An image of a Costco sign.

A Disney vacation can be a truly memorable experience for your children, but it's certainly not one of the most budget-friendly family adventures you'll ever embark on. Thankfully, there are ways to make this type of vacation slightly more affordable (or at least more value-oriented.)

Among the options is booking your family's Disney vacation through Costco Travel, a division of the big-box wholesale store. Costco Travel Assistant Vice President Chris Hendrix tells Parents that the company aims to offer convenient, one-stop shopping for all Disney travel needs.

To that end, Costco Travel offers vacation packages to Walt Disney World and Disneyland that include both hotels and tickets. Costco Travel also arranges packages to Disney's luxe Aulani Resort in Hawaii, as well as guided vacations with Adventures by Disney, and getaways with Disney Cruise Line. 

Those who have gone the Costco route before likely already know there are a variety of perks for Costco members who book their Disney travel through the wholesale club—including receiving special savings on various incidental costs associated with a Disney visit as well as a few special value-added features thrown in by the discount giant.

"Booking a Disney vacation package through Costco can come with some great benefits including breakfast, resort credits, upgrades, and waived resort fees depending on the hotel you chose," says Chris Hassan, the family travel writer for UpgradedPoints. "This can represent huge savings for a family over the course of a week."

For those not familiar with the pros (and the one or two cons) of booking a family vacation with Costco, here's the inside scoop.

Disney gift cards

One of the most frequently cited perks associated with booking Disneyland Resort packages through Costco is the gift cards that Costco throws in as a special added benefit for members.

Here's how it works, according to Costco: Members who book a multi-day vacation package at a Disneyland onsite resort receive a Disney gift card for up to $245 (one per package—exact value depends on the length of vacation booked). The gift card can be used to pay for Disney shopping and dining, including the wildly popular character dining. This perk even extends to those who book stays at some offsite hotels, or "Good Neighbor" hotels, as Costco calls them. Members who book a multi-day package at a Good Neighbor hotel receive a $145 Disney gift card.

"The Disney gift cards with Costco packages are a great way of helping you splurge on your trip, allowing you to do something you wouldn't normally want to budget for. Perhaps that means buying a special souvenir or maybe giving you the chance to book a character meal," Kimberly Tate, founder of Stuffed Suitcase and also the Vacation Mavens podcast, tells Parents.

Costco members also receive extra savings at select Downtown Disney District dining and shopping locations, says Hendrix.

Shop cards

Slightly different than the gift cards, Costco provides shop cards to those who book vacations through Costco Travel for Aulani, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney. The exact amount of the card varies based upon the trip booked and the length of stay (or sailing). The value of the shop card is calculated during the booking process, Michelle Rupp, a buyer for Costco Travel tells Parents.

"The card is sent to the Costco members about two to four weeks after they return from their vacation or cruise and may be used toward merchandise or gas at any Costco warehouse throughout the United States or Canada," says Rupp.

Complimentary parking

All of Costco's Walt Disney World Resort on-site packages include complimentary parking at all Walt Disney World theme parks and at Disney Springs.

"We have also negotiated with some of the off-site hotels to include in our packages complimentary parking at the hotel," says Rupp. Examples on this front include Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Melia Orlando Celebration, and Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas, to name a few.

"This can save you money if you're planning to drive to the parks instead of using the resort transportation," says Tate.

Discounts through bundling

For both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, packages booked through Costco include both hotel accommodations and park tickets. Combining these two items together provides booking convenience for travelers and additional savings, says Costco's Rupp.

"Regardless of the type of [park entrance] ticket included in the package, Costco members receive extra savings on the bundled package…The longer the admission days of the tickets (up to 10 days), the deeper the discount," explains Rupp.

Potential drawbacks to consider

Summer Hull, editorial director for The Points Guy, says booking Disney vacations through Costco Travel can definitely be cheaper than booking elsewhere, but there are limitations to who might benefit.

"I've seen Disney vacations booked through Costco Travel be as much as $1,000 cheaper— even for a medium-priced fam vacation to Disney, " Hull tells Parents. "The catch is you can only book stays three days or longer with them. So, if you're going for just a weekend, it doesn't work."

In addition, says Hull, booking a Disney vacation through a third party can sometimes complicate life when there's a problem or issue that needs to be addressed.

"Sometimes Disney is not able to help as much when you're adding a third-party player to that equation," continues Hull, who says that if she's not booking a vacation directly with Disney, she generally opts for a vacation planner that specializes in Disney such as Mouse Counselors.

Disney vacation planners will do everything from getting you dining reservations to waking up early to book Disney fast passes for you—so that you can simply relax and enjoy your getaway. The beauty of this type of service is that it doesn't cost you a dime. Planners work on commission and are not paid by the person booking the vacation.

"They eliminate a lot of hassle," explains Hull. "There are a million of these planners out there, and typically none of them add any additional cost. They wake up early and handle all of those annoying things you don't want to deal with. And if my plans change for some reason, they will be the ones on hold with Disney, not me."

Still, adds Hull, for someone who's simply chasing the cheapest option for a Disney visit and who is also visiting (or sailing) for at least three days, Costco can certainly be worth it.

Airline limitations

One last drawback to consider is that Costco does not work with every airline, so if you prefer to fly certain carriers (such as JetBlue or Spirit), you may be out of luck, says Hassan, of UpgradedPoints. And, as always, when booking through a travel agency, you won't earn any points or elite nights for your hotel stays. 

The bottom line? If you plan to make the most of all the perks offered by Costco, it can definitely be a solid option for busy families who are seeking to save money.

"Just be sure to look at the included benefits carefully—and make sure that you will be able to use them," says Hassan.


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