Summer and the Packing Is … Easy

The hot weather is … here! And if you've been thinking about taking a trip, there are a few things you need to keep in mind if you want to enjoy the ultimate getaway.

Plan it by starting with a check list of questions:

What is your total budget? What are the cost parameters for air and lodging? How much do you have to spend on food, beverages and other entertainment?

Also: Is this year's getaway domestic or international? Will you need a passport, a copy of your birth certificate and a state driver's license for identification to gain entry into a country? Do you have the sea legs for a cruise?

• There are many options that are fun, easy to get to and won't break the bank, including popular destinations such as Miami, Cancun, Mexico and Jamaica. When traveling internationally, choose a popular destination with resorts to ensure a safe and enjoyable time.

• Make sure to pack one change of clothes, a swimsuit, toiletries and all of your valuables in a carry-on bag. This way, if your luggage is misplaced, you'll have everything you need to get through the first couple of days. Marita Hudson, a member of's Cheap Squad, also suggests that travelers pack an extra tote bag if you plan to bring home vacation mementos.

• Consider taking a volunteer vacation with your family and friends. You might be surprised to know that giving back to others is exactly the break you needed and much more fulfilling than sunbathing in South Beach. Check out organizations like the National Park Service (www.nps. gov/volunteer/) for volunteer opportunities .

Example? Combine your passions of excitement and service in your journey by being a part of rebuilding New Orleans. After a long day of working to help rebuild the city where jazz was born, enjoy Bourbon Street with family and friends and experience N'awlins at its best.

• The most important suggestion for the ultimate getaway is to be safe. Don't leave the resort alone and stick close to friends and family. Be sure to keep identification and a reserve of cash safe in your front pocket or a hidden money belt.

This column was prepared in cooperation with ARA Content.

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