The Real Deal On Great Airfares

It's been a bumpy year for airfares. If you're thinking about taking a trip, maybe you've seen some offers that sound great.

Consumer Reports says unless you are a savvy shopper, you can be quickly disappointed.

When you try to snag a great airfare online, sometimes it can vanish into thin air. That's what Consumer Reports' Tod Marks found when he investigated how to cut the cost of flying.

Marks says, "You see a lot of airfare deals out there that sound great. But hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates can make locking in a great deal as tricky as a soft landing in turbulence."

Take a Travelocity "deal" on a round-trip flight from Philadelphia to London for $277. Once you book, it actually costs almost $666!

Marks says, "Spirit Airlines promotes flights that cost as little as nine dollars! But to qualify you have to join its nine-dollar club, which costs around $60, and you also may be subject to a lot of additional fees."

And those additional fees could include up to $45 for each piece of checked luggage, up to $40 per carry-on, and up to $199 for a reserved seat.

Marks says, "Now there are ways to get a great deal on a flight. Ideally, you want to book in advance, and never within two weeks of travel."

And take advantage of alerts that many airlines and travel sites let you set up to track fares. And time your purchase!

Marks says, "Experts tell us there really is a best time to book. And that's at 3 PM Eastern Standard Time on a Tuesday. Believe it or not, that's when the greatest number of discount seats hit the market."

Other money-saving moves-Consumer Reports says don't skip looking at airline sites in addition to Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline.

Don't assume discount carriers are the cheapest. Major carriers can't afford to be more expensive than low-price operators because that lands them a lower listing in search-engine results.

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