With sky high fuel prices, one of the major deterrents to travel, especially for families, is really expensive air fair. Like most people, including myself, you most likely spend a lot of time on different travel sites, searching for the best deal. I remember tracking tickets for a few months, checking the rates every day, before finding the lowest price, and finally clicking “buy tickets” overjoyed at what I used to think were savings of at least a few hundred dollars.
Well guess what? If you do the same thing, then like me and many others unaware users of such websites as Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, etc, you fall pray to an elaborate scheme to actually get you to spend more money on air fair, while tricking you into thinking that you are spending less. The good news is that once you know how the system works, you can actually beat it, and in fact realize some great savings on air fairs to your dream destinations.
Mechanisms used by travel sites to jack up prices
Unfortunately, average consumers/internet users are not privy to know the full arsenal of advanced algorithms that travel sites use do determine prices that show up on your computer screen, but here are some common ones:
– Companies track your cookies, IP address, history of other ticket purchases, and a slew of other parameters to determine your individual price. Your IP address can be traced back to your physical address, which means that companies adjust their prices based on your location. People living in certain states, cities, and neighborhoods that are considered more affluent will see higher prices on their computer screens than people who live in other locations.
– Companies target particular categories of users and display higher prices. For example, Mac users typically get higher prices in their searches, because they are in considered to be in a more affluent socio-economic bracket.
-Consumers often buy what they see displayed at the top (first 10 options), despite the available search filters, so companies use this behavior to display more expensive tickets first.
– If you continue to hit the refresh button and fiddle with search options over a period of a few days, the price often goes up. In some cases, prices will even go up over a period of a few hours as you continue to search for the best deal.
– When you search, you get a message that on the cheapest flight displayed there are only 2-4 seats left. This makes most people make a purchase, so as to not loose this deal.
– If you spend a long time on the site (2 hours +) searching for deals, the price will go up.
– If you start making similar search queries on different travel sites to get the best deal, the price on these other sites will go up.
Tips to beat the system
– Always turn on the incognito mode on your computer or laptop.
Ctrl + N in Chrome / Firefox.
Ctrl+Shift+P for Internet Explorer.
Settings > Private Browsing in Safari (no keyboard shortcut).
On Mac, use Command instead of Ctrl.
This mode is the equivalent of manually clearing your cache, your browsing history and signing out of every account.
– Make a search using a completely different IP address. There are sites on the internet that allow you to surf anonymously by hiding your IP address. For example, www.hidemyass.com offers free web proxy that works from inside of your browser, without finding and setting up PROXY servers manually.
– Use price filters offered on the sites
– Do your search quickly and try to stick to one site that you know
– Call the airlines that are displayed as having the cheapest tickets. There is a very high chance that you will actually get a better deal (save 10-15%) by dealing with them directly.