Costco Travel Deals: Worth It, Or Worth Passing On?
Booking a trip and stocking up on toilet paper all at once? It’s not too good to be true, friends.
You already rely on Costco for just about everything, but did you know you can even book your next trip with the big box chain, too? It's true: Costco Travel, the wholesale retailer's in-house travel service, offers a comprehensive one-stop shop for everything you'd need to book a getaway, including flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and more, often at a pretty sweet savings.
And while it all sounds fabulous, you might be curious if there are any particular perks or drawbacks to booking your next trip while you stock up on toilet paper. Two travel experts broke it all down for us, giving Scary Mommy the low-down on this (well-kept) secret travel weapon.
How Costco Travel Works
Yup! Costco Travel boasts a bevy of curated travel experiences for Costco members to choose from on the website. It's staffed by trained travel professionals who can work with you to score deals on top-rated destinations, airlines, hotels, cruises, rental car companies, and more. You'll get upfront pricing and alerts for any additional fees after you book, so there should be no surprises like you might get through other third-party booking agencies.
So, what's the catch? Well, for one, you'll need to be a Costco member to use the service, says travel blogger Taylor Beal. "You do need a membership to book a Costco Travel deal. You have to create a separate Costco Travel account — which is different from the Costco.com login — that is tied to your membership number. Then, you use it just like any other vacation search site. You can search by destination, resort, deal packages, whatever you'd like!"
You can book everything you need for your trip or a la carte as you like, so it's an excellent option for someone who wants their travel plans streamlined in one spot. The only stipulation: Flights must be booked as part of a vacation package, so you'll want to keep that in mind as you browse. You're also limited to the companies Costco has deals with, so you won't find every single airline, hotel, or car rental agency available.
And how, exactly, do Costco Travel deals come at a discounted price? According to travel agent and blogger Tina Tolbert, Costco "purchases travel directly from suppliers (like Disney, Universal Studios, cruise lines, etc.) in bulk, passing the savings on to their members who book those travel deals through them."
Weighing the Big-Box Benefits
The pros: It's hard to beat the convenience of booking a trip online or by phone, with reservation agents on hand every step of the way who can assist travelers before, during, and after their trip. That said, it's a solid option for someone who already has a set itinerary or plans in mind, as you're not going to get the level of service you'd get through a travel agent, says Tolbert.
"There are no real agents or advisors that help you actually plan your trip," she says. Tolbert, a Disney planning pro, cites the Disney parks and the many intricate moving parts involved in planning — say, which restaurants currently have character dining or how you can make specific reservations during your trip — that she feels makes it "not worth the minimal savings."
"When you book through Costco Travel, you get no support for any of that, so you are kind of on your own to figure it out," says Tolbert.
As Tolbert points out, many people don't realize that planners for theme parks like Disney and Universal are typically free to use. So, if you're hoping to save a few bucks by booking one of the big theme parks through Costco, do your research into free planners first who better know the ins and outs of the park intricacies.
Show Me the Money
OK, let's talk about the savings since that's why you're here, right? It seems like a mixed bag, according to our pros. Tolbert says she's only noticed a few hundred dollars in savings, while Beal saved more than $1,500 on a trip to a five-star resort in the Dominican Republic.
"It definitely varies by season and resort," says Beal. "Much of the savings comes from being able to package everything together. So, for instance, you're able to bundle airfare with hotels and car rentals at times. In addition, when booking resorts, there are free private transports to and from the airport, which saves money as well. I also love that almost every booking has a Costco shop credit or upgrade associated with it — sometimes multiple." On an upcoming trip, Beal will get $300 back in Costco gift cards, which she says "helps save on grocery trips."
Another bonus: It seems relatively flexible should your plans change and you need to cancel, postpone, or shift things around, provided you have alternate plans in mind. "During COVID, I canceled a trip with no questions and received a full refund," says Beal. "I've also rescheduled trips and have called to get a partial refund when prices dropped even lower."
If you're already a Costco member and an independent traveler who knows what they're after, there's no harm in giving it a go. If you need more hands-on guidance, a travel agent might be a better fit for you. Happy trails, friends!