LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — If you’re on a budget, the thought of booking next year’s summer vacation might seem out of the question.

But CBS2’s Sandra Mitchell is showing how budget conscious travelers are booking now and paying later.

Lynn Frangos, of Torrance, is among a growing number of budget conscious travelers enjoying the apparent benefits of so-called “vacation layaway”.

Similar to popular holiday shopping payment programs, travelers work with agents and vendors to pay off their vacations in installments.

With the help of a travel agent from the Automobile Club of Southern California, Frangos was able to pay little by little.

“It was airfare and a hotel in Maui,” she explained. “As a big purchase you may not have all the cash up front.”

“You can plan ahead and anticipate and make your payments and as the time gets close it gets more and more exciting. It’s like a zero interest rate loan, essentially, to go on vacation,” she said.

AAA travel agent Sharan Johnston explained that in the layaway system the travel agent acts as the middle man.

Fronting the money with vendors, she books the trips while clients pay their vacations down over a four-to-12-month time span.

She championed the benefits of participating in the program for those who may be strapped for cash but may not want to forgo the luxuries of travel.

“Whether you’re young in college and you want to tour Europe or you’re a senior citizen on a fixed income and you want to do a cruise, a layaway fits any and all budgets,” Johnston said.

The key, she explained, is purchasing more than just plane tickets, for example bundling airfare with hotel and rental car costs.

AirfareWatchdog.com founder George Hobica said those costs can often amount to several thousands of dollars. Many clients, however, simply don’t have that amount in disposable income.

“A typical vacation will cost two or three thousand dollars for a family of four. People just don’t have that money saved up,” Hobica said.

While vacation layaways allow you to lock in at great prices due to booking early, it’s wise to ask in advance if you can defer a trip or receive a refund in case of emergency.

“You really have to make sure that you have some travel insurance and study the cancellation policies,” Hobica said.

So far the vacation layaway system has worked out for Frangos. She’s now thinking about booking her next trip to Europe.

“I’m so glad i did it. It was great,” she said.

Depending on the vendor or travel agent, some vacation layaway plans might tack on fees. The price you pay in the end could cost more than purchasing a last-minute trip online.

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