By Brenda M. Hook
I will always remember my first cruise. It was in 2004 and it left out of Baltimore, MD which is about 15 minutes from where I live. The cruise destination was Bermuda. My travel companion was my then 8 year old son. I made a promise to him, on that trip that every year we would cruise to somewhere fabulous. Over the last 7 years, I have kept that promise and although I wouldn’t consider each destination “fabulous” we have seen the likes of Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama, and over 20 other ports outside of the United States.
My son is now 15, and I am starting my search to book our next cruise. I am not rich, and I do not have a lot of extra money after my bills are paid. We cruise on a budget, and it is easy for anyone to do the same. In some cases, I paid less than $600.00 total for both of us to cruise for 9 days. A deposit is required but final payment usually isn’t due until 3 months before your cruise departs. There are a few crucial things that you must keep in mind that can allow you to take a nice, but inexpensive family vacation.
When the dates you want to travel are specific, you are less likely to get a good deal.
If you must fly, keep airfare in mind.
Several times, we have had to hop a plane to our cruise departure port, it is important to check airfare rates often and try to book your cruise and flight the same day. This will ensure that you do not have a cruise with no air arrangements or vice versa.
Keep an open mind about your destination.
It is also good to not be destination specific. When searching for cruise options, the less specific you are, the more options you will have, and the better chance you have of finding a good deal.
Stay away from holidays.
Cruising on holidays cost almost double the normal rate. Additionally, these cruises are always packed with kids. If being on a boat for 9 days with 600 kids is not your idea of a vacation, then be mindful of the time of year. Spring Break, Thanksgiving and Christmas time are the biggest attractions for families with school aged children.
We usually cruise in the month of November. The rates are much cheaper in the winter months, and can be three times that much during the summer time.
Book really early, or really late.
Most cruise lines have an early bird booking, where you get a sizeable discount for booking at least 9 months in advance as opposed to booking closer to the cruising date. Likewise, you can also find great deals on last minute cruises as well.
Get a travel agent.
Although I always book direct from the cruise line, you may find a cheaper rate with a travel agent. They usually book out several rooms at a group rate and that rate is passed on to you. Always double check your quote with the cruise line. I was once quoted a price by a travel agent that was more than booking direct.
With these simple tips, you will soon find yourself on a fabulous and inexpensive vacation. Make sure you check the travel and passport guidelines with your cruise line in advance. Not all trips require a passport but it’s always wise to have a valid passport in case of emergencies.
For My Savvy Sisters: How often do you cruise? Do you have any tips to share about getting the best deals?