Cruising on a budget can seem like an impossible feat. After all, cruises tend to be a little pricey, and that’s before you consider flights, excursions, and other costs associated with vacationing at sea. Here are six tips to help you make cruising a little easier on your pocketbook:
1. Schedule early
Your best bet for getting a good deal on a cruise is to schedule your voyage as soon as possible. This way you can snap up the very best deals, and have plenty of time to save money for excursions and other expenses during the trip. Going this route will also ensure that you have the chance to get inexpensive flights and other accommodations you might need in preparation for your cruise.
2. Or, schedule very late
You can also use timing to your advantage by booking your cruise at the last minute. This is a risky method – the ship might end up fully booked before you can buy your ticket, or the cost of getting a last-minute flight could take up any money you saved from deals. If you can pull it off, however, you might be able to save some serious cash.
3. BYOEverything possible
Cruises have plenty of food and drink, but the price of snacks and soft drinks alone can send your vacation bill through the roof. Avoid this by bringing as much with you as the cruise will allow. Most ships won’t let you bring your own alcohol, but soft drinks and little treats are another matter entirely. Check with the guidelines provided by your cruise line, and take advantage of whatever allowances they do have. This will let you cut back on some on-board costs.
4. Set spending rules beforehand
One of the easiest ways to spend more money than you hoped is to neglect planning. If you don’t have a set limit that you’re wiling to spend on certain days, you’re a lot more likely to end up overspending by the end of the trip. Avoid this by taking your total budget and dividing it up over how many days you’ll be away. Then, try to figure out which days might need a little more or a little less. For example, if you’re spending a full day at sea between ports, you’ll probably spend less money than if you were spending a day ashore. Adjust your budget accordingly.
5. Plan your own excursions
Many people think that participating in the ship’s provided excursions is your best for your budget, but this isn’t always the case. Generally speaking, when you go on your cruises’s planned excursions, you’re paying for convenience in addition to the experience itself. You can easily cut this cost with a bit of research and planning. Take a look at guidebooks and online information about the ports at which your cruise stops. Use this to come up with your own plans for when you’re ashore.
6. Book Packages
Most cruise lines have food, drink and activity packages that can be a very good deal – provided you use everything that’s included. For example, a free drinks package is a great idea for someone who knows they want to cut loose on their vacation, but is probably not worth it for people who only expect to have a drink or two during their whole trip. Similarly, excursion packages can be great if you like to really explore the ports, but could be a waste of money for people who would rather just lounge at each destination. Think about what kind of vacation you’re looking for, and see if any of the packages make sense for you.