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Although Costco is best known for its membership-only retail warehouses where the motto is finding value in bulk purchasing, the company also features a growing travel services program. Costco members can book vacation packages, cruises, hotel stays and car rentals through its website. This is another option available that consumers can consider when looking to save big.
At a glance, it seems Costco Travel has a different aim than most dedicated travel agencies. While most services are trying to provide the lowest price for the same options, Costco is attempting to win in terms of value. Its packages and travel products don't feature the low-budget options available on websites such as Travelocity or Priceline. Instead, Costco is cost-effective and includes a ton of value in the packages it does offer, sometimes providing features that other services can't match.
- Costco conveniently handles all of the logistics for you.
- Vacation packages provide a lot of value for the price point.
- Car rentals are less expensive than booking directly.
- Cruises typically include meal credits and Costco cash cards.
- Booking travel services is simple and streamlined.
- There's a wide selection of ready-made itineraries with some level of customization.
- The customer service is excellent.
- There's less variety in price, with a lack of options on the lower end.
- It offers a limited selection of destinations compared to dedicated travel agencies.
- Flight rates are expensive, with many more affordable options available elsewhere.
- Cannot compete with bookings made with points through credit card or airline travel portals.
- Members may need a Costco co-branded credit card to maximize value.
- Accommodations are limited to mostly major hotels and resorts.
Navigating the Costco Travel Guide
Costco Membership Levels
You'll have two choices when it comes to Costco membership: Executive and Gold Star. Each comes with a different annual fee and suite of benefits.
Gold Star membership is the base level, simply providing individuals with the ability to shop at any and all Costco retail warehouses around the world. Beyond this initial access, there are few additional benefits. You do, however, get significant savings due to the relatively lower prices offered by Costco.
Executive Membership is an elevated version of Gold Star membership and requires an annual payment of $120, comprised of a $60 annual fee and $60 upgrade fee incurred per year.
In exchange for the higher fee, Executive members can access a suite of benefits that provide substantial value and savings. Chiefly, you'll get 2% cash back on qualifying Costco purchases, including Costco Travel offerings like vacation packages. The reward maxes out at $1,000 per year.
The following table outlines the strength of the 2% reward available to Executive members:
|Monthly purchases||Yearly purchases||Approximate annual reward|
If you spend $250 a month on qualifying Costco purchases or $3,000 a year, you would earn $60 in cash-back rewards. This would offset the upgrade fee required to move into Executive membership from Gold Star membership. Although you'll likely spend $3,000 annually at Costco if its your primary source for groceries and other retail goods, you can reach that amount much faster through Costco Travel. Many of the travel packages offered are well beyond $3,000 and more than enough to justify being an Executive member.
Costco Credit Card: Should You Apply?
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
- Discover one of Citi’s best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
- 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
- Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is Costco's own unique credit card that offers a suite of benefits geared toward customers of the wholesale one-stop shop. If you want to maximize the value you're getting out of Costco Travel, you'll need to apply for the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi.
This credit card offers 4% cash back on gas purchases each year up to $7,000 (then 1%), 3% back on travel and restaurant purchases, 2% back on Costco purchases, and 1% cash back on all other transactions. The rewards can then be redeemed for Costco gift cards. The 3% back on travel purchases is the most beneficial when it comes to Costco Travel, because all transactions in the travel portal will return 3% value to cardholders. This credit card also has no annual fee, but it does require being a Costco member.
However, redeeming your Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi rewards isn't simple. You'll receive a gift card once a year with the total cash back you've accumulated that can be redeemed on Costco purchases. This can be limiting compared to other credit cards.
While the cash back is attractive, it's not as beneficial as points or mileage. Most other travel credit cards offer points that can be redeemed within travel portals for airline tickets, hotel stays and other luxuries. If you are looking for a luxury travel experience, then the lack of a robust rewards system will become strikingly apparent. Additionally, most other travel credit cards offer a sign-up bonus, but the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi lacks this benefit. This distinction further lowers the value of this credit card compared to others on the market.
If you shop at Costco often, you're already a member or you plan to use Costco Travel often, then you should definitely apply for this credit card. Despite its hiccups, it still provides exceptional value to cardholders. The 3% cash back on travel purchases is particularly useful. However, this should not be your primary travel card. We recommend using another dedicated travel credit card that earns you points or miles.
Booking a Vacation Package through Costco Travel
The Costco Travel home page menu allows you to search for vacation packages, hotels, cruises and rental cars. To begin looking at vacation packages, choose a destination from a prefilled list. Your options include the Caribbean, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Europe, Fiji, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Mexico and Tahiti. You can also select the "Guided Vacations" or "Theme Parks" options, if that's more aligned with your interests.
