard. American Express cards aren’t accepted.


Hot Tip:

While only Visa cards are accepted in Costco stores, you can pay for a Costco Travel package using a Visa or a Mastercard.

Price Comparisons

We wanted to see how Costco Travel vacation package prices stacked up, so we checked out a few options. These examples include a 7-night package for 2 people, including hotel accommodations and flights.

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Package Cost on Costco Travel Cost if booked separately Cost on Expedia
Iberostar Grand Bavaro $6,469.56 (includes airport transfers and a $379 Costco shop card) $7,006.36 $7,125.50
Live Aqua Cancun All-Inclusive $5,080.76 (includes airport transfers and a $269 Costco shop card) $7,213.45 $5,130.91
Le Meridien Barcelona $4,994.74 $4,535.71 $3,874.14

Costco Travel offered the best packages for the first 2 examples. Not only was the package price the lowest, but Costco’s packages also included airport transfers and Costco shop cards, making them an even sweeter deal.

However, the third package illustrates that Costco Travel isn’t always the best option. In this example, Costco Travel was the most expensive. However, it included a daily breakfast buffet and a walking food tour. The cheapest option was Expedia, but that package was completely nonrefundable, which may not be worth the savings for some travelers.

Vacation Package Included Activities

One thing to look out for when booking a vacation package through Costco Travel is that they sometimes include extras that you don’t really want. If you remove these extras, the price drops, but some packages require you to add an activity.

For example, this European vacation package included a walking food tour in the quoted price.

Included activities in a Costco Travel vacation package
This “included” activity actually costs quite a bit. Thankfully, it can be taken out of the package. Image Credit: Costco Travel

After tour was removed, the price dropped by $582.44! That’s a huge price to pay for a walking tour, and it would have been easy to assume it was a part of the package when, in reality, it cost a lot extra.

Savings from removing included activity
This “included” activity actually costs over $500! Image Credit: Costco Travel

The bad news is that some vacation packages don’t let you to opt out of an activity. In this example, there were 5 activity options available ranging in price from $582 to $1,590.

This can add a lot of unnecessary costs to a Costco Travel vacation package.


Bottom Line:

Costco Vacations travel packages include a hotel plus a flight and/or rental car. These packages often offer tremendous savings over booking through other websites or booking each element separately. However, Costco Travel won’t always offer the lowest price, so it’s good to shop around a bit before booking any vacation package.

Costco Hotels

Searching for a hotel through Costco Travel works just like any other online travel agency you may be familiar with. However, the options for booking a hotel without a vacation package are limited.

To begin, click on the Hotels tab on the Costco Travel website and then enter the city, dates, number of people, and the number of rooms.

Results appear on the next screen, with options to filter the list by a specific hotel, hotel chain, area, amenities, member reviews, and ratings. The results list can be sorted by price, but you only see prices if you enter your Costco number.

Costco Travel Hotels
You can easily filter and sort your results list. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Remember that when you book a hotel through Costco Travel, you aren’t eligible to earn hotel loyalty points, nor will the hotel recognize any elite status you have. If you’re loyal to a particular hotel chain, such as Hyatt, Hilton, or Marriott, it’s important to weigh any savings against the benefits and points you’d give up.

After selecting a hotel, you can choose a different room, and the price will adjust automatically.

Costco Travel hotel room options
You can choose an upgraded room through Costco Travel. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Payment options and cancellation policies can vary based on the hotel and rate you choose, so be sure to read the fine print carefully before you book.

Price Comparisons

We priced out a couple of hotel stays to see if Costco Travel offered competitive pricing. We found examples of Costco’s price being both higher and lower than the hotel website’s price. You may be able to find a great deal, but it’s not guaranteed.

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Hotel Price on Hotel’s Website Price on Costco Travel
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile $281.84 $268.40
Grand Hyatt Seattle $296.63 $302.63


Bottom Line:

There are a limited number of hotels you can book through Costco Travel unless you’re booking a package. You may find there are no options even in popular cities and vacation spots, so it can be frustrating to book a stand-alone hotel through Costco Travel.

Costco Cruises

Like many online travel agencies, Costco offers deals, perks, and specials when booking cruises. Sometimes, these can be quite valuable, but as always, it pays to shop around.

If you know more or less what you want, it’s easy to search for cruises on Costco Travel. Just go to the home page, click the Cruises tab, and enter your destination, departure month, specific cruise line (if you have a preference), and duration.

Costco Travel Cruises
You can book a cruise through Costco Travel. Image Credit: Costco Travel

You can also select an option to search for Alaska cruise tours, which combines a cruise voyage and a guided land tour before or after the voyage.

