Do Airfare Booking Sites Offer Different Prices Based On The Device Or Browser You’re Using?

vienna international airport

There is a lot of evidence that airline booking sites and airfare search engines offer different pricing to people based on their location – more specifically, by country. There is less evidence for, but many more rumors of, airlines manipulating prices based on the physical machine you’re searching from (e.g. an iPhone 7 versus a Galaxy S7 Edge) and even by the web browser you happen to be on.

It’s pretty easy to change the country you appear to be in using a VPN to find lower prices on plane tickets but is it worth it to go through the trouble to make it seem like your iPad is a Surface Pro? Or obsessively switch between Chrome and Firefox? This is a question more than one reader has brought up so here is what we know – and don’t – about how airlines change ticket prices based on your digital fingerprint.

Evidence Is Hard To Collect

All airfare search prices are the result of many, many, reasonable factors such as how full a flight is, how many people are searching for it, and the number of days before departure. You can search for the same flight and get different prices within minutes for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with browser cookies, for example.

airport line havana

Added on top of all this is, as the consumer, we don’t really know the actual cost of a seat on a given flight at a given time. The airlines obviously want to profit as much as possible on a given seat (whose costs vary considerably up until the last ticket can be sold) plus search engines take their cut too. Many people logically assume both the flight search engines as well as the airlines, want to squeeze as much out of us as possible.

Conspiracies Fed

I’m not saying airlines working fares in their favor is a conspiracy but like conspiracy theories, when one of them turns out true, it gives credibility to the rest. Orbitz, for example, shows Apple users higher prices first, since they tend to spend 30% more on hotel bookings. It’s not that the lower prices aren’t there, they were just being shown a lot lower on the list.

Test Results

The problem during my testing over the past few months is that prices went up and down, but I was unable to correlate them to browsers or devices. Web browsers in privacy mode (i.e. no cookies, or search history) tended to show lower airfare more than half the time, until it came to actually booking. The infamous “this fare is no longer available” appeared regularly, making me think airlines show (what they think) are new users enticing rates to get them to click closer to a purchase.

istanbul airport activity

Consumer Reports also found anomalies after several hundred test searches but similarly, couldn’t determine a definite pattern. To their credit, Kayak denies they use cookies or other browser information to slyly hike up prices:

“Cookies or no cookies, it is impossible for us to show different prices to different users,” a Kayak spokesman told us [Consumer Reports] when we reported our findings. He suggested that a difference of even a few seconds on simultaneous searches may have affected our results.

You can of course, run your own tests. Web browser plugins like User Agent Switcher for Chrome or Firefox can fool most websites into thinking you’re on a Windows machine instead of a Macbook, for example. (You’ll need to jailbreak or root your phone to do the same on mobile.) When you don’t have the most time, it’s best to stick to the best flight search engines and use a VPN like this to find discounts. Don’t forget that there are a lot more effective ways to get low prices on airfare than by trying to spoof your browser – plus you can stop chasing cheap flights to really save on travel.

How To Download Google Maps For Offline Use And Why You Should When Traveling

google maps offline

Smartphone GPS are great for navigating, especially when you’re traveling, but not terribly useful if you don’t have a mobile Internet connection to actually download the background maps. (Or don’t want to burn through a data plan.) Originally I was going to write about the the best offline map apps but while free options like MAPS.ME (their all caps, not mine) are good, Google Maps is superior in nearly every way.

Until about a year ago, you couldn’t really use Google Maps offline, but they quietly rolled out the feature for iOS and Android – something a surprising number of people still don’t know about. Here’s how Google Maps’ offline feature works and how to download the maps you’ll need to get directions and lookup locations without an Internet connection.

First Step: Human Memory

For starters, you need to download the Google Maps app for iOS (simply called Maps) on Android. Both are free. Google Map files are large, usually at least a few hundred megabytes depending on the specific area you want to grab, so you need to remember to download them when you’re on a solid wifi connection. (I consistently forget to about half the time.)

google maps app

Start Downloading

Unlike MAPS.ME, where you specify specific countries for download, Google Maps has so much more detailed data you can only download a metropolitan area effectively of about 400 square kilometers (~250 sq. miles) at a time. Although the screenshots below are from an iPhone, the process is the same for Android.

1.Open the Google Maps app.

2. In the upper left, tap the three-bar menu icon.

google maps menu

3. Tap > Offline areas

4. Next, you’ll have the choice of either ‘Local‘; which is the area around your current location, or ‘Custom area‘ where you can specify the cities or region you want to download. Pinch to zoom in or out up to 1.5 gigabytes worth of map on iOS or 1.75 GB on Android, then tap Download. You’ll be prompted to name your map, tap Save, and the download will begin.

google maps offline

Be sure to wait for the download to complete because it hardly ever works if you leave it to the background.

You’re Set For 30 Days

After these steps, you’ll have the parts of Google Maps you wanted (you can download multiple maps up to what your device’s storage limits are) for handy things like walking directions, searching for the best restaurants on the fly, and starring important locations (like your hotel) on the map.

google maps offline areas

There are a few other advantages to using Google Maps offline, even in places where you aren’t necessarily traveling. Downloading maps offline obviously reduces the amount of mobile data you’ll use. A nice side effect of which is, like using airplane mode, noticeably increased battery life.

You’ll need to update the maps once every 30 days to keep using them and it’s really unfortunate Google doesn’t make an auto-delete option for maps after a certain period of time. You’ll have to remember to delete saved maps when you don’t need them or want to free up space on your phone. Aside from those two minor gripes, offline Google Maps are probably one of the most useful tools on a travelers smartphone. Unless you forget to download them.

This Is What A 10 Hour Flight Looks Like Condensed Into 150 Seconds

One of the best features of many smartphones, particularly the iPhone 6s, is the time-lapse feature. Recently, on an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to Washington D.C., I had an unexpected opportunity to capture a very amateur time-lapse of the entire 10 hour flight.

The combination of an empty seat next to me, a fairly flat window opening, not to mention a conveniently located USB port to keep charged during the entire shoot made this a fun project for a long flight. In case you were wondering, here is what the ad-hoc setup looked like:

airplane flight time lapse

A boarding pass between the phone and the glass to prevent temperature warnings (and automatic shutoff), plus a vomit bag stuffed into the window for the cheapest tripod ever. Of course, this isn’t the ideal way to take a time-lapse video. Here’s how to take time-lapse videos and the best times to shoot them during your travels, plus a few examples of mine from the Taj Mahal, Tunisia’s Star Wars sets, and more.

7 Good Reasons You Should Visit (The Country) Georgia Soon Or Even Better, Now

georgia tbilisi clock

You might not know a lot about the country of Georgia, a lot of which is due to the fact that it’s hidden in a part of the world that doesn’t often make headlines. Georgia is a country that shouldn’t be a travel afterthought, especially in the near future, because pretty soon it’s going to be a destination you’ll be sharing with many more travelers.

Since 2010, tourism to Georgia has almost tripled, so if you’re looking for a place to visit that still feels a bit like you’re discovering it before everyone else, here are 6 reasons you should consider Georgia, probably within the next 2 years.

1. Georgia Has All The Things That Make A Travel Destination Great

In case you’re wondering what the catch is, well, for Georgia, there isn’t one. Georgia is a safe, stable country with walk-able cities full of history and inexpensive, unique foods. Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, is fairly easy to fly to as most major carriers like Lufthansa have direct flights.

tbilisi views

2. Winters Aren’t That Cold

Being in the Caucasus (even having been to Georgia in the winter) it’s hard to get out of the notion that Georgia isn’t a 70,000 square kilometer (~27,000 sq. mile) ice cube during the winter months. Similar to not-so-cold Iceland, Georgian winters are chilly but not unbearably freezing. Tbilisi for example in December is an average of 7 Celsius (45 Fahrenheit). Still too cold? Temperatures in summer average in the upper 20s C (~85F).

