If you are planning a vacation with family, this article provides a good tips on how to plan and make vacations cheaper - Indira. How to make your trips more memorable -- and affordable By SUSAN WARREN Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL June 13, 2005; Page R4 Family vacations may have been considered a luxury, once upon a time. In today's overscheduled world, they are increasingly seen as essential. The trouble is, traveling as a family cranks up the costs as well as the fun. "We find that even parents in the premium category still are concerned about their spending getting out of whack," says Nancy Nelson-Duac, executive editor of FamilyTravelFiles.com, a Web site based in St. Augustine, Fla., that supplies advice and resources for parents traveling with children. To give your children a memorable holiday, it isn't necessary to spend like it's play money -- or to act like a Scrooge. With a little planning, there are lots of ways to economize on all kinds of costs. At the same time, your kids can learn about sensible spending even in pursuit of a good time. To give them some perspective on expenses, tell older children how much parts of the trip cost, or assign a youngster to keep a daily tally of hotel, meal and souvenir bills. The biggest thing to remember: What children value most about family vacations is the time spent together. "It's not the tchotchkes that make your holiday, it's the memories," says Ms. Nelson-Duac. "Coughing up more money doesn't necessarily make it a wonderful holiday." What follows is a guide that can help make your future family vacations both memorable and more affordable. THE THREE CHOICES Start by recognizing the three choices every vacation planner makes that are so fundamental some don't even realize they've made them -- until it's too late: • Now or later? Don't delay planning. If you can, start making arrangements as soon as you've got the time blocked out on your calendar. Doing things at the last minute costs more, limits your family's options and throws open the door to impulsive spending. • How much is too much? Travel experts recommend establishing a firm budget that takes into account everything from transportation and hotel to meals and souvenirs. Then stick to it. Consider taking along a prepaid travel card. Issued by the major card companies, they're widely accepted. And, with a safety feature similar to travelers checks, the cards can't be used without a signature or a PIN. • Do it yourself or use an agent? The Internet puts everything at your fingertips, from vast amounts of research and reviews to flight and hotel reservations. If you like to be in control, the Internet certainly lets you do that. Then again, travel agents who specialize in family vacations can save you time and money by doing everything for you and putting their inside knowledge to work. PICKING A DESTINATION Where does it say that in order to have big fun, you have to spend big? "You don't want to go on vacation and regret it every time you go out to eat," says Dorothy Jordon, publisher of FamilyTravelTimes.com, a New York-based Internet travel resource for families. For inexpensive domestic travel, one of the most overlooked destinations is state parks. Some can rival private resorts in the activities they offer: Canoeing, swimming, hiking, museums and historical re-enactments are common. Nor do you have to own an RV or sleep in a tent. Many have cabins or lodges that offer better deals than nearby hotels. Colorado alone has 41 state parks with accommodations from campsites and cabins to yurts (a kind of large, sturdy tent). In Kentucky, 17 state parks provide lodges and cabins, and nine of the 51 state parks in Arkansas feature cabins nestled into lakeside, mountaintop and woodland settings. Check with a state's tourism or natural-resources department for information and reservations. Most states have detailed Web sites where you can research your trip, view pictures and make reservations. Unfortunately, the weaker dollar has made foreign travel generally more expensive. But there are still good deals to be had. A dollar goes further in Latin America or Canada than it does in Western Europe. French-speaking Quebec feels like a vacation in France with a much better exchange rate, and getting there is less expensive, as well. Argentina and Peru, too, are exotic destinations that cost less than many foreign hotspots. Asia is another relatively cheap alternative to Europe, though the airfare can cost more. Several travel experts recommend South Korea, Thailand and Singapore as family-friendly places. Local tour guides specialize in escorting families to places of interest, like ancient temples and colorful bazaars. Such escorts can help navigate language and cultural differences, and give the kids some education at the same time. If your heart is set on Europe, keep in mind that Western Europe is one of the most expensive vacation choices right now due in part to the relative strength of the euro. Parts of Eastern Europe, however, like Hungary and the Czech Republic, have not adopted the euro and still offer good value. In the Czech Republic, for instance, you can take your kids on a tour through the prisons and torture chambers of the 13th-century Krivoklat Castle, or explore caves and canyons in the eastern part of the nation. Some parts of the euro zone recognize the higher cost for Americans these days and offer discounts and special deals. Switzerland has a complimentary Swiss Family Card that allows children up to 16 to ride the train free with their parents. And a Flexi Pass for two adults traveling together can be purchased for about $300 for four days of second-class travel -- cheaper than the usual $180-per-adult rate. Both offers are exclusively for foreign visitors. Staying off the beaten path is another way to keep your costs down in Western Europe. Try to identify lesser-known locations around which a good number of activities, historical sites and attractions are clustered. In Switzerland or the Netherlands, for instance, you can rent an apartment in one spot for a cheaper weekly rate than a hotel, then take day trips by train or even bicycle for sightseeing. GETTING THERE The high gasoline prices likely this summer might have parents, too, asking, "Are we there yet?" But if you plan ahead, you might not have to pay as much at the pump as some. Gasoline is often cheaper in the city than out on the highway, so fill up before leaving town. Try to avoid gas-eating rush hours in the big cities. For better mileage, consider taking the sedan instead of the SUV, and to improve your car's performance, make sure the tires are properly inflated. If you need to rent a car, hiring it for a week can be cheaper than for three or four days. Get your rental away from the airport, where prices run higher. And make sure the deal includes unlimited mileage. If you're headed abroad, airline tickets cost more the later you buy them, so book as early as possible. Fares also can depend on departure time and day, so being flexible pays. Compare airports, too. Ticket prices can vary considerably between airports less than 100 miles apart, and you might save money by driving a bit farther, or taking commuter flights between airports. So-called consolidators, such as those found at European Travel Network buy up seats in bulk and sell them at a discount. Consolidators often can provide a cheaper fare for international travel than even the best deals from the better-known online travel specialists. After you land, if you plan to cover a lot of ground, rail passes bought in advance in the U.S. can be a bargain; otherwise buying point-to-point rail tickets may be cheaper. Rail passes for various countries can be purchased through travel agents or bought online through sites like RailEurope.com, a Web site operated by Rail Europe Group, a privately held company that is majority-owned by the French and Swiss national railroads.