Beware of hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates when shopping for flights
YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Travelers are bombarded with offers, deals and price fluctuations on a day-to-day basis, so to help them navigate the maze and save money, Consumer Reports' experts came up with some helpful tips to cut costs and lock in the best rates.
A Consumer Reports reporter found a roundtrip ticket from Philadelphia to Venice on Alitalia for $247 which seemed like a steal until discovering, just before booking, that taxes ballooned the price to $767. Hidden fees, fine print, and blackout dates can make locking in a low price as tricky as a soft landing in turbulence.
If you plan to travel throughout the New Year, here are five tips to help get the rock bottom rate before take-off. The full list of tips can be found at www.ConsumerReports.org or in the February issue of the magazine on newsstands January 3rd.
Check fares early. Most airline and travel sites make it convenient to set up alerts to track fares. Take advantage of the alerts and start searching for flights three and a half months prior to booking domestic flights and five and a half months before booking international flights. That's when the market begins to sort itself out and lower fares begin to appear.
Compare Prices. Airline and third party sites often list identical prices but have different electronic reservation systems which add and remove fares at different times. One system can often trail another by up to five hours. Be sure to check the airline's own site, which can be cheaper because there is no commission.
Look beyond discount airlines. Discount airlines aren't always the cheapest. Airlines cannot afford to be more expensive than their competitors for comparable flights at comparable times.
Be wary of when you buy. The greatest number of cheap seats are available on Tuesdays at 3:00 p.m., most sales begin on Monday at 8:00 p.m. and end on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Be mindful of booking weekend flights because those are popular with both business travelers and vacationers.
Consider a connecting flight and don't delay. Connecting flights can be substantially cheaper than flights that are non-stop, especially for international travel. If you delay booking your flight within seven to fourteen days of travel, chances are you will pay a premium. Airlines would rather leave a seat empty than sell tickets a steep discounted rate.
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SOURCE Consumer Reports