The hack that'll save you money when booking a holiday

DO you know about this clever hack? It could be the reason the "special deal" has now doubled in price!

Planning a family holiday can be a tricky and expensive business. From choosing the right destination and time of year with the best weather, to working out how to keep both the kids and adults entertained.

The biggest ticket items that can make or break a vacation before it even begins are often the flights and accommodation, so it's important to search and compare the options.

But what if that very thorough research was potentially making the prices go up, instead of locating the cheapest one?

We've all had it happen - you spot a cheap flight for an interstate trip in your lunch break and arrive home to book it that night only for it to be $50 more each way. And suddenly, the airline website knows exactly where you plan to fly to and how many passengers are travelling, not to mention flooding your inbox with tempting pictures of sandy beaches and hotel pools.

It's commonly reported by savvy travellers that online travel agency booking sites and airline websites use methods known as 'cookies' to track user browsing habits. It's no surprise when you see ads for hotels you've searched for come up in random other non-related websites and blogs you may scroll through that week.

Websites place these cookies - which are small computer files that let websites know if you've been on their page previously - on your computer to remember your name and address details.

Just as they store your information, they are following what travel routes and destinations you're interested in, and if you keep coming back to it, potentially causing some sites to raise the price as you become more likely to book the fare or hotel.

The same can be said for hotel websites, which are said to use cookies to see how many times you check rates for particular dates and may raise the price to make customers think the rooms are being booked and demand is high so you feel the urgency to book the room.

Skyscanner reports on its website that it doesn't use cookies to adjust prices, and that it only passes on the price provided by the airlines and online travel agents.

The good news is there are only a few clicks needed to stop these, and any other website for that matter, tracking your online holiday bargain hunting.

Firstly, put your browser in 'incognito' or 'private' mode before starting any searches. This stops your browser from saving information about what you do online to your computer or mobile device.

Any websites you visit in private mode won't show up in your history. This can also come in handy when searching for a present for your partner or kids and you don't want them to get any hints from your browsing! Those repeated ads that come up about the destination well after you've taken the trip will also stop appearing.

Step by step:

  • Click the menu button on your browser toolbar.
  • Choose the option to open a new incognito window.
  • A new incognito window will open with an incognito icon in the corner of it, so you will know which window is browsing in incognito mode. You can still use your other windows that are not marked with the incognito icon to browse as you normally would.

These are the options for the different browsers:

Chrome : Click More (menu icon), select incognito window.
Safari : Go to menu, click file and select private window
Firefox : Click More (menu icon), select incognito window.
Internet Explorer : Ctrl+Shift+P
Edge: Click More (the dots) and select InPrivate window.

The next step is to block cookies in your browser's settings menu, and don't accept them when using travel booking websites where possible. Be sure to delete the browser history and cookies from previous searches too.

While it's yet to be proven that travel websites do use cookies to manipulate prices, budget savvy mums have shared on Facebook that they've noticed the difference in fares dependant on the device they've searched on.

Janica Place noticed just how much prices jumped after days of researching the same flight routes. On her last trip, from Melbourne to Finland's capital, Helsinki, with her two sons, the mum from Torquay took a clever way around the search history tracking used by some websites.

"I searched flights on my laptop and booked the same ones on my phone," she told Kidspot. "The website remembered which flights I was after and the dates. We saved $500 doing it this way for three people return, just because I hadn't searched that destination before on the other device. It's crazy and so wrong!"

She has since used this method for all her travel bookings. "I have two devices open at the same time and use one to search and the other to book, and it works."

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.