Shopping at Costco probably conjures up visions of a crowded store with larger-than-life packages of household essentials and snacks. While booking a vacation may not come to mind, in reality, you can purchase travel — and often get great deals — through Costco using its in-house travel agency called Costco Travel.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect when you use Costco Travel to book your next vacation.
What is Costco Travel?
Costco Travel is Costco’s in-house travel agency. It’s open to all Costco members, but a separate Costco Travel account must be made before booking. While anyone can look at the Costco Travel website, only members can see pricing and book travel.
It acts like other online travel agencies, allowing Costco members to book vacation packages, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and theme park tickets. You’ll notice that flights can’t be booked separately through Costco Travel (they must be part of a travel package).
Do you have to have a membership to use Costco Travel?
Yes, you must have a Costco membership to use Costco Travel. There are two levels of Costco memberships, and either one will work. Gold Star membership costs $60 per year, while an Executive membership costs $120 per year.
The Executive membership may make sense to those who spend a lot at Costco because it earns 2% back each year, up to $1,000 per year, on qualifying Costco purchases, including Costco Travel.
That means if you spend at least $3,000 per year at Costco (including in-store, online, and Costco Travel purchases), the Executive membership works out to be a better deal than the Gold Star membership.
Executive members are also eligible for extra benefits on select vacation packages. You’ll find these offers by going to the Costco Travel website and navigating to Deals>Member Specials>Executive Member Benefits. The benefits vary by package but can include things like a $100 spa credit, a $100 resort credit, a $100 shipboard credit, a private beach lunch, and more. These bonuses can easily be worth more than the price difference between Gold Star and Executive membership.
Related: The Best Budget Travel Tips — From Saving Money on Air Travel to Spending Less on Hotels
Ways to Book With Costco Travel
While you can book a hotel stay through Costco Travel, the options are limited unless the hotel is part of a vacation package. In fact, you’ll find some vacation destinations, including Maui, Cancun, and Punta Cana, that don’t offer any stand-alone hotels through Costco Travel.
If you do find a stand-alone hotel to book through Costco, remember that if it is part of a hotel loyalty program (like Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, or IHG), you likely won’t earn hotel points or elite night credits, and any status you have won’t be recognized. This makes booking these types of hotels through online travel agencies like Costco Travel unappealing for many travelers.
Costco Travel offers cruises on 11 cruise lines, including some of the industry’s most popular brands like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Princess.
There are so many cruise booking websites out there, and they all offer relatively similar pricing. The differences come in the extra perks like drink packages, onboard credit, and, in the case of Costco Travel, complimentary Costco shop cards. The value of the shop card varies based on the cruise and room type but usually falls somewhere between $25 and $95 for shorter cruises and can be as high as $425 for longer cruises.
While Costco Travel can offer great deals on cruises, one of the downsides is that you can only search one month at a time. This could add some extra work for those who have flexibility in their travel dates and want to search for a wide variety of dates at one time.
Costco members can also purchase Disney (U.S. locations only) and Universal Orlando vacation packages through Costco Travel. These packages include hotel accommodations and theme park tickets and will usually come with extras like early park admission, transportation, waived resort fees, or a food and beverage credit.
Related: Splurge or Save? Here’s How to Build the Perfect Walt Disney World Vacation for Your Budget
Booking a rental car through Costco Travel is straightforward with four rental car companies to pick from — Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.
The search results are displayed in an easy-to-read grid format with the least expensive price for each car type shown in red. While this is excellent for someone who prefers simplicity, Costco Travel won’t necessarily always have the lowest price since it excludes so many car rental companies.
A Costco vacation package consists of a hotel with a flight and/or rental car. Packages are available for destinations all over North America as well as the South Pacific, Europe, and Africa. There are also specialty vacation packages available through a small collection of companies, including Contiki, Lion World Travel, Adventures by Disney, and Trafalgar Worldwide Guided Vacations.
Costco Travel vacation packages can offer tremendous savings over booking a hotel and flight separately, and they often come with extras like airport transfers and Costco shop cards.
These shop cards vary in value and generally increase based on the cost of your vacation. We saw offers for Costco shop cards from about $150 all the way to over $900 for a one-week vacation package.
Some packages come with activities included in the price. While that might be a great deal for some, keep in mind that these activities may increase the price over what you’d pay by booking through another website or booking separately.
Costco Travel can save you money, especially on vacation packages, but it’s smart to price out your vacation on multiple websites to ensure you’re getting the best price and package for your needs.