Credit Score(ARA) – Ah summer vacation – who doesn’t love the time away from the office? The fond memories made with loved ones last for years. Unfortunately, if you fund your vacation entirely with credit – without having a budget and a plan for paying the debt off quickly – you could bring home something more than just souvenirs and a sunburn. You could come home with more debt.

Even a modest vacation for a family of four can cost thousands of dollars – and it’s not uncommon for families to use credit to spread the cost of a vacation over several months, instead of paying for everything up front. This tactic can be good or bad for your credit, depending on how you pay off the debt and what your credit standing was before you went on vacation.

Pay off your vacation debt quickly, and you could improve your credit standing. Credit bureaus consider total amount of outstanding debt and how reliably you make on-time payments as key factors in calculating your credit score. Fall behind, or make only the minimum payment, and you could end up harming your credit standing – not to mention paying hundreds of dollars more in interest than the initial cost of the vacation.

If you’ll be relying on credit cards or even a short-term loan to fund your family’s summer vacation, keep these credit-conscious points in mind:

* The best way to fund your vacation is by budgeting for it. Set aside a certain amount each month in a vacation account, so that when summer travel season arrives you’ll have amassed enough cash to pay for most – if not all – of your travel expenses.

* Before you go on vacation, check your credit. Your current debt level, available credit and current credit card interest rates could all affect your decision on where to travel to, how to get there, what kind of accommodations you’ll stay in and even what you’ll do when you’re there.

* Sometimes, it’s actually safer and smarter to use a credit card to pay for portions of your vacation, such as lodging arrangements, airline tickets or even purchases made in a foreign country. The credit card provides an extra layer of security for your money, and you’ll often receive a better currency exchange rate from your credit card company. Use cash to pay for smaller expenses such as cab rides, shuttle transport and attraction tickets.

* Online resources like CreditReport.com can help you understand your credit status before you travel so that you can plan how and when you will use your credit on vacation. CreditReport.com makes it easier to understand your credit standing and how your summer vacation spending might affect your credit.

* Whether you fund your trip through cash or credit, it always makes sense to save on travel arrangements. From online booking sites and airfare finders to coupons and discount codes, a wide array of money-saving strategies can help ensure your summer vacation stays within budget.

Finally, when you get home, unpack your bags immediately, download the photos from your camera to your photo-sharing program, and pay off the credit card bills from your summer vacation as quickly as possible. Paying your summer vacation bills quickly can look good on your credit history – and help put you in good financial standing to start saving for your next vacation.