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Timing is (almost) everything when flying

This concise guide will talk about the price of goods and services, and how you can save. Get information about buying gas, using coupons, paying for things online and more. Every Monday in MoneySmart we will "Do the Math" to get you started.

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Airlines have been rolling out some tempting bargains on spring and summer travel. But, before you buy, here are some tips, with help from the Associated Press:

1. Buy early in the week: Airlines are doing more short, three-day sales, and these deals are typically put in the system on Monday nights. Shop from Tuesday through Thursday to get the cheapest prices.

2. Don't assume the best price is always on the "low-cost" airline: Depending on the competition, prices can vary by hundreds of dollars among airlines. And what may look like a bargain could cost you an entire day if you have long layovers.

Although Southwest Airlines is offering many good deals this spring, flying to Phoenix April 15 to 22 on Southwest shows the best round-trip fare at $648; US Airways and United both offer the same trip, in less time, for just over $400. (Changing travel dates by just a day or two, however, brings Southwest fares in line with the others.)

Also, fees and taxes can dramatically change an advertised deal into no bargain.

For instance, a round-trip flight from Buffalo to London, April 20 to 27, lists at $472 for US Airways, $314 on United and $536 on Delta Air Lines. Add taxes and fees, though, and US Air is lowest, at $626. Delta and United both go up to $709.

3. Be mindful of your location: Airlines may more frequently hawk fare sales to and from their hub cities. For instance, Chicago is a hub for United Airlines, while Miami is a hub for American Airlines. This can lead to more chances for discounts, depending on season and other factors.

If you are flying to a hub city, you may be able to be more patient -- especially if it is served by a low-fare airline such as JetBlue or AirTran.

4. Pay your fees up front: Be aware that some airlines charge more if you pay the baggage fee at the airport. US Airways, for instance, charges $23 to check your first bag online, $25 at the airport.

5. Wait, but not too long: You don't have to book months in advance to get the best deals, but you'll want to book your ticket sooner for the busier summer season than you would if you plan to fly in the fall or winter.

While some airlines offer last-minute deals to certain points on certain days, in general for leisure travel it is a good idea to give yourself a cushion of at least a month from the time you buy your ticket to the time you plan to travel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TUESDAY: In Life & Arts, meet the Geislers, young newlyweds who recently returned to Buffalo and are the first pair to be highlighted in our new feature, "Today's Couples."

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