There are numerous benefits to using VPN applications, like protecting your online privacy, hiding your browsing activity from your ISP, bypassing firewalls, accessing forbidden content, or watching exclusive Netflix libraries that are not normally available to you.
However, many people overlook a huge benefit of VPN services: saving money on hotel booking. It is an incredibly easy feat to achieve, thanks to the fact that modern marketing techniques create personalized offers for people by taking various criteria into account, including your location.
Simply put, you can get different deals if you live in a different country. Whether the deal is better or worse remains to be seen. Our research lead to surprising results, which you will find out in the following lines.
In this article, we are showing you simple tricks to help you save money on hotels using a reliable VPN service. Before proceeding any further, you should know that there is no foolproof method. Nevertheless, it is worth giving it a shot, especially if you will find cheaper prices by 50% (as we did).
Check out the list of topics below to see what we have planned for today (click to jump).
- How are you being tracked?
- How does a VPN work?
- Visiting a hotel booking site with and without VPN
- How to save money on hotels using a VPN
- But, isn’t it cheaper to pay a room’s full price instead of buying an expensive VPN service?
- Is it legal using a VPN to get lower hotel prices?
How are you being tracked?
When you normally surf the Internet, you may notice that Google, Facebook, Instagram and other online services know where you are. It is because the location feature of your device is turned on, thus allowing these websites to find you anywhere you are in the world.
Here is how you can be tracked by booking services and other websites.
Every time you go to a website, a cookie is saved to remember your visit and welcome you the next time you go back. Moreover, tracking cookies are used to keep tabs on the pages you see and the content you click the most. With this information, a marketing algorithm decides on what products and services you think are the most appealing.
Assuming that you have been visiting the same hotel’s page, the website can easily tell that you are waiting for a better deal. In some cases, they might even increase the price to punish you for not taking on their first offer. It is not an uncommon technique. In fact, airplane ticket agencies do it all the time.
However, you can prevent this from happening by connecting to a new VPN server every time you visit the booking site. This way, you are seen like a new potential customer with each visit, which basically refreshes displayed prices and even lowers them.
IP addresses contain valuable information, including location. Two computers with Internet access cannot communicate without revealing their IP address to each other. Therefore, the hotel booking agency knows who you are and where you live as soon as you go to its site – you inadvertently expose yourself every time you step inside the Internet.
But using your IP to determine that you are a unique and recurring customer is not exactly fair. That is because multiple members of a household or office might be interested in the same offer.
Therefore, your price might increase just because the hotel assumes that all visits originating from your IP address are yours, without also including potential family members, housemates or co-workers.
But a VPN can make of this disappear by switching you to a new IP address every time you go online. As a result, you do not have to worry about varying prices based on your IP address.
If you are connected to a public or private wireless network connection while visiting the hotel booking site, chances are that your true location is automatically exposed. Therefore, you receive higher prices every time you visit. But this matter can be resolved with the help of a trustworthy virtual service network provider.
A VPN application not only conceals your IP address but also encrypts all incoming and outgoing data traffic. So, even if you connect to a Wi-Fi network to use the VPN, the hotel booking agency will not be able to pinpoint the location of your Wi-Fi.
Mobile tracking is similar to Wi-Fi tracking, except for the fact that you are using your mobile data plan instead of a Wi-Fi network. In fact, mobile tracking is more accurate than Wi-Fi tracking, so you can bet that the hotel booking site knows exactly who you are every time you pay it a visit.
But you can hide your identity and location by turning to the services of a dependable VPN application. Because the tool encrypts all information flowing in and out of your computer, it will also hide the location of the mobile carrier from the hotel booking website.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN works by essentially concealing your identity every time you go online. Your IP address is not really changed, but a new one is distributed to all websites you visit. Since an IP address includes information about your computer and location, a new one is used to broadcast your new location, making hotel websites think you are in a different city or country.
As a result, you are no longer seen as a desperate buyer who keeps stalking the website for better deals, but as a new visitor who is consulting prices from the United States, India, Japan, Netherlands, or anywhere else.
Visiting a hotel booking site with and without VPN
To test how we could find better details by turning to a reliable VPN service, we went to Booking.com using our true location (Romania) and then by connecting to multiple countries. We used ExpressVPN for our tests, which we will describe a bit later.
