5 mistakes you're making when booking travel

Stacker compiled a list of the top five best travel booking hacks. Avoid these mistakes when booking travel plans to save yourself time and money.


A woman booking plane tickets using computer.

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It may be hard to imagine (or remember), but before the internet age of the mid-1990s, when businesses started creating websites to advertise and sell products, travelers rarely booked their own trips. Travel agents were plentiful; in 1990, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 132,000 people were gainfully employed in the profession. In 2022, that number was slashed in half to 66,300.

Although some people still prefer to have a professional book their trips, the vast majority of travelers today take on the work themselves. This entails navigating several different websites that fall into two categories: direct bookings and third-party online travel agents.

When travelers book directly with an airline company such as Delta Airlines or a hotel like Marriott, the booking contract often gives travelers more recourse should an issue arise during travel. On the other hand, people like using OTAs like Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity because they're better able to compare prices and features across a wide range of travel products—all on one site. However, booking with an OTA makes it more difficult to change plans during a trip since travelers are essentially working with a go-between in the booking process.

No matter what kind of travel booking site is used, if travelers aren't careful, they could end up losing money, time, and energy when booking their next vacation. Stacker researched the best travel booking hacks to compile this list of five of the biggest mistakes you may be making when booking travel plans.

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Booking flights without checking historical data

A girl using a phone to book flight tickets.

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Contrary to popular belief, there isn't a cheapest day of the week to buy flights. The best way to save money on an airline ticket is to think like an airline company. Flight prices change daily, and sometimes hourly, based on several factors. Some of the things airlines use to set prices are oil prices, seasonal demand, competitor prices, and historical flight booking data.

In order to save money when buying flights, check the historical pricing data—much like the airlines do. There are several websites that'll give you flight price data, including Hopper, Skyscanner, and Google Flights. Oftentimes, these companies will alert you if the current price is likely to be the lowest a particular route will get. They'll also let you know when it's best to wait for a better deal.

Not taking advantage of browser privacy settings to book travel

Incognito tab on smartphone.

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It's necessary for travelers to research upcoming trips by reviewing flights and hotels, but in many cases, all that browsing is being used against you. According to one study by KnownHost, a hosting service company, travel companies such as Booking.com, American Airlines, and Priceline use browser cookies to monitor if a visitor has made repeat visits to a specific part of their website. They use that data to increase prices by as much as $250 for people who make repeat visits.

If you've been eyeing a specific flight or hotel, you could be quoted a much higher price when you're ready to book. In order to avoid paying an inflated price, browse the web privately. Google Chrome features an incognito mode, while Firefox allows you to open a private window. Some version of private surfing exists in the major web browsers. Enabling this function while comparing prices makes a website think you're a new visitor and will offer you the best price.

Booking a hotel without playing around with dates

Young traveler planning vacation and searching information on laptop.

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Similar to flight prices, hotel prices can fluctuate a great deal. This is usually tied to seasonal trends, local events increasing demand, and the hotel's occupancy rate at the time you're booking your stay. Even if your travel dates aren't flexible, it's important to play around with dates when booking a hotel. That's because sometimes a hotel's weekly rate can be less expensive per night than the rate for a stay lasting less than a week. Or, you may land a better deal by starting or ending the booking on a different day. Make sure you're using an incognito browser as you look!

Not organizing your itineraries

Woman in bedroom with suitcase writing in notebook.

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It can get overwhelming to keep track of all the moving parts when booking a trip, especially if the vacation involves visiting more than one city. Keep track of every part of an itinerary by organizing it with a trip planner. Most trip planners work when you forward confirmation emails for flights, hotels, and even excursions to a trip planning app such as TripIt, TripCase, or Wanderlog.

These apps will organize plans by day and even hour. They're especially useful when it comes to helping travelers spot potentially costly mistakes, such as being double booked for one day or forgetting to book accommodations after a late-night arrival. Seeing all your plans in one place can help you remedy issues before starting your trip. During your trip, you can refer to the outline to keep track of all your plans.

Skipping travel insurance

Closeup of airplane tickets and empty travel insurance form with pen.

megaflopp // Shutterstock

When you're traveling, especially outside of your home country, buying travel insurance is an important last step to provide peace of mind about an upcoming vacation. These travel insurance policies can cover everything from minor inconveniences, such as baggage delays, to major accidents or emergencies.

If you happen to need emergency medical care when you're away from home, the right travel insurance policy could cover anything from surgery to flight cancellations. It's the kind of expense that you'll hopefully never need to use while traveling, but can be a lifesaver to have in case something unexpected happens to you. Compare travel insurance policies on a website like SquareMouth to get several quotes on the kinds of policies that work for you.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Tim Bruns. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.

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