For our sample booking, we chose Europe. The next step is to choose the region; we had15 options within Europe, including popular destinations of Santorini, Madrid and Paris. In this case, we selected Rome as our desired region.
After entering a departure city, dates, number of rooms required, and the number of adults and children on the reservation, click "Find My Vacation." You'll be taken to a results page with packages that match your criteria. From here, you can view each package or you can use the "Filter Your Search" box on the left side of the screen. This box allows you to filter by single-region or multiregion, and you can look at packages that offer another location in addition to the one you selected. Many of the package options for our sample booking featured stays in London, Paris and other cities in Europe.
Select your travel package and click "Book It" from the results screen, leading to a "Check Price and Availability" screen. This particular screen highlights the flexibility provided by Costco Travel's vacation packages. For example, you can edit the number of nights you stay in a particular city if the package you choose includes multiple cities. You can also adjust your departure and return dates on this screen, rather than completing the various forms again.
You also have the option to include a flight with your package on the "Check Price and Availability" screen. You can adjust your departing city and select your class of service. Your options include economy, business and first class seating. After selecting your class, you'll be able to review departure and arrival dates.
You may be offered additional flight options, which are listed as part of the total package price; these other options may increase or decrease the original estimate. Use the "Filter Your Search" options on the left side of the screen to tailor your flight results based on departure and return times, number of stops and airline.
You can also select or change your hotel accommodations. If your trip has multiple destinations, you can select hotels for each city. If there are no available hotels for a particular date and city, then you'll need to change your dates and search again. Use the "check dates" option next to the hotel listed to make sure your chosen hotel is available for the date you need.
As long as you plan your vacation package at least a month in advance, as we imagine most people would, you should not run into the issue. Once you're satisfied with your flight and hotel selections, click "Continue." The final few steps are rather straightforward. First, you will be prompted to confirm your transportation from airport to hotel and vice-versa.
You may also be asked to confirm and select a time for any primary activities included in your chosen vacation package. In the case of our example, this meant confirming a 9:00 AM reservation for a tour of towns along the Amalfi Coast.
After making sure all the information regarding your package is correct, click "Continue" and proceed to the final step: payment. Log in to your Costco Travel account, check your payment details, click "Confirm" and you're done.
Costco Travel Package Comparisons
International Vacation Packages: Costco Travel vs. Travelocity for Rome Package
One of the greatest strengths of Costco's vacation packages is the luxury provided. However, that comes at a cost. In our example, the vast majority of the eight-day Italy vacation packages ranged from about $4,000 to nearly $6,000. Entering the same information of dates, number of people, and flight class of service on Travelocity provided a completely different set of results and prices; the greatest difference between the two being the range of prices and hotel stays.
Travelocity's prices for the same destination and dates ranged from about $1,500 to $10,000. Whereas Costco featured only 34 total vacation package options for Rome, Travelocity provided more than 5,000 options. Comparing Costco Travel with a dedicated travel booking website quickly revealed a potential downside: Costco can't rival the variety that travel-booking companies can provide. This might be beneficial if you tend to be overwhelmed by too many options, but most people would appreciate having more options available to them.
Among the 34 packages offered by Costco, almost all of them were priced north of $3,000. If you aren't interested in luxury amenities and fancy dinners, then Costco does not provide many options that would appeal to you in the same way that Travelocity accounts for different types of consumers. Nevertheless, when it comes to providing luxury at reasonable prices, Costco does excel. While it cannot cater to all demographics, it does a great job at tailoring its packages and features toward the demographic it has in mind: consumers who are willing to spend more money to ensure a better experience.
Another major flaw emerged when comparing Costco to travel agencies — a limited flight selection. Although travelers can choose between economy, business and first class, they won't have as much flexibility when it comes to choosing an airline. This is problematic because a number of airlines known for affordability are excluded, ultimately raising the average price for travel packages and narrowing the range of price points available.
Theme Park Vacation Packages: Costco Travel vs. Priceline for Disney Package
One of Costco Travel's most popular offerings is its theme park vacation packages, but how does it compare to the prices and values being provided by competitors? In an effort to find out, we compared the prices of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa vacation packages provided by Priceline and Costco Travel.
The differences between the two packages quickly emerged. For starters, Priceline's vacation package included just the room and the hotel's amenities, while Costco's package included more features: complimentary Disney FastPass+ service, Extra Magic Hours, MagicBands, and transportation to all Walt Disney World® theme parks, water parks and springs. Plus, the package includes five-day Disney theme park tickets, with the Park Hopper option, for everyone on the reservation. The value of these tickets alone for two people is about $1,690.
