Consumer Report: Travel Website "Gotchas"

Many people are getting very adept at online comparison-shopping for great travel deals. But a Consumer Reports ShopSmart investigation reveals that you can easily get sucked into paying too much.

Just using a different browser can get you a dramatically lower price. Consumer Reports ShopSmart learned that when it searched for the same itinerary at the same time on the Expedia travel site using two different browsers, Safari and Firefox. The flight was $718 dollars lower using the Firefox browser.

Travel sites can track your searches. Consumer Reports ShopSmart checked a flight twice on Safari and once on Firefox and learned that if you check a flight more than once, the cheapest fare can disappear.

Expedia insists that 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 frustration: When you find a great rate, but the price jumps up when you click through to book it. 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.

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 if you book with a hotel or car-rental site directly.

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


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