Vacation Time!

Vacation Time!

For many of us, summer vacations evoke memories of friends, family, and exotic locations—and debt that can take months to pay off. With careful planning, however, you can take the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank. Whether you’re flying, taking a cruise, or piling the kids into the minivan, read on for tips on how to make the summer of 2004 one to remember.

These days, airline travel can be expensive and stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. “When I travel, I want to pay the lowest amount for the best value,” says Thomas Dorsey, the founder and CEO of Soul of America, a Website for African American travelers. Dorsey likes Websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, which often have great air, hotel, and rental car bargains. He suggests booking flights at least six weeks in advance of your trip and flying during the week—especially Tuesday through Thursday—when airfares are lower.

Hotel and motel stays can really bite into your travel budget. But with some careful planning and research, you can save big bucks. Try,, and to book rooms. Another alternative to consider is a home exchange. Elaine Lee, an attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area and author of Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure (The Eighth Mountain Press; $17.95), belongs to a home exchange program that costs about $70 a year. “I save lots of money and I have a kitchen, which helps me save even more. I find that staying in a home, rather than a hotel, really allows me to savor the lifestyle and culture that I’m visiting,” she says.

If you have a family, Pauline Frommer, executive editor of Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Online, suggests planning trips in the off-season. “Family-oriented destinations, such as beaches, national parks, and even Disney World, are all cheaper when school is in session,” she says. Also, try traveling during the month of June and the weeks preceding Labor Day, especially if you’re traveling to national parks. As you conduct research, don’t forget to read the fine print to get the most out of the vacation deal.

To make family travel by car stress-free, John White, the manager of public and government relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Maryland, advises, “With gas prices so high, be sure to take advantage of good prices when you see them.” He also suggests choosing a credit card that offers rebates on gas, like the one AAA offers. Also, make sure your car is roadworthy before you hit the road.

“I encourage people to travel and see the world,” says Lee. “Traveling can be life-affirming.” And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.