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Seven More Dirty Little Secrets of the Travel Industry

The travel industry seems transparent these days -- for example, you can compare fares yourself with flight-search websites. But there are still a few tricks of the trade that travel insiders and providers don't want to share.
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The travel industry seems transparent these days—real people will give you the scoop on your hotel on TripAdvisor, you can compare fares yourself with flight-search websites, and it's pretty much impossible for a terrible tour provider to hide its reputation on the Internet. But there are still a few tricks of the trade that travel insiders and providers don't want to share. Here are seven little secrets you're not supposed to know about.

Two One-Way Tickets May Be Cheaper

You don't have to arrange your departure and return flights to a destination on the same airline. In fact, it may be cheaper to split your trip with two one-way flights from different carriers. Try searching for each fare separately. Kayak and Skyscanner both automatically compile itineraries that have two one-way tickets on different airlines as part of your booking options.

Lying to the Airline Can Save You Big

You don't want to lie to the airline about your name or birthdate when booking a flight, but fibbing about your final destination can save you a ton of money. Most airlines use hub-and-spoke systems for their flight routes, meaning that the hubs are where most of their nonstop flights begin and end, and flights to the spoke cities connect through the hubs. Naturally, flights to the hub cities are the most expensive, since so many people pass through them.

You can game the system and get a cheaper fare by booking a flight to a spoke city even if your final destination is a hub city. For example, if you want to fly from Boston to Houston, which is a United hub, you may find that a flight from Boston to Austin with a connection in Houston is actually much cheaper than a flight from Boston to Houston. In this scenario, you could book the cheaper one-stop flight to Austin and simply get off the plane in Houston. Of course, you would have to fly carry-on only so that your bag wouldn't get checked all the way through, and you would have to book two one-way tickets (a separate one for your return flight) as the airline will cancel your entire ticket as punishment if you fail to fly your second segment.

This is called "hidden city ticketing" or "throwaway ticketing," and we should stress that it violates the rules of carriage you agree to when you purchase an airline ticket. So we're not suggesting you do this—in fact, do this at your own risk—but we'd be remiss not to acknowledge that savvy travelers have been using this strategy for years.

Hotel-Room Rates Are Negotiable

In need of a last-minute hotel room? Sometimes, walking into a hotel and bargaining with the front-desk agent can really pay off. Most times, the first price you're quoted won't be the last, especially if a prospective guest pretends to walk out and go somewhere else. After all, the hotel makes no money on an empty room, so it's better for the hotel to let a room go at a reduced rate than to let it go unoccupied.

Deleting Your Cookies Can Get You a Cheaper Flight

Ever been shopping for a flight online only to find that after you've checked it a few times, the price has mysteriously gone up? Some travel websites covertly install your computer with a cookie that keeps track of your shopping behavior—and then jacks up the ticket cost once it knows you're interested. Try clearing your cookies and searching again if you don't think the price should have increased that much in a few hours.

Airline Employees Have More Power Than You Think

"In interviews with ticket agents, airline employees, and travelers, I've learned that ticket agents can punish problem passengers in a variety of ways, often without anyone even knowing it," writes consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. "They can exact their revenge on travelers by bumping them off flights, forcing them to check more luggage, or sending them to a security line for a once-over from the TSA." Conversely, being polite to a frazzled ticketing agent could snag you the last seat on the next flight out after yours has been canceled.

Buying Individual Plane Tickets Might Be Cheaper Than Group Tickets

Most things are cheaper when bought in bulk, but that theory doesn't always apply to plane tickets. Sometimes, airline websites will show group tickets at higher rates than individual tickets. Try running a search both ways (as a group and as individuals) before purchasing.

Hotel Receptionists Can Make or Break Your Stay

It pays to be nice (or at least not to be a complete jerk) to the front-desk clerk when checking in. One anonymous front-desk clerk tells Conde Nast Traveler, "Guests don't know it, but we often have a lot of leeway to decide on which room you get right up to the very last minute. If you're impatient or nasty, you'll get a room in front of the elevator or, at our hotel, one that overlooks the street where the tramway runs until midnight. So be nice."

Do you know any travel-industry secrets? Tell us in the comments!

—By Caroline Morse

Read the original story: Seven More Dirty Little Secrets of the Travel Industry by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.