How did the research work?
Researchers used a VPN (a virtual private network) to make it look like they were searching for holidays from different locations, including the U.S. and overseas.
Using a VPN hides your IP address, making it look like you’re browsing from your chosen location. By connecting to a server in a specific country, you can hide your virtual location to gain more internet privacy and freedom.
For this study, researchers first looked at how much a particular hotel stay or car rental would cost if booked from the U.S. Then, they connected to the server of the country they would be traveling to, making it look like they were browsing from there. Researchers looked at holidays in countries like Mexico, Canada, the UK, France, and Italy.
By doing so, they discovered that booking a vacation from the U.S. costs much more than booking the same deal from those countries. Let’s look at the findings in more detail.
What did the research show?
NordVPN researchers uncovered significantly lower prices from providers like Hertz, Expedia, Booking.com, and Sixt when booking from outside of the U.S.
They found that American holidaymakers could save as much as $57,415 on a 14-night stay in Mexico if they booked it from Mexico (or while connected to a Mexican VPN server). They could also save as much as 61% on car hire. We’ve listed the biggest price differences below.
- Save 68% on a hotel stay in Mexico. Researchers looked at how much it would cost to book a stay at a Mexican resort for a family of four in July 2023. They found that connecting to a Mexico VPN server lowered the price from $84,929 to $27,514, saving vacationers 68% on their holiday.
- Save 61% on car rentals in Mexico. When looking into renting a Chevrolet Beat in Mexico using Hertz, researchers found that people could save as much as $213.59 if they booked it on the local website. The U.S. price was $348.87, while the price shown to someone browsing from Mexico was only $135.28.
- Save 46% on car rental in London. Renting a Peugeot 5008 in March 2023 would cost vacationers $990.99 less if booked from the UK. The U.S. price for the car would be $2,157.32, while from the UK, it would only cost $1,166.33.
- Save 15% on a hotel stay in Italy. Booking a stay at Hotel dei Barbieri in Rome for a family of four would cost $8,804 from the U.S. However, if you booked it while connected to an Italian VPN server, you would pay $7,529, saving as much as $1,275.
- Pay 10% less for a trip to Disneyland Paris. A family of four would pay $3,933.46 for a hotel stay at Disneyland Paris. However, if they booked it while connected to a French VPN server, it would cost $3,524.32, saving them $409.14 (10%).
What causes different prices?
Holiday prices vary by country for many reasons, some of which are:
- The economy of the country. Companies know that people in wealthier countries can afford to pay more for holidays, car hire, and holiday-related activities than those from poorer countries. Providers exploit this situation by charging more in wealthier countries to maximize profit.
- Currency fluctuations. The value of currency changes over time, sometimes quite sharply. Exchange rate fluctuations can significantly impact the prices in different locales.
- Company location. Providers may offer lower prices in their home countries. That’s why it’s always worth connecting to the server in the country where the company is based.
Marijus Briedis, chief technology officer at NordVPN, says, “Never assume you’re seeing the same price as everyone else. Companies use all kinds of complex algorithms to cater to the purchasing power of different countries. They will routinely show different prices on different website domains, and it can even differ depending on where you’re visiting from.”
How to save on holiday bookings with a VPN
There’s no need to overpay for a holiday abroad. Using a VPN can save you a lot of money – and it’s easy to get started.
Make sure you choose a reliable VPN provider that takes your privacy and security seriously. Though looking for a free option may be tempting, it’s best to stay clear of free VPNs. Here’s how to save on holiday bookings with a VPN:
- Get a VPN subscription. If you’re interested in NordVPN, you’ll find our subscription plans here.
- Download and install the VPN app on your device.
- Launch the app and enter your credentials to sign in.
- Pick a server in a country of your choice, and connect to it.
- Head to the provider websites and note down the prices.
- Repeat this process with several server locations to find the best price. We also recommend clearing your browser’s cache before returning to the site so it doesn’t identify you as a returning user and impact the price you’re shown.
Even though this process might take a little longer than you’re used to, you’re likely to find some great deals to make it worthwhile. This method will work for finding cheaper flights, hotels, car rentals, and even general online shopping.
Is it legal to use a VPN to get lower prices?
Yes, it is. Using a VPN protects your privacy and enhances your online security. It’s perfectly acceptable for users to buy tickets and book holidays while connected to a VPN server.
The research was commissioned by NordVPN and conducted by an external agency between February 24 and March 13, 2023. Researchers conducted simultaneous searches for identical products sold by the same vendor using different country servers.