If you’re using Government Vacation Rewards to book your next vacation, chances are you’re already a savvy traveler. But why not save a few more bucks while you’re at it?
Booking a cruise might seem straightforward, but securing the best deal (and the most rewarding vacation experience) takes a bit of pre-trip preparation. Check off every item on this list before embarking on your next great adventure:
1. Book Ahead of Time
When it comes to cruises, the early bird gets the best cabin. For truly phenomenal rates and your top floorplan pick, try booking your dream cruise as early as 18 months in advance. Although rates also tend to drop in the month preceding departure, booking this early pretty much guarantees the lowest possible price (while saving you the stress of a last-minute booking).
2. Sail During Shoulder Season
For travelers with a little flexibility in their schedules, Shoulder Season is the holy grail of travel times: tucked right between peak season prices and low season weather, shoulder season is a less expensive, less crowded time to travel. For Mediterranean destinations, shoulder season comes in October, while May and June are the ideal months to travel to Thailand and Japan.
3. Always Buy Travel Insurance
The extra cost associated with purchasing travel insurance might not seem worth it. After all, if you’re a cautious traveler, why would you need the option to back out last-minute? However, the stakes are higher when your ‘hotel’ is mobile and on a strict travel schedule. Even the slightest travel setback — such as a missed or delayed flight — can mean missing your cruise’s boarding window. It’s best to be covered in case of such unforeseen circumstances, so that a missed cruise doesn’t result in a major financial loss as well.
4. Give Yourself Time to Get There
To avoid such unfortunate circumstances, build in an extra day on either side of your departure and return — that way, even if your flight or train departure is delayed, you’ll still arrive with plenty of time to spare. Cruise providers very rarely offer refunds for unforeseen travel delays, so do everything you can to avoid a mad dash to the gangplank.
5. Be Realistic About Your Budget
Cruises might market themselves as being all-inclusive — but don’t be fooled. You’ll still be spending plenty on drinks, extra pampering at the spa, and on-shore excursions. Build a realistic budget for yourself before you set sail so that you know exactly how much you can spend on “extras” beyond the all-you-can-eat buffet.
6. Don’t be Stingy With Tips
This is less of a travel tip, and more of a friendly reminder — not all cruise lines include gratuity in the cost of the trip. Check your cruise company’s policy and remember to tip accordingly (and generously)!
7. Plan Onshore Excursions Prior to Departure
In the interest of saving money and avoiding stress, planning your adventures prior to departure is an absolute must. Do some research on the ports you’ll be visiting, and build out an itinerary before you’ve even boarded the ship. Then, once you’ve embarked, you can spend less time worrying about logistical details and more time enjoying the travel experience.
8. Don’t Overpack
Sure, it’s hard to choose just a few items from your closet, but overpacking can make the cramped quarters typical of most passenger cabins feel even smaller. Stick to the necessities, and leave plenty of room for the souvenirs you’ll acquire along the way.
9. Scope Out Kid-Friendly Options
If you’re traveling with kids, there are plenty of fantastic, kid-friendly options out there. Do a little shopping around and find a cruise that caters to your kids’ needs. While they’re splashing down water slides and rappelling up rock climbing walls, you’ll be free to enjoy some much deserved ‘you’ time.
Once you’ve done your due diligence and completed your pre-cruise preparations, the most important thing you can do is relax. You’ve earned it! Take a deep breath, book your trip, and enjoy every moment of your well-earned vacation.