Family Vacation Tips

How to Save Money On a Family Cruise

[fa icon="calendar"] Oct 27, 2015 9:30:00 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

Norwegian EscapePerhaps the title of this post really should be "Pete Plans Ahead" or "How to Save $5000 on your Family Cruise". We've told you how to save BIG on all inclusive resort stays. We also want to help you properly plan and save on family cruise vacations.

Let's take a look how we helped my client Peter save on his cruise. (Names here have been changed to protect the frugal).

Pete wants to gather the family together to celebrate Grandpa's milestone birthday in March 2016. Grandpa has always wanted to take a cruise so that much had been decided. Pete and his wife have 3 boys, his sister and her partner have a daughter and of course there's Grandpa and Grandma.  That makes 6 adults and 4 kids - 10 total.

Pete is one of those great clients of ours that understands the "value" of planning ahead.  He started shopping for this special trip back in January 2015. Travel Agents call the months between January- March "WAVE season because this is the cruise lines post their advance sales making it one of the best times of the year to buy a cruise. Cruise lines post their rates about 1 to 1.5 years in advance so planning early really pays.

Pete and his family decided on Balcony cabins aboard the new Norwegian Escape for 7 nights to the Caribbean sailing March 2016.

This is an inaugural year for this ship so prices are a bit higher due to novelty and the demand of spring break week. Pete's family end up paying $1433 for the adults and $853 for the kids. Remember these prices include your cabin, all meals and snacks, free child card, ship board entertainment, all taxes AND tips.  At the time, Norwegian cruise line was also running a free beverage package promotion. Adults can drink all the beer, wine, soda and cocktails they want and kids get free soda.  The costs here are $54 per day per adults and $7 per child. This drink deal alone was an additional value/savings of $2464.00!

Pete and his family live in Denver. The Norwegian escape sails from the port of Miami. Pete also needs to buy flights to get his family from Denver to Miami. Most airlines post their fares about 330 days in advance. Pete thought it might be best to wait to book the cruise until the flight prices were posted and we said "NO". So Pete went ahead and made his family's cruise reservations.

Grandpa wanted NON STOP flights. Pete agreed. Flying during a time of year when winter weather might potentially cause flight delays was not a good idea. This is especially true when you have 10 people who don't want to miss the boat.  Pete asked my advice and I told him it was significantly cheaper for his family to fly from Denver to Fort Lauderdale than it was for them to fly directly into Miami. Nonstop Flights from DEN to FLL were pricing around $300 per person. Nonstop flights from DEN to MIA were hovering closer to $1000 per person. For a savings of $7000 it was most certainly worth the time and transportation costs to fly into Fort Lauderdale!

Historically Southwest had the best prices but unlike other airlines, Southwest publishes their rates 180 or 6 months in advance.  So we marked our calendars and patiently waited. Pete snagged Roundtrip NONSTOP flights from Denver to Fort Lauderdale for $260 per person roundtrip and was able to easily get availability for all 10 family members to fly and sit together.  Just for giggles, we kept an eye on availability and pricing for this same flight.  Within 1 week, the price on Pete's EXACT itinerary jumped to $388. This means Pete banked a savings of $1280 just because he was quick on the draw. Within two week's time, these same exact NONSTOP flight during spring break week were completely SOLD OUT!

OH...and remember when Pete wanted to wait until flight prices were published and book his cruise at the same time?

I went back around the time Pete booked his flights and double checked cruise rates. The best balcony cabin availability (not in as good a location on the ship as Pete's cabins) were pricing at $1631 per adults and $921 per kids....That's almost $200 more per adult and $68 per child.  So Pete saved $1480 for his family simply by booking early.

So...By booking early, taking advantage of sales and being decisive with his flights, Pete saved his family $5224 on a their family cruise. Having a real VIP birthday celebration for Grandpa with his entire family...Priceless!

We've booked pre-cruise hotel stays in Miami the night before the cruise that offer free transportion from the hotel to the port at a cost of @ $300 per night times 3 rooms. Ships wait for no one so it's best to arrive at least one day early to prevent hassles, stress and worries.  

Of course we still have to arrange transportation for 10 people from Fort lauderdale to Miami and back. Super Shuttle Service normally runs about $30-$40 per person roundtrip plus tips. I can arrange a private van service for the entire family including tips for $459. So for the same cost a much more relaxed experience for the family. The Driver will also make stops for them if they want to stock up on snacks or drinks.

If you want to save money on your family vacation PLAN AHEAD!!!  The numbers don't lie.  Not only will you save money, you will also have your choice of availability when it comes to accommodations, flights, airplane seats, dining reservations, sightseeing and more.  This is ESPECIALLY true during busy travel times like the December Holidays and Spring Break - basically anytime the kids are out of school.

High Five Pete!  We love it when we see our clients saving a ton of money. Grandpa is going to have the happiest birthday ever!

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Topics: Family Cruises

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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