4 Secrets to Getting the Lowest Rate From Travel Websites


Personalization is the next big thing in tech. Google customizes your search results when you're logged in to your Google account. And if you often see the same ads on multiple websites, it's because the ad network's algorithms suggest that you'd be interested in those products.

All this personalization is supposed to provide you with a better browsing experience. But in reality, its main purpose is to sell you the most relevant products and improve the bottom line for e-businesses.

This is not a big problem when it comes to ads because you're not paying for them. But when you're about to make travel bookings online, the website can use personalization tools to coax you into paying more.

Here are some tricks of the trade on how you can pay less by going incognito when you book a trip.

Hide Your Cookies

Travel booking sites often use cookies to track your activity and use the information to raise prices when they can. For example, if you've been coming back to the same website to search for a particular airfare, the reservation system knows that you're really interested in that fare and that you probably would still purchase it even if the price goes up. (See also: 10 Ways to Get Free Airline Tickets)

To prevent travel booking sites from using your browsing history against you, all you have to do is clear the cookies stored on your Internet browser. The exact steps to do this are different depending on your browser, so use the browser's Help function for directions. Or you might use the "Incognito" feature of your browser, which deletes cookies when you close the window.

Alternatively, you can use a different computer to make the booking. This is much easier and more straightforward if you have access to more than one computer.

Interrogate Your Operating System

Last year, Orbitz made the news when it became apparent that they were showing different search results for Windows users and Mac users.

According to media coverage, Orbitz pushes higher priced options to people who make their bookings on Apple devices. Apparently, Orbitz noticed that Mac users spend up to 30% more than Windows users on travel and are 40% more likely than Windows users to book rooms at four- and five-star hotels. In this particular case, personalization meant that Mac users are sometimes shown more expensive hotels on Orbitz. (See also: 10 Surprising Marketing Tricks)

Fortunately, whether you're using Mac or PC, the price for any particular hotel room on Orbitz is the same. Orbitz only plays with the order in which the hotels are displayed, showing the pricier hotels first for Mac users. In other words, you can change the search results simply by choosing the option to sort the results by price.

Dump Your Frequent Flier ID

Airline websites often allow you to input your frequent flier ID when you search for airfares. Because the reservation system may have numerous fare classes, you may end up paying different prices for the same seat, depending on whether you check the fares using your frequent flier ID. (See also: Earning Miles Without Flying)

If you belong to an airline's loyalty program, check the fares twice: once with your frequent flier ID and once without it.

Don't Give Away the Number in Your Party

If you travel as a group, you could be paying more for your airfares than you would if you were traveling alone.

Airline reservation systems have multiple airfare classes and a set number of seats in any particular class. This is not about whether you book seats in the economy class or the first class. In economy class alone, there could be 10 different price classes.

If you purchase a ticket for a lone traveler, the system would show you the airfare with the lowest price. Simple enough.

It gets complicated when you make a booking for multiple travelers. In any one reservation, the system only allows you to book all tickets at the same price point. This means that if there's only one seat left in the lowest price point, all the passengers in your party would be moved up to a higher airfare class that has enough empty seats.

For example, let's assume that you can book the last ticket in the cheapest airfare class at $150. But because you travel with a friend, the system bumps both of you up to a higher price point, at $200 per person. You would end up paying $400 for both passengers instead of $350 (one airfare at $150 and another one at $200).

To avoid paying more than you have to, perform multiple searches. For example, find out how much the airfare costs for one passenger and for two passengers. If the price per person is the same for both options, go ahead and book both passengers on the same reservation. Otherwise, split the purchase into two reservations to take advantage of the one available cheaper seat. (See also: Best Travel Reward Cards)

This technique has its drawbacks, though. You may have to pay extra fees to select your seats so everyone sits together. Also, if you run into delays and the airline has to rebook your seats, the airline may not know that your group travels together and you may end up on different flights.

Have you discovered any fare or fee quirks when booking travel? Please share in comments!

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