We’ve all been there.

You go back to purchase the flight you’ve been comparing…and it’s higher.

Yes, it may be that you just missed the deal. But with airlines and hotel’s use of dynamic pricing the rate given to you may differ based on whether you have visited and searched for airfare or accommodation on the website.

Plus, the same rate you see may be higher than another person.

What Exactly is Dynamic Pricing?

The fact is that in today’s market airline prices and hotel rates are not the same for everyone. As airlines and hotels seek to maximize revenue and fill their seats they adjust rates to try to reflect the maximum price a customer is willing to pay.

This is accomplished when airlines use pricing bots that collect data from every user visiting their website.

Throw in some algorithms and a pricing strategy and voila! the price is adjusted to what they think you’ll pay.

You can think of it as a supply and demand pricing scheme in a real-time market.

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But Wait, How Does Dynamic Pricing Work?

Ultimately the price shown to you is a result of the company’s pricing bots and algorithms. Not all airlines and travel sites use dynamic pricing (skyscanner.com for example), but it’s more common than not.

Some factors that determine the rate include IP address, time of day, day of the week, customer demand and if you have visited the website before.

This information is collected for every traveler visiting the website, which is fed into an algorithm and instantly predicts a price that you are likely to pay, which is displayed to you.

Here are two examples of it at work:

  1. You’ve been checking the fare on the same flight multiple times all week. With the use of cookies stored in your browser the airline tracks your visits and may show you a higher price on your subsequent visit.
  2. A traveler searching for airfare from Los Angeles on 9 AM Monday morning may see a completely different fare than someone browsing from Anchorage, Alaska at Midnight on Sunday.

This can be incredibly annoying for the frequent traveler who is always in search of the best travel deals. The good news is that you can outsmart the system with a few strategies and avoid paying a higher fare.

How to Hack Dynamic Pricing

When searching for the best travel deals today, you have to outsmart the computers. One method is simple and can be used freely by anyone, while the other is better suited for diehard travel deal hunters.

Clear Your Cookies

A quick way to tell if you are being taken for a ride with the price you’re given is to clear your cookies or search for the same flight using private browsing (Firefox) or incognito mode (Chrome). You’ll be able to detect if dynamic pricing is being used if a different price is displayed.

Browsing in these modes prevents your browser history and cookies from being stored, which can be used against you when searching for travel deals. If you want to go the extra step to just to be sure, you can do all you’re searching for flights and hotels using on one browser and make the purchase using another.

Use a VPN

Avoiding cookies is easiest enough for even the most beginner travel hackers, but it won’t allow you to avoid dynamic pricing completely. You may be seeing a higher (or lower) price based on your location and IP address.

To get around this you’ll need to trick the airlines’ website into thinking you are in a different location than where you are browsing from. This is done using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). You can read more about how they work here.

A VPN works by allowing you to browse a website with a IP address from a differnt location. This way you can compare fares for the same flight from different locations—whether it’s another city or different country. You can booked the cheapest fare you find and end up saving a lot of money.

If VPNs are new to you, there are tons of options available. One of my favorites is ExpressVPN, which not only one of the biggest VPN providers out there, but they also offer a 30 day money back guarantee.

Have other useful travel hacking tips? Share them below!

About the author

Rand Shoaf

Introduced to traveling at a young age, Rand has since traveled to over 45 countries. Learning how to maximize credit card sign-up bonuses in college has allowed him to earn millions of travel miles and points. Using the same tips and tricks he writes about here has ultimately allowed him to explore the word for pennies on the dollar.