Plan ahead for a fun summer trip

Summer vacations are a great time to go on a vacation - just be sure to plan thoroughly!

Summer is right around the corner, which means it's only a matter of time before your kiddos are out of school for the season. Why not take advantage of this time off to go on a family vacation? Going on a trip together is a great way to have fun, build memories and help your children learn about new places. 

Whether you're looking to go on a simple road trip or travel across the country, you need to take the proper planning steps before you go. That way, you'll be able to save money, stay safe and accomplish all the things you want to do without any hassle.

"Calculate what you can reasonably save and start making plans."

1. Set a budget
Before you do anything else for your trip, it will help to have an idea of how much you're willing and able to spend. Start storing up extra money from each paycheck now so you have plenty of funds when it's time to leave for your vacation. Calculate what you can reasonably save and start making plans based on that. It will determine where you're able to go and how you get there.

Don't forget to include costs for travel to and from your destination, as well as travel once you get there. If you're flying, for example, will you need to rent a car? If you drive, do you know how much gas or parking will cost at your vacation spot? These should all be factors in how you budget for your trip. You also need to tally your lodging charges, make an estimate of what food will cost while you're there and have an excursion budget you can pull from to buy tickets to any fun events you want to attend or activities you can do once you get there. 

You should store a little extra in case of any emergencies, so be sure you have a reserve that you don't touch unless you absolutely need to while you're gone.

2. Do your research
Once you know how much you can spend, it's time to figure out where you want to go! Think of fun destinations you'd like to see and check out the costs associated with getting there. If something seems like it might be a bit too expensive, go on to your next choice. It's better to have the security of a solid budget when traveling than to stretch too thin just to see a certain place. 

"Visit local travel sites and read reviews from other vacationers."

After you've narrowed down where you want to go, take a look at what kind of sights and attractions are located in the area. You'll also want to see if there are any safety concerns you should address before you go there, such as vaccines you'll need to get the family before traveling to a tropical location. Visit local travel sites and read reviews from other vacationers to get a good idea of what you can expect.

3. Start booking
Start booking as much as you can as far in advance as possible once you've decided where to go. Search travel sites for deals on flights, rooms and activities to make sure you don't over spend. Lock in the dates you want so you don't run the risk of the housing you choose being booked up by the time you go – there could end up being a conference or other large event in an area that snatches up all the hotels!

4. Get insured
Now would also be a good time to look into supplement travel insurance. Try to book refundable travel and accommodations when possible, too. You never know when a last-minute emergency may derail your plans. Especially as a military family – you know that assignments and leave can change quickly, so it's better to be prepared ahead of time. Some plans will even cover things last out-of-network medical expenses, stolen wallets or lost luggage. 

By taking your time to plan, set a budget and research ahead of time, you can go into your vacation prepared and ready to have fun.