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Vacation Bound

Do the gray skies
this time of year give you the fever? Have you been daydreaming about a relaxing
vacation away from work and home?

Before jumping
into the car or onto a plane it is best that you plan your vacation with some
financial realities in mind.

Where to start

To get an
idea of the types of vacation packages available and their costs, look in the
Sunday travel section of a large-city newspaper, or surf the Internet. There
you will find some of the tour packages available both in the United States
and abroad.

If you have
the time and patience, you can plan a vacation on your own and save money by
doing so. But be prepared to spend hours on the phone or at your computer to
shop around. Travel guides, available at bookstores or through AAA, can help.
And the airlines will be happy to quote you their special vacation packages
and any discount fares.

For people who
do not have the time to do their own research, it’s a good idea to use a travel
agent. They have access to the latest tour packages and updated airline fares
and hotel costs. Internet users might start with www.travel.com.

Vacation ideas

There are
endless types of trips available, from the family vacation to the exotic.

Disney World
(www.disney.com), a favorite of many Kentucky
families, expects record attendance this summer, despite concerns about a slowing
economy. The more adventuresome might try a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise (www.windjammer.com),
which often attracts men and women ages 23 to 65. There is now an abundance
of cruise ships and many offer attractive cruise prices when you book ahead
several months or during the off-season. Local motorcoach companies also offer
a wide range of vacation packages and prices, from three days to seven or more.

Word of mouth
is still one of the best ways to discover a good vacation destination, and sometimes
it can steer you away from a disaster. Ask your family, friends, and co-workers
for vacation ideas and then do a little research to see if it matches your interests.

Saving is best

Try to spread
the cost of vacationing over an entire year by including a “travel” line in
your monthly budget. For example, if you want to visit Europe a year from now
and expect the trip to cost $6,000, you can pay for it in full by setting aside
$500 a month. If you cannot afford that much, save as much as you can or choose
a less expensive trip.

Of course, saving
for a trip in June 2002 will not help you this summer. If your heart is set
on a vacation that you cannot pay for in cash, you still have a few options.
You may be able to draw on a home-equity line of credit or take out a personal
loan from the credit union or bank. If you must charge the vacation to a credit
card, use one with a low interest rate.

Before departing

Before you
leave home, review your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy, to make certain
it will protect your home and possessions against vandalism or theft while traveling.
You may also want to consider flight or car-rental insurance.

But before buying
extra insurance, check your regular homeowner’s or health policies, which may
provide adequate coverage.

Make certain
someone knows your itinerary, in case of an emergency at home. You should also
let a friend or family member know the whereabouts of important papers, including
your will, in case the unthinkable occurs.

And a set of
car keys should be left with a friend or relative if you’re taking a plane.
Those cartoons about a person being stuck at the airport when the plane is leaving-with
car keys aboard-are more truth than fiction.

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