Has this happened to you? You query airfare for your upcoming vacation. You step away for a moment. When you come back to purchase that airfare, poof! It’s gone, replaced by a higher fare. Maybe it’s only $10, or maybe it’s an all-out frustrating $100 increase. So where did that first price go? Is it really gone?
Perhaps the airline sold out of seats at that first price when you stepped away. Or maybe something a bit more nefarious is going on. Here are 6 tips for online searches of airfare or hotel room rates to ensure you get the best available rates at that moment in time.
1. Search Using Different Web Browsers
Do you typically search airfare prices and hotel room rates with the same web browser? Next time, try searching on a different web browser. You may be surprised by the results! One web browser might just have a slightly different fare than the other browser. Reason? Could be a pesky cookie is to blame. See #6 for more about cookies.
What I do: I search air and hotel fares on at least two different web browsers. Google, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer are my most frequently used browsers, and I mix up which ones I use for travel searches.
2. Search Both Websites and Mobile Apps
Search prices at both an airline or hotel’s website and their mobile app, then compare prices for any potential price differences. Also search aggregate travel sites like Hipmunk, Skyscanner and Kayak. They provide great price benchmarks as well as pricing options and availability across different airlines and hotels. More information leads to more informed pricing, and better decision making when it’s time to book.
What I do: I search fares on my mobile device, using my preferred mobile apps as well as the specific travel website. Then I repeat my search on my computer. Most times the fares are the same. Sometimes, they are not.
3. Search when Logged Out. Search when Logged In.
Are you searching fares on a favorite hotel or airline’s website or app? One where you are a registered member? Try searching first as a guest, or not logged in. Then log into your member account and search again. Who knows? There might be a deal for guests or non-members, in the hopes of encouraging them to become members. Or there might be a members-only exclusive deal you can snag once you identify yourself as a member.
What I do: I check airfare and hotel rates both as a website guest and as a valued member. I’ve successfully booked travel deals both ways.
4. Search Through All The Fares
Don’t assume the first rates shown are the lowest rates available. Website algorithms are pretty advanced these days! They might slip a higher rate up top if the website knows you’ve previously searched that destination. Or they might place first those rates their cookies suggest would “best fit” your profile. Even if they don’t best-fit! Pesky cookies.
What I do: I scroll through the listed rates to find one that meets my travel needs. Where it’s an option, I request fares to be shown in order of least expensive to most expensive.
5. Search Using a Friend’s Computer or Mobile Device
Not sure you’ve found the best rate? Concerned about cookies? Try searching fares on someone else’s computer or mobile device (assuming they aren’t searching the same fares). This lets you search with a “clean slate.” No user profiles created based on your searches. No cookies stored with your recent travel search information.
What I do: If I suspect flight-price swings or hotel-fare oddities linked to prior searches, I ask a friend or family member to repeat my search on her computer or mobile device.
6. Search after Clearing Cookies
Big brother – also known as your favorite airline or hotel website – might be watching! And dropping a few cookies onto your computer. Clearing cookies of previous travel searches should provide a clean slate from which to build your newest travel search.
What’s a cookie? A cookie is a digital trail created by website or Internet based application and saved to the device you are searching with. Cookies help websites quickly identify your profile. Cookies can also allow websites to track your individual preferences and browsing habits. That includes your travel searches!
Why are cookies important? Your previously searched travel websites may leave behind cookies containing snippets of information about your search patterns. Potential result? Maybe a higher price on your next search. Or maybe a higher fare is presented first, and the lowest price is further down the list. Is this an urban myth? Or reality? Hmmm. Certainly food for thought!
What I do: I assume cookies are a reality, and can impact travel fares presented to me.
What I don’t do: I don’t always clear my cookies before every search. Perhaps I should, but that’s a lot of work for this non-techie! That’s why I search utilizing these five other aforementioned techniques.
How Do You Search Online Travel Fares
Changing how you search for that airline ticket or hotel room rate may result in better prices. Whenever I search airfare or hotel rates, I employ at least two different search methods. This gives me the confidence that I am finding the best-fit price at that moment in time. Searching via alternate methods can, and does, make a difference in finding your best-fit online airfare and hotel rates.
Do you search online airfare and hotel prices by different methods? Do you have your own tips? Are you concerned about the potential impact of cookies in your prices? Or is that just an urban myth? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments!