LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE)- If you're planning spring break travel, maybe you've seen some offers that sound great.
Not so fast. When you try to snag a great airfare online, sometimes it can vanish into thin air. That's what Consumer Reports' shopping expert, Tod Marks, found when he investigated how to cut the cost of flying.
Tod 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."
For example, Travelocity had a "deal" on a roundtrip flight from Philadelphia to London for $277. Once you book, it actually costs almost $666!
Spirit Airlines promotes flights that cost as a little as $9! But to qualify you have to join its $9 club, which costs around $60, and you also may be subject to a lot of additional fees, including up to $45 for each piece of checked luggage, up to $40 dollars per carry-on, and $1 to $199 dollars for a reserved a seat.
There are ways to get a good great deal on a flight. Tod says, "Ideally, you want to book in advance, and never within two weeks of travel. For domestic flights, start looking three and a half months before you fly out."
And take advantage of alerts that many airlines and travel sites let you set up to track fares. And time your purchase! Experts tell Tod that there is a best time to book - 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 third-party ones like Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline. And 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.
Other money saving tips for planning your spring break get-a-way, check for ways to save with memberships like Triple A. "We're pretty confident that the AAA card is going to get you savings wherever you go" says spokesman, Roger Boyd.
Boyd also advices to contact the destination city's tourism center for special offers. It may also be a great time to cash in awards points on any of your credit cards.
If there's a senior in the group, be sure to take advantage of senior citizen discounts too.
Keep an eye out for hidden fees, in addition to airfare, car rentals can add up unexpectedly as well, as much as 25% higher on average. Instead of returning the tank empty and getting a possible $8 a gallon fill up charge, choose to fill the tank up before returning.
When considering rental car insurance coverage, which can cost $30 a day, check to see if your personal car insurance will cover it, or even "reach for your wallet and make sure you don't have a credit card or something that is already covering that collision damage waiver" says Boyd.
And think twice before accepting that free bigger vehicle upgrade, "you'd be surprised how much money you can save when you're driving 8 hours, getting 30 to 40 miles per gallon instead of 15 to 20" Boyd said.
It all adds up to potentially big vacation savings.
Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.