Secrets to booking cheap flights

By: Jill Krasny

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.

Test the 24-hour rule
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.

Take last-minute trips
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. Travelers can leave Friday night or anytime Saturday, then return on Monday or Tuesday.

Chase the fare, not the destination
Kayak's explore tool is useful for searching multiple airline fares at a time.

You'll instantly see a map with all the destinations listed under a set budget.

Leave on a Wednesday 
It's the cheapest day to do it, says, 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."

Book on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time
A study by found this was the best time to buy airline tickets and shop for domestic travel.

Check Twitter and Facebook
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

Some airlines announce special sales to Facebook fans as well.

Fly two different airlines
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.

Become a frequent flier
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 travelers, 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.

Fly out early
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.

Search for deals in the morning
Early morning is the time you'll see the most deals, says Bortz, although some airlines release discounted tickets throughout the day.

Rack up free airline miles on rewards sites 
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 gift cards, says BI reporter Mandi Woodruff.

Search multiple sites
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.

Book six weeks in advance
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.

Be flexible
Try adding a couple days to your trip before or after peak travel days to lower the fare, suggests the AP.

Book connecting flights
Booking connecting flights could save you as much as $100 round-trip, according to the AP.

Just make sure you leave enough time to make your connecting flight in case the first flight arrives late.

Search the actual airline's site
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.

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