Some of my fondest childhood memories are of our family vacations. Our family traveled the famous Route 66 from Texas to California in our Ford Galaxy 500, stopping at roadside hotels to jump in the swimming pools to cool off since our car did not have air conditioning. We have stories from that trip that have become folklore in our circles.

Unfortunately, according to a new survey conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, in spite of an improving economy, most U.S. adults (55 percent) admit they don't plan to take a family break in 2014.

Money worries are taking a toll on Americans, as 59 percent say their financial tension during the summer matches or exceeds the stress they feel during the Christmas holiday season. Summer camps are now replacing summer vacations. Most parents of children under 17 (62 percent) plan on spending an average of $1,400 for their children's summer activities, including sports camps, day camps, sleep-away camps, and day care. There may also be tutoring and academic courses for some kids.

For the few Americans who do have summer vacation plans, more than four in ten (41 percent) say they have budgeted an average of $3,000 for transportation, lodging, meals, activities, entertainment, and pet care.

Invaluable Impact

Regardless of your current circumstances, I hope you are making plans for your next family vacation. The impact on your family is truly priceless. There are two schools of thought when it comes to planning for summer vacations.

One school has adopted the famous scouting motto: Be Prepared. The other approaches it with: “Don't worry, be happy” as their motto.

For the vacation preppers, this means that the details are combed over from top to bottom: early reservations, packing checklists, coupon searches for discounts on everything, even a breakdown of how time will be allocated.

The non-worriers plan vacations with the ultimate laissez faire attitude. Reservations are checked the weekend before arrival, bags are thrown together with the minimum needs: swimsuit, sandals, and suntan lotion. The itinerary will be figured out upon arrival.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, it is important to avoid the financial stress of it by budgeting now.

Many people have the habit of putting the cost of a vacation on their credit cards, paying it off for the next 12 months with interest. This makes vacations much more expensive and, in my opinion, stressful. The good news is that if you begin saving for it now, a little each month, then you will be able to pay cash for your vacation and avoid debt altogether.

Practical Possibility

Here are seven tips to make a summer vacation possible:

  1. If the average family budgets $3,000 for their summer vacation, that amounts to $250/month that needs to be saved.

  2. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your paycheck to cover as much of this as possible. Put it in a separate savings account that you will not touch until the date of the vacation.

  3. Involve the entire family. Have everyone contribute ideas for ways to cut back spending, increase savings, and make extra income to help with the vacation fund.

  4. The average American family receives about $2,600 in federal income tax refunds each year. Make plans to allocate as much of this money as possible towards your vacation fund.

  5. Sell unneeded household items to contribute towards the vacation fund.

  6. For the planners, look for ways to save as much money on the vacation as possible. Reducing transportation and lodging costs will make a major impact on the budget. For the spontaneous ones, learn to get last-minute deals on unsold rooms at popular vacation destinations. The web has many resources to assist you.

  7. Pray and ask for the Lord's intervention to help make a vacation possible. I have known a number of families who were provided an expense-free vacation as a direct answer to their prayer.

Saving for a guilt-free family vacation should be a priority for every family. It can also set you on a path to a lifelong habit of saving, not only for vacations but other major purchases. Now is the time to get started.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.

Chuck Bentley has been a guest speaker addressing churches, business leaders, and radio listeners on biblical financial topics for over a decade. He serves as CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Chuck and his wife, Ann, live near Knoxville and have four sons, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren.