It's possibly too late to use this trick for your holiday travels (godspeed, fellow domestic flight warriors), but if you're ever flying internationally this might be a handy tip to bear in mind. You can get cheaper flights by changing the location of purchase. That is, you can trick your internet browser into thinking that you are buying tickets from somewhere other than where you actually are. By doing this, the airline changes the currency from your flight from dollars into whatever currency the country you are traveling to uses, and by leveraging some sweet exchange rate wiggle room, you can potentially save big time.
The author of the TIME Magazine article who discovered this trick notes that it works best if you're trying to book domestic flights within a country you don't live in, but it still reaps some benefits for international travel in general. In simpler terms, if you were buying a flight from Boston to Paris and bought it from Boston in a dollar amount, you would get a fixed price in dollars. However, if you tricked the system into thinking you were buying it from Paris, it would give you the price in Euros—and odds are, the price you get in Euros would exchange into a dollar price lower than the one you were originally offered when you were buying it from Boston.
To see if I could use this trick to get the same results as the Time author, I planned my own mini-vacation:Mexico City to Cancun, because it's hypothetical TREAT YO SELF o'clock.
I live in DC, so that is where my internet browser thinks I am buying this ticket from the first time I search and get these results from Aeromexico:
Every non-stop flight that day costs $323.67.
Now we head over to the Matrix on Google ITA and check the prices there. The main difference in using the Google ITA is that it automatically assumes that the city you set as your starting point is where you currently are. So it thinks I'm in Mexico City right now (if only) instead of DC.
As you can see, all the flights from Aeromexico are still the same amount, but here they are $4,075 in pesos. With a simple online conversion, we find that this is $275.41, or a total savings of $48.26. That's at least four fancy poolside drinks for my fake Cancun trip!
So my problem now is that I don't have pesos, and Google ITA won't let me buy tickets directly from them anyway. So here's what I do: I go back to the site of the airline where I want to buy the tickets from (Aeromexico, in this case). You find a spot in the upper right or lefthand corner of the browser to select your country and change it to Mexico (or whatever country you're buying the tickets for), then take Google up on the offer to translate the pages back into English. Ta-daaaaa!
Now Aeromexico is offering me the price I want:
And I can use a credit card to pay in pesos. This works out nicely if you have a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, but the author points out that even if you do get charged a fee, you usually will end up saving more money in the long-run anyway.
So there you go. Now you can spend money on important things like fruity drinks and dessert. Side note: I am technologically awkward, so if I can do this, ANYONE can. Happy travels!
Images: Getty Images; Emma Lord