PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People put appliances, toys, even clothes on layaway, so why not put your vacation on layaway?

Could it help you afford the trip of your dreams?

It sounds good to some people.

“I would do it, so I can plan my future vacations,” said Cyndi Mancini-Beasock, of Robinson.

“I think that’s an awesome idea, because a lot of people can’t afford to pay for things right away,” said Heather Harris, of Ambridge.

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

“It offers me a real opportunity to put down very little money at the beginning,” said Popkin.

The couple sometimes goes on five trips a year. They look for deals and jump on them fast.

“Making a decision by only having to put down $200 per person is certainly a lot easier than if we had to pay for the whole trip,” he said.

The idea is to pay in installments as long as the total cost is paid before you go to the airport.

“A typical vacation will cost $2,000 or $3,000 for a family of four,” said George Hobica, from AirfareWatchdog.com. “People just don’t have that money saved up.”

“You can put any kind of trip on layaway. They’re typically used for more expensive trips like cruise or European vacation,” said Hobica.

“We’ve been doing vacation layaway for as long as I’ve been in the business,” said Ruth Nagy from AAA Travel in East Liberty.

She says they just don’t call it layaway. However, after paying an initial deposit, people have always been able to pay the final payment in installments.

Nagy says it helps people budget, but there’s something else: sometimes you can get deals by booking early.

And at AAA, Nagy says, “You lock in the price, and it won’t go any higher than that. But you have an opportunity to lower that price depending on the specials that come out.”

As an example, deals came out after one customer booked a Mediterranean cruise, so Nagy lowered their price three times.

Even retailer Sears has gotten into the vacation layaway business.

You need to sign in to Sears Vacation Layaway and give them your email to see their best deals. While Sears Vacation Layaway started out charging $9 a month for the layaway service, it’s now free.

There’s also no fee for Gate 1 Travel’s layaway plan, nor for AAA’s installment payment plan. However, a website called E-Layaway charges 3.9 percent for its service.

A potential downside of layaway is that while you might avoid the charges of putting a vacation on your credit card.

“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.

And Nagy from AAA says you can’t pay in installments when it comes to one vacation component – that is if you want to lock in the price: “You have to buy those airline tickets all at one time to hold the pricing.”

You may also find it difficult to include rental cars in a layaway package.

Another thing to consider is that your circumstances can change, especially if you’re booking 18 months in advance.

Some layaway plans will actually refund your money if problems crop up.

But it’s very important to read and to understand cancellation and change policies. Also, consider travel insurance.

For some people, all the advance planning in vacation layaway just isn’t their style.

“I just like to do things last minute, and I’ll just say here’s my credit card,” said Emily Kikla, from Pittsburgh.

But for others, the chance to lock in a low rate early on is a real benefit in helping to make their vacation dreams a reality.

Disney Cruises Offer Something For Everyone (1/30/14)
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More Reports by David Highfield

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