I unfortunately have a reputation of being a bit careful with money. It’s not something I’ve deliberately cultivated or crave, indeed it’s simply been thrust upon me out of necessity. Anyway, the last few years I’ve abandoned all sense of being a relaxed, free spending individual and embraced penny pinching. So here’s a short tale which has saved me money and might help someone else. It sounds quite obvious, but it wasn’t to me initially so perhaps someone else will feel the same.
I have foolishly promised my family a trip out to the US next year, as they’re complaining that they’d never been. So I was planning a trip to include New York, the awful sounding Disney parks and a few highlights from the West Coast. It is while researching the West Coast tours that I had my epiphany, trying to organise seeing a few sites in a limited time, without spending a small fortune. Of course, I started online and began to look for tours across the West Coast of America – here’s my first search page.
Seems ok, but have you noticed something ? Please click to enlarge if you can’t read it properly, there’s a point to be made here. I noticed it a few minutes after checking out some of the links, every one of the results where UK based travel companies. To be more precise they were UK travel companies reselling tours of the West coast of America. The majority of these tours were run by US companies, all resold through companies based in the UK.
So what’s wrong with this, you may ask? Well my investigations continued and I discovered that all these services were much more expensive when bought through UK companies. Which of course makes sense, they’ve got to mark up the price to include their profit margins. Then the penny dropped, slowly and painfully my brain came up with the idea – why can’t I just search and book these tours directly with the companies that are running them? We all know that the more people involved in the transaction, the more fingers in the pie and the higher the costs will be – so why not book direct? The first stumbling block is actually finding them – Google deliberately directs you to suppliers local to you. This is of course fine when you’re searching for plumbers and local tradesmen, but why bother if you want to book a trip with a company across the globe?
After all –
- All these companies are on the internet.
- An email from me will arrive in California as quickly as it will in Liverpool
- There’s no language barrier.
- It must be cheaper!
Makes sense, doesn’t it ? So first let’s get Google to show us local suppliers from the West Coast of the US rather than travel agents reselling me the same thing. My first thought was to use Identity Cloaker to open up a US VPN, which of course would then make me look as though I was in the US and show me the same results. This will work but it’s not actually necessary as all you need to do is to stop Google redirecting you when you ask for the US version of Google – here’s the url you need, just add NCR (no country redirection) like this –
Without adding the NCR switch , Google will decide that you’re a confused muppet and redirect you to your local version of the search engine instead of the US one. But if you use it you can search on google.com with US based results – like this (again click to enlarge):
This time I get local companies, that is US companies local to the West Coast not ten miles from me. When investigated, they are all much cheaper, all are happy to accept booking direct and are just as easy to deal with as the British companies. In fact they’re a whole lot nicer than the UK companies to be honest.
In reality using a VPN actually works a little better than using the NCR switch as you still seem to get better localised results. But using the switch is perfectly adequate for initial research. In my instance I booked the exact same tour for my family with a US company and save about $1600 from the UK based price.
Ok so it’s only a small personal example, but it’s indicative of how the internet giants and search engines are controlling how we access the internet. We are being funneled down a computer generated personalized and commercialized version of the internet. The internet does get bigger by the day, but do you often find yourself on the same old web sites every day? I certainly do, the internet is expanding whilst I seem to be constantly railroaded into the same old sites.
Step back and think of what you want to achieve online, it does help and can greatly expand the possibilities that the search engines will offer.