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Travel Tips
15 Ways To Save On Airfare, Despite Recent "Hidden" Price Hike
Andrea Woroch

The Federal Aviation Administration stopped collecting taxes recently due to a partial shutdown, so logic dictates that should mean a reduction in airfare considering those taxes make up nearly 20% of flight cost. Not so fast, my friend. U.S. carriers leaped on the opportunity created by lawmakers' failure to extend the agency's operating authority. Within a few days, most U.S. airlines raised their fees to cover the difference, with the possible exceptions of Alaska, Spirit and Hawaiian airlines. Virgin originally bragged it wouldn't take advantage of the tax holiday, but joined the opportunistic crowd by none-the-less. Frontier Airlines followed suit.

So what's a traveler to do? Here are 15 ways consumers can reduce airfare costs and avoid those pesky added fees:
  1. Shop and are just two websites that consolidate the lowest fares available. But check the terms carefully as there might be some semi-hidden restrictions.
  2. Book Mid-week – Airfare prices are at their lowest in the middle of the week, according to who claims Tuesday afternoon offers the best value and selection of low cost flights.
  3. Weekend Layovers – Business travelers know it's actually cheaper to extend their visit over a weekend to save on airfare. That's because many plane tickets are sold for weekday round trips.
  4. Compare Baggage Fees – Don't forget to account for checked bag fees when comparing flight prices among different carriers, especially if you are planning to fly with multiple bags that can't be carried on. For instance, Southwest allows two checked bags for free per customer, while Jetblue allows one. Other airlines charge $15 to $30 for the first checked bag and an incremental increase for each additional bag. Some airlines may offer a discount to those who pay for their checked bags online in advance. Find out what the airline charges before you book and take the additional cost into consideration when pricing out the best offer.
  5. Travel Light – Avoid those hefty baggage fees by carrying it all onboard. Remember, it'll cost you big (up to $175 for some airlines) to check bags exceeding 50 pounds. That applies even if you're just one pound over. If you think you're near the limit, weigh your bags at home before you leave.
  6. Use Discount Gift Cards – You can buy American Airline discount gift cards and save up to 6 percent. Other airlines, like United and Southwest, also occasionally offer similar discount cards. Be the first to snag one of these popular discount gift cards as soon as they become available by signing up for an alert at
  7. Bundle Up – Package deals often bundle airfare, accommodations and vehicle rentals at a serious savings. Some, however, aren't all that great a deal, so compare the package price to know how much you'd pay purchasing each service individually.
  8. Pass on In-flight Meals – Plan to eat before you head to the airport and pack snacks to munch on mid-air or in case your flight gets delayed. Airport food is nearly as expensive as inflight meals and you can save some cash by simply bringing your own.
  9. Don't Pay For In-flight Perks – Before you fly, download a movie from Netflix and bring your laptop plus headphones to avoid in-flight entertainment costs. An inflatable pillow and a wafer-thin blanket will help you sleep on long flights and can be stashed in your carry on to avoid the added expense of renting a much-used version from the flight attendant every time you fly.
  10. Switch Airports – Compare Denver International Airport flight costs to Colorado Springs, Colo., or consider switching from JFK to Newark, N.J. You'll need to factor in the cost of a car rental or other mode of transportation to reach your original destination, but you might be surprised at the total difference in price. Plus, the crowds will be much smaller and parking easier.
  11. Avoid Change Fees – Booking through a third party site, like Travelocity, will cost you double, should you need to change your flight. Not only does the airline charge you anywhere from $75 to $150 to change a domestic reservation, but the third-party site tacks on their own fee to this change as well -- roughly $50 to $100. Southwest is the only airline that doesn't charge domestic ticket holders for changing their itinerary. Paying more for a flight sometimes gives you the option to change flight dates, should something come up. It's best, however, to solidify your plans before booking to avoid change fees all together.
  12. Get Airline Credit – You can receive airline credit for flights that drop in price after you book. Yapta will help you track your flight so you know if the same itinerary you booked is reduced. MasterCard launched the PriceAssure program to help cardholders track the flights and net airline credits.
  13. Skip the Extra Leg Room – Many airlines now charge for seats that offer more leg room. Dare to stretch out and, for some airlines, you're looking at an additional fee of up to $30 for each "leg" of your trip.
  14. Know Your Award Travel Requirements – Some airlines charge if frequent fliers try to book award travel within 21 days of flight (considered a "rush" booking). Still others charge to renew expired mileage points. Examine the small print before you begin the process. Check out Smarter Travel's complete guide to frequent-flier fees.
  15. Book Online – Some airlines now actually charge a fee for booking in person or by phone, somewhat like banks now charge you for the privilege of talking to a teller. You could even get charged extra for paper tickets. Make sure you read the fine print and stick to the internet when finalizing flight plans.
For more information, visit Andrea Woroch is an established consumer savings expert passionate about helping individuals discover financial freedom. She understands that everyday costs quickly add up and life can get expensive. Her goal is to teach consumers how to live on less without radically changing their lifestyles.
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