Five Biggest Mistakes When Buying Airfare

Get the most out of your vacation dollars by being flexible. Work with your boss on your days off schedule; the savings could mean the difference between a wonderful trip -- or another lame "staycation."

#3: Go Ahead, Check Those Bags

By all means, check a bag; and if you're not sure what you want to wear, check two. And by doing so, you've just added a cool $100 in bag fees to your trip.

Don't throw money away: unless you're flying Southwest (two free bags) or JetBlue (one free bag), use a carry-on (except on Spirit, the only U.S. airline to charge a carry-on bag fee). It's one thing if you'll be dining at the White House or getting knighted by the queen; otherwise, no one really cares what you wear.

#4: Forget Twitter and Facebook – They're For Young People Only

If you're one of those people who think social media is just for the young, think again: by the end of last year, Facebook's "aged 35 and older" demographic represented more than 30 percent of the site's user base, while in 2009 alone, the number of Facebook folks aged 55 and over grew almost 1,000 percent.

True, Twitter skews a little younger, but consider this: the ubiquitous Ashton Kutcher -- he of five million-plus followers -- is not exactly a kid anymore at age 32.

Here's why you should sign up with Twitter and Facebook: for the deals. The airlines (like a lot of companies) devote tons of time and money to these social media tools, and frequently offer exclusive deals found nowhere else. Don't miss out.

One more good reason to join in: the airlines have PR branding folks manning these social media networks and they are quite responsive. If you have a problem, tweet away -- you're much more likely to get an answer than from a call center a million miles away.

#5: All Summer Vacation Days are Equal

If you think that, you haven't heard about "peak travel surcharge" days, the airlines latest favorite fee.

Excuse me, I meant to say "surcharge." The airlines are adamant that this is not a fee. Okay, fine. But if it walks like a fee, and quacks like a fee…

Many carriers have added these surcharges to nearly every date during the summer, with a couple of exceptions: no one's yet had the courage to add one to the Fourth of July, or from Aug. 23 on, so if you can take vacation days then, do so.

Otherwise, fly Tuesdays or Wednesdays; these days have the cheapest surcharges, just $20 roundtrip, compared to as much as $60 roundtrip if you fly on a Sunday.

All set? Good. Now get out and save. When it comes to airfare, you don't want to be "the biggest loser."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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