georgian church

3. Free Entry To Many Touristic Sites

Many of the popular places to visit like very solemn Metekhi Church, Tiflis Avenue Art Gallery, and Stalin’s bizarre birth home, are free of charge.

georgian church painting

4. Georgia Is Inexpensive

Although the prices in Georgia, particularly Tbilisi, are trending slightly upwards, you can still get a nice dinner out for around $9 USD. Private hostel rooms at Old Town Hostel are about $36 a night; given these medians if you really want to travel cheap or splurge, you’ve got plenty of room on both ends of the budget spectrum.

georgian street sale

5. Good, Varied, And Unique Cuisine

Georgian food is a mix of Turkish, Balkan, Russian, and Persian flavors not to mention they make damn good wine too.

georgia country food

6. Transportation Within Georgia Is Straightforward

For those of you who enjoy travel by train, you can get to Batumi (wine on the Black Sea coast on an overnight sleeper for $8 a person. There’s also a good bus system, inexpensive as well, for nearby cities you may want to explore plus Georgian Airways has local flights too.

tbilisi metro

7. Not Many Tourists…Yet

As I mentioned earlier, Georgia has seen an increase from about 2 million tourists in 2010 to roughly 6 million in 2015. Georgia was the 49th most visited country in 2014, just under Sweden in overall tourists. For all of the reasons on this list – and much more – Georgia is likely to become a more popular place to travel.

georgian tbilisi cafe

Still, in Georgia now you can feel a bit like you’re discovering things right before everyone else with a more personable experience often difficult to find in more tourist-crowded places. After a visit though you too will be asking why aren’t more people visiting Georgia, a question on its way to being dated soon. Still, there’s time to experience a little more of the best Georgia has too offer, but not long.

These Sniper Bullet Holes Show How Far Sarajevo Has Come From The Bosnian War

sarajevo sniper bullets

Modern Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a small Balkan city sprinkled with cafes full of stylishly dressed young people. Nearly a quarter of the population is under the age of 25, meaning many were born after the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and as a visitor, you’ll have a hard time believing Sarajevo was under siege for nearly 4 years.

A Generation Lost

I speak with ‘Abdulah’, who leads several tours around the city focusing on Sarajevo’s history of conflict. Abdulah was 8 years old when the war began. He works as a tour leader because he doesn’t want anyone to forget or be ignorant about what happened in Sarajevo – the site of the first genocide in Europe since World War II. Also, he sheepishly admits, because he has no formal education. Abdulah’s primary school years were spent helping to smuggle grains into Sarajevo through the Sarajevo Tunnel, a 1,650 foot (500 meter) long underground passage beneath no-man’s land.

sarajevo tunnel museum

You can visit parts of the Sarajevo Tunnel, open as a museum for around $5.50 USD, open most days of the week.

Sarajevo Roses

He tells us Sarajevo has made a lot of progress in healing but if you look close enough, you’ll see scars from of the war throughout the city. As we walk along the Miljacka River, he notes the small potholes in the pavement filled with red resin, marking bomb craters where people were killed during the conflict.

sarajevo red roses

The paint is nearly faded. There used to be many more but as the years have gone on, newly poured asphalt for reconstruction has replaced these reminders of those lost.

Sniper Alley

Across the river’s waters is the bright, awkwardly yellow Olympic Hotel Holiday Sarajevo. Like Sarajevo’s abandoned Olympic bobsled track, the Holiday Inn was originally built for the 1984 games; later becoming a refuge for journalists covering the war. Walking by it, you’re now in what was known as Sniper Alley. The surrounding mountains as well as high-rise buildings made for ideal sniping locations, the result of which was over 1,000 people wounded, more than 200 killed.

sarajevo holiday inn

Crossing the Vrbanja Bridge, Abdulah tells the story locally known as Romeo and Juliet. In May 1993, deals made with the local government were supposed to grant two lovers safe passage out of Sarajevo. On a bright afternoon day, Bosko Brkic and his girlfriend, Admira Ismic, confidently walked across the Vrbanja Bridge. Halfway across, Brkic, a Serbian, was shot and killed by sniper fire. His wounded love, Admira, a Muslim, died by his side. For 8 days, their bodies laid there, both Muslim and Serbian sides not willing to make the dangerous walk to gather the bodies.