Without factoring in flights or car rentals, the total price of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa package for eight days from Costco Travel is $3,775. With the Priceline package, you can choose the number and size of your beds, which changes your rate per night. For the same dates, the prices ranged from $2,752 to $5,568.
At first glance, it appears that Priceline offers lower prices and more flexibility when it comes to living accommodations, but these prices exclude the extra benefits provided by Costco Travel. By including the price of the five-day tickets to Priceline's range of prices, you would actually spend between $4,442 and $7,258. Therefore, Costco Travel actually provides considerably more value and savings to customers wanting to go to a theme park than even the least expensive Priceline offering. Costco also includes various additional benefits that further increase the amount you would be saving by using Costco Travel rather than popular discount travel booking agencies.
Booking Cruises through Costco Travel
To book a cruise through Costco Travel, select the "Cruise" option on the homepage and enter your relevant search information. In our sample package, we chose to book a cruise to Hawaii — one of the most popular destinations. Click "Continue" to proceed to the results page and see which packages fit your criteria.
Use the "Filter Your Search" box on the left side of the screen to tailor the results and search more efficiently. You may also browse other cruise options, destinations and departure dates.
We selected the seven-night cruise to Honolulu and were able to view various departure dates with prices for each cruise in a table format. This made it easy and quick to compare the different options. After you decide on a cruise and an appropriate departure date, click "Continue" to move on.
On the next few screens, you'll customize your reservation according to the number of people, their ages and state residency. You can also specify whether anyone on the reservation is part of an applicable cruise loyalty program, which can potentially give you extra savings and value.
After entering the information about your reservation party, you will be prompted to choose between various stateroom types. There were four options available for this specific cruise: inside, ocean view, balcony and suite staterooms. The prices increase respectively. In our sample, the cruise was chosen relatively close to its departure date, so there were no more inside staterooms available. You should keep this in mind when it's time for you to book your own cruise. Leave ample time between the day of your booking and chosen departure date to ensure you have all the options available. After selecting a stateroom, click "Continue."
You will then be prompted to select a specific stateroom on an available deck of the cruise ship. This part is slightly more confusing and may require more time to go through the various options. You'll see an interactive floor map of the cruise ship's layout. There is a drop-down menu at the top of the screen, below the header "Stateroom Selection," that lets you view different available decks. The left side of the screen includes a key that explains the deck symbols. Use this to understand the occupancy limits, disability services and bedding for each room.
If you want more information about any rooms you're considering, click the stateroom on the interactive cruise ship layout to get more details. This is also the next step in booking your cruise. You'll be able to view the occupancy limit, approximate size in square feet and complimentary features that may be packaged with the deal. You can also request your bedding configuration on this screen. The total price for the specific stateroom you've selected is shown on the right side of the screen. If you're comfortable with your selection and bedding configuration, click "Select" to continue the process. Your chosen stateroom will now appear on the same screen as the interactive cruise ship display. After double-checking that this is the stateroom you want, click "Continue" to finish this step.
At this point, you can add optional flights, transfers and hotel accommodations. If you don't want to add any of these, click "Continue." This will lead you to your Costco Travel account log-in page. The final step is to pay.
Cruise Credits Offered by Costco Travel
Costco Travel packages often include food and beverage credits, which have a set value and can be redeemed during your cruise. The packages also frequently come with Costco cash cards, which can be redeemed on future Costco runs.
Not all the cruise offerings from Costco include these credits, but you should try to book cruises that do. Costco Travel's cruises are typically about the same price as booking from rival travel agencies or booking from the cruise line itself, meaning the credits provide the difference in value that justifies selecting Costco. These credits are often worth hundreds of dollars and should not be ignored.
Booking a Rental Car through Costco Travel
To book a car through Costco Travel, first select "Rental Cars" on the homepage menu and enter your pick-up and drop-off locations, dates, and times. Then click "Find My Car" and head to the results screen.
Costco Travel will then use its Low Price Finder and your information to present your options. The interactive table will list the price for varying car classes and car rental agencies, which include Alamo, Avis, Budget and Enterprise. You'll see the price of car rentals within each car class compared across different agencies. Costco highlights the lowest price in red.
If you want more information about any vehicle, click the price listed in the top bar. A drop-down panel will display a description of the vehicle, similar cars and a "Continue" button. For our example, we chose a full-size car from Avis car rental. Click "Continue."
