As the school year comes to a close in the next few weeks many families will be hitting the pavement looking for fun in the sun. With the average American spending over $2500 on a summer vacation much of that cost gets absorbed onto credit cards. If you are looking for family fun and don’t want to sink further into credit card debt, here are some tips for you to stay debt free this summer:

Plan ahead – Hotels offer some vacation packages that are often at discount prices, but you have to plan ahead and find these deals early. Look for some off-peak summer times like towards the middle-to-later part of the summer. Most people tend to take their vacations as soon as school lets out, so most hotels will charge more during these higher traffic times.

Take the car – Airfare today is so costly, and flying a family of four anywhere is easily going to run you a $1000 or more. Save that expense and drive to your vacation spot. If the distance is too far for a drive, consider a closer destination to have fun this summer. The bottom line is while that trip to Hawaii sounds nice, your financial profile will thank you for choosing a more regional beach.

Eat cheap – Eating at restaurants is one of the largest sources of spending on vacations. Rather than dining out every meal, find a local grocery store and do some shopping. There are many breakfast options that won’t require a kitchen, and pack some sandwiches for a picnic lunch. You will spend far less by having a few meals in your hotel over a restaurant.

Go in groups – If you have family or friends that are looking to travel to the same destination, look for group rates at the hotels or lodging accommodations. Group rates usually a savings of 20% or more. If you can, share the costs of your trip with others by staying in a multiple room lodge and split the bill.

Stay local – The idea of staying local for summer vacations has become increasingly popular in recent years. Big cities have lots of family fun activities, and even smaller or rural towns can be host to some fun camping experiences. Contact the local visitors bureau for a list of local attractions that the whole family can enjoy.