In the first part of the test, we inputted the same search terms when both using Booking with and without VPN: a country (Austria) and the next available weekend (18 – 20 October 2019). We connected to multiple countries, including India, Kenya, the United States, Japan, and Netherlands. However, there were no kind of pricing differences.
In the second part of the test, we looked for hotel deals. While searching for a free room, 2 adults, and 1 night on Christmas (25 – 26 December 2019) in London, our luck changed. Without being connected to the VPN, Booking returned a search result for $130.21 (including hotel taxes and charges), available for Romanian potential customers.
No changes were made after connecting to Paris, Germany, Netherlands, Japan or India through the VPN. However, when connecting to a US server, the same booking deal became available for $127.46 (including hotel taxes and charges). Evidently, the difference was barely noticeable, only $2.75.
But our luck changed considerably in the third part of the test, when we inspected the “Off-Peak Deals”. Without entering any search parameters, we simply noted the starting range of the prices for each country.
Surprisingly, all prices were 50% lower when connecting from a VPN server in Netherlands, as compared to not using any VPN from Romania. While Romania prices started at $14 for Bangkok, $15 for Kuala Lumpur, $36 for Istanbul and so on, the same deals for a Dutch visitor began at $7 for Bangkok, $6 for Kuala Lumpur, $18 for Istanbul, and so on.
How to save money on hotels using a VPN
It is quite simple to save money on hotels using a VPN service once you understand what you need to do. Here are the steps, together with several of our tips and tricks that we think you should take into account.
Purchase a premium VPN service
If you do not already pay for one, then we recommend getting a premium VPN subscription plan. Although there are many free VPN services out there, we advise against using them. Most free VPNs do not work the way they should, and some of them are actually built to work against you.
Besides, you should be interested in finding a VPN application that supports numerous servers. And, unfortunately, free VPNs usually offer just a handful of VPN servers. As a result, you can connect to multiple countries and compare the pricing of hotel booking.
Our VPN recommendation
It can be challenging to find the right VPN tool for the job, especially since the digital market is over-saturated with virtual private network offers. And each VPN comes with its own pros and cons. If you do not wish to waste too much time researching on the matter, you can trust our opinion since we have tested, ranked and reviewed over 50 VPN services on our website.
Earlier this year, when we compared the best VPN services of 2019, we discovered that ExpressVPN is at the top of the food chain. In our ExpressVPN review, we noted that it contains over 3,000 VPN servers spread across 160 VPN server locations and 94 countries. As you can imagine, there are more than enough servers to help you find the best possible hotel booking deals.
The application comes bundled in a sleek and sophisticated graphical interface, allows torrenting, and lets you access various streaming sites like Netflix. Besides, it has multiple security features, such as OpenVPN and other VPN protocols, DNS leak protection, a kill switch for emergencies, split tunneling mode, obfuscated servers for China residents, along with exclusive DNS servers.
Download and install the VPN app
Once you get equipped with a dependable virtual private network service, it is time to set it up on your device. To add to the fact that we recommend ExpressVPN, the native client can be installed on many devices, including Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, and Android. You can even set it up on your router if you want to share the VPN connection with other members of your household or office.
Clear cookies in your web browser
It is crucial to remove cookies from your web browser every time you plan on performing a search on hotel booking sites. As we previously discussed, tracking cookies can be used to determine your identity and location, so the booking site knows that you are a recurring visitor.
However, by clearing your browser cookies, you fool the website into thinking that you are a new visitor every time you go there. Although you can manually clear cookies in your Internet navigator, we recommend installing a browser extension that can do this automatically.
Alternative: Run private or incognito browsing sessions
Instead of clearing browser cookies each time you want to run a search on booking sites, you can start private or incognito browsing sessions. Firefox, Chrome, Opera and other browsers do not save browsing history, information entered in forms, as well as cookies and site data when you wish to navigate the Internet in stealth mode.
As such, it is no longer necessary to clear your browsing cookies in private or incognito mode. That is because the browser automatically deletes cookie data on every exit. But this should draw your attention to another issue: you must close all private or incognito browsing windows before starting a new search with your VPN tool, in order to trigger the automatic cookie removal. Otherwise, it will not work.
For more information about how you can increase your online privacy when using a VPN application, check out this article.
Disable WebRTC in your web browser
WebRTC is a technology integrated into web browsers to facilitate direct peer-to-peer communication between visited pages and audio/video channels. However, the downside of WebRTC is that it leaks your true IP address, even if you are currently connected to a VPN server.
