Costco as the Traveler’s Secret Weapon

A Costco membership starts at $55, and the available discounts even to infrequent travelers more than make up that cost. Megan and I just went there last weekend, and it’s worth reminding people to check the gift card aisle (and the online shopping portal) before you plan your next trip. Even if existing Costco members are aware of these opportunities, I know a lot of people who think Costco has little appeal. Certainly the two of us can’t really eat bulk quantities of frozen chimichangas and flats of strawberries every week, but these coupon offers are enough to make it worth renewing our membership. During this week I will be sharing some of my favorite savings opportunities. Many may be Seattle-specific, but I’m sure other regions have their own offers.

Stop at Costco to Save on Local Restaurants and Attractions

When I visited Maui with my mother, the first thing she did after picking up the rental car was stop at the Costco a few blocks away to stock up on snacks and toys for the beach. While not every destination has a beach, Costco and airports tend to be in the same kind of neighborhoods, a little gritty and maybe a warehouse or industrial area.

Today’s discount opportunities are definitely going to be location-specific. In fact, I doubt there will be many opportunities to buy these in advance at your home location unless it is a nationwide chain, like McCormick & Schmick’s or a powerhouse brand that can entice people from all regions like offering discount tickets to Disneyland, which I last saw during spring. (I would guess the Disney tickets are still available if you checked local Costco locations in Orange County and LA.) I never know what I’m going to find because even though a few options are there year round others may be rotated in and out.

In Seattle, besides the usual gift cards for movie theater tickets and See’s chocolates, you can find restaurant gift cards at several of the larger restaurant groups. Usually you’ll pay $80 for two $50 gift cards, a 20% savings. Restaurants include Wild Ginger and the attached Triple Door music venue; McCormick & Schmick’s with its three Seattle locations; and other smaller local groups like Purple, a chain of wine bars and bistros, or Barria.

Triple Door event calendar image

More events at http://www.tripledoor.com/Calendar.aspx

Does anyone want to dine at SkyCity, the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle? It’s horrendously expensive, especially given what you get. But that’s my opinion as a local who sees better options elsewhere. If you’re from out of town and its on your to-do list, make sure you get these 20% off gift cards. Dining at SkyCity will save you the cost of a ride up to the observation deck (also expensive), and you can be certain to spend at least the full $100 gift card value on dinner for two.

SkyCity restaurant ad image

Image Credit: http://spaceneedle.com/restaurant/

Sometimes you’ll find event tickets on sale. Right now there is a King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, and you can get tickets for about $28 vs. $32+ at the door depending on your package (there’s also an IMAX movie). Megan has a corporate discount for $20, but that is only good for four people. If we try to take both our families there when they come up this summer, we will probably make a stop at Costco first. Tickets to the Wild Waves theme park in nearby Federal Way are also on sale. In the winter, sometimes I’ll see lift tickets instead.

I’ve noticed a few vacation packages show up from time to time. There was a summer vacation getaway to Whistler that I noticed, including a few nights at the Westin and some other activity vouchers. These might be better for locals who are already planning to travel somewhere nearby rather than someone who just flew in. However, be aware that such vouchers are normally redeemable through a third party. I would be surprised if anyone got SPG stay credit for purchasing this package.

About 

Scott created Hack My Trip while traveling on a budget during graduate school and continues to share his thoughts on better travel. He maintains elite status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Hyatt, and Starwood.
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  • Ikonos

    Scott timely post. I was meaning to ask you if you saw AA giftcards/certificates in the costco you went to.

    • Scottrick

      Indeed we did. That was the original purpose of my visit, and I’ll post that story Monday. However, AA giftcards cannot be found at all locations, and those that don’t have them may not even know what you’re talking about. We found them at Costco #1 on 4th Ave S, but we usually visit the one near Aurora and N 200th St, where I have never seen them.

  • HikerT

    Wallypark GCs are 50% off.  Can be a nice double dip with coupons and / or AAA discount.

    • http://hackmytrip.com Scottrick

      Yes, that is on this week’s list. Check back on Wednesday to learn how to get covered airport parking for under $5 a day.

  • David

    The Costco near SFO has AA giftcards. 

    Also, Costco is useful b/c of their generous and easy return policy (in case you don’t like the taste of something, or electronics didn’t work out for you) and also I can depend on them to only have quality products.Their travel portal is useful to check rental car prices, and their Hyatt deals have included breakfast, been allowed Diamond upgrades, and are cancellable. Last year they had a rent 2, get 1 free deal which was very useful for me in NY and Chicago, plus you got stay credits for the 3rd free nights (esp useful for the Diamond challenge.)

    • Scottrick

      Good to know! Hyatt discounts and Costco Travel are already on the list for later this week.