The LoPilato family is on a mission. The Brookline, N.H., family of four wanted to spend its summer vacation at Disney World in Florida, but also wanted to do it inexpensively.
Matriarch Lynne LoPilato is a part-time psycho-therapist and her husband Peter works full-time at a pharmaceutical company. Already he's survived a couple of layoffs.
"Thankfully, Peter is still working, which is good because you never know what might happen," said Lynne, who, with Peter, has two kids, Bryanna and Gulianna.
So, a reasonable budget was top priority when the family started planning its adventure to the Sunshine State.
"It was going to cost us about $4,500. So then, when we got the camper, we go, 'Why don't we drive down to Disney and stay at the campground?'" Peter said.
That decision cut the vacation cost by more than half and gave the LoPilatos more time. Instead of $4,500 for one week, which did not include airfare for the family of four, the price became $2,000 for 12 days.
"It's huge, it's huge savings," Lynne said.
By using the camper they own, they were able to keep costs low, spending $350 on gas and no money on a hotel.
Their next stop was AAA. There, Lynne saved more money by using AAA's travel agency to book their campsites, buy park tickets, and get free tour books and maps.
The LoPilatos also were able to save money by heading to the grocery store to pick up the perishables. Lynne's preplanned list helps her save money.
"You get excited about going, and it's easy to forget things and if you forget things, then that means that you have to buy it on your way," Lynne said.
The grand total was only $123 at the supermarket to supplement what the LoPilatos brought from their home pantry and freezer.
After packing up the camper, the LoPilato family adventure began.
Peter drove the entire 1,400-mile trip himself with two overnight sleeping stops, one in Maryland and one in South Carolina.
Only a small tire issue delayed them from getting to their destination on schedule.
But once inside the Magic Kingdom, Bryanna and Gulianna were all smiles as they met some of the famous characters and donned cool glasses.
The family also only used cash to avoid spending too much money. The LoPilatos said when people charge things on a credit card, they tend to forget about them until they come home to an enormous bill.
The special moments that the LoPilato family shared would not have been possible without some research and planning.
"I think family vacations are important. If you plan ahead you can get the good deals. There are deals that can save you a lot of money," Peter said.
AAA national public relations managing director Yolanda Cade has additional tips on how any family can save big bucks on vacations.
"Travel is really on sale this summer," Cade said.
Tip No. 1: Plan early.
If you've already taken your vacation this year, now is the best time to start planning for next year.
"You are actually going to get a better rate by booking early and not waiting until the last minute," Cade said.
Tip No. 2: Plan your gas stops by using the fuel cost calculator.
This way you can find out your total gas cost as well as plan your stops along the way.
Tip No. 3: Pack lightly.
"Pack only what you need and you also want to avoid putting items on the top of your car," Cade said. "This also helps to increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicle."