After taking two cruises within three weeks, I compiled my top cruise tips and must-haves. Plus, I compiled advice from some of my favorite bloggers who shared their top cruise must-haves too!
7 Top Cruise Tips for Saving Money When Booking
Cruises are one of our favorite vacations for many reasons, not the least of which is that you only have to unpack your suitcase once and can wake up in a new, exotic port of call each day. But as a frugal mom, I love that everything is included. That means I can budget before we leave port and, if I stay on plan, I never have to spend more money.
That being said, that doesn’t mean there won’t be temptations to spend more on-board, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s focus on my best tips for saving money booking a cruise:
- Book in the off-season
I understand some people need to travel during traditional holidays, but if you can travel in the off-season (especially January-February or October) you can save up to half-off.
- Book a repositioning cruise
Repositioning cruises are ones where you start in one port and end in another. This typically happens when a cruise line is changing seasons. These can be a great value.
- Book last minute
If you can drive to the port, you may be able to find great cruise deals at the last minute. And if you’re following tip #1, you still might be able to find cheap last-minute flights too!
- Wait to have your room assigned
We saved thousands of dollars on a Disney Cruise simply by booking with an OGT code. Basically, we were guaranteed an Oceanview room or better, but we wouldn’t know our exact room number until we checked in at the port. We even participated in fish extenders and it still worked out great!
- Follow Price Changes
Even after you book your cruise, if the price drops for any reason, some cruise lines will offer you a credit for the difference, sometimes to the original form of payment and sometimes as an onboard credit.
- Take advantage of promotions
Unless you’re traveling during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, you shouldn’t have to pay full price for a cruise. Whether it’s a deposit discount or freebies during your sailing (like drink packages and wifi), cruise lines are offering a variety of promotions to get your business.
- Book through a travel agent or membership club
When you book through a travel agent, they can keep up with price drops for you. If you book through a membership club like Costco or AAA, you might even be able to get an additional gift card or travel discount.
How to Save Money on a Cruise
There are many ways to save money once you’re on your cruise. Most of them center around waiting until midway through the cruise or until you’re in port. Read on for my top tips for how to save money on a cruise:
- Wait to Book Excursions
Unless there is an excursion you’re dying to go on, wait until you arrive in the port of call (or the day before). If a ship has not sold enough tickets for an excursion, they’ll often offer a last-minute discount
- Wait on WiFi
On our last FamilyLife Cruise, we waiting until the halfway point to buy WiFi. While it typically costs about $20 per day, we were able to get it for about half that price for the remainder of the cruise.
- Travel in US Territories
One way to avoid extra fees like foreign transaction fees and phone fees at port is to travel to US territories. While you could stop at places like Key West, you can go even more tropical like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- Bring Drinks with You
Most cruises allow you to bring up to two bottles of wine and 12 cans of non-alcoholic beverages per person on the ship with you. Sometimes it’s worth flying in the night before to both avoid stress and give you time to go to the store to get said drinks and other toiletries you can’t put in a carry-on.
- Purchase Drink & Photo Packages Beforehand
If you can’t help yourself and absolutely can’t resist those formal cruise photos and unlimited bubbles drink packages, you can often save money when you book those before boarding.
- Enjoy the Spa & Ship While in Port
You usually save at least 20% off spa services when the ship is docked. Likewise, it’s easier to enjoy the other amenities of your ship when most everyone gets off at the ports of call.
- Ask Questions!
While your daily cruise newsletter can be a great way to discover important information and daily deals, it doesn’t cover everything. Make sure to ask questions to different crew members. For example, on one cruise, I learned that some of the restaurants you had to pay extra to eat at for dinner actually offered free breakfasts or lunches.
I literally have a special bag at the ready at home with all of my favorite cruise hacks inside. These include:
- An over-the-door organizer (it helps save space in the small bathrooms and yes, organizes everything from jewelry to toiletries)
- Towel Clips (they keep your towel in place even on the windiest days AND help you find your pool chair more easily)
- Lanyard (to keep your cruise card handy since it doubles as your room key, credit card and ID onboard)
- Cruise Luggage Tags
This deserves a little extra explanation. Before you board your cruise but AFTER you collect your luggage from your flight, you have to put a cruise luggage tag on. This used to involve bringing tape or a small stapler with you to secure it tightly. But this last trip, a friend told me about these clear luggage tags designed specifically to fit these specific cruise boarding luggage tags.
- Passport (even though you can sometimes get by with other forms of identification, nothing works as well as a passport when traveling on a cruise)
Cruise Tips & Tricks from The Sami Cone Show
Watch my full cruise tips segment from The Sami Cone Show below:
Top Bloggers’ Cruise Must-Haves
I hope you loved hearing from some of my favorite blogger friends as much as I enjoyed interviewing them! In case you missed any of their Top 3 Cruise Must-Haves, I’ve listed them below:
- Michelle from Modern Boca Mom: Tumbler, Small Purse ( I loved the Lilly Pulitzer phone crossbody purse Michelle had!) and reusable straws
- Michelle from Honest and Truly: phone case that slides open, LED tea lights, and a roll-up hat
- Vera from Lady & the Blog and Liz from Groovin Moms: dry shampoo, toiletry bag, and Dramamine
- Amy from Life Among Wildflowers: collapsible tote bag, reef-safe sunscreen & multiple swimsuits
- Heather from Local Mom Scoop: lanyard, seasickness medication and a sound machine
- Patty from A Mother’s Random Thoughts: Sea bands, sunscreen and your passport
- Leah from Life as Leah: sunglasses, super cute sunhat and favorite swimsuit
- Audrey McClelland from Mom Generations: hair straightener, lanyard and lotion