Are you part of the group of internet users that don’t get to see the very cheapest rates when they use websites like Cheaptickets or Orbitz to book a flight or a hotel? You may be surprised by the prices you’ll find if you use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to hide your browsing data and/or spoof your location when you look for travel deals.
Six years ago, investigators discovered that some sites were equipped with filters that block certain demographics from viewing the best prices. Today, almost all the major e-commerce sites are probably using price discrimination technology.
Unless you protect your anonymity, travel websites will try to use your personal information against you in order to get you to spend extra cash on tickets.
Want to override their blocks and gain full access to the very best bargains? Read on to find out how to get flight discounts and hotel discounts by using a VPN.
Different prices for different demographics
Most popular travel sites are using so-called “price steering” technology to guide some of their web visitors toward higher plane ticket prices.
According to a story published by the Washington Post, sometimes only users logging into travel sites via Windows computers can find the very cheapest travel deals. Mac users are frequently shown higher prices.
But operating system type is only one of many variables that travel sites are using to get consumers to pay more. The type of device you’re using and the country you live in are also parts of the equation.
But if you use VPN technology, you can fool travel websites into thinking that you’re logging on to the web from the other side of the planet.
How to find cheaper tickets with a VPN
In order to get the best bargains on flights and hotels, the first thing you should do is sign up with a VPN service provider. Next, download the software and login to a VPN server that’s located in a different country. Then, search the foreign version of the travel site and see if you can find a better deal.
That’s pretty much all there is to it.
The VPN service I use is called IPVanish. I like it because it’s fast, cheap and easy to use. Here’s what the basic IPVanish interface looks like.
All you have to do to log in is click the “connect” button. If you want to connect to a server in a different country to see if you can find a better deal on tickets or hotels, you have 60 different options.
With servers in 60 countries around the world, IPVanish is one of the largest VPN networks out there today. In my opinion, it’s the best VPN service to use if you want to find better deals on flights and hotels.
Proof that travel websites really do hide the best deals from certain locations
I currently live in Budapest. But if I use IPVanish, the same plane ticket sometimes costs more or less depending on which server I use to log in. Sometimes I’m able to find really good plane ticket discounts.
I recently logged in to the Hungarian version of skyscanner to look for a plane ticket from JFK to BUD with my VPN off.
The screenshot above shows that the cheapest option on the list is an Aeroflot airlines ticket that costs 169,753 Hungarian forints ($608 USD).
But when I logged into IPVanish’s New York server and searched using the English language version of Skyscanner, I found a different price for the same exact ticket.
As you can see, the flight query is exactly the same in both screenshots. The flight arrivals and departures and the airports are identical. The only difference is that the first time I looked, the Skyscanner algorithm saw that I was logged on to the web in Budapest. The second time, I fooled the algorithm into believing that I was accessing the web from NYC– and it jacked up the price.
As a result of spoofing my location, I was able to see that Americans have to pay more to buy this particular ticket.
Sometimes, prices are actually lower instead of higher when I log in from the USA or other countries. That’s why I always try logging in from several different locations before I buy. It’s possible to save around hundred dollars every time you fly if you spend enough time checking out the prices in different areas.
Why do businesses offer different prices to different groups of people?
Sites that show higher prices to consumers that are willing to pay more most likely make a lot more money compared to sites that do not.
When reporters initially discovered that sites are using price discrimination technology back in 2010, the sites involved received a ton of negative press. But the experiment above proves that Skyscanner is still concealing its best deals from certain groups.
If Skyscanner is willing to risk bad press for higher profits, it’s highly likely that Orbitz, Priceline and the rest are still using price discrimination filters as well.
Besides geographic location, what other factors affect the prices I see on travel sites?
Nobody knows for sure. Online businesses aren’t legally obligated to disclose the way they show prices to different groups of consumers.
The researchers that conducted the initial study on price discrimination were never able to determine all the factors that site algorithms process before they output consumer prices. The only thing they were able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt is that price discrimination is real– and that lots of sites were using the technology to boost their profits.
Aside from plane fare and hotel discounts, what other kinds of deals can I find with a VPN?
According to the investigative report published on The Washington Post, travel websites weren’t the only ones using price discrimination to offer different deals to different groups of people located in different parts of the world. Retailers were using price steering technology, too.
The researchers found that some groups of people have to pay more to buy the same exact DVD online when they shop on Amazon. Other sites that use price discrimination include Home Depot, Sears, Cheaptickets, Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity.
Today, it’s safe to assume that just about every major online business is using some type of price steering technology to extract extra money out of their customers.
Sign up for a free trial of IPVanish today and see if you can find lower prices
Once you sign up for IPVanish, you get a full week to check out the service.
Here are a few more reasons why we think IPVanish is the all-around best VPN network out there today:
- [su_service title=”Multi-Device Support” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472374047_04.png”]IPVanish has apps for your android box, computer and mobile devices.[/su_service]
- [su_service title=”Complete Privacy” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472373129_lock.png”]No one (including your ISP) can see what you’re watching. End to end encryption.[/su_service]
- [su_service title=”No Logs” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472373440_12.File_.png”]IPVanish does not collect or log any traffic or use of its VPN service.[/su_service]
- [su_service title=”7-Day Money-Back Guarantee” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472373234_circle-dollar.png”]Test it out! See the difference or get your money back.[/su_service]
Bonus: AddonHQ readers will also receive 25% off their first month’s payment on any plan.
Alex Munkachy is a freelance writer, game developer and hobby robotics enthusiast. You can find his blog about robotics news and reviews at robotfanatics.com.