The browser you use could save you on vacations

February 25, 2011 5:08:54 PM PST
Spring break is right around the corner and summer is not far behind, so it's time to start planning vacations. Before you turn to travel web sites, you may be surprised by just how much the price can change if you search more than one time.

When Hindi Golden and her family travels, she carefully searches the web for a good deal. But what if she found out a travel site wasn't actually giving her the lowest price?

"I would be annoyed," she said. "I would be. I probably wouldn't use that site again."

"Believe it or not, just using a different browser can get you a dramatically lower travel deal," said Lisa Lee Freeman with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart learned this when it searched for the same itinerary at the same time on the Expedia travel site using two different browsers -- Safari and Firefox. It turns out the flight was $718 lower using the Firefox browser.

"Travel sites can track your searches," said Freeman. "We checked a flight twice on Safari and once on Firefox. And what we learned is that if you check a flight more than once, the cheapest fare can disappear."

Expedia insists pricing is not affected by previous searches. Still, ShopSmart advises removing cookies that track those searches. To remove cookies, go to your browser and pick preferences, then privacy. There, you can remove all cookies.

"Another frustrating thing is you find a great rate, but when you click through to book it, the price jumps up," said Freeman.

For instance, a flight to Tokyo on Orbitz went up $29 when ShopSmart tried to book it. And a hotel room on Travelocity jumped up $110.

So while travel comparison sites offer great convenience, shopping smart means double-checking before you click to purchase.

Another travel site pitfall Consumer Reports ShopSmart found -- the car rental or hotel room offered in a package deal may end up costing you more than booking with a hotel or car rental site directly. That's another reason to double check rates you're getting.