Cruising on a Budget: 3 Tips for Saving Money

by | Jul 21, 2023 | Family Adventures, Travel Tips

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The summer cruise season is upon us, and families across America will be gearing up for the ultimate vacation experience: a cruise getaway. With such trips comes the allure of exploring exotic destinations, indulging in delectable cuisine, and basking in luxurious onboard amenities. 

However, with soaring interest rates, it’s essential for savvy cruisers to uncover the secrets of saving money while still enjoying a remarkable journey at sea. 

To that end, we’ve compiled a list of money-saving tips specifically designed for families and travelers seeking affordable yet memorable cruise vacations. So, grab your sunscreen, pack your enthusiasm, and get ready to embark on a voyage that will not only enrich your family’s memories but also leave your wallet intact.





Finding the Best Online Travel Deals

Finding the perfect cruise at an affordable price will require navigating the vast sea of online travel deals. Begin by exploring the many cruise booking sites to see how their deals stack up against one another. Odds are, you’ll find that there isn’t a whole lot of variation in pricing across booking sites. This is why, when looking for the best deal, you should focus on the different benefits and perks each cruise line has to offer. 

For instance, many cruise lines run promotions that allow family cruisers to pick a perk or even get a whole host of additional freebies.


Most of these promotions tend to be available during the booking-heavy period between January and March, but you can still get some free stuff when booking later in the year.


These perks can include open-bar packages, onboard food and drink credits, and free shore excursions, to name just a few. Many cruise lines even offer lower booking fees for third and fourth passengers, sometimes called “kids sail free” promotions.

However, anyone who’s booking their first cruise trip should remember the old adage; the devil is in the details. For example, when cruise lines offer a kid’s sail free promotion, that doesn’t mean your kids will get a free adjoining cabin with its own bathroom. Instead, these promos apply to third and fourth passengers sharing your cabin that will sleep in bunk beds or pull-out sofas. This can still be a good deal, but just make sure you read the fine print to understand what you’re getting. 


cruise ship in fog near moiuntain -budget cruising

Finding good deals can be a foggy experience. Photo by Robert Thiemann on Unsplash


The Power of Flexibility

Anyone who flies regularly will know that having a flexible departure date can lead to significant savings. The same applies to cruises; being flexible on your sail date can result in cheaper ticket prices. You could also take it a step further and book what’s called a shoulder-season trip. This is when you book a cruise outside the typical spring and fall cruising seasons when the weather isn’t as optimal. Departures after Thanksgiving and before Christmas are also less popular and, therefore, cheaper. 


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cruise ship docked with blue ocean - budget cruising

Don’t get stuck with high prices! Flexibility is key. Photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash


Preparing For Unforeseen Costs

Any family trip will come with a few hidden costs that are easy to overlook in the planning stage. For instance, the cost of parking your car. Most people will want to find parking close to the port. However, the closer you are to the port, the higher the daily rate will be. You could try looking for cheaper offsite parking, but then you have to consider whether your car will be safe while you’re away and deal with transportation to and from the parking site. 


Generally speaking, the cheaper a parking lot is, the sketchier it will be in terms of security. 


A lesser-known money-saving tip is to park at a hotel near the airport or port. Most of these hotels will have package deals that include discounted parking rates and transit to the port. These deals apply even to people who aren’t staying in the hotel. To find out if a hotel has such an offer, go to their website, and see what packages they have. You can also try calling them if there’s no information on their website.


little boy looking out window of car - budget cruising

Wave bye-bye to high parking costs! Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


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Another unexpected cost to be aware of is guided shore excursions. Since cruise lines have to pay providers for these excursions and ultimately want to turn a profit, shore excursions tend to include a markup when you book them as part of your ticket package.


But you can avoid this by contacting the provider and booking a tour directly with them.


You could also choose to skip the guided tour and explore independently. All you need is a guidebook or app and a sense of adventure.



Final Thoughts

As you plan for your impending voyage, remember that patience and persistence are key. Cast your net wide, compare options, and hold steadfast to your goal of securing an incredible cruise experience at an unbeatable price. By adhering to the above money-saving tips, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on an unforgettable journey that balances both adventure and affordability.


Sergey Fesko is the CEO and founder of ParkON, an off-site airport parking aggregator website with the mission to make airport parking more accessible and affordable for travelers at major airports across the United States. Sergey is a dynamic problem solver who has been in business for more than thirty years, with an impressive resume of experience in the automotive, financial, and IT industries. He’s a graduate of one of the most prestigious technical institutes, and his coding skills are second to none! Sergey loves to stay active with kitesurfing, snowboarding, bicycling, and travel adventures – but that doesn’t mean he neglects his passion for knowledge; he likes to spend time reading, studying, and perfecting coding.