Spread out your vacation plans - Curt Yeomans

Vacations are never cheap things to put together. Trust me, I'm going through this right now with my upcoming trip to Italy.

But, I think I've found a solution, pulling from various past experiences with vacation planning. The key, in my humble opinion, is to begin planning early, and spread out your pre-vacation purchases over several months.

It is basically "Pay-as-you go" vacation planning. For example, with my trip to Italy, the plane ticket costs just over $1,000 (I got it down to $700 with ticket vouchers I had from Delta Air Lines), and a hotel room for one-week will cost an additional $800. I've already spent $70 to set up tours, and will likely spend another $150, or so, on another tour.

That's over $2,000 in pre-trip spending. Unless you're Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, that's a lot of money to shell out at one time. With bills to pay every month, the average person can't afford to throw down a lavish amount of money, all at one time. But, if the person spreads the expenses out over an extended period, paying for that trip around the world can become more manageable.

By spreading my pre-trip purchases out over an extended period, I've been able to make the trip more affordable. I can save some money from a few paychecks, and be able to afford the expenses one at a time.

Here's how I've, so far, made the expenses more manageable. The plane ticket was purchased back in December. Two tours were paid for a week ago. I'm still checking prices on hotels, and looking to see if good deals come up as my travel dates approach.

I've had good luck with waiting to book a hotel room before. When I went to Charleston in 2008, I waited until two days before my trip to book a hotel room. By using one of these travel web sites (i.e.: hotels.com, travelocity.com, or expedia.com, etc.), I was able to get an incredible half-off deal on a room at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, in Patriot's Point. As the name suggests, it's on the harbor, next to the U.S.S. Yorktown museum.

I ended up paying approximately $65 per night for the room, the same price I would have paid to stay someplace farther in land.

Now, for Italy, I've been monitoring hotel prices for a few months. In this case, I know I'm going to have to settle for a room in the $85-$105 price range, if I want a deal.

Just this week, though, I've finally begun to see prices come down for some places closer to the heart of Rome.

I didn't have that same kind of luck with my plane tickets, though. My recommendation is that you buy those about six months in advance. I spent a two-month period from October to December of last year checking prices. Most of what I saw were ticket prices that kept going up.

I finally caught a break, and got a good deal on airfare, but I wouldn't recommend waiting too long on airfare. The sooner you buy your plane tickets, the better off you'll be.

Make that your first pre-travel expense, because you can't set up a hotel reservation until you know for sure which day you will arrive, and which day you will return home.

If you spread everything out, you should be able to afford that trip to anywhere in the world you want to go.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.