Reminder: Travel Websites Are Cookie Monsters

Reminder: Travel Websites Are Cookie Monsters

If you’ve saved your annual leave for these colder months to get away for some sun elsewhere, congrats, that’s a good move — and you might save yourself a few hundred dollarydoos by simply hopping over to the laptop next to you.

Travel websites like Expedia use cookies to detect how many times you’ve been there and looked at the same trip, with the accepted wisdom being that the first time you visit is to check prices, and the second time is to book.

Can this be manipulated? You betcha.

If you’re like me at all, you’re checking upwards of five times in a fit of paranoia, especially if you’re booking big trips for other people. And if you’re like me, you have more than one computer in the house and don’t want to bother with deleting browser data. So where possible, compare prices from one computer, while saving a fresh one for the actual booking.

Once you’re ready to go ahead, hop over to workstation #2. Maybe it’s your own laptop or tablet, maybe it’s your partner or friend’s computer, it doesn’t really matter. The result can be almost $200 for each return overseas flight, if you’re heading to the other side of the planet.

I put this into practice recently with several trips to Oman. Each return trip had $US150 extra tacked on until I commandeered the laptop next to me. Voila — quite the savings, since I was booking for a whole group.

Image via Shutterstock


  • This is a rumour that’s never been proven. To be frank, airline pricing is not clever enough for that.

  • I work in the industry, there’s two different things here. Airline pricing is highly sophisticated at maximising overall yield on a given flight by controlling the amount of seats available at a given rate given current demand and predicted demand, they then serve this availability to others (travel agents, booking websites, their own website etc). Travel websites (ie Expedia, Kayak) compete against each other to sell the same seats. They can all effectively access the same price that is served by the airline. The online players then play the discount/mark up game to maximise their yield. That’s where the cookie’s come in along with all sorts of other tactics like session based pricing and all sorts of user profiling. So yes, the airlines may not do this, but the online booking tools certainly do which is what the post is about.

  • Watch out for travel insurance providers too. I think it was 1Cover or TID.

    But as @askvictor recommends, incognito/private browsing is definitely your friend.

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