By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s only been a few days since the long Labor Day weekend when many of us wrapped up the summer.  Are you missing the shore already? As 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan reminds us, an early start on planning next summer’s vacation could be exactly what you need.

It’s not just something to look forward to.  Planning ahead can actually save you money.

The kids are back to school, the days are getting shorter. September may be the perfect time to start planning next summer’s vacation and save money over the long run.

First, set aside a bit of each paycheck during the fall, winter and spring months in a vacation fund, like a separate savings account. Having cash on hand for vacation expenses will avoid credit card burden.

Look at areas where you went over-budget during this summer’s vacation,  whether it was airfare, food or entertainment, and pad the budget for next time.

Consider a credit card with hotel points or airline miles attached. Use it for everyday expenses, pay off the balance each month, and bank the rewards towards free stays and upgrades next summer.

Choosing a destination well ahead of time will also give the greatest options on pricing and availability, especially when traveling by air.

Try to avoid peak periods like Memorial Day and July 4th to save money and headaches.

An early start on vacation plans means more time to compare prices and research discounts from your employer, your bank, or other groups.