Advanced Flight Search Hacks That Most People Don’t Know
Getting cheap flights is possible with the advent of top flight search engines like Google Flight, Kayak or Skyscanner. It saves plenty of time and money to look for for the cheapest flight based on your travel itinerary. While there is no 100% foolproof way, you could use this guide to save that extra travel expense on something better.
Making use of the basic hacks to find cheap flights that were explained in my other article is sufficient to garner the best flight deals. But do you know that there is an additional hack you could do beyond the basic hacks?
While it’s helpful to use major flight search engine to find the best rate in town, there are hidden tricks you could use to leverage the flight price you find on these flight search engine.
1. Clearing Browser Cookies & Caches After Each Visit / Using Anonymous Browser
Most airline websites and flight search tools stores cookies (not edible cookies!) on your browser, whenever you visit their sites. Generally, it’s not just these sites, but applicable to almost any sites out there.
Why store cookies? Because it’s easier to analyze your search pattern and how you use the site. It reveals your browsing habit and obtains your physical location by storing tracking cookies on your browser.
Most sites will claim this is untrue or just a myth but they can’t prove them wrong. Flight guru Johnny Jet has explained this well while making a flight search.
The price fluctuates depends on your search patterns- when you make a comeback, it turns out as high in demand, prices could hike anytime sooner.
On the other hand, if you cleared the browser cookies/caches and come back for the same search after a while, the price may turn out to be less. It’s really unpredictable.
Not convinced? Check out below
My Real Example While Using Skyscanner
I have tested doing the flight search on Skyscanner using Microsoft Edge, my I.P location was in Malaysia, and this is the result before and after clearing the cookies and caches in the browser.
Before clearing the browser cookies/caches (Total price was RM494)
- Searched for Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, with specific airline (Vietnam Airlines)
- At the Agent Booking Site, the price comes out in U.K currency, in conversion will be RM494 (see below)
After clearing the browser cookies and back with same search (Total price become RM417)
This probably makes sense when you can see the price difference. While this can’t be the 100% exact evidence of price changes due to the tracking cookies, it somehow raises question how the price fluctuate within the short time.
So ensure that you clear your cookies and caches from the browser for the next search when you frequent the site.
How to Clear Cookies On Your Browser
Before revisiting a flight search engine and other airlines sites, follow these simple steps below to clear your browser cookies.
Check here for noob-friendly, simple guide on how to clear cookies on your browser.
2. Use Proxy or VPN to Book Outward Flight from Other Countries
Booking an outward domestic/international flight while in the same country could possibly affect the prices compared when done from another country.
Almost all flight search and airline sites track the location from where you are browsing their sites. This is all about taking advantage of the point-of-sale and leveraging foreign currency cross borders.
For example, if you are booking an outward flight online on websites from an international or domestic airline in another country – while you are in the U.S, the prices might be exorbitant since you are booking from an unfamiliar location.
When you make the booking, you shall use the credit card and charge in that country’s currency. While there might be some small surcharge for the credit card (on top of bank surcharge), it’s way cheaper getting a flight by this method.
Some travel booking sites don’t charge any fees if you use a specific debit card (like Visa Electron/MasterCard Debit, but that may only applicable on few booking sites. One example is Budget Air (see below)
Why the Price Difference & How Proxy / VPN can help
The trick behind this is the visitors to the sites are tracked based on the I.P address, which reveals your actual geo-location as a visitor from another country. Since you are making a request from a non-domestic location, it may be taken as an advantage to scale up a premium price rather than the usual rate.
Using proxy/VPN helps mask your location as if you are in that country and you may avoid that surcharge for booking from an unfamiliar places. Some countries restrict certain privilege or special offer for online booking specific to local visitors patronizing the site.
I can prove you with an example with my other article below;
Using Proxy On Your Internet Browser
You may use manually set-up proxy on your web browser before surfing to any sites. There is also dedicated software that you could purchase for a very affordable rate with a good proxy connection, but that is not what I will suggest you do. But if you plan to use this long term to surf anonymously, and protect your privacy while being online. It definitely a good investment.
