Let’s say you’re finally going to check off that travel bucket list and want to find the best deals online. You likely click in to your internet browser of choice and either check a price comparison site, like Kayak, or search for the lowest price on Google Flights, right?
It turns out, there may be one key step you’re missing in the process—and that’s searching with a private browser function like Google Chrome’s incognito mode.
Why conceal your identity? According to marketing strategist Jane Garcia Buhks, it comes down to cookies, the tiny bits of data websites gather about you when you visit.
“Websites want to learn as much as possible about the people who visit them, [and] internet browsers track what we do while we’re using them—where we are, what sites we visit, what info we type into web forms. They store that information,” she explains.
While most booking websites use that data for more transparent reasons, like optimizing user experience and improving future marketing tactics, some may also be using it to calculate prices for every individual based on factors like income and address—meaning the prices you see may not necessarily be the lowest prices available.
Though Buhks says booking sites haven’t yet admitted to using this tactic, referred to as dynamic pricing, she does think there’s enough proof out there of its existence: “It’s been studied by researchers, investigated by journalists, and, most recently, called out by politicians.” Private browsing, however, limits the amount of user information websites have access to, and the information they do acquire during the search is lost when you close your browser. (Another tip Buhks recommends for finding the true lowest price out there? “When using an aggregator or travel booking site like Google Flights, Expedia, or Kayak, always compare the price they present you with the price offered from that airline [site itself].”) In other words, learning to fly under the radar could save you serious cash.
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