Getaway on layaway

Layaway plans now an option for vacations


You've heard of traditional layaway plans for things like big-ticket appliances or Christmas presents.  And now, you can put your next big vacation on layaway, too.

Richard Popkin and his wife like to put their getaways on layaway.

"It offers me the opportunity to put down very little money at, at the beginning," said Popkin.

The couple takes as many as five big trips a year.  Their trick? To look for deals and jump on them fast.   

"Making a decision by only having to put down $200 per person, is, is certainly a lot than if we had to pay for the whole trip," explained Popkin.

The idea is to pay it off slowly in installments. The timing depends on the type of vacation you choose, but you must pay in full before you head to the airport.

 "A typical vacation will cost two or three thousand dollars for a family of four. People just don't have that money saved up.  You can put any kind of a trip on layaway. They're typically used for more expensive trips like cruise or a European vacation," explained George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com.

Putting that milestone trip within reach.

"We empower the consumer to have the flexibility to book a vacation up to 18 months before the trip is going to take place," said Marty Seslow, Gate 1 Travel Vice President of Marketing and Sales.

Seslow says tough economic times brought vacation layaway to the forefront, but it's not just for the budget conscious.

 "We see the folks that are on a budget and a shoe string budgets taking advantage of this.  And then we see folks at the higher end of the spectrum buying a more deluxe vacation experience."

When you use layaway, you don't run up credit card interest charges and you have the benefit of locking in the price of that trip early on. But experts say there are potential drawbacks.

"You do tie up your money, sometimes over several years, and that's money that you could probably be using for something else so you're giving the company a free loan," said Hobica.

Like merchandise layaway plans, not all travel pay-as-you-go programs are equal. Some will refund your money or help you defer the trip if problems arise, but others might not.

"You really have to make sure that you have some travel insurance and study the cancellation policies," warned Hobica.

Seslow says, putting a trip on layaway gives you something to look forward to. 

"Travelers enjoy the planning of travel, as much as the actual experience of travel," he said.

and Richard Popkins and his wife, who are planning to go to Peru, Chile and Easter Island, are always looking for the next great deal.

"It's a lot easier to make that decision to pounce or don't pounce when it's only a small amount of money like that relatively speaking," he said.

If you're looking to save some money on that big vacation, here's a tip: Many travel companies that have layaway plans will give you a discount if you pay it off in cash.