Cheaper holidays may be impossible if you let airlines track your data – here’s how to avoid it

With the pandemic finally seeming to start to ease, travel restrictions lifting and holidaymakers getting to travel more freely again, more of us are starting to look at booking holidays abroad.

Package companies like TUI , Loveholidays and OntheBeach have all got sales, discounts and deals for customers looking to get away from it all, whether for a last minute Easter break or planning further ahead for the summer holidays.

But anyone looking at flights to travel independently for the first time since covid emerged might find themselves in for a shock, with prices having rocketed to popular destinations thanks to the double whammy of increased fuel prices, and airlines seemingly keen to make back some of the money they lost from having so many flights grounded during the series of lockdowns.

As an example, British Airways was charging £3,145.10 for three adults and two children to fly from London to Tampa, Florida in May 2020 in standard economy class with baggage. For the exact same dates two years later the same journey is priced at £4,678.60, an increase of 49 per cent.

While last minute travel packages can often see holidaymakers bag a bargain if they’re flexible about when and where they want to go, often last minute flights are more expensive because airlines know that if people are booking at short notice it tends to be either for business or as an emergency and as such they will pay whatever is necessary to get to where they need to go.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some tips and tricks to get deals on flights. Here’s some of the tips you need to know.

Be careful what you’re sharing

Gone are the days where being offered a cookie was a positive thing, nowadays every site has a pop-up warning that they want to save a little piece of code to your device to remember where you’ve been and what you’ve searched for.

This cookie allows sites to track whether you’ve looked at a particular product, or in this case a flight, before. Industry watchers have warned that if you repeatedly search for the same destinations your intent to book means airlines increase the prices they quote you for your routes. The logic behind this is that raising prices, even by just a little, pressures you to book immediately because you feel a sense of urgency that if you don’t fares will increase even higher.

While some debate remains over whether this is still the case, you can remove the risk of this happening by shopping for flights in incognito mode or clearing your cache between visits so airlines don’t bump up the flights because they know you’re keen to book them.

It’s not just cookies that can bump up the price of your flight. Airlines set their prices based on a wide range of factors, from what their competitors are doing through to whether it’s a bank holiday or a peak time, but obviously these factors vary from country to country.

Using a VPN allows you to change your IP address to another location and keep your browsing activity totally anonymous. As well as being secure online practice and eliminating the risk of the cookie issue above, this can actually save you money on your flights because, for example, you can book a flight from a US site rather than a UK one for the same company, where prices may be different.

This is particularly useful when looking at American holidays because US schools go back in mid-August meaning US companies’ peak summer holiday booking period ends before UK-based schools go back.

To get an overview on what’s available, use a flight comparison tool like SkyScanner with a VPN like NordVPN to see the different options available.

Pick your moment

According to analysis by travel giant Expedia, other ways to cut the prices of your flight include keeping an eye on not just when you want to fly but also the day of the week you book it.

Firstly, plan in advance. If you want to fly this summer then now is the time to be booking your flight – ideally snap your international flights up three to four months in advance to get the lowest prices.

Ideally book your flight on a Sunday. Expedia data says this could save you 15 per cent on the price of an international flight compared to booking it on a Friday. Meanwhile, to maximise the saving start your trip on a Friday not a Wednesday to save 10{e9f0aada585b9d73d0d08d3c277fd760092386ec23cac37d50f4b8cd792b062a}. And more generally it’s cheaper to start a trip later in the week (between Wednesday and Saturday) than at the beginning Sunday to Tuesday).

Speaking of Expedia , the travel brand is worth scoping out for flights in their own right. The team at Money Saving Expert recommend finding using flight aggregator sites like Kayak or Google Flights to look for deals because they have access to pricing that may be cheaper even than going to an airline direct.

MSE also suggests that, assuming you’re more laid back about the details, nowadays often booking a package deal can be cheaper than buying individual components like hotels and flights elsewhere.

Loyalty can pay, sometimes

Savvy shoppers, of course, know the value of looking around to bag a bargain. But once you do plump for an airline make sure you do a little additional research before you click that buy button.

While gone are the days of epic discounts and upgrades courtesy of Air Miles and the like, airlines such as British Airways , Virgin and Emirates all have loyalty programmes which will give you points, a slight discount or additional perks as a member. Make sure you scope them out and join before you buy – or get your spend added after the fact if possible.

British Airways’ scheme, Avios , and Virgin both offer credit cards which give you points bonuses. While getting into debt isn’t going to ever save you money, if you’re the kind of shopper who puts things on a credit card and pays it off at the end of the month you can definitely save faster to get points to spend on discounted travel.