Have You Ever Looked into Costco Travel?

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Costco TravelI’ve had a Costco membership for a few years now and I’ve never actually looked into their travel discounts. From what I gather, though, most people haven’t. They get a Costco membership to save on in-store purchases, but never look at the other perks of the membership, including travel incentives. That’s how I use my membership and how many of my friends and family use theirs, but I think it’s time I changed that.

This post is somewhat of an experiment, because I haven’t actually researched Costco Travel at all. I’m going to research it as I write this post, so I provide a completely unbiased look into the program. Sound good? Let’s get started.

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Background Information

If you’re new to the Costco scene, here’s a quick overview of the fees and perks:

Costco Memberships Compared

 Gold StarExecutive  
Annual Fee:$55$110
Additional CardholderOne IncludedOne Included
Rewards Earned:None2% Cash Back on purchases (up to $750 per year)
Other PerksNoneIf you don't earn at least $55 per year, they will refund the difference.

Perks

  • Discounts on Tires – However, in my experience, I’ve found better deals at Tire Rack so YMMV.
  • Discounts on Travel – We’ll see if those discounts are actual discounts in this post.
  • Discounts on Insurance – Costco saved me a lot on car and home insurance, so this is an awesome perk!
  • Reselling Opportunities – This isn’t readily advertised, in fact it’s frowned upon by most business’, but they have some great items to resell. Just sayin’ :).
  • Fuel Savings – Costco fuel is usually a few cents cheaper than everywhere else, so it’s usually a good deal if you live near one. Unfortunately, I would waste more money driving to my local Costco than I would save. If that’s the case for you, don’t sign-up because of this perk.
  • If you’re dissatisfied with your membership for any reason, they’ll refund your membership fee in full.
  • They have an awesome return policy where you can return anything (besides electronics) at any time. Electronics have a 90 day return policy, which is still very generous.

Quick Note: You can only use debit cards and American Express credit cards at Costco, but you can use any Visa, Amex, or MasterCard debit or credit card on Costco Travel.

The Process

For every category, I’ll search a random set of dates for a random location and we’ll see how Costco Travel stacks up. Then, I’ll compare it to Kayak, Amex Travel, and Ultimate Rewards travel, so we have an idea as to what booking company offers the best rates. The rates I use for comparison include all taxes and fees.

Rental Cars

Costco Travel only allows rental cars to be booked in the US and Canada. In addition to that, you can only book cars through Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Keep that in mind as we try a few searches.

For our first search we will look at renting a car in San Francisco, CA from 1/17/15 to 1/23/15.

 Costco TravelKayakAmex TravelUR Travel
Price$191.39$146.82$204$199
CompanyEnterpriseEnterprisePaylessAlamo

For our second search we will try renting a car in Toronto, ON from 4/8/15 to 4/11/15.

 Costco TravelKayakAmex TravelUR Travel
Price$112.59$97.11$110.01$182.58
CompanyEnterpriseDollarThriftyNational

For our third search, we’ll look at renting a car at Miami Airport from 6/15/15 to 6/29/15.

 Costco TravelKayakAmex TravelUR Travel
Price$428.45$326.23$324.55$394
CompanyEnterpriseEZEZAlamo

In the above examples, Costco Travel ranked last or close to last on every search. However, the cheapest option was usually a company not offered by Costco Travel. Because of this, I tried one more search to compare apples to apples.I didn’t look at the cheapest option on all the sites this time. I looked at the cheapest option on Costco Travel and tried to find the same option on the other sites.

This last search will be for cars in Denver, CO from 5/14/15 to 5/20/15. Here’s what the quotes looked like:

 Costco TravelKayakAmex TravelUR Travel
Price$323.78$368$367$392.39
CompanyBudgetBudgetBudgetBudget

As you can see when you compare the exact same company, it seems like Costco Travel wins out. However, most people simply want to best price, which Costco doesn’t offer.

Cruises

The only way to get exact dates and locations with cruises is to book the exact same cruise. So, We’re going to compare cruises a bit differently than we did cars. Also, Kayak and UR Travel cannot be used to book cruises, so we’ll only compare Costco Travel, Amex Travel, and Orbitz.

The first search will be a 7 night cruise starting on 6/1/15 from Seward to Vancouver on the Norwegian Sun in an inside cabin.

 Costco TravelAmex TravelOrbitz
Price$1,384.96$2,178$2,504.38
Other Bonuses$50 On Board CreditNoneNo Deposit Required

The second search will be a 2 night cruise starting on 12/8/15 from Brisbane back to Brisbane on the Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas in a suite.

