There’s an endless number of affordable vacation options you can piece together if you’re flexible and want to save some cash. You can sign up for travel credit cards to earn airline miles and hotel points, for example. You can book an inherently frugal vacation option such as a budget cruise or a rental condo on a beach. Heck, you can plan a frugal camping trip or a road trip and spend next to nothing on your next family vacation.
Still, there are a few other, trickier ways to save on travel if you’re hoping to game the system. One strategy involves installing a VPN on your computer with the goal of hiding your true location.
With a VPN, you may be able to access prices you couldn’t get on hotels and airfare where you live. And these savings may come a lot easier than you think.
What Is a VPN?
Before you consider using a VPN to scout for travel savings, it helps to understand the tools you’ll need and how they work. So, what is a VPN anyway?
VPN stands for virtual private network. With this in mind, having one basically grants you your own private connection to the internet. With a VPN, you can hide not only your online actions but also your true location. The VPN does this by using software that encrypts your data before anyone can see it.
With a VPN, any website you use will note your VPN and its location, not where you actually are. Further, your online actions will be hidden from prying eyes that may be able to access your network otherwise. That’s why many businesses and travelers often install a VPN on their computers. With a VPN, you can safely log into your corporate email, bank’s website, or other personal accounts without worrying about someone stealing your password or accessing sensitive personal information.
How Can Using a VPN Help You Save Money on Travel?
And this is where the travel savings can come in. According to Sarah Barnard of , travel companies (airlines, hotel brands, travel discount websites, etc.) often provide you with a quote for your vacation that can vary based on where you reside and the local currency. Sometimes customers will see different prices for the same flight or hotel on the same dates depending on that information. Your browsing habits may even play a role in the price you’re quoted for travel — specifically, whether you’ve searched for the same trip or flight over and over again.
With that in mind, some experts say that using a VPN can help get you a better price. With a VPN that changes your location, you can search for flights and airfare as if you were a customer elsewhere in the world.
You may find better prices on flights if you search out of the country you’re visiting instead of your departure country, for example. This kind of strategy typically takes some research and trial and error, but the savings are often there for those who look.
How to Use a VPN to Save Money on Airfare and Hotels
Harold Li at notes that using a VPN to check for lower prices on airfare, hotels, and vacation packages is an easy feat to master. “By changing server location through a VPN and researching prices, it’s possible to find better deals and save hundreds of dollars on certain travel purchases,” he says.
To save on travel with a VPN, Li suggests taking these steps:
- Clear your cookies on your preferred browser.
- Connect to a VPN server in a different city, state, or country.
- Open a private (Incognito) browser window, then shop for options and take notes.
- Repeat this process until you find the best price.
You may need to perform quite a few searches to find a discount on travel with a VPN, and you’ll obviously need to do some searching without your VPN on so you have a price to compare. While the savings may be worth it, trying to save on travel with a VPN is a lot like shooting arrows in the dark: You may hit a bullseye or be totally off the mark. But you’ll never know unless you try.
It’s also important to note that the process isn’t entirely foolproof. For example, Barnard notes that sometimes your cookies can give your location away, and that this can squash your chance at a discount.
“Cookies are used to track your online activity on any site, and if you’ve used the travel provider in the past, it’s likely they’ve already got a good idea of where in the world you are,” said Barnard. Like Li, Barnard suggests opening a private browser so you can disable your cookies before you search.
Also know that sometimes payment can be a challenge. Even if you find an affordable flight online, the website you’re booking with may ask for details you can’t supply.
“The site may ask for a local billing address or you might get stung by unfavorable exchange rates and fees,” says Barnard. A credit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees may be of help here, but you may be out of luck if a travel vendor won’t let you book without a local address.
- Related: Best Travel Credit Cards
If your goal is saving money on travel and you have a VPN already, it can’t hurt to do some digging to see if you can find lower prices on airfare, hotels, and other types of travel. The worst that can happen is you’ll use your time and effort without getting any results.
Also remember that there are plenty of other ways you can save on travel, including travel rewards, shopping for deals, and choosing vacation options that are inherently frugal to begin with. With a little research and some out-of-the-box thinking, you can hopefully find the perfect trip — one that’s ideal for your vacation needs and your budget.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at .
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