How to afford your summer travel plans without totally breaking the bank, or taking out potentially risky travel loans.

Have you considered taking out a travel loan to pay for a vacation? I read an article on MarketWatch about several companies offering payment plans for flights, hotels and amusement. Each company offers different loan terms, and to really understand what’s being offered, you have to read the fine print. Some have interest rates as high as 30 percent and others add interest up front as a lump sum so that there are no surprises.

I wouldn’t recommend borrowing (or taking out a loan) to go on a vacation you otherwise couldn’t afford, but if there’s a family emergency services like these can make sure people get where they’re needed (especially considering 40 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 unexpected expense). Still, if you want to go on vacation, and have it paid for in advance,  try these four tips to both save for, and reduce your overall, recreational travel expenses:

Open a savings account for travel. Calculate how much is needed for the trip (flight, hotels, food and amusement) and divide payments across 12 months to determine the amount to set up for automatic transfer. Now the trip is gradually funded instead of paid for after the fact with added interest.

Fund travel through credit card rewards. Rewards points add up quickly when a credit card is used for regular expenses. Clarify what rewards each card has to strategize payments for services based on return (for example, some cards have double points or cash back at certain retailers). Some credit cards have promotions that give new users thousands of flight rewards points for signing up, but don’t sign up for a new credit card just for the rewards points. Evaluate the whole agreement first to make sure the rewards points aren’t shadowing a high interest rate or annual fee.

Be flexible with dates. Sometimes traveling during the holidays is unavoidable because it’s often the only time the whole family has time off. When it is avoidable, adjust travel around holidays – like Memorial Day or Thanksgiving – when airlines markup flights.

Compare different flights, airlines, car rentals, hotels and amenities. There are at least a dozen legitimate sites where you can compare costs for almost every aspect of a vacation, but be careful not to fall for a scam. If a site offers a rate significantly lower than others be weary and do some research before proceeding to make sure they aren’t going to take your money and run.

Travel loans are a great option for emergency trips, but when it comes to recreational trips it’s smarter to save for and save on travel.