Booking cheap flights online has become sport among price-conscious travelers. But with plenty of websites hawking low prices and airlines bombarding consumers with competitive deals from every corner of the internet, it’s hard to know the best – and most economic – way to grab budget fares.

A woman uses a laptop to book travel
We debunk seven travel myths and show you the truth behind them © Sankai / E+ / Getty

Information about when, how and where to get the best deals have also been spread online, though many of these commonly circulated ideas have been debunked over time. Luckily, there’s still some good advice for purchasing your own tickets. Here are six travel myths to consider before you book online – though with such a volatile industry, we always suggest comparing airfares before you click to buy.

Myth: Searches are tracked by cookies

We’ve all heard the rumor that airlines will raise the price of a specific route if you search for it often enough on the same browser or computer. However, no consumer advocacy group has found evidence to prove that prices are individually targeted through cookies.

Truth: Use sites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to track and compare prices from a variety of online travel agencies (OTAs).

Myth: The best time to book a flight is Tuesday

Based on a once-true statement that airlines would load their fares into reservation computers on Mondays, in one big dump, airline reservation systems are now much more unpredictable. In fact, according to CheapAir.com’s 2019 Annual Airfare study, “The average low fare only varies by $1 based on the purchase day of the week.”

Truth: Instead of worrying about what day to book your ticket, we suggest you investigate the day you fly. Tuesday is the lowest-priced day to travel, while Sunday is the most expensive. Flying midweek generally yields the best deals.

Myth: Saturday night stopovers are required for lower fares

In the past, airlines would add a lengthy Saturday stopover on their cheapest fares to discourage business travelers who just wanted to get home (and had expense accounts).

Truth:  These days, the Saturday night stopover rule is much less common. And with the advent of low-cost airlines like Southwest and Spirit, business travelers don’t hold the same amount of sway.

A photo of a calendar with a red pin on the 16th
It was once thought that it was better to book flights on a Tuesday, but that's proven less true © Phira Phonruewiangphing / EyeEm / Getty

Myth: Booking round-trip tickets is cheaper than one-way

It seems intuitive: buying a round-trip ticket is cheaper than one way. Indeed that was once the case. It was once thought that if one-way tickets were low, passengers might book a different airline for their return trip. Airlines kept round-trip ticket prices low to ensure passengers would fly on the same airline for both legs of the trip. But times have changed, and as price competition has gotten more fierce, booking one-way tickets can sometimes be cheaper than than a round-trip itinerary featuring the same flight.

Truth: Do your research and compare multiple tickets in both one-way and round-trip configurations.

Myth: Always try to book as far in advance as possible

Yes, you can find flights on most airlines between eight and 11 months before you intend to fly. And though it seems logical to lock in your fare sooner rather than later, many times, it won’t always produce the cheapest flight.

Truth: According to a recent study by QTrip, you’ll spend approximately $50 more for this peace of mind. The “Prime Booking Window” is actually four months to up to three weeks before you travel – though you may have less options for your flights in terms of seats, flight times and class of service.

Myth: Booking multiple passengers on the same transaction is cheaper

Airline reservation systems make it easy to book more than one seat during a single transaction, and you might think you're getting the lowest price for all the tickets. You'd be wrong. According to Farecompare.com, a quirk in the airline reservation systems requires that all tickets must be the same price. However, if there aren’t enough tickets for the lowest price available, all tickets will get pushed up to the next tier.

Truth: In order to make sure you’re not paying more, it’s worth checking the price on just one ticket before you book a group. If the price is lower, book each seat separately until it gets bumped up to the higher fare. Note: this might not be worth it for families or couples where you want to sit next to each other.

Airline path dotted on a world map in red
Hidden-city ticketing is a clever way of getting cheap fares, but it could come at a cost © Dong Wenjie / Moment / Getty

Myth: Hidden-city ticketing is a surefire way to save money

This ingenious hack, once used by in-the-know travelers willing to break rules for a hefty discount, has become mainstream. Not for the faint of heart, this method allows travelers to book a multiple-city ticket, which could cost significantly less, then not use the last leg of the trip. For example, if traveling from Chicago to New York, you might be able to get a cheaper ticket if you found another flight from Chicago to Bangor, Maine, with a stopover in the more popular destination of New York. You’d just get off at New York and not board that next flight. The app, Skiplagged, was specifically created to help travelers take advantage of this trick.

Truth: Though this sounds logical enough, and you’ve paid for both flights fair and square, airlines lose revenue when purchased seats aren’t filled – and most major airlines have a passage disallowing this type of travel in their contract of carriage. If caught, they could legally cancel your flight or threaten to take away your frequent flier account, so you may want to think twice before giving it a try. 

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