The results page lists every matching available cruise, with options to filter and sort the results. Each result shows the available room types and any included extras, such as a Costco Cash Card (gift card), onboard credit, or discount.


Hot Tip:

The price listed in Costco Travel’s cruise search results is per person and doesn’t include taxes and fees.

One of the downsides of using Costco Travel to search for a cruise is that you can only search for 1 month at a time. While other cruise booking websites allow you to search by year or any combination of months, Costco Travel requires you to pick a specific month to travel.

When you find the right cruise, you can select your stateroom type, the number of people joining, and even the specific room location. You can also choose to add flights and pre- or post-cruise hotels to a package.


Hot Tip:

Costco Travel Cruise Deals

You can browse available deals, packages, and popular options if you aren’t set on a specific cruise, date, or region. You find these options by scrolling down on the Costco Travel cruise page, where you can explore by destination, category (such as last-minute cruises or luxury cruises), departure port, or cruise line.

Costco Travel cruise categories
You can explore multiple cruise options for inspiration. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Price Comparisons

We priced out cruises on Costco Travel and the cruise lines’ websites and found that the cost was usually lower with Costco Travel, especially considering they all came with Costco shop cards.

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Cruise Cruise line’s website Costco Travel
3-night cruise on Royal Caribbean $868.96 $727.96 + $25 Costco shop card
7-night cruise on Celebrity $1,391.42 $1,359.42 + $25 Costco shop card
11-night cruise on Norwegian $2,264.62 $2,264.62 + $70 Costco shop card

However, getting accurate pricing on a cruise can be tricky. For example, for the Norwegian cruise, the cost was higher on Norwegian’s website initially, but that’s because it included Free at Sea promotions. With those removed, the cost was the same. Booking through Costco came with a $70 shop card but didn’t give you the ability to add the Free at Sea promotions (which could be very valuable for some guests).

In our research, we’ve found that most cruise booking websites offer the same (or very similar) pricing. The difference is in the extras offered, like a Costco shop card, drink packages, or shipboard credit.

It’s always smart to price out a cruise on multiple websites, and Costco Travel could be a great place for Costco members to start.

Costco Car Rentals

Costco Travel also includes a stand-alone car rental booking feature in addition to letting you rent a car as part of a vacation package.

Unlike some other online travel agencies that offer just about everything under the sun, Costco sticks with 4 big car rental agencies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.

If you would prefer to get your rental from another company like Hertz or Dollar, you should book directly or use a more inclusive portal like AmexTravel.com or Orbitz.


Hot Tip:

Searching and Booking

To search for a rental car, input the pickup and drop-off locations, dates, and times, and then click Search.

Search results are shown in a grid, with the 4 companies as the columns and the various classes of cars available as the rows. The lowest prices for each type of car are shown in red, and the price includes taxes and fees. You can click on any price to see the terms and conditions for that rental.

Costco Travel car rental search results
The lowest price for each type of car will be shown in red. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Price Comparisons

We did some price comparisons using the metasearch engine Kayak, and we always found lower prices on rental cars through other websites.

That doesn’t mean that Costco will never have the best price, however. Car rental prices fluctuate, so it’s always best to price out your rental on multiple websites before booking.

Costco Theme Parks and Specialty Vacations

Costco Travel also offers the ability to book select theme parks and specialty vacations.

  • Adventures by Disney
  • Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa
  • Brendan Vacations Ireland & Scotland
  • Contiki
  • Costsaver
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Disneyland (vacation packages)
  • Evan Evans Britain’s Finest Sightseeing Tours
  • Insight Vacations
  • Lion World Travel (African safaris)
  • Luxury Gold
  • Trafalgar Worldwide Guided Vacations
  • Walt Disney World (vacation packages)

To book a theme park or specialty vacation package through Costco Travel, you first choose the package type you’re looking for.

Costco Travel Specialty Vacation Packages
You can book specialty vacation packages through Costco. Image Credit: Costco Travel

Then, you can see each package’s inclusions and details. Each vacation package includes different components, so it’s important to read the details carefully.

Pricing information isn’t displayed until all package components are selected, so it can be a bit tricky to search based on your vacation budget.

Final Thoughts

For Costco members, using the retailer’s travel service can present an opportunity to save some cash on an incredible vacation. Through negotiated rates with hotels, tour providers, and more, Costco can sometimes offer generous discounts or great added perks.

As always, make sure to compare prices and read all terms. While Costco may offer a price advantage for one service, another portal might win for something else, while direct booking may be the best option for yet another aspect of your travel.

Lastly, if you plan to book a vacation package through Costco and have a Gold Star membership, you might want to consider upgrading to an Executive Membership for an extra $60 a year. The extra 2% rewards could make the upgrade well worth it.


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Consumer Review & Guide - Costco Travel

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