Some of the most popular questions we get at Hipmunk are around travel myths. To help everyone out, we decided to investigate some popular myths, and share our findings! Here are 6 travel myths, busted!
Myth 1: “Tuesday afternoon is the best time to search for flights, and the weekend is the worst time.”
This might have been the case back in the day, when people were manually entering new fares in batches. But these days, most airlines file new fares electronically at least every hour, using a careful revenue management system based on how many seats are left on a given flight. You may find a better deal for last-minute travel on a Tuesday afternoon, because some airlines release weekend getaway deals on those days. But that’s not guaranteed, and more often, waiting till the last minute can either mean sold-out flights or very high prices. So for most travel, the best rule of thumb is just to book as far in advance as possible. And then stop checking, or else you’ll make yourself crazy!
Myth 2: “If you do the same search more than once, the airline knows you want it and raises the price. Using an incognito browser tricks the airline into showing you a better price.”
In general, airlines don’t play games like this, because it would encourage customers to do lots of searches to see if they can find a better fare, and this costs money for the airline. What might be happening is that, if you get as far as the booking step for a ticket and it’s the last seat at that price, the airline will put it “on hold” until you’ve finished the purchase. So if you do another flight search immediately after, without releasing that seat, you might see tickets starting at the next price level.
Myth 3: “A Saturday night stay brings down the cost for round-trip flights.”
This used to be true as a general rule, as a way to weed out leisure travelers from business travelers, who are typically willing to pay more for travel. Until “low-cost” carriers started offering round-trip fares that were simply the sum of two one-way fares (which meant it no longer mattered which days you were traveling). Other airlines then started matching these prices (which also caused said “low-cost” carriers to sometimes no longer be the lowest priced). Occasionally, if you’re looking for a more obscure route where few airlines fly, the Saturday night rule may still hold true; so in these cases, check the prices with and without a Saturday night stay.
Myth 4: “If you booked a flight through a 3rd-party carrier, paid a low price, or bought the last seat left on the plane, you’re more likely to get bumped.”
It’s unlikely that you’ll get bumped from a flight against your will. Even if an airline has oversold a flight, they’d typically ask for volunteers to take the next flight in exchange for an incentive. In the odd circumstance that you’re on a very small carrier and there’s inclement weather, they may need to bump people to balance the weight on the plane. But in most normal circumstances, you should be fine as long as you have an assigned seat number. If you don’t, and a gate agent is using their discretion to bump people in order to get a flight out on time, you’re at more of a risk. So our advice is to pick your seat as soon as you can, and to get to the airport and gate early to make sure you have an assigned seat number!
Myth 5: “If there are a lot of seats on the seat map for a given flight, I can wait to book because fares won’t go up until more have sold.”
This is often false, because the number of seats that show up on the seat map aren’t a good proxy for how many tickets have actually been sold. This is because a lot of people don’t select their seats right when they book. The best idea is still to book as early as possible, and to select your seat as soon as possible.
Myth 6: “As long as I get to the gate 15 minutes early, I’ll make my flight.”
This is a risky game to play! Much of the time, it’s probably true that people running to the gate within 15 minutes of scheduled departure will make the flight. But there are several cases in which it is not true. For one thing, different airlines have different policies on timing, and none are required to open the doors back up to let you on. For another, international flights often require longer lead times for checking in and arriving at the gate. And in some rare cases, depending on weather or other reasons to speed up departure, the gate attendants could decide to close the gate earlier than usual. It’s always best to check with the airline carrier about their policies, and not to cut it too close.
As you can see, there is no perfect time to book travel, and there are no gimmicks to finding the absolute best price. Sometimes there is a little luck involved, but overall your best bet is to book early. So if you’re keeping your eye on flights for the fall or the holidays, don’t wait – book now!