Travel expenses can be one of the biggest worries for businesses, especially small businesses. With the changing economy and fluctuating prices of airfare, hotels, and rental services, the need to reevaluate business travel expenses is high.
Cutting down on costs can be done without having to sacrifice comfort and reliability. Focusing on the highest, and even lowest points of spending will help to give a clearer picture of where money saving is possible. Happy travelling can be achieved by realizing what things can either be cut, or trimmed down.
The trick is to think effectively and reasonably in all realms of travel. Travel managers hope and wish for an employee who uses their common sense to make difficult decisions regarding expenses. Cutting down on travel costs takes just that type of person to realize where they can steer from their normal routines while, at the same time, adhering to their own, as well as the company’s, standard of comfort.
Business men and women can be thrifty on top of being responsible and professional. When thinking about how to cut down on costs, or even where to start, review these helpful tips and suggestions that will ultimately give you a trip of the same quality but for a better price.
Booking Flights and Air Travel
At the top of the list of expenses, airfare can and will take a big chunk out of your trip costs. For business men and women, flying business class is preferred but not always necessary. Business class can offer more room, and better accommodations for working, but there can and should be compromise while booking a flight without having to sacrifice the comfort and productive nature of business class.
The Best Days to Book Flights
Finding optimal flight prices to book can sometimes be about luck and chance, but there can also be a science to it. When setting out to book, try searching for flights during the week, preferably on a Wednesday or Thursday. There are many studies showing which days are best to buy and when tickets will be the cheapest. Some suggest during the week, and others say the weekend. With this knowledge comes a battle. Check flight prices over the week and see where they appear to be the cheapest.
Just as booking flights on specific days of the week is highly recommended, booking flights departing and returning during the week is a good practice to save money. Traveling on the weekends can and will be more hectic than on the weekdays. It will also cost you a little more due to the high traffic of flyers. Expedia’s report on air travel trends(PDF) concludes that “leaving on Thursday and returning on Monday costs around 20 percent less than leaving on Friday and returning on Saturday.” When booking, consider making your trip start on a weekday and end before the weekend rush.
If at all possible, avoid flying out on a weekend by adding a couple of days to your business trip. Bino Chua, a travel blogger at I Wander, suggests to “start on a Monday rather than midweek or late in the week” and reminds us that it “will help you avoid having business expenses on weekends.” This will ultimately help cut down expenses in other aspects of travel as well.
Combining leisure time with business trip time, aka bleisure, is a new trend that consists of adding days onto a business trip for one’s own vacation. If you are already going to a new place for work, why not stay a couple of days longer and explore the destination as a traveler? This goes along great with extending a trip in order to save money. If it saves the company money, many travel managers are signing off on the extra bleisure days, as long as their employees assume the travel expenses on those extra days.
Best Services to Search for Flight Deals
Searching for flights has never been easier. There are many services that help to search, which can all be done from the comfort of your home or office, but that is also the problem. The multitude of flight choices and the ability to search on numerous aggregate sites can sometimes be overwhelming.
But even using travel sites such as Expedia, Kayak, or Orbitz, may not show you all of the available flights out there. While these services are helpful to compare prices, it is a good idea to check the airline’s website to see if they are running any special deals. You might be surprised to learn that the fares on airline sites are sometimes cheaper than those on other service’s sites. A flight found on the JetBlue’s site departing on a Thursday and returning the following Tuesday lists as low as $86 where as on Orbitz, the same exact flight lists at $155.
Search the web as much as possible, and remember to compare the prices on all platforms. Finding the best price may take a little time out of your day, but it will save your company money and put you in the good graces of your travel manager.
Tips on Traveling Light
Packing for trips can be tricky and stressful. When done right, your luggage should never hinder your trip or cause you to make unexpected charges to your credit card. When flying, try to take only the essentials and make sure you bring just a carry on. Most airlines offer one carry-on bag along with some personal items, like a briefcase or purse, for free.
Take advantage of the ability to bring your stuff with you for no charge. This will also save you time as well as money while you walk off the plane with all your belongings instead of waiting at baggage claim.
If you do decide to go with a cheaper airline, or fly on one you are not familiar with, make sure to read the fine print. Learning about all the airlines charges and fees will help you to successfully dodge them. Some cheaper airlines, such as Spirit, do not offer free carry on bags. Watch out for these extra fees and if possible, avoid them.
