A vacation should be stress free, enjoyable, and most of all, memorable? But what makes all 3 of those collide into one AMAZING TRIP? DDD recently took you to Disney on a BUDGET and had an AMAZING time, so let’s do it again, shall we? This time, let’s take a Cruise. Let’s take a trip to the white sands, blue water, and cold drinks. Wait a minute…you can do this on a budget? OF COURSE! Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some Cruising topics to help you get your family there and back! After the cruise, DDD will take you from start to finish on what we spent, what we wish we would have spent, and what we could have skipped on! Lots to come!
Let’s focus on the first step in this process, and the hardest for most! There are SO MANY options and places to book a cruise, how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Here is a list of 5 things to look for when you’re booking! Research and being prepared will save you money in the long run.
1. Decide what cruise line, and what ship is right for you!
Our decision was based on a couple things, and you will have to decide for you and your family what works. We went with Carnival, not only because it offered a vast amount of ship options, but it offered ports within driving distance, and a big group of friends also were booking too. I can’t compare to other cruise lines, simply because I have not been any other ones, but I read lots of reviews, and thoroughly looked over the ship’s layout and features. There’s a handful of popular cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Norwegian. Carnival is rated one of the least expensive options, but you might want to pay more if another ship looks more accommodating. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
2. Pick the BEST time to cruise, be flexible if you can!
Before you book, but after you figure out where you want to go, and what line, look at dates! There is an off season for cruising, believe it or not! Depending on where you are going, could change the pricing. If you’re going south, the off season would be in the later months of the year, when school is in, and weather isn’t as beachy. If you’re taking an Alaska cruise, that might be a little trickier. If you have kids, and want a summer vacation, like us, you’re stuck in the summer when prices are most likely at their peak.
3. Book closest to port date, if possible, or at least a year out!
Timing is everything! We booked our cruise LAST July! Talk about getting in a hurry to wait! Booking a year in advance gave us an edge, we were able to snag a really good deal, plus some on board credit (We will discuss on board credit later in post). As the year progressed, I checked pricing on the same sail date with the ship, and the price actually WENT UP (My family of 4, could have paid $600 MORE for the same cruise!), especially in the 6 months leading up to sail date. Now, within a couple weeks to sailing, the prices are getting more lucrative with extra incentives. If you can, wait until the last possible moment to book, although I understand as a working mom, that isn’t always possible.
On board credit can save you money while on vacay, at a time that you REALLY want to save money! Keep in mind, most cruise lines are ALL INCLUSIVE, minus alcohol. My husband and I are not heavy drinkers, so while we weren’t concerned for running up a bill at the bar, we knew we’d want some drinks at dinner, and in the evening. The on board credit we have received due to price drops, and booking early, is what we’ve budgeted for drinking. Carnival offers a price lock guarantee on select fares, and if the price EVER DROPS between the time you book and the time you sail, they will give you the difference. SCORE! Our price actually dropped TWICE since we booked, scoring us about $180 in on board credit!
4. Work those affiliations for discounts!
Are you in any groups, affiliations, or does your credit card offer a discount? Work those baby! LOTS of discounts for many different groups! Carnival Cruises also offers military discounts of up to 50 percent for activity duty members, reservists, war veterans and retirees. We also noticed, our credit card’s cash rewards **INSERT CREDIT CARD USAGE BLOG POST*** offered us a way to cash our rewards in to Carnival Cash – that we could use to get a better deal on our cruise!
5. Compare prices!
You don’t have to book a Carnival cruise through Carnival.com, you can book it through many places! Check travel booking sites like Priceline, Orbitz, or a local Travel Agent! And remember, even after you book, keep checking back for additional deals or upgrades!