CONSUMER

VPN could save you hundreds on an overseas trip

Jul 26, 2023, 10:23 PM | Updated: 10:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — It is safe to say, travel is back. Bags are packed. Airliners are packed. Hotels are packed. By the laws of supply and demand, the travel industry does not need to compete as hard for your business, making discounts harder to come by.

To bust inflation, let’s get a little creative.

KSL investigative producer Sloan Schrage and I searched for travel deals on two separate computers using the same searches, same website but with one key difference.

Sloan used what’s called a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. Basically, it is a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online by hiding your IP address.

I am not using a VPN on my computer, so the internet knows my computer is in Salt Lake City as I browse around for accommodations. Sloan, on the other hand, can use a VPN to tell the internet that he’s nearly anywhere in the world. By doing so, a few things are immediately noticeable. For example: the default language is no longer American English, and the default currency switches to the country the server is located. But that is not the only difference.Sloan and I searched for hotels in Mexico – Sloan through a server located in Berlin, Germany, and me through the good ol’ U.S. of A. And right away, we were blown away with a $720 savings for the same resort had we booked it through the German server compared to the American IP location.

“From our own personal experiences, we notice that obviously, with a change in location, a lot of times you get different pricing,” Gerald Kasulis said about this inflation-busting life hack.

Kasulis, who hails from another country and is well-traveled, is the vice president of business operations for NordVPN – a company that sells VPN services. Nord studied this phenomenon and found similar results to ours.

“American travelers when they are traveling abroad, often, they overpay for their holidays compared to the people booking the same holiday from different locations outside the United States,” he said.

The most striking example: Using an IP address based in Mexico to search Hotels.com, Nord saw a staggering $57,415 in savings for a 14-night stay. And renting a car through a server based in Mexico, resulted in a quote 61% cheaper than the same search on an American server.

“What is it about being American that has us paying more?” I asked Kasulis.

“I would say it’s probably a good thing,” he responded. “It’s economical strength of the country. So ultimately, that’s often why Americans might be overcharged because they’ll be willing to pay a bit more. Or as we saw, quite a bit more.”

Not every search Sloan and I did yielded savings. For example, no matter the site, we did not find any discounts on airfare. We also did not find any savings when searching for properties located in the United States, such as Hawaii.

We did, however, find subtle differences like the hotels that were listed at the top of my search results using an American-based server. They were more expensive than the hotels listed first for Sloan using an overseas server. But we found the hotel savings in some south of the border towns were well worth the $14 we spent to sign up for access to a VPN.

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VPN could save you hundreds on an overseas trip