Since you will just use this to search for flights on the airline sites, you can find tons of free proxy server online. Just google the word “free proxy server list” and you can find many proxies list that you could use online. It’s very hard to find free working proxies online but you could find one that works.
To set them up manually on your specific browser – Read here
Alternatively, if you don’t want the hassle of setting them up manually, you can browse from Hide.me site.
Note that most free proxies that you use may place you as an anonymous (pointing you to a different location around the world) but in most case, you can be still unmasked from certain websites as there are different types of proxies. So the next best thing is using VPN to 100% protect you anonymously from other websites.
Using VPN on Specific Site
Recently I have experimented using location based VPN on several search engine to find out if there is actually a price difference. I used Kayak on two different I.P location, the United States, and the United Kingdom. I also used on two different browsers, on Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome.
The flight route is from London (Heathrow) to Dubai (DXB) and I compared on the same exact airline and time of departure/landing.
Surprisingly, here is the result I have got.
Using United Kingdom I.P address on Chrome Browser. The total price including tax is about £272. I went on to check if a transaction can be made with foreign credit card, eventually, there is an option to use them.
And using the United States I.P address on Edge Browser. The total price including tax came about £325 (conversion from $417). Again on the agent check-out page, there is no restriction on using a foreign credit card for booking.
This shows that the first search came out £272 (using local U.K location) and £325 while using U.S location, and that’s almost £50 difference for the same exact airline. Even it’s a different booking agent site, the prices varies. Can you spot the difference?
Although I can’t speculate exactly what are the reason behind this change but it clearly shows that revealing the location of you browsing the site has a certain advantage to the booking site or airline agency to analyze your background, and could leverage the point-of-sale and currency rate from a different country.
While this is just to show you that sites storing cookies on your browser and revealing your real location might be used to analyze your search pattern and background, using VPN for that sole purpose to protect your privacy is a not major reason. On the other hand, VPN has some good advantage that is to protect your privacy from intrusive online hackers.
Read – How Using VPN Helps While Traveling & Protects Your Online Privacy
To use a good VPN service with fast speed, unlimited location base, high performance, and security will cost you money. Well, it isn’t the most expensive thing to spend, but if you are thinking of long-term use to protect privacy and access forbidden sites in your region while traveling (like China) it is definitely worth.
But if you are just going to use this on specific task then there free VPN you can use, there is a trial version or even free VPN, not as good as the paid service but you could use this for a quick fix on anything that you had planned to get access.
Using the Free VPN
Since you will be using this to make yourself anonymous with the location from a specific country, you could try free VPN service below. This VPN service is free to use and has pretty good review and performance.
- Hide.me – Free, available on all devices (mobile & tablets)
- Hola.org – Free VPN, widely used, peer-based.
If you like to try the Paid Version of VPN that allows you to use all the functionality, you could try HideAll Ip with 3 Days Trial. They have easy to use interface, fast connection, and highly anonymous with more than 150 servers. You can use the trial license with full access for three days.
HideAll IP VPN – Surf Anonymously and Protect Your Privacy
Alternative Method – Using Tor Browser
Alternatively, to remain anonymous while browsing the airline, flight search engine or just any sites, you could use Tor browser. It is trusted free software for personal use. Even used by some businesses, activists, media and military and law enforcement.
Tor Browser is blocked in certain countries. So if you are unable to access the download file from the Tor Project site, use the links below;
- Use the mirror at GitHub – link here
- Download Tor Browser Using Robot via email or from your Twitter Account – read here
3. Search Flights at Certain Time of The Day
Do you know that price can fluctuate depends on the time of your flight search? – and it can be huge difference sometimes, I usually search for flight during off-peak on weekdays and often during wee hours in the morning.
The reason is simply – flight search and airline sites regulate the price based on demand. When you check for flight price during the day and compare it while checking it after midnight, there is a chance of price difference.
If you check the price on low peak hours, there will be a difference. Of course, the base price is there, but you could save that unnecessary fare increase due to demand at these hours.