If your vacation budget is tight, you’ve undoubtedly been very careful to find just the right cruise at the best price. You’ve researched all the possible upcharges you may encounter while you’re on board, and you’re prepared to keep your spending under control once you set sail. But do you know how best to save in the weeks leading up to your cruise?
Saving Up Before Your Cruise
Once you’ve booked your cruise, you’re not done saving up. In fact, the more you save in the time before your cruise, the more you will be able to spend on board without feeling guilty. Fortunately, it’s easier than many travelers think to trim their expenses before a cruise in order to have a bigger vacation budget.
First, you will need to plan your travel to the ship. If you are close enough to the port to drive, you will save on airfare, but you might spend a small fortune on parking fees. Investigate private parking lots with shuttle service to the cruise port, and you can find significant savings. Another option is to ask family members, friends or neighbors for a ride. You could also choose to pay a cab or ride-sharing service to get to the ship, and that fee can be far less than port parking charges.
If you will need to fly to your cruise, book your airfare early for the best deals and widest variety of travel options to get you to the ship on time. Opt for a red-eye flight for better savings, or consider flying in to the departure city the day before the ship sets sail. This may mean paying a little more for a hotel that night, but consider the astronomical costs and inconvenience you could face if flight delays or cancellations make you miss the ship’s departure.
It can take some time to plan your wardrobe for a cruise, from casual clothes to formal night attire to poolside or beach attire. If you opt for interchangeable outfits and clothing you can wear in different ways, however, you’ll see great savings when you don’t need to pack as many bags or pay luggage fees to airlines. You can also skip many added items in your luggage – most cruise ship cabins are equipped with a hair dryer, for example, and you should find shampoo and body wash right in your shower, so there’s no need to bring those extras along.
If you do need to shop for a few new clothes for your cruise, be alert to sales and consider shopping online for even better discounts, especially if you will be sailing in the off season when you may not find a wide selection of appropriate attire at your local stores. You may even find some of the best selection and lowest prices at thrift stores or consignment boutiques, where many clothes will end up after the end of the season – just in time for you to shop for your cruise.
The endless buffets, 24-hour room service, self-serve ice cream and gourmet dining are key features of nearly any cruise, and if you’re looking forward to decadent and delicious treats on your vacation, you can save beforehand by avoiding restaurants and take out in the weeks before your cruise. Not only will you save money and have better anticipation about the meals that await, but you may also lose a few pounds in preparation to look your best and avoid too much weight gain on vacation.
Another thing you can skip to save money pre-cruise is the tanning salon. Many people believe it is necessary to get a “base” tan to avoid difficulties on vacation, but if you’re using sunscreen or tanning oil properly, there is no need to waste money before your cruise. Remember, if you’re worried about looking too pale on your vacation because it is in winter or early in the season before you’ve gotten a summer tan, most other passengers will have similar concerns. Instead, anticipate the fun you’ll have when you return from your vacation tanned and relaxed from your time on board.
While you’re dreaming of the days at sea to come, you can save significantly if you plan ahead for the fun you’re about to have. Many cruise lines offer discount deals on beverage packages, shore excursions, spa treatments or other expenses if you book them ahead of time, long before setting sail. Investigate your options carefully and make your arrangements well in advance, and you may be surprised at how impressive the savings can be.
One of the biggest expenses many travelers have when they take a cruise is the money they still have to spend at home for pet care. Kennels and boarding fees can add up quickly, but if you shop around and ask others in your community, you may find in-home pet sitters or house sitting at much better rates. You may even find better individualized care that can suit your needs better. For even better savings, coordinate with a neighbor or friend to swap pet care obligations for free, and you know your pets will be in good, trustworthy hands.
With care and planning, it is possible to save significantly while you wait for your cruise vacation to arrive. Then, once you’re on board, you don’t have to feel guilty about spending a little more for a celebratory cocktail, an amazing romantic dinner, an indulgent massage or a fun souvenir to commemorate your great getaway.