VPNs, or virtual private networks, can help you watch international Netflix, hide your activity from your employer, and protect your privacy online. Tech writer Brendan Heese previously explained how important it is to use a VPN when you visit hotels, but new evidence suggests that you should also use them when you book.
What’s a VPN again?
In case you need a refresher, as Brendan explained:
VPNs hide personally-identifying information like your IP address, location, and internet browsing data from anyone who tracks you online. This includes your internet service provider, advertisers, websites, governments, and even other private users on the same networks. VPNs port your connection through proxy servers located in other countries that mask your true location, and it’s through these proxy connections that you can trick websites and streaming apps into thinking you live in a different part of the world.
As a side note, VPNs are legal in the US, but you should always check your local laws if you’re concerned.
How to use a VPN for cheaper hotels
Basically, you can trick a hotel booking site into thinking that you’re somewhere that gets a lower price. It’s travel industry standard to use dynamic pricing, and according to LinkedIn, location is one of the many factors that affect prices—one of the few you can control.
To get cheaper rates, you essentially have to use your VPN and start trial and error. When it comes to flights, ExpressVPN recommends trying to look as if you’re in a smaller or less affluent country, and the same logic can be applied to hotels—if a hotel site looks at your IP address to help determine your price, you can get lower rates from a cheaper IP location than, say, being New York City.
Here are some other steps to might improve your chances of finding a cheaper deal:
- Clear your cookies: Reddit users have had better luck finding deals for flights when clearing their cookies. This could work for hotels as well.
- Use the incognito tab: The fewer cookies tracking your activity, the better your search can turn out.
- Keep switching your VPN location to find new prices
- Try different booking sites: Every hotel booking site will have its own conditions and dynamic pricing they follow. Switch it up and see what works for you. Try Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, Tripadvisor, and so on.
- Use virtual debit cards if connected to an international server: If you’re booking from an international server, you might hit a wall with local billing address requirements. You can avoid this by using virtual debit cards.
Are hotels really cheaper with a VPN?
As Mashable found out, VPNs are actually better at finding deals on hotels than they are for flights. They tested booking a hotel stay in Lisbon, Portugal, for seven days with Trivago and found the Ramada by Wyndham Lisbon for $130 per night with the VPN set for Portugal. The same search with the VPN set for the U.S. showed up for $123 a night. Similarly, a hotel in Mexico City for seven nights with the VPN set to Mexico City showed it would cost $319 per night, but booking the same hotel with the VPN set to the U.S., the price dropped to $213 per night.
Despite the U.S. showing cheaper prices for these international hotels, that doesn’t mean the U.S. is the best location to book hotels from, of course. There’s no silver bullet, but time, patience, and a VPN should help.
The best overall VPNs
Many VPN companies claim that using their services can save you money when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars, but there’s no one VPN that is “best” for saving money on travel websites. Some will be better at targeting more specific locations than others, though (some will only target a country, while others can target states or cities), and this can come in handy if you want to target specific locations that you think will give you a cheaper deal.
Here are some of the best VPNs out there:
- ExpressVPN is $6.67 per month (with their current 1-year deal and three free months)
- NordVPN is $3.99 per month (plus three free months with their current deal)
- CyberGhost VPN is $12.99 per month (or 26 months for $2.19 per month with their current deal)
- TunnelBear VPN is $9.99 per month (or $4.17 per month for two years)