The next screen will present optional equipment you can add to your rental and the price to use them per day. Remember to calculate the total price of your rental, as these per-day costs may quickly add up to be more than you originally expected. For a full-size Avis rental, we had the option of choosing a booster seat, child toddler seat, navigation system, roadside safety network and Wi-Fi. You might have more options with other vehicles and agencies. For example, Alamo offered carbon offset, satellite radio and a toll pass device on its full-size cars. These weren't offered by Avis. Check out your different options to make your drive better.
After the optional equipment screen, you can choose from a list of available upgrades (if there are any) from the car rental agency. In this case, Avis offered an upgrade to Standard SUV, which would lower the rental price by $7.38. Avis also offered an upgrade to Intermediate SUV, but there was no price-change offer for that swap. The final step is to log in to your Costco Travel account, provide or confirm your payment details and pay.
Booking through Costco Travel vs. Directly with Agency
Our sample full-size car rental from Avis cost $69 per day with all taxes and fees included. We had to wonder: Would it cost more, less or the same when compared to booking the car rental directly through Avis?
For the same calendar dates, pick-up and drop-off locations, and time, Avis provided two prices for its full-size car class. The "Pay at Counter" option listed the rental as $62 per day while the "Pay Now" option had a reduced price of $55.80 per day. On the surface, it seems there is a clear benefit to booking directly online with the car rental service because both of Avis' listed prices were lower than Costco's prices. The pay now price was even more than $10 lower.
However, this reality quickly changed after actually clicking the options to pay. Unlike the prices listed by Costco, the prices initially listed by Avis did not include taxes and fees. Avis' "Pay at Counter" price increased from $62 to $86.18. The "Pay Now" price of $55.80 increased to $77.92. Meanwhile, the Costco price of $69 per day included all fees and taxes, therefore providing a better deal than directly booking from the agency itself. Plus, you'll earn at least 2% cash back by choosing the Costco option given your membership, or 3% if you have the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi.
Frequently Asked Questions about Costco Travel
Costco Travel is exclusive to members, so you'll need to be either a Gold Star or Executive member to use this travel program. The annual membership fees are $60 and $120 respectively.
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a great option if you plan to use Costco Travel or generally frequent your local Costco warehouse. The rewards rates are above average for a card with no annual fee, but you'll need to be a Costco member to apply for this card. However, given the limited way value is returned to you, it would be smart to have another credit card that earns miles or points.
Costco cash cards are like gift cards and can be used to pay for Costco purchases. They're available in amounts ranging from $25 to $1,000 and can help maximize your Costco Travel value because they're included in many travel packages. The cruise packages most often include these cards, which tends to be the only substantial difference in value between Costco cruises and its competitors. For some, these credits are what tips the scales in favor of booking their cruise needs through Costco.
Yes. When selecting vacation packages, you can choose between single region and multiregion packages. You can also filter your search to look exclusively for one or the other, and choose your hotel and other accommodations for each location separately. Costco's multiregion packages are among its best offerings, especially given the amount of flexibility the package provides users.
Costco Travel allows users to book flights through the service, included as part of the travel package. But Costco has fewer airline options than most dedicated travel services like Expedia and Travelocity. The company also tends not to offer discount-airline options due to its commitment to providing quality at fair price points. More often than not, you will be able to find flights for the same price or lower by looking elsewhere. We would recommend you look through other services for lower rates before committing yourself to a flight with Costco. The one clear benefit of booking with Costco, though, would be the added convenience of having all of your bookings in one place that provides great customer service.
Verdict: What's Worth It and What Isn't?
Costco Travel covers a wide range of functions. You can book vacation packages, all-inclusive resorts, theme park stays, cruises, flights and car rentals all through one trustworthy platform. When presented with this many options, the question is: Which of these services is actually providing value and savings, and which of these should I avoid?
The most value can be found in Costco Travel's theme park vacation packages and car rentals. In our sample reservation, Costco Travel's theme park package was only slightly more expensive but was worth nearly $1,700 more. Costco Travel's car rental also cost less than booking directly with the car rental agency itself.
The differences vary between Costco Travel's vacation and cruise packages and its competitor's packages. Costco's vacation packages tend to be pricier and offer fewer options, but they do provide more value for the price point than most other travel services. Costco's base prices on cruises tend to be about the same as the prices found on competitor services. However, Costco may include meal credits or Costco cash credits, which can tip the scales. Spend time researching vacation packages and cruises from Costco and elsewhere to find the best value possible before committing.
Booking flights through Costco Travel is the one service you should try to avoid. Costco's offerings are limited and on the more expensive side. You can find more affordable flights, or even the same flights at discounted rates, through other dedicated travel services.