It's time to plan your summer vacation, but check the fine print before you book a flight: That big, exciting trip across the country or overseas could carry surprising costs and added fees imposed by the airline.
Most of the major carriers have added an extra $50 if you change your reservation. It's now $200 at United (UAL), Delta (DAL), US Airways (LCC), and most recently, American (AAMRQ).
The change affects most domestic flights as well as travel to Canada and Mexico. The fee for changing some overseas flights is now $300.
The airlines say they are targeting business travelers, not people taking vacations. They say people taking business trips are much more likely to change their travel plans.
The industry maintains that charging business customers more allows airlines to offer cheaper seats to vacationers.
Southwest (LUV) remains a holdout. In fact, it might want to resurrect its old ad campaigns that mocked competitors for charging reservation change fees.
However, last week Southwest said people who fail to show up for their flight will forfeit their fare.
Southwest maintains its 'bags fly free' policy, but get this: Frontier Airlines (RJET) says it will soon charge as much as $100 for a carry-on.
The discount carrier's new fee is for bags that don't fit under the seat. So it's $100 if you get to the airport and find out your carry-on needs to go in the overhead bin, but $25 if you pay in advance.
And there is a way around this fee: Book directly on Frontier's website and carry-ons remain free. The airline apparently doesn't want to pay fees to Orbitz, Expedia and other travel sites.
But Spirit (SAVE) also found another way to nickel and dime its passengers. It plans to start charging $2 for coffee and soda.
Even if you're able to avoid the fees and add-ons, you're likely to find basic airfares are sharply higher than they were over the past few years –- in some cases 40 to 50 percent higher.
Partly this is because of rising demand. But industry consolidation –- i.e. mergers –- has a lot to do with it too.
In recent years, United has merged with Continental, Delta with Northwest, Southwest with Airtran, and most recently, US Airways with American. And that has reduced competition on certain well-traveled routes such as Chicago to Houston and Philadelphia to Miami.
So enjoy your summer vacation, but plan carefully.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg
16 Big Bubbles That Are Getting Ready To Burst
Midday Report: Airlines Hike Up Added Fees, Just in Time for Summer
What the experts say: "The cost of college textbooks has been rising at almost twice the rate of general CPI inflation for at least the last 30 years," according to Mark J. Perry, American Enterprise Institute. "As Glenn Reynolds reminds us, 'a process that cannot go on forever, won't,' and the college textbook bubble is certainly one of those processes."
Warning stat: First tier cities Beijing and Guangzhou saw home prices rise 3.1 percent in February, the biggest jumps in the country. Meanwhile, entire towns will go up in China with no inhabitants. These are China's notorious "ghost cities."
Warning stat: The "crypto currency" now trades at $63 -- double what it was at the beginning of March.
What the experts say: "In hindsight, the people who bid the price of Bitcoins up to $30 in 2011 may not have been so crazy after all. It just took the broader market, including me, a couple of years to catch up with them," according to Ars Technica's Timothy B. Lee.
Warning stat: Investors recently bid a record $3.16 for each dollar of the $2.011 trillion in bonds the U.S. government auctioned in 2012, Bloomberg says.
What the experts say: "Long-term interest rates are now unsustainably low, implying bubbles in the prices of bonds and other securities," warns economist Martin Feldstein. "When interest rates rise, as they surely will, the bubbles will burst, the prices of those securities will fall, and anyone holding them will be hurt."
Warning stat: American farmland prices continue to grow at a blazing hot double-digit rate. An industry group recently forecast that values could surge 15 percent to 20 percent in 2013.
What the experts say: "It doesn't have all the hallmarks of a bubble," according to Robert Shiller. "One of them is most people have never heard of it. In my view of a bubble, it's something that gets people excited. Well, some people are excited, but most people don't even know about it."
What the experts say: "The real question in my mind is, 'Are we possibly off to the races again?'" asked economist Robert Shiller. "I think in cities like Phoenix and San Francisco, we might be seeing something pretty big developing. People there are very speculative-minded."
Warning stat: Health care spending has grown 2.5 times faster than incomes over the past 30 years.
What the experts say: "The health care system in the U.S. reminds us somewhat ominously of the bubble in housing finance, a 'public/private partnership,'" says Citi's Steve Wieting. "Housing consumption still receives strong tax preferences, as does health insurance (reflecting underlying health care consumption). Most aptly, prior to quasi-nationalization, housing GSEs earned private profits from public subsidies for housing, as do U.S. health care providers."
Warning stat: Europe stabilized after ECB president Mario Draghi said, "Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough."
What the experts say: "To us the key word about the post summer 2012 Euro Area asset boom is that most of it is a bubble, and one which will burst at a time of its own choosing, even though we concede that ample liquidity can often keep bubbles afloat for a long time," warns Citi Chief Economist Willem Buiter.
Warning stat: Prices are up 47 percent year-over-year, and are sitting at an 8.5 year high of $432 per 1,000 board fee.
What the experts say: "Signs of a housing bubble in the world's most populous nation may force the Chinese government to take measures to 'draw air' out of the rising housing market and to clamp down on construction lending, which would likely put a significant dent in the demand for building materials such as Lumber and Copper," according to Mike Zarembski, OptionsXpress.
What the experts say: Jeff Gundlach notes that not only have wages not increased commensurate with tuition inflation, wages have actually been falling. "What have all these soaring tuition costs got you?" asked Gundlach rhetorically.
Warning stat: Craft beer production surged 15 percent year-over-year in 2012.
What the experts say: Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch says most stores have reached their limit for carrying new breweries, and that too many breweries are making similar beers without adding anything to the market.
Warning stat: Canadian home prices mirrored the U.S. housing rally. However, Canadian prices never fell. A recent Canadian Housing Affordability study says the country's home market is 10 percent overvalued.
What the experts say: "I worry that what is happening in Canada is kind of a slow-motion version of what happened in the U.S," said Robert Shiller.
What the experts say: "What we find is that Bernanke does not have nearly as great a track record on inflation as he thinks he has. Greenspan could not see that the housing market was an inflated bubble. Evidently Bernanke cannot see that the stock market is an inflated bubble."