It is impossible for a VPN desktop client to control WebRTC due to browser privacy policies. But you can easily handle this by manually deactivating WebRTC. If you do not wish to do this yourself, you can install a browser extension that can do this automatically.
If you are using ExpressVPN, our recommendation, you can install its browser addon specially designed for Firefox and Chrome. In addition to securing your browsing sessions, the tool has a setting for keeping WebRTC disabled at all times.
Visit the hotel booking site without VPN
It is necessary to establish the baseline price before doing anything else. This way, you have something you can compare the VPN search results with. As such, go to the website of the hotel booking service you are interested in, and enter the search parameters.
Then, write down or take screenshots of all booking conditions that you can find. It can include the name of the hotel, start and end date, number of adults and children (if any), room type, breakfast included or excluded, and so on.
Please note that this is an essential step because you must obtain identical search parameters after connecting to the VPN server. Only the price should be different, not the booking conditions. To make future searches with the VPN easier, you can sort all hotel booking results by price (lowest first).
Connect to a VPN server
After preparing your web browser and obtaining the room conditions and price based on your true location, you can launch your VPN application and connect to a VPN server.
We advise doing this as soon as possible if you want to get accurate results, because hotel offers change all the time. So, if you use your VPN service a week after the initial search without VPN, do not expect to find the same room offers.
Disregard the VPN server recommendation made by the tool (such as ExpressVPN’s Smart Location), because you are not interested in getting the best possible speed. Instead, connect to a VPN server from another country. Try connecting to the same country as the booking agency – it might offer better deals for locals.
Here is how you can connect to a VPN server in ExpressVPN (check out the image below to get a better idea).
Step 1: Launch ExpressVPN and go to the main app window
- Click the ellipsis button (…) to open the location picker
- Alternatively, you can open the hamburger menu (≡) and select VPN Locations
- Step 2: Click any location from the Recommended, Favorites or All categories to connect to a server
Explore hotel deals using multiple VPN countries
Once the connection is established, you can switch to the web browser and run the same search as before. Write down or take screenshots of the room prices, clear the browser cookies or close all incognito/private windows. Afterward, you can switch to a new VPN server from another country and run the same search.
Do not forget to select the same currency and take note of the hotel taxes and charges. In some countries, hotel taxes and charges are not included in the total price by default, so you need to add those, too.
In addition, if you have previously sorted the hotel deals by price (lowest first) when running the initial search without VPN, do this here as well, in order to simplify the whole process and find the lowest prices at the top of the list.
Draw the line to spot the cheapest VPN country
Once you have at least four or five search results from different VPN countries, you can compare them to the original results (your own country, without VPN) to see which one brings you the best possible offer. Then, you can reconnect to that VPN country and make the hotel reservation while taking advantage of lowered prices.
If you fear that you will miss a good ideal by disconnecting from the VPN country to switch to another one, then we recommend connecting from multiple devices simultaneously. This way, you can keep all pages opened while staying connected to multiple countries so that you can quickly compare prices and make the cheapest reservation right away.
If you liked the VPN recommendation we made earlier, then you should know that ExpressVPN can be simultaneously used on up to five different devices. For instance, if you and your spouse share a notebook, a desktop, a tablet and two smartphones, then you can install ExpressVPN on all of them, log into the same account, connect to five different countries, and search for hotel booking deals at the same time.
But, isn’t it cheaper to pay a room’s full price instead of buying a VPN service?
If you plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip, then it is definitely cheaper to pay the full price of a room instead of trying to find a better deal with a premium VPN service. In that case, you could try your luck with a free VPN, although we doubt you will get satisfactory results.
However, if you frequently travel for business or pleasure, you will definitely find that buying a premium expensive will save you a lot of money on the long term. For example, if you travel with a group of people, you can take advantage of bigger discounts.
Is it legal using a VPN to get lower hotel prices?
Considering how much money you can save by simply turning to the aid of a trustworthy VPN application, you might think that it sounds too good to be true, so it must be illegal. However, we are glad to tell you that there are no legal repercussions to using a VPN application to find lower prices on hotel booking or any other kinds of sites (like airplane ticket reservations).
You can look at it this way: if there is nothing stopping booking agencies from increasing prices just because you live in a high-income country or just because you are a recurring visitor who seems desperate, then there should be nothing stopping you from being smart about it. A VPN service simply shows you another way.