 Costco TravelAmex TravelOrbitz
Price$1,513.96$1,513.96$1,513.96
Other Bonuses$120 On Board CreditNoneNone

The interesting thing about that cruise, was that every website had the same exact price. Costco Travel was slightly better, though, because they offered onboard credit.

The final search will be a 4 night cruise on 2/26/15 from Fort Lauderdale back to Fort Lauderdale on the Celebrity Constellation in an ocean view room. Quick Note: For some reason, Amex Travel could not find this exact cruise.

 Costco TravelAmex TravelOrbitz
Price$1,395.66N/A$1,435.66
Other Bonuses$70 On Board Credit and a Drink PackageN/A$50 On Board Credit and a Drink Package

Based on the above searches, it seems like Costco Travel is one of the best places to book a cruise, if you’re a member.

Hotels

Costco offers 10% off Hyatt hotels and 10%-20% off Best Western hotels, so there’s not much to guess about those rates. Regardless, let’s do a few quick searches to see the difference.

Hyatt

Auburn Hills Hyatt Place – The 10% off was offered for a one night stay from 11/15/14 – 11/16/14.

Hyatt Place Auburn HillsSydney Park Hyatt – The 10% was not offered for a two night stay from 12/12/14-12/14/14.Park Hyatt Sydney

Andaz Xintiandi, Shanghai – The 10% off was offered for a stay from 1/13/15 – 1/17/15, however, the price is exactly the same as an advance purchase. The only difference is that with the Costco offer you can cancel up to 24 hours before and receive your money back in full.

Costco Andaz Shanghai

Best Western

Best Western deals are only offered in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Best Western Plus Cabrillo Garden Inn in San Diego, CA – Both the Costco Travel website and Best Western website had a room for 11/24/14-11/25/14 for $125.10. The difference between the two was the cancellation policy. Costco offered one, and Best Western didn’t. The Best Western price with a cancellation policy was $139.

Best Western Plus Casino Royale in Las Vegas, NV – This time, I searched through Costco’s website and Best Western’s for a room between 1/22/15 and 1/27/15. Again, both websites offered this room for $102.59. Costco Travel offered it with a cancellation policy and Best Western didn’t. The rate for a cancellation policy through Best Western was $113.99. For what it’s worth, $102.59 is 10% less than $113.99.

Theme Parks and Vacation Packages

At first glance the Costco Travel theme park packages seemed pretty expensive, but I decided to break it down to see if it really was.

The package I looked at included four nights at the Sheraton Vista Resort for one person, one 2 day Park-to-Park Pass with the 3rd day free at Universal, and one 4 day Alamo full size car rental.

Orlando Vacation Packages Costco Travel

I then checked to see what that price would be if you bought them all separately and it was pretty outrageous. The hotel was $676.13 after taxes and fees, the Universal ticket was $175.99, and the car rental was $229.79. That means this total package price would be $1,081.91. That’s just crazy! You would save $277.41 by booking this package through Costco. That would more than pay for the annual membership fee.

Theme parks are not the only vacation packages available through Costco Travel. They have packages all over the world that include hotels, car rentals, activities, and flights. So, for the next vacation package, we’ll look at a trip to Paris and London from JFK (in economy). The trip will be from 5/7/15 to 5/21/15 with two adults.

Costco Travel Europe VacationThe total cost for this package came out to $8,897.82 after taxes and fees. Here’s the break down if you booked this all separately:

  • Two economy seats on 5/7/15 from JFK to LHR via Delta – $2,727.20
  • Two economy seats on 5/21/15 from CDG to JFK via Delta – $6147.13
  • Seven nights at the Sofitel London St. James from 5/7/15 to 5/14/15 in a superior room with breakfast – $4018.75
  • $400 tour credit in London – $400
  • London St. Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord via Eurostar in Standard Premier for two people – $423
  • Seven nights at the Hôtel Le Littré from 5/14/15 to 5/21/15 in a standard room with breakfast- $2759.67
  • Private car from LHR to the hotel – $100
  • Shared car from the hotel to CDG – $60

Total: $16,635.75

If you booked this itinerary through Costco Travel, you would save almost $8,000. That’s a crazy good deal!

Conclusion

Costco Travel may not have the best car rental rates, but they have decent hotel prices, assuming you want to stay at a Hyatt or Best Western hotel, and they have amazing vacation packages. If you have a Costco membership already, Costco Travel might be worth checking into before your next vacation.

This post was all an experiment. I had never looked at Costco Travel options before writing this, so I don’t have any experience with it. I’m curious to know if any of you do. Have you ever booked anything through Costco Travel? If so, how was it? Did you shop around for the best deal or did you book it blindly? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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