Miljacka river

Facing the Vrbanja Bridge is an apartment building, notable for the bullet holes that dot its exterior. This apartment, the very first photo in this post, like many of the other scars of the Bosnian War isn’t a museum piece. Simply, an apartment building where people still live. For some reason it’s the most jarring of all the war reminders. Perhaps because people live there now, it’s easier to imagine ourselves there today.

sarajevo cafes

You may be wondering if Sarajevo is safe to visit though after a short time in one of the best cities in the world to visit, be surprised anyone even asks the question. How fast Sarajevo has changed is remarkable given its recent history but also a powerful reminder of how quickly any peace can be lost.

5 Reasons To Use Airplane Mode Even When You’re Not Flying

air and space museum Udvar-Hazy Center chantilly

Despite the name, airplane mode can have a lot of advantages for travelers whether used on a plane or not. The airplane mode feature on most smartphones and tablets cuts off cellular, wireless, and Bluetooth connections so they don’t interfere with an airplane’s communication systems.

There are a few other handy side effects of airplane mode, however, you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re (literally) on the road, at your hotel, or out wandering around.

1.Extend What Battery Life You Have Left

Cellular communication is the single biggest battery drainer on your phone. To locate cell towers, your phone is always emitting radio waves to see where they are, analyzing signal strength to determine whether a switch to a closer tower is needed, or as is often the case when traveling, looking for a network to roam on.

When there is no available network, you phone emits stronger signals to extend its search in the hopes of getting you a mobile signal. This is also true when you’re indoors or moving at high speeds; basically your phone has to work harder to keep you connected to a cell tower.

So instead of getting on Facebook to complain about how you’ve only got 2% battery life left, put your device into airplane mode to conserve what you have left. A phone without a cellular or wireless connection (by the way being on wifi is less power intensive) can still be useful as a camera, notebook, foreign exchange calculator, and more.

2. Save Data On A Local SIM

Depending on how you’ve got your particular phone or tablet set up, there’s a chance you might be wasting a lot of data on a prepaid card due to automatic downloads, app updates, or streaming services. Although it might not be expensive, spending more time topping off a SIM card is less time sightseeing. Sure, you can make a lot of changes to your settings to prevent data leak but chances are when you’re back home you’ll want to set them all back, again, more time wasted. Airplane mode is a quick and efficient solution.

3. Speed Up Charging

In most cases, the more power a device is consuming, the slower it charges because it’s using power at the same time it’s trying to store it. Particularly if you don’t have a phone that supports rapid charging (*cough* Apple) you’ll want to speed up charging so you’re not stuck inside a hostel aggressively sneering at a power outlet. (Telepathy doesn’t help charging time.)

iphone 6s airplane mode

Having your phone on airplane mode means it’s using a lot less power and can charge faster whether you’re connected to a wall outlet or using a portable battery.

4. Fix Wireless Weirdness

Have you ever been told when getting a new local SIM card (or the wireless connection at your Airbnb is flaking out) to restart your device? For phones and tablets, turning airplane mode on and off is essentially the same thing since it causes a restart of most networking services without going through needless reboots.

5. See The World Around You

A 2012 study found that even looking at a mobile phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can reduce your ability to complete complex tasks and significantly distract focus. Not only does that mean could be missing the small details of tile art decorating the train station in Porto, but pickpockets as well, who count on mental misdirection.

You’ll see your phone hundreds times before you upgrade it at the next possible opportunity, though the same probably isn’t true of the Taj Mahal. Turning airplane mode on can relieve your mind of messages waiting – most of which are cat memes mom is sending you anyway.

About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More

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