Summer has arrived and the season for planning family vacations is upon us. Planning a summer getaway can be a lot of fun, but if you are not careful, it can also be very expensive as well. Don't let your vacation budget stress you out; find ways to get the most out of your money. Sticking to a vacation budget can be quite easy when you know where to cut corners. Here is a look at five easy ways to expand your vacation budget.

SEE: Globetrotting On A Budget

Maximize Your Savings with Discount Travel Sites
Why pay full price for the cost of your hotel stay and car rental when you can snag deep discounts using online travel sites? Using a discount travel site such as Expedia, Hotwire or Travelocity can help to maximize the amount of money you save on your summer vacation. There are many discount travel sites to choose from, each with their own specials and deals. Shop around the discount travel sites online and you may be surprised at the deals you can find on hotels, airfare and car rentals.

Drive Instead of Fly
Although many citizens are not happy with the price of gasoline these days, taking a road trip is often much cheaper than flying to most domestic locations. According to an article released by the Los Angeles Times, airfare for domestic flights has increased 5% while the price of international flights has risen by 11%. Meanwhile, the average cost of gasoline in the U.S. is $3.336 a gallon for regular grade.

At first glance, it is difficult to determine what the better deal is until you factor in the cost of round-trip tickets, luggage fees, car rentals and other expenses. Often, it makes sense to load the family in the car instead of heading to the airport.

Low Cost Entertainment
An easy way to break even the sturdiest of vacation budgets is by partaking in expensive entertainment options such as amusement parks, shows and the like. By avoiding the high-ticket entertainment options, you can save yourself significant money that can be put towards other costs, such as lodging or transportation. Some great examples of low-cost entertainment include picnicking in the great outdoors, sightseeing or even enjoying a warm day at the beach.

Opt for a Long Weekend as Opposed to a Full Week Vacation
A smart move that many consumers are buying into is taking a long weekend trip instead of a full week's vacation. By opting for a shorter vacation, you can save significant money on everything from lodging to dining out. Additionally, if you are due back at work the following week, you will have time to recuperate before returning to the office.

SEE: The Best Bang For Your Holiday Travel Budget

Start Planning for Next Year's Family Vacation Now
In order to maximize your vacation budget for next summer, start planning now. It is much easier for many consumers to save money in small increments, rather than scrambling to find the cash for a decent summer getaway. By planning now, you could easily enroll funds into a vacation club or simply open up a dedicated savings account to be used for next year's family vacation.

The Bottom Line
There are many ways to expand your family's vacation budget. To get the best value on your summer vacation, carefully compare prices on lodging and travel expenses, and find inexpensive alternatives to family entertainment. Summer vacations don't have to be expensive to be a memorable experience for your family. Cut costs where you can and delight in the company of your loved ones as you embark on a new journey together.

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