01/10/2015 07:00 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2017

Clearing Browser Cookies Probably Won't Get You Better Flight Deals

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We -- and probably everybody else in the travel universe -- thought we had cracked a MAJOR code when we heard that clearing your Internet browser cookies will find you cheap flights.

As it turns out, though, this is likely not true.

The idea behind the hack is that when you're searching for flights, airlines and travel sites take note of your movements and jack up the prices when you come back for a second look. Some travelers say that clearing your browser's cookies -- the electronic niblets that track your online movements -- will make it impossible for companies to follow you, therefore allowing you to find the right, true and cheapest price when you search for a flight.

Indeed, some experts say they've seen this in action: flight guru Johnny Jet cites a time he saw a price jump overnight, only to return to normal when he tried a different web browser.

But many travelers (us included!) say it's likely bunk -- that you will find similar flight prices whether your browser is cleared of cookies or not. George Hobica, who founded the flight deals site Airefarewatchdog, says he's "never seen any solid evidence" of a cookie-price scheme system. Expert Rick Seaney shared a similar thought with USA Today. And when we ourselves searched a flight on KAYAK one day and came back the next, prices were precisely the same.

However, this doesn't mean you won't find different flight prices from one day to the next -- or even on the same day, for that matter.

A study from travel site Hopper found that on a flight to Las Vegas, most passengers paid about between $400 and $600 for a seat, while some lucky ones paid $200. The most expensive seat on the plane, meanwhile, cost a whopping $1,400 more than the cheapest one.

The reason is that airlines market seats for different prices across different platforms, and they change prices over months, weeks and even days as demand for these seats changes. Cookies or not, Seaney explains, there's always a chance your flight is going to cost one price on your first look and a totally different price the next.

To give yourself the best chance of securing cheap deals, aim to book domestic travel 54 days before your trip, and remember you can always purchase and cancel if prices drop within 24 hours.

Oh, and if you're the superstitious type, clear your cookies anyway. As cheap travel extraordinaire Nomadic Matt writes, "it's better to be safe than sorry."



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