Honolulu Harbor

Do Cookies And Travel Deals Mix?

Several websites have been discussing whether clearing your browser’s cookies might help you find better travel bargains.  Is there any truth to it?

What kind of cookie am I talking about?

This cookie, unlike the one I’m eating here at a the Eveleigh Farmers Market in Sydney,  is a small piece of code that is sent by the website you visit, and stored by your browser on your computer. Among other things, cookies identify you to a website on subsequent visits.

Could cookies be hurting your deals?

A post on Airfarewatchdog recently so theorizes.  It further suggest the practice of clearing your cookies so that websites you go to for deals are unaware of your prior visits.  Originally brought to their attention by a reader, the editor concurs with the practice.  They conclude that when you return to look for the same deal on a subsequent visit, it may no longer be available.  And that when you clear the cookies and appear to be a “new” visitor, the deals magically reappear.

My thoughts: It’s highly unlikely.

Obviously airfares vary, seemingly from moment to moment.  And certainly the fact that you repeatedly look for airfares, say from Los Angeles to Honolulu, does have an substantive effect on future ticket pricing.

Here’s how that works.  Feedback to the airlines from searches we do indicate likely interest in purchasing tickets between locations at any point in time.  It’s all about supply and demand.  That feeds into their pricing models such that higher demand (in relation to availability) essentially yields higher potential prices.

Personally I use three different browsers (Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer).  I store no cookies in two of the three, and have never found any difference in availability with cookies or without.  And I’m looking at airfare deals across multiple sites numerous times each day.

Still want to give it a try?  Here’s what I suggest:

Don’t wreck the usefulness of your browser saving cookies for those sites you visit often.  Try doing one of these two things instead.

1.  Use a different browser.  If you normally use Internet Explorer for example, on that return visit try using Firefox.

2.  Surf anonymously using a proxy.  On subsequent site visits when looking for a deal, simply enter the site you wish to visit at a free anonymous surfing proxy site, and the page you want will be presented to you.  Here are a few such sites to try (although you can search and find an unlimited number of them):  AnonymouseProxifyThe Cloak.

Please tell me your experiences.

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7 thoughts on “Do Cookies And Travel Deals Mix?”

  1. I concur with Dan – I have seen fares disappear on a second search if I do not delete ALL COOKIES.

    Sure, it’s a pain to always have to type in all my passwords on every site – but I got used to it :0)

    I would rather do that than possibly lose the deal I am searching for.

    It is a matter of personal preference. I use Firefox mostly – and prefer to use just one browser. Again – it is up to personal preference and what you get used to.

    But, definitely, I feel that storing cookies can screw you out of a good fare.

  2. I tried all 3 of the above & all 3 either wanted you to pay up front or timed out & wanted $ for ability to hook up with site.

    I used AA.com for all 3 so it was good test.

  3. If you use Chrome, you don’t have to discard cookies. Just open another tab/window in Incognito mode, and it won’t see/send any of the cookies of the regular tabs.

  4. As someone who’s flown between HI and CA several dozen times in the last 5 years, I’ve noticed that this is an issue when searching for flights on United’s website. I generally use kayak, but occasionally will begin a search on United and on 3 or more occasions I’ve found that a repeat search will often result in higher prices, even though plenty of seats are left. I’ve confirmed this is the issue by performing the same search (not logged into United.com) on a separate computer, and the lower price is available. I’m using cookies, so I think you are correct that this is the issue.

  5. I have Firefox (which I use 95% of the time) set to reject 3rd-party cookies and discard all cookies when I leave the software, but I have them active and accumulative in IE. No, I don’t see any difference in quoted air fares or hotel or car-rental prices.

    On the other hand, I find that travel flexibility and searching multiple times on a variety of travel sites (such as Budget Travel) or databases (such as Kayak) are the keys to finding the lowest prices. This includes searching Web sites of organizations (like Am Express or AAA) that, because of special contracts with service providers, bulk or block purchases, or arrangements for special prices for members, may have outstanding prices for particular airlines, hotel chains, or car rental firms. These have, though, been the exception rather than the rule.

    1. Thanks John.

      Your input is much appreciated, and yes it pays to look around in likely and unlikely places for travel deals. I scour hundreds of sites that I follow by subscription and by topic in Google Reader and Twitter.

      Aloha, Jeff

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