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With proper planning, vacation money goes a long way

Posted: March 13, 2012 - 6:04pm

It’s time to think about a vacation. With the economy making things tight for almost everyone, it is hard to think about spending on a vacation, but if you plan it right, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

First, decide when you are going and how long you want to be gone. It’s also important to know how much money you have to spend. Don’t run up a hefty credit card bill for trip. Paying cash the whole time makes the vacation less stressful.

AAA can help you plan your trip and save on the expenses associated with it. You also can sign up at hotel chains’ Web sites. They give points that add up to a free night's stay or a discount on your room rate.

If Walt Disney World is your plan, you want to do a package deal. Staying on property is a great way to enjoy your stay. You can choose to get the meal plan. If you stay on park property, you can leave your car parked at the hotel and ride the shuttle to any one of the Disney or water parks. This saves on gas, parking fees and time.

If you like the beach, consider finding a good deal on a condo rental where you have an all-inclusive benefit, or stay at a hotel at the beach but not on the side facing the ocean. By not having a view of the beach, you can save $30 to $50 a night. It also helps if you have a room with a microwave and refrigerator so you can make some of the meals in your room.

The mountains are also beautiful. If you like the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge areas in Tennessee, the first thing you should do when you arrive is find local coupon books. You can save on food, shows and souvenirs. If you call ahead and order your show tickets, you can sometimes buy one show and get another free. Also, check out the shows where kids are admitted free.

If you are daring and like the outdoors, it may be time to invest in a tent and basic camping supplies. You don’t have to pay a fortune for everything you need if you look in thrift shops, yard sales, Craigslist and other places online. At campgrounds, you can pay a fourth to a half of the amount per night compared to a hotel. For instance, Jellystone campgrounds are just about everywhere. The prices are typically around $48 for a full hookup site. If you are in a tent, getting a full hookup site means that you can have access to electricity and water. If you don’t mind staying in the rustic area, which means no modern conveniences, you can pay even less. It is a couple of hours of hard work when you get there to set up and a couple of hours of hard work tearing down, but in between, it is relaxing and a great way to reconnect with your family. Jellystone campgrounds are also family-friendly, with pools, games, movies and hayrides with Yogi Bear, among other things. You can look them up online to see what they have to offer. If you want to stay closer to home, the lake, Aiken State Park or Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen, Ga., are good ideas. It is less costly to stay, although the pool, games and other plans are not as prevalent as at commercial campgrounds.

No matter what trip you plan, the best way to make sure that you don’t overspend is to take cash with you and plan to stick to your budget. The easiest way to do that is to have envelopes for each day and then break your money up for each day. For instance, envelope 1 could say “Monday: Breakfast $30, Lunch $30, Dinner $50, Snacks $20.” Put that amount in there and continue for the rest of the week. Then have a separate envelope for extras and souvenirs. This is a great way to make sure that you don’t overspend. Whatever you plan on spending, make sure you take gasoline purchases into consideration and plan accordingly.

KAREN GREEN CAN BE REACHED TO TEACH COUPON CLASSES AT BUDGETCOUPONS@COMCAST.NET.

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