Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (2024)

Costco isn't just the place where you can buy toilet paper in bulk, inexpensive gas, cheap hot dogs and gift cards. You can also book great trips via the company's online travel agency, Costco Travel.

I know, I know: At TPG, we're often staunchly against booking travel through third-party sites, as there can be tradeoffs versus booking directly. But in recent years, I've become a big fan of the travel deals I can find via Costco Travel.

When planning our annual beach trip back in 2022, my best friend found a few options for Mexican all-inclusive resorts on Costco Travel and shared the links with me. I promptly told her we'd probably be better off booking directly and brushed off the idea of booking through Costco — neither of us even had a membership at the time.

However, comparing the prices and benefits at a few of the resorts proved my initial reaction wrong.

I actually got a Costco membership to book the deal since the cost of the membership was less than what we'd save by booking through Costco. We saved around $300 on a three-night stay at TRS Coral near Cancun (one of TPG's best all-inclusive resorts in Cancun), not including the free hydrotherapy spa circuit and the $241 Digital Costco Shop Card included in the package.

Our stay was fantastic, and I officially became a Costco Travel convert.

If you're curious about how to use Costco Travel to find deals, here's everything you need to know about Costco Travel — and why I love it for saving money on travel.

What is Costco Travel?

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (1)

All Costco members have access to the Costco Travel booking platform, where you can find and book a wide range of travel — from vacation packages to hotels, cruises and rental cars. You can even book theme park vacation packages to Disney and Universal or specialty vacations such as an African safari.

Related: Costco cruise deals: How to save money booking travel at a warehouse club

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (2)

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Once you log in to Costco Travel, you can search for specific dates or destinations or browse through available deals and featured destinations. I personally love perusing the limited-time deals when I know I want to plan a getaway but don't have a specific destination in mind.

Trips booked through Costco Travel are often discounted and/or include perks and benefits you may not get by booking directly or through other booking portals. Usually, a trip booked through Costco Travel will also include a Digital Costco Shop Card (essentially a type of Costco gift card) of varying value.

What travel can you book through Costco Travel?

You can book hotels, cruises, rental cars and vacation packages through Costco Travel. Vacation packages range from hotel-only offers to all-encompassing packages that include airfare, hotel stays and rental cars. You can even build your own package.

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (3)

However, one thing to note is that you can't book stand-alone flights via Costco Travel. There is an option to book flights through some vacation packages, but if you're only looking for airfare, you'll want to head to Google Flights to check out your options and book.

You can book Costco Travel offers both online and by phone.

Do you have to be a Costco member to use Costco Travel?

Yes. Costco Travel is an exclusive service for Costco members.

There are two personal membership levels: Gold Star and Executive. Gold Star costs $60 per year, while an Executive membership costs $120. The basic membership will give you access to all of Costco's services, including Costco Travel, while the Executive membership also comes with a 2% reward on all Costco (and Costco Travel) purchases.

I've found that the Costco Travel deals alone are worth paying the $60 Gold Star annual membership fee, even though I don't regularly use Costco for my grocery store runs.

Check sites like Groupon for discount Costco memberships, as you can sometimes save on that rate — or get an included gift card that helps offset the cost.

Is Costo Travel worth it?

Costco Travel has its pros and cons, but there are definitely times when it's worth it.

For example, let's look at a five-night stay in Maui in early April. At the time of writing, Costco is currently offering a hotel and rental car package for Hotel Wailea, a Relais & Chateaux affiliated property and one of TPG's favorite Maui hotels.

Here's one cost comparison breakdown of Costco Travel's deal versus booking directly:

Costco Travel packageBooking directly
Hotel Wailea (garden-view suite for two adults)$4,482.46 ($896.50 per night)$4,595.78 ($919.16 per night)
Alamo intermediate car (Toyota Corolla or similar)Included in the total package cost$323.13 ($64.63 per night)
Additional perks and benefits
  • $306 Digital Costco Shop Card
  • Daily $60 breakfast credit per suite
  • $400 resort credit
  • Fifth night free at Hotel Wailea
Total cost$4,482.46 ($896.50 per night)$4918.91 ($983.78 per night)

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (4)

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (5)

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Click the arrow to compare the price of the Costco Travel deal to booking directly. COSTCOTRAVEL.COM

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Even without including the additional benefits, you're already saving more than $400 via the Costco deal. Add in the value you get from the card, daily breakfast and resort credit (which is more than $1,000 in value if you maximize all benefits), and you're looking at $1,442.45 in savings by booking through Costco Travel versus directly.

And since Hotel Wailea isn't a member of any major hotel loyalty program, booking through Costco Travel wouldn't mean missing out on elite night credits or other loyalty program benefits.

Here's another example — this time for a Universal Orlando theme park trip from June 4-6 for one adult and two children from Houston. The total cost when booking each part (hotel, tickets and airfare) individually came to $2,701.35, while booking it as a package via Costco saved just over $300.

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (7)

That's a fair amount of savings you could use for some frozen butterbeer or even a new wand inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Costco Travel packageBooking directly
Flights on United round-trip from Houston to Orlando (tickets for three)Included in the total package cost$1188.57
Two-night stay at Hyatt Place Across from Universal Orlando ResortIncluded in the total package cost$402
Two-day, park-to-park tickets, including two bonus days (tickets for three)Included in the total package cost$1,110.78
Total cost$2,400.50$2,701.35

When is Costco Travel not worth it?

