LITTLE ROCK – While vacations may be a necessity for mental and physical health, they can also be expensive, according to a news release.


Laura Hendrix, associate professor of Personal Finance and Consumer Economics for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, has some tips for taking that mental break without breaking the bank.


According to the American Psychological Association, 66 percent of Americans return to work after vacations with more energy and motivation. More than half of Americans are more productive and produce better quality work after a vacation, as well.


Hendrix offers suggestions for saving money:


• Compare prices — When making decisions for things like travel and lodging options, it’s important to consider all options and compare the prices of each.


“Driving is typically less expensive than flying,” Hendrix said. “Lodging can be as inexpensive as camping or as costly as a luxury resort. Consider the options, comparison shop and be sure to read the fine print.”


• Schedule — Planning vacations ahead of time offers many benefits such as discounted prices, and the ability to schedule around busy times of year.


“Some places have certain times of the year when prices are lower,” Hendrix said. “Ask about off-season rates. There may be discounts for purchasing ahead of time. Plan and schedule your vacation to take advantage of these savings.”


• Plan spending — While on vacation, especially in high tourist areas with high prices, it’s easy to overspend without realizing it. Be sure to keep track of, and even plan out, your spending for vacation.


“Keep spending under control by making a written plan,” Hendrix said. “Decide the total amount you can afford.”


A good way to keep spending to a minimum is to pick and choose what to splurge on, Hendrix said.


• “Prioritize. What’s most important to your family?” she said. “Would you rather spend less on food so you can stay in a more expensive hotel? Can you save money by camping so you can spend more on shows, theme parks and activities?”


• Staycation — Keeping vacation plans close to home can save on travel and lodging expenses. “A staycation is an alternative to a traditional vacation,” Hendrix said. “Staycationers stay at home or close to home and enjoy local, regional or state attractions.”


Lower prices are not the only benefit to staycations.


“Another benefit is that staycations support your local and state economy,” Hendrix said. “The Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism offers free travel guides that are a great tool for planning your staycation.”


Arkansas has various state parks and attractions.


“Arkansas has a variety of different types of museums, parks and outdoor adventure,” Hendrix said. “You could do something different every day. Some favorites are Crystal Bridges Museum, Buffalo National River and Blanchard Springs Caverns.”


For more financial advice visit http://uaex.edu/money.


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.


— Sarah Cato is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.