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Debunking 4 of the Absolute Worst Travel Myths

Anyone looking to score a deal on flights, save on travel, or even get a free upgrade has likely encountered their fair share of myths. When money is involved, there's no shortage of so-called “experts” or influencers peddling bad intel.

We've heard some of these fallacies time and time again – and we bet you have, too: From the right time to book flights to airlines supposedly tracking your searches, they've spread like wildfire. We've finally had enough: It's time to end this.

These are some of the most common myths you've likely heard – or maybe even believe yourself – that you should finally put to rest.

 

“Tuesdays are the best days to book cheap flights!”

This is the myth that just won't die.

You've probably heard it from friends, coworkers, and travel influencers. It's been passed around for decades to the point where it's widely accepted as gospel: “The cheapest day to book flights is on Tuesdays.”

There's just one problem: It's not true. Not even close.

This old myth about booking flights at the cheapest prices by searching on a Tuesday is simply outdated: You can find great discount flights any day of the week. And big travel days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday are more about marketing than real savings. Read our lips: There is no best day to book flights.

Trust me: Our team of flight deal analysts spends all day, every day searching for the cheapest fares to send to Thrifty Traveler Premium members. The best fares and sales don't just happen on only one day of the week. In fact, we find cheap flightsmistake fares, and unadvertised award sales every single day of the year. A dirt-cheap flight can pop up any day of the week.
 

New York City fare from Savannah 

The reality is that flight prices are constantly changing. Airlines load new fares every hour, and they can add or subtract how many flights are available at a certain price at any moment. We're sorry to say it, but that means it's completely it's unpredictable when the cheapest prices on the flights you want may pop up.

It's not just us putting this myth to rest, either – even the undisputed king of finding cheap flights, Google Flights, backs us up on this. They crunched the numbers last year and found there was a negligible, 1.9% savings when you book your flights on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday instead of Saturday or Sunday over the past five years.

So stop waiting until 11:59 p.m. on Monday to start your search and book. It's not doing you any good.

Read more: The Best Day to Book Flights Isn't What You Think…

 

“Search incognito or clear your cookies, airlines are tracking your searches!”

This might be the worst myth of all. It's been featured in countless travel TikToks, Instagram Reels, and even major publications. So say it with us…

Searching for flights incognito does nothing, nor does clearing your cookies. Airlines and major travel booking sites are not tracking your searches, period.

At Thrifty Traveler, we find flight deals for a living: We're searching all day, every day for flights. If airlines were tracking our searches, we'd never find cheap flights. And trust me, we do.
 

hawaii flight deal 

Check out some of the cheapest flights we've found for this summer!

Yet this myth has taken hold because it provides a simple explanation for an all-too-common-question: Why did the price of a flight you were looking at jump just hours, maybe even minutes after you last looked?

The idea that you're being tracked is an easy explanation for why the price of a flight you were looking at changed an hour later when you went to go book. Searching incognito or clearing the cookies for flights makes travelers feel like they've got the power – like they're beating the airlines.

But it's just not true. Airlines are not tracking your searches. Neither is Google Flights or most other search engines and online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Hopper, and Priceline. Your flight prices aren't being affected by your previous searches.

So what gives, then? Why do prices shoot up from one minute to the next? The reality is that airfare pricing is incredibly fickle, and it's always changing. Airlines are constantly altering their prices as tickets sell and demand changes.

One simple explanation behind a sudden change in price is something called an airline's fare class. While you just see economy and first class when you walk on the plane, airlines sell an alphabet soup's worth of tickets called fare classes – and it’s literally an alphabet, as most airlines have a fare class for every letter. This is just a small slice of United Airlines' fare classes.
 

united fare classes 

Here's the important part: Every fare class has its own price. So when the cheapest fare class sells out – or an airline simply decides to remove that fare class – the price will jump up to the next, higher-priced class. When someone purchases this final $157 Delta ticket from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Las Vegas (LAS), you'll then see a higher price. That exact same scenario plays out constantly.
 

delta msp las 

Bloggers and influencers pass these “travel hacks” on like they've stumbled on some big secret. Travelers want to believe it because it's a simple, easy-to-understand explanation. But the truth is that these are myths, too – they're flat-out false.

 

“Dress nice and the airline might upgrade you for free!”

Just … no.

You could wear a full tuxedo, top hat, and a Monopoly-man monocle and it still wouldn't make a lick of difference. Dressing up isn't going to get you into a first class seat with your economy ticket.
 

delta first class seats 

Whether you're dressed to the nines or wearing sweats, the odds of getting a free spot up front are slim to none. You might luck out and get bumped up front if the economy cabin is sold out, but that's rare – and it's got nothing to do with your clothes. You've got three real options for getting into first or business class: Booking that ticket outright with your money (or your points and miles); paying to upgrade before departure; or getting a complimentary upgrade if you've earned elite status with the airline.

These days, getting a free upgrade is all about status. Whether you've got Delta Medallion status, American AAdvantage status, or status with United MileagePlus, it's all the same: The more you fly (and, increasingly, spend) each year, the higher you climb. But after years of promotions and automatic extensions that made getting those perks easier, even top-tier status often isn't enough to snag a free upgrade these days. Competition for these upgrades is crowded.

Even buying a cheap ticket and upgrading later isn't always a sure thing. Ninety-nine times out of 100, your best bet is to book that business class fare from the start rather than angling for an upgrade.

Check out our best ways to book a seat up front using points and miles!

 

“You have to get foreign currency at home or exchange your dollars at the airport!”

Whether you've got U.S. dollars, euros, pounds, pesos, or whatever else, carrying a week's worth of cash (or more) on your travels is just asking for trouble. And converting all your money once you land is just asking to get ripped off by poor exchange rates.

There's a much better way: Use a travel debit card and withdraw the cash you need as you go while you're traveling … without paying a dime in ATM fees. 

For years, our go-to has been the Charles Schwab debit card. This free checking account is a must in any traveler's wallet because it means you'll never pay ATM fees, in the U.S. or abroad. But the process of getting set up with a Schwab account is a bit daunting: You have to set up a brokerage account in order to get the Schwab checking account and your ATM card. Both accounts are free, and there are no minimums required.
 

charles schwab debit card 

But there are several other fee-free ATM cards you might consider adding to your wallet for your travels. Another strong contender is an account with Betterment.

Similar to the Charles Schwab Investor checking account, Betterment also reimburses an unlimited amount of ATM fees and doesn’t pass along any foreign currency conversion fees, making it another excellent choice for travelers. Unlike the Schwab card, you don't need a separate brokerage account to get started.

We don't get paid to promote either of these cards: We just think they're excellent options for travelers, allowing you to finally put this money-carrying myth to rest.

 

Bottom Line

Just call us Travel Myth Busters.

This is just a sliver of the bad intel that's been passed around over the years that far too many travelers have accepted as fact. These bad myths are holding you back from savvier (and cheaper) travel.

 

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