How Travel Sites Trick You Into Spending More Money

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You’re all geared up for your great traveling adventure, you’re scouring the daily deals, and you have your plan of attack all set and ready. So what happens when ads start leading your mind astray? Answer: potentially expensive purchases and a little less than you’d like in your savings account.

We’ve gone over the ways that advertising can tempt even the most disciplined budgeter, but when it comes to the traveler’s soul, a well placed prompt to spend can mean the difference between an impulsive (and potentially financially straining) flight to the Virgin Islands and a well balanced budget that allows for years of future budgeted travel.

To avoid finding yourself in deep water (that’s not of the the snorkeling kind), let’s look at a few of the most common tricks utilized by travel sites and how you can combat them:

Travel sites guarantee low prices – not necessarily the lowest price

Just because a travel site spits out a set of prices doesn’t mean it’s a comprehensive list, nor does it necessarily mean that it will include the lowest price available.

As an example, here are the results from two identical searches. The only difference is the travel search engine used.

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You can see that one site offers the same exact flight at $21.99 cheaper. The difference in price isn’t enormous but it’s 20 bucks that doesn’t need to be spent. Think of all the coffee you could get in Portland with that. And this price discrepancy isn’t an anomaly – it’s quite common. That’s why it’s totally worth the effort to browse multiple sites in order to check for the lowest price. Though compilation services offer what seems like an online travel agency type experience, ultimately it’s up to you to distinguish the good deals versus the bad deals via good old fashioned research. Before you hit purchase on any flight or travel deal, double check against other sites and keep a log of the different price offerings.

“Expiring soon” deals

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Sure it’s expiring soon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to grab it up before it’s gone. Many ads also encourage a kind of “exclusivity” that can be difficult to pass up – especially with a seemingly good deal attached. There’s a popular term for it nowadays… “FOMO” (or the Fear Of Missing Out). We’re humans, we like to know that we’ve made smart decisions. So when an ad says:

Save 300 dollars if you buy now! Only three seats left!

Your brain might translate this as:

You’re losing out if you don’t take advantage of these huge savings!

You’re not. Limited time offers pressure the consumer to make a quick decision exactly at the height of their “impulse buy” gut reaction. Think about the last purchase you made that was prompted by pressure (social, peer, professional, etc.) rather than by logic and careful consideration. More likely than not, it didn’t have the added benefit of forethought and research – both tools that can actually help you to save money. Remember, the main function of an advertisement is to get you to spend more, not necessarily as a way to save you money. Resist the temptation! If you depend on your own research and comparisons to get the best price, then you can know you’re not missing out.

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Fees

The good news? There’s a huge pool of travel sites to peruse to find the best deal. The bad news? A greater opportunity to stumble of one that hides sneaky fees behind what seems like an otherwise great deal.

You’re not obligated to choose a particular service to buy a ticket. If the fees include ridiculous servicing fees or mysterious transaction fees it’s probably best to pass it by in search of another site with fewer or less expensive fees. Comb through the fine print when purchasing a ticket or event.

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Most fees are related to online booking are non-negotiable, but some travel agencies have a little wiggle room. Talking in person to negotiate a lower rate or waive a fee can help to save on your trip.

Smart ad space

There’s strategy behind the placement of ads on a travel site. And it’s a pretty smart strategy, too. Once you begin tracking the sales you leave a trail of cookie crumbs behind you. Travel sites track your browsing history and use this information to target your interests and your potential travel plans. Then, as time goes on, ads get even smarter. While browsing a ticket to Hawaii you’re likely to come across deals and offers for Hawaiian themed trips or deals. Since you’re already in the Hawaiian mood, you might end up being more tempted by these targeted ads than say, if they started to show you deals for Norway. It’s intentional and it can be kinda tricky to stay ahead of our excitement – so be aware.

To prevent finding yourself faced by yet another temptation on the sidebar, use a new incognito window to browse your travel plans. Starting out on neutral ground (where they don’t have your search history) actually puts you, the consumer, in the more powerful position.

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Eye on the prize, people!

This can be tough when you’re a person with all sorts of traveling ambitions but it’s particularly important to stay focused on your goal rather than swayed by all the temptations as you browse the travel sites. First and foremost, it’s important to understand what tempts you and then take appropriate precautions to avoid or combat against those weak spots.

A few excellent tips include:

  • Wrapping your credit/debit card with a photo of your destination to keep you focused.
  • Changing your computer background to the location of your destination.
  • Pinning your ambitions… kind of like an imagined travel scrapbook.
  • Using accountability to help you save whether that’s via personal support or pairing with someone else who’s working towards a similar goal.
  • Having some sort of trigger to reset. Be it a song or a walk around the block.

Ads can be add a lot of tempting noise to a website but they don’t have to cost you money. Remain cognizant of their placement and their purpose and you’ll be ahead of the game.

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