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Booking travel is so easy to do, yet all too often we wind up spending more than we wanted. Thank fee-happy airlines for that— there’s no limit to what they’ll charge for, from meals to checked bags and flimsy pillows.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airlines made $3.3 billion in baggage fees alone in 2011.
With summer travel season in full swing, we’ve rounded up the best money-saving tips out there.
After you book, check the next morning to see if the price of your airfare fell.
If it did, give the airline a call to cancel your flight and often you can rebook without penalty.
Airlines are known to cut prices when they can't fill planes for an upcoming weekend trip.
On Tuesday, they'll email offers for the coming weekend or following one to fliers who signed up for alerts. travellers can leave Friday night or anytime Saturday, then return on Monday or Tuesday.
It's the cheapest day to do it, says FareCompare.com, especially for domestic travel.
Per the website: 'The day with the most seats is likely to have better supply, and thus ... more empty seats that require discounting to fill the plane--meaning they'll have to release more seats at their cheapest price point.'
Airlines have been experimenting with blasting fares via social media, especially Jet Blue, reports the AP. But you have to be fast: Some deals can be gone within hours.
'If you find something, jump on it,' says John DiScala, who travels frequently and writes baout it at JohnnyJet.com.
Some airlines announce special sales to Facebook fans as well.
Sometimes it's worth it to mix and match. Most airlines now sell one-way flights at reasonable prices, meaning one might be cheaper for the outbound flight while the other works better for the return.
You could even fly to one airport and depart from another.
It pays to cozy up to your airline of choice.
Become an elite member of the airline's frequent-flier program or use a credit card that's tied to the airline to get a leg up on other travellers, says U.S. News' Daniel Bortz.
Likewise, if you're using a credit card that offers rewards, check to see if those rewards can be redeemed for miles or travel gift cards, suggests Ask Mr. Credit Card.
The first flight of the morning is usually the cheapest, says Bortz.
The next-cheapest flight times are during or after lunch or around dinner time.
With this site, you'll get pinged when prices fall and receive some excellent deals. The site uses real people to vet the deals rather than computers, so you're bound to turn up some offerings you wouldn't have found otherwise.
Says founder George Hobia: 'We only send updates when we think we've found a good deal, whereas other sites might update you when a flight drops $2.'
Much in the way AirfareWatchdog relies on a travel agent to sniff out the best deals, FlightFox uses multiple experts (called 'flight hackers') to do the hard work for you.
It only costs $29 and the fee is fully refundable, according to the site's front page.
You can even rattle off a list of specific demands that a computer can't check, or travel novices wouldn't include to refine your search, says Money Talks News' Brandon Ballenger.
These are the absolute cheapest times to fly as they're on limited routes, says Bortz.
e-Rewards gives players tickets they can cash in for miles, while other sites like e-Miles let people cash in free miles for airfare, hotel perks and Amazon.com gift cards, says BI reporter Mandi Woodruff.
Relying on only one site to give you the low-down for low-cost airfare is silly.
Check the biggest online ticket-sellers--Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz--and don't forget to search the little guys like Kayak, AirfareWatchdog, Yapta and Hipmunk for deals too.
A revealing study from Airlines Reporting Corporation found that the best time to purchase your airfare is about six weeks prior to travel.
The reason: Around this time, prices drop below the average fare.
Every airline has some kind of a deal going for certain cities, says Ask Mr. Credit Card.
'These specials might not always be for the city you are flying to, but you might be able to get a partial discount if you take a layover in that city as part of your round trip.'
Travel search engines push smaller carriers to the bottom, but you'd be foolish to overlook them.
'Discounters don't have to be your first stop, but they should be an option,' says Ask Mr. Credit Card.
Some airlines have a monopoly on airports, allowing them to charge more, says the AP.
To counter this, check fares at airports 50, 75 or 100 miles from your destination. The car rental and extra travel time may be worth it.
This is an oft-overlooked tip, but one well worth repeating.
Airlines can host private sales, reserving the cream of the crop for their very own websites, says Bortz.
Even without discounts, these fares can be bargain bin-low.
Connecting through a city that just happens to have fares on sale can also save cash.
AirfareWatchdog's 'fares to a city search' (airfarewatchdog.com/cheap-flights/to-a-city) can show cheaper indirect routes to your destination. Rather than fly from New York directly to Maui, you can fly from New York to Los Angeles, then go from there to Hawaii.