How to spend less on pre- and post-cruise travel

By now, you’ve heard that cruise costs are skyrocketing, and that’s just for the base fares before you consider all the extras. Travel to reach your ship and to return home after your sailing is a necessary expense — a “need” versus a “want,” when compared with a spa treatment or an alcohol package. But that doesn’t mean you have to overspend on it.

From airfare advice to hotel hacks, try some of these tips to cut down your cruise commuting costs.

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Fly in the day of your cruise


Although this goes against my usual advice, which is to fly in at least a day early, if you’re truly on a budget, cutting out the added cost of a pre-cruise hotel can help your bottom line. Just make sure you book the earliest flight possible on embarkation day and that you have travel insurance in case an issue with your flight prevents you from reaching your ship.

Book a hotel with amenities

If you do decide to arrive in your embarkation city a day or two early, opt for a hotel that offers either free or discounted parking if you’re driving or free shuttles to the cruise port and airport if you’re flying. This will help you save a lot on parking fees, taxis and ride-hailing services.

Also inquire about free breakfast, which can slash your costs even further. Certain hotels will provide a free meal if you have elite status, even if free breakfast is not a perk for everyone.

Fly with a discount airline


If you’re looking to save some serious dough, try a budget airline. Lots of travelers eschew them, but if you’re simply looking for the lowest prices without a lot of fluff, they’re the way to go. Know what services the airline will and won’t provide, so you are prepared to deal with whichever seat you’re assigned and bring your own snacks. You’ll also want to pack light to avoid baggage charges and other nickel-and-diming.

Leverage points and miles

If you’re someone who regularly earns points and miles, look at your accounts to see if you have enough to cash in for your flight and hotel stay. Even if you don’t have enough banked to pay for the entire amount, some booking portals will allow you to apply what you do have, thereby discounting the final price you have to pay out of pocket.

Drive (almost) to your embarkation port


If you live within driving distance of your cruise port, you can avoid paying the exorbitant cost of parking at the terminal by instead looking for cheaper off-site parking.

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Garages in the area will often offer a lower rate if you prebook for the duration of your cruise before arriving. Many offer shuttles to the port. Even if you have to take an Uber or Lyft the rest of the way, the cost is almost guaranteed to be significantly less than what you’d pay to park at the terminal.

Utilize credit card perks

Don’t forget to check your credit cards to see where else you might be able to score free or discounted pre- or post-cruise travel arrangements. Have a cobranded hotel card? See if you have an award night that you can use, or leverage annual hotel or general travel credits provided by certain cards if you book through their portals.

If you need a ride to or from the airport or cruise port, some American Express cards provide monthly Uber credits that you can use to offset the cost.

Bottom line

Just because making your way to your cruise’s port of embarkation isn’t free doesn’t mean it has to break the bank.

If you plan ahead, don’t mind a budget experience and know how to utilize points, miles and credit card perks, you can save some serious dough — and potentially use it to squeeze more fun out of your cruise vacation.

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