MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After last week’s deep freeze, Dori Schlampp is doing something many of us have been dreaming about: Escaping the cold for a week in beautiful Belize.

“We’re really excited,” Schlampp said. “Especially with the weather, the way it’s been outside.”

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Schlampp is taking a luxury trip to an exotic location, but even a modest family vacation can quickly add up to $4,000 or more, which is why some travel sites are now promoting layaway plans.

Sears Vacations, Gate 1 Travel, and eLayaway Travel all offer ways to book now, pay later.

But is it a good deal?

“Travel agents have always been able to do the payments plans,” said Nora Blum of Travel Leaders. “We just haven’t necessarily advertised it like layaway.”

Blum said she’s been booking trips for 20 years and paying over time is always an option. Most vacation packages require up-front despots, followed by a final payment 45 to 60 days in advance. So, she often breaks up the balance into smaller payments, running customers’ credit cards on a monthly basis, for no additional charge.

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“A lot of people find that it’s a lot easier to make those small payments of, you know, $300 or $400,” she said, “rather than a big lump sum.”

eLayaway charges 3.9 percent for its service and Sears charges $9 per month, while Gate 1 asks for a deposit and a final payment 45 days before departure, just like traditional travel agents.

“We’ve been doing it for years, for many years, and we don’t call it anything,” said Jenny Mikkelson, the vice president of Travel Beyond, which booked Schlampp’s trip to Belize.

They’re known for luxury vacations and safaris, but they still split up the payments for some clients, and view the new layaway plans as more of the same.

“It’s marketing. A different marketing ploy to get people interested in what they might think is a different way of booking travel,” she said. “But, essentially, any travel agency can do that.”

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Paying over time is available on vacation packages, but not “air only” deals. Because the final payment is due six weeks out, it works for trips you book well in advance, like your summer vacation or next winter’s getaway. You’re too late to do it for spring break.