I'll be brutally honest: if you get on a plane this year, chances are excellent you will pay more than you did in 2010.
If you've filled your tank lately, you know what's going on: the cost of gas has zoomed, and that's true for jet fuel too. You don't have to tell the airlines; they've already launched two airfare hikes in the last month alone, and both United and Continental have slapped on new $20 roundtrip "peak travel day" surcharges for all future travel dates.
We'll see more of this kind of thing in the future. So what's the traveling public supposed to do?
Be a smart airfare shopper. Or not. Here are five ways to sabotage your chances of getting cheap flights this year; take a look -- and learn from it.
#1: Follow the Crowd
That's right, sabotage your chance at a cheap airfare by following the crowds to the most popular seasonal destinations. You know, the Caribbean or ski resorts in winter, or Europe at the height of the summer.
Much better would be to fly during a dead zone, which is when the airlines have trouble filling their planes; the first couple of weeks in December is a good example of a dead zone, as is much of January. That's when people are typically not flying; they've done all that during the crush of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Don't follow the crowd: prices to Europe drop at the end of August, so go in the fall when the kids are back in school and the weather is perfect; try flying in winter, too if you're a harder sort. Or try the Rockies in the summer. These locations will still be beautiful; it's just a different and cheaper experience.
#2: Be a Last Minute Shopper
Some of you know my golden rule of airfare shopping: the best time to buy domestic airline tickets is Tuesdays at 3p.m. Eastern. Let me add to that. Did you know if you shop for flights at the very last minute, your economy class ticket will approach the epic price proportions of first class fare?
Do not wait until the last minute; instead, follow these guidelines:
Buy airfare at least 14 days before travel on legacy carriers (American, Delta, etc.)
Buy airfare at least 7 days before travel on discount airlines (JetBlue, Southwest, etc.)
Exception: If you're lucky, you could see a super last-minute deal, which leads us to number three (and really, luck has little to do with it as you will see).
#3: Think You're Too Old to Tweet
Not on Twitter because you're not a kid? Big mistake. Just ask any one of the 171,000+ follows of @jetbluecheeps, for example: these are the people who find out about exclusive deals like 24 hour sales and more.
Follow the deals from your home airport: we've made that real simple by setting up Twitter "fly from" accounts for most cities such as @flyfromCHI or @flyfromLAX - so followers get deals only of interest to them.
By the way, just because you're on Twitter doesn't mean you have to tell the world what you're up to moment-by-moment in 140 characters or less (as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and even President Obama do); you don't have to tell anyone anything. Just sign up, follow your favorite airlines, and let the deal tweets come to you.
#4: Fly Out of the Nearest Airport