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Do airlines track you online to increase their rates?

Q: “Are airlines tracking my IP address with cookies? Each time I check, they INCREASE the price of flights. I’m traveling from Chicago Ohare to Heathrow, leaving Sept 19 departure and returning Sept 29. Each time I search the fare goes up!!! How do I stop them from identifying these flight searches?” -Pat M., New Windsor, Illinois – Listens on 1400 AM WGIL.

A: If you book your vacations online, you know that it can be fun and it can save you money. With a little time and effort, you can find low airfares and great deals on hotels and car rentals.

However, if you’re a seasoned traveler, or if you do a lot of research prior to booking your vacations, you know that it’s getting more and more costly to book your trips online. At least, it sure seems that way.

When it comes to booking flights, in particular, you can see prices going up in real time as you’re searching airfares online. That price surge is so common that it has become a bit of travel lore.

(Bonus: Click here to read our expert’s guide on how to save money on everything you buy online.)

Many people believe that the airlines track you online. If they see you’re searching for a particular destination a lot, say Los Angeles to Paris, they’ll start bumping up your price for that flight. You may end up sitting next to someone who paid a lot less for the same trip.

The reasoning is, if you’re really interested in taking a vacation to a specific destination, you’ll pay a lot to do it. So, the airlines bump up your price and you pay it.

It’s a win-win situation, but only for the airline. They get your money plus they get a higher price than you should be paying. You’re the loser in this deal.

That’s why you need to know this simple trick to get the airlines off your trail. Keep reading and I’ll show you how.

Hide Your Trip from the Airlines

Most airlines aren’t going to come right out and admit that they’re tracking you online. Still, airline executives over the years have strongly hinted that they do.

In fact, some airlines have said they increase your price, depending on the brand of computer you’re using. If you’re using an expensive laptop, they figure, you can pay more for your ticket.

They also track the websites you’re visiting because they can see your computer’s IP address. The IP address is a series of letters and numbers, like a serial number, that identifies your digital device.

The bad news is, those IP addresses are easy for companies to track. The good news is, it’s really simple to trick the airlines so they can’t tell that you’re eager to book a flight to a destination.

You just need to go incognito. That’s easy to do.

When you’ve got your browser open and you revisit a travel site, or any site, your browser remembers that you’ve been there before. That’s usually helpful, but not when you want to trick the airline-booking site.

To use private mode, or incognito mode, you’ll want to go to your browser’s menu and select it. Keep reading for directions for Chrome and Firefox. If you use a different web browser, these directions will give you a pretty good idea how you can get into incognito mode.

Chrome: Right-click on the Google Chrome icon >> select New Incognito Window

Firefox: Click on the menu in the upper-right corner (three horizontal lines) >> select New Private Window

Bonus: Keep reading for more tips to save money on airfares

More ways to save on airfares

If you find that airfares are still too high, even after going incognito, try these tricks. If you ask people who travel a lot, like every week for work, they’ll rattle off one or two tricks to save money on airfares.

However, not all travelers know all the tricks. Here, we’ve got a few ways for you to save money:

  1. Compare airports – Look at fares at nearby airports that may have cheaper flights.
  2. Know when to book your flights – Do not book online on weekends. That’s when most people are planning vacations, so prices are at their highest; try a less busy time such as Tuesday afternoon.
  3. Book flights on these less-traveled days: You will find flights are less expensive on days less-traveled. Saturday and Monday through Thursday are your best options.
  4. Shop around: Even if you always book your flights on a website you like, check fares on other sites before you book your flight.
  5. Stop! Before you pay for a flight, check an airline’s fees for luggage, seats and more – some airlines offer low prices for the flight then sock you with big fees for everything else.

Those are just a few money-saving ideas. If you know of others, please tell us about them in the comments.

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