Not every offer on Costco is worth booking.

For one, you won't necessarily find the same availability on Costco Travel. For example, flights booked through Costco may have some seats blocked off, and certain dates for hotel stays may be unavailable. Additionally, not all rental car companies are bookable through Costco Travel (such as Hertz*, which is my preferred rental car company due to the perks I get through my Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card).

Plus, some hotel stays have a minimum stay requirement. If you're on the hunt for a long weekend getaway, you may not be able to take advantage of some Costco Travel deals.

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (8)

Even when you do find availability, you should always price-check what you can find by booking directly or through your credit card travel portal and hotel programs.

After booking our fantastic stay at TRS Coral just north of Cancun through Costco, I looked at booking through Costco again in 2023 when planning our annual beach vacation.

While Costco had a deal available for the same resort, we happened to be booking when the resort chain was having a Mother's Day sale for anyone booking directly. We were able to try out a new TRS resort closer to Playa Del Carmen, TRS Yucatan; we saved more than $100 on an even nicer suite than Costco Travel offered by booking directly (even when considering the Digital Shop Card we would have gotten by booking with Costco).

Something else to consider when booking hotels through Costco Travel is loyalty program rewards and elite status. There are a lot of hotels available to book through Costco Travel that are part of major loyalty programs, from Hyatt Honors to Marriott Bonvoy to IHG One Rewards and more. But booking through Costco Travel — just like booking through most other third-party services such as Expedia — means you likely won't earn loyalty rewards, elite night credits or have any elite night benefits honored.

You'll also have to use Costco customer service if you run into any issues rather than going directly to the brand. This is especially important when considering booking a vacation package that includes flights, given the higher potential for delays or cancellations.

Why I love Costco Travel

I am typically a staunch proponent of booking directly, but Costco Travel is an exception. I've found that the benefits I can get by booking some trips via Costco outweigh the cons (some of which include having to go through Costco for any customer service help or occasionally losing out on elite night credits).

Digital Costco Shop Cards

My favorite thing about booking trips through Costco Travel is the Digital Costco Shop Card I get after booking. The card's value varies from trip to trip (generally depending on how expensive the package you book), but you can get hundreds of dollars back to use at Costco.

The Digital Costco Shop Cards can be used for Costco warehouse purchases (a game changer with grocery prices so high due to inflation), but you can also use them toward future Costco Travel bookings. And remember — Costco doesn't just carry bulk grocery items. You could use a Digital Costco Shop Card to buy a new flat-screen TV for movie nights and game days, a new outdoor patio setup ahead of summer or even Costco Pharmacy prescriptions.

I admittedly don't use Costco for groceries often (buying in bulk doesn't make a lot of sense for someone who lives alone), but I have used shop cards to help pay for Christmas presents and future Costco Travel trips. I've actually been looking into using my most recent Digital Costco Shop Card on a new pair of AirPods and a new TV mount for my living room.

Deals on non-points hotel stays and all-inclusive resorts

When I'm looking at booking a hotel stay at a brand like Hyatt or Marriott, I generally choose to book directly in order to earn elite night credits and points. However, when looking at properties not part of a major loyalty program, Costco Travel is often a go-to anytime I can find a deal.

Costco Travel has a nice deals section, and I usually look there first if I'm not sold on a specific destination for a getaway. While deals found on Costco generally have a narrow booking window, I've found that many offer a lot of flexibility for the actual trip dates.

A few examples of limited-time deals for January include Hotel Wailea from the example earlier in this guide, all-inclusive resorts in Mexico's Riviera Maya, and Disney and Universal theme park packages.

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (9)

Simplifying group vacations

I'm often the travel planner in my friend group (which makes sense, considering what I do for a living), but not everyone is an avid points and miles user like myself. For group trips where we're splitting the cost of hotel rooms among multiple people, it often doesn't make sense to use points and miles to book.

Costco Travel vacation packages offer a way for all of us to save money, and it makes narrowing down potential destinations and hotels easier. Rather than everyone having to spend hours researching ideas and prices from across the internet — which might be my idea of a fun Wednesday night but isn't for some of my friends — I typically just send them to Costco Travel to see if any of the featured deals catch their eye.

Having reservation information for multiple aspects of a trip, such as a hotel and rental car package, makes sharing and saving the itineraries a breeze.

Bottom line

Whether or not you currently have a Costco membership, you shouldn't dismiss Costco Travel as just another online travel agency.

If you know where to look and are willing to price-check the deals you find, you can save a lot of money with Costco Travel deals. I've personally had a lot of success booking friends getaways to popular destinations like Mexico through Costco. Using the service has helped me save on other expenses with the Digital Costco Shop Card I've gotten with my bookings.

For me, the $60 annual membership fee to Costco has been more than worth it to utilize Costco Travel.

*Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through Dec. 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.

Related reading:

  • Key travel tips you need to know — whether you're a beginner or expert traveler
  • The best travel credit cards
  • How my Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi is a workhorse when it comes to cash back
  • Where to go in 2024: The 16 best places to travel
  • 6 real-life strategies you can use when your flight is canceled or delayed
  • 8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
  • 13 must-have items the TPG team can't travel without

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Everything you need to know about Costco Travel (and why I love it) - The Points Guy (2024)
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