A Costco Gold Star membership is well worth it’s $60 annual pricetag (especially if you join when the retailer is offering a store gift card promo) thanks to the savings in the store and at the pump. (An Executive Membership—$120 annually—also comes with 2% cash-back rewards and other discounted services.) But you might not realize that both membership levels also get you access to the retailer’s in-house travel service, which could save you a significant amount of money on your vacation. Of course, as with any travel booking, you should always shop around and compare prices to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
When you should use your Costco Travel benefits
You’re looking for a vacation package
Costco Travel’s sweet spot is vacation packages, which bundle some combination of hotels, flights, and ground transportation, as well as experiences like museum and tour tickets, spa credits, and complimentary meals. Having your whole itinerary in one place is convenient and helps you see all-inclusive pricing for your trip. Costco has recommended packages for a variety of popular destinations and resort areas, such as Cancun, Jamaica, Las Vegas, and Orlando. Reddit users on r/TravelHacks report largely positive (and high-value) experiences with Costco Travel’s vacation packages.
Costco Travel’s search engine lets you build your booking from the following options:
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you can also call and speak to someone directly.
You’re going on a cruise or visiting a theme park
Costco offers bookings with 11 cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Princess, as well as packages at Disney and Universal theme parks. Cruise packages are often (though not always) comparable to or cheaper than booking through the cruise line itself and usually include extras like shipboard credit and Costco gift cards. Theme park packages may have perks like a fifth hotel night free, waived resort fees, transportation, and early park entry.
You want to save on a rental car
A Costco membership is one of the most reliable ways to save money on rental cars, with up to 30% off base rates. Bookings made through Costco also include a second driver and free cancelation at no extra charge (plus the occasional vehicle upgrade), and you can attach your loyalty number to your reservation. Note that Costco contracts with Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise, so if you prefer another rental company, you’ll need to book elsewhere.
Costco members also get cheaper rates on gas when filling up at a Costco station to further reduce the cost of a car rental.
When you shouldn’t book through Costco Travel
There are a handful of situations in which Costco’s travel service is less likely to offer an advantage.
You’re booking a standalone flight or hotel stay
Costco Travel doesn’t do flight-only bookings. You can add flights to many vacation packages, though not all airlines are partnered with the service, so you may need to reserve elsewhere anyway.
While you can search Costco Travel for a basic hotel reservation, you may not always find options that aren’t part of a vacation package, such as a hotel plus transportation and perks like waived resort fees or early check-in plus late checkout. That said, even these basic packages may save you money over reserving the hotel directly or through any other booking engine—even if you don’t use any of the extras.
For example, when searching for a hotel in New York City for March 7–11, the results returned only vacation packages. But four nights at the New York Marriott Downtown bundled with a private car transfer to and from JFK airport—plus a room upgrade, a $40 Costco gift card, and a “destination fee” credit for food and beverage, daily Citi bike usage, and dry cleaning—came out to $1,371.69. That same hotel stay, room only, is quoted at $1,664 plus taxes, fees, and the $28-per-day destination charge on Priceline and similar booking sites.
As with flights and rental cars, only a limited number of hotel brands (Hyatt, Fairmont, and Swissôtel) contract with Costco Travel, so again, you’ll want to compare options if you have a specific property in mind or simply want the cheapest room available.
You don’t need or care about the extra perks
As described above, the perks of a vacation package won’t necessarily cost you any extra, and you may actually save money on your trip as a whole even if you don’t use them. That said, they could potentially add to the cost in some cases, so you should price shop if you don’t care about them.
You want to use or earn loyalty points
If you do manage to find a hotel-only reservation through Costco Travel, you probably won’t earn loyalty program points or be able to take advantage of any status upgrades or benefits on your booking.