Your upcoming family vacation is a great way to teach your children, no matter how old they are, the importance of setting a budget and spending within your means.  You can still go on a great summer getaway without going into debt.

Here are our Top 3 recommendations:

  1. Plan where you’d like to go. If it’s going to take a long drive or flight, plan now. A recent survey by Cheapair.com found the best time to buy an airline ticket is 54 days prior to the flight. Don’t fret if you’ve missed the day, the survey of more than 4 million trips shows you get the best value out of your ticket by booking in the so-called ‘prime booking window’ of 104 to 29 days out from your trip. Plan to spend time surfing the web for the best value and get the kids involved in the search. See who can come up with the best price. This also applies to the search for a hotel room.
  2. Save $$$ by planning a staycation. We live in one of the top travel destinations in the world. Four of the top 10 beaches on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 Beaches for 2014 are in Florida: #2: Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs, #3: St. George Island State Park in the panhandle, #7: Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, #10: Delnor-Wiggins Pass Sate Park in Naples. Caledesi Island State Park in Dunedin/Clearwater, Fort De Soto State Park and Siesta Beach are also local previous winners. Consider a visit to a theme park or attraction you haven’t visited in the Tampa Bay or Central Florida area.
  3.  How to cut the costs: The American Express survey we mentioned earlier also found people are planning to cut costs by driving instead of flying (44%), staying at a property with an onsite kitchen so they’ll spend less on eating out (30%), choosing a less expensive destination (28%) and shortening trips (33%). Our Social Moms say they keep costs low by packing their own food and drinks—this may work better for families planning on driving to their vacation destination.  Some families may even choose to work with a travel agent to help them find the best deals. Also consider checking out the local websites of the city you are visiting to look for coupons and special offers. Give each child a spending budget and set one for yourself, too. Lead by example. We love one Social Mom’s idea of presenting a bag of Disney themed goodies on the first day of the trip with themed items purchased at stores like Target and Walmart. If your child already has the stuffed Mickey or Elsa doll in hand, they won’t beg for it at the park.

Talk to your children about the costs of your trip. If the dream family vacation is not in the budget right now, encourage your kids to start saving. It may not be much, especially if they are young, but any little bit they contribute will give them a sense of empowerment when they finally get to go on the big trip knowing they helped make it happen.