When I booked a vacation to Puerto Rico through Costco, most people I told had no idea that it was even an option.
In fact, I only became aware of Costco’s travel deals in May, when a friend suggested checking out the warehouse store’s website while planning an upcoming vacation.
Contrary to popular belief, Costco has an extensive travel section. It offers Caribbean vacations, from Puerto Rico to Aruba. You can purchase trips in Europe, like an food tour that spans across Ireland or a airfare and hotel package at a luxury hotel in France.
If you like cruises or theme parks, Costco has plenty of choices. The retailer sells packages from 14 cruise lines, and both Disney and Universal theme parks. Want to go on a Disney Danube River Cruise through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary? Call Costco for details on how much seeing the nighttime illumination cruise of Budapest will cost you.
Costco even has a section dedicated to safaris, with options in Botswana and South Africa. That’s right — you can book an entire weeklong safari, including a guide, airfare, and a place to stay, through Costco.
The retailer launched Costco Travel in 2000.
“Following the same philosophy as in the warehouses, we offer a limited number of products in an effort to focus on partners who consistently produce high quality, exceptional value and superb service,” Costco spokesperson Nikki Chellew told Business Insider. “Costco Travel adds to the overall value of the membership with savings that can exceed the cost of an annual membership.”
The budget retailer approaches travel in a similar way to other unexpected offerings, such as coffins and car purchasing.
The top priority is price. While there are some more expensive options, Costco emphasises value in its packages, whether they include airfare and hotel, or add extra luxuries such as food, guided tours, or theme park tickets.
In my case, three friends and I settled on a seven-day trip to Puerto Rico, and purchased a trip that provided airfare, seven nights in a hotel, and transportation to and from an airport in August, for a little more than $800 a person.
While searching for deals, I perused packages sold by airlines, which included flights at inconvenient times, and semi-questionable websites that were too sketchy to trust. Costco matched or beat both in terms of cost, with the added bonus of reliability.
Costco’s second focus: convenience. Customers who shop for cars at Costco say that one of the budget retailer’s major draws is that members can skip the process of bartering with a car salesman. The same applies to Costco Travel.
Scanning through Costco’s deals felt like browsing a diner’s extensive menu — it had plenty of options, but also narrowed down my choices and spelled out the benefits of each one. Once I arrived in Puerto Rico, the bonus of having a car to take me to and from the airport included in the trip was an extra convenience I hadn’t given much thought about before booking the trip.
The final draw of Costco Travel is that every aspect of the journey has been vetted.
I have never personally worked with a travel agent, and I know I am not alone among younger shoppers trying to save a few extra dollars. When booking through Costco, I could see ratings from Costco members who had booked the trip in the past. Costco spells out the specific benefits of each package, from hotel’s dining options to the distance to the airport, train station, and, in some instances, the nearest Costco.
It gave me a sense of ease going into a trip to a place I had never visited — something that, in my case, paid off. Every aspect of the trip purchased via Costco — hotel, airfare, travel to the hotel — exceeded expectations. To head off sceptics: Costco did not know I cover the retailer when the deal was purchased, this is not paid for by Costco, and there is no weird under-the-table sponsorship here. Everything was simply fantastic.
My biggest question after the trip was why everyone wasn’t booking travel through Costco — and was forced to conclude that most people just don’t know that they can.
“It is difficult to have travel be top of mind for members when they think of Costco as a warehouse full of tangible products,” Chellew says.
However, the company is trying to change that.
Costco is now advertising its travel packages using emails, travel brochures, and deals in the Costco Savings Book. Additionally, every month the retailer publishes an article by travel expert Peter Greenberg in its magazine, the Costco Connection.
Still, Costco is primarily growing its travel business via word of mouth. Chellew says that members sharing their experiences has played the biggest role in Costco Travel’s double-digit annual growth.
With that in mind, I’ll add my positive experience to the public record. Next time you’re booking a trip, check Costco Travel first. I know I will.
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