Ground Transportation: Save Money Using Rentals and Car Services
While rental cars and car services are not as pricey as the flight you just took, they will put a dent in your trip budget. Trying to find the best deals for ground transportation involves diving into your travel policy and realizing what standards your company has set for travel. Also, there are booking options that bundle airfare and car rental packages together which significantly cut costs compared to booking separately.
On the other hand, there are services that are relatively cheap to help you get to your hotel and conferences without breaking the bank. If renting is not your bag, consider services such as Uber and Lyft that are more than easy to understand and get on board with. These can be accessed through apps on your phone and require little time and effort to set up.
Uber and Lyft can be very good alternatives to cabs or rental cars. These services are cheap and can be split with others around you that you may have met at your hotel, airport or conference hall. Carpooling is a great way to make new contacts, get closer with clients, and ultimately save money.
Hotels: Where to Stay and What to Look For
When booking hotels, consider looking into what they can offer you and how it can benefit your trip. Most hotels offer free WiFi along with a conference or business room to get work done. These will come in handy and won’t force you to scramble to find a Starbucks or eat up your cellular data as a hot spot.
Other hotel accommodations, such as an airport shuttle, will help to lower your cost so that you won’t have to worry about transportation right before you leave. While high star hotels offer lots of perks, a clean room at a lower star hotel can be all that you need.
One great practice is to be loyal and form a relationship with brands and vendors. Just like frequent flyer miles, and credit card points, staying at the same hotel numerous times is very beneficial to saving money. Michelle Lawson of The Remote Experience expresses that one should “establish a partnership with apartments, hotels, and office spaces that you frequent or hope to frequent. Once you’ve shown that you are a trusted client that will provide continued business, you can potentially secure deals that are 10-20% off the advertised price.”
Negotiation is a key factor in obtaining the best deal. Once a relationship is formed, you, the travel manager, can speak with the hotel one on one and figure out how they can help you. They know you will be coming back and they want your business. This will come in handy when an abrupt cancellation is needed and the hotel decides to waive the cancellation fee because of the relationship you have formed.
On top of frequent stay discounts and benefits, or if you haven’t established these types of relationships yet, coupons can come in handy as well. Searching for coupons or deals online along with checking rest stops or gas stations for coupon booklets can help you to find deals you would have never found otherwise.
Credit Cards: Points and Loyalty Savings
Following the frequent flyer trend, using a credit card that gives back to you as you spend will cut costs automatically. “The absolute best thing you can do to maximize your travel experience and minimize your company’s costs is choose the best travel rewards credit card” says Stephen Yasko a public media executive and consultant.
Certain credit cards offer other services on top of giving back to you such as insurance for rental cars. Perks like these pile on top of each other to give you the best trip for your buck.
Meals, Where to Eat, and Entertaining Clients
Figuring out what and where to eat while away from home can be a difficult and stressful task. When on your trip, remember that saving money on food comes down to being responsible about cutting down on how much you are going out along with where you go.
A great way to save money is to take advantage of what you already have. The hotel breakfast will give you your first meal of the day for free. Finding these types of meals, and or snacks, such as the conference refreshment table, will curb your hunger and hopefully make you eat smarter once you actually go out.
Another good practice to consider is to make lunch your main meal. Most restaurants offer better prices for lunch with portions just as big as their dinner ones.
In the cases where you must go out and entertain a client, checking the menu of a restaurant beforehand will help to ensure you won’t be spending lots of money on yourself and others. Most restaurants offer online menus that will give you the ability to compare prices and make the best decision about what is necessary.
Other Helpful Tips for a Happy, Successful Trip
In today’s world of business and technology, we can connect to anyone and anywhere in a matter of seconds. This is possible due to the internet of course. With services such as Skype and GoToMeeting, one can meet with clients or have a virtual meeting with coworkers or employees instead of meeting in person. This can help save money on a trip when you are either stuck somewhere, or will not be arriving at your destination until after the meeting.
As technology continues to grow, the number of services and apps increases and inevitably makes your job a little bit easier. With these apps and services comes new innovative ways to do business and save money. Gregory Golinski, a digital marketing executive with MyjobinAustralia, points out that there are “Services such as Spothero (US) or YourParkingSpace (UK) [that] connect drivers with parking space owners. These platforms let you find a driveway or garage whenever and wherever you need one, for a good price.”
Before your employees hit the road, consider mapping out all your possible routes for savings. As a travel manager, it can be hard to corral your team into making all the best decisions. After all, people are just human. But the good news is there is a lot of information out there that can help to make your job easier. Surf the web, compare prices, and speak with people as often as possible. Getting insider tips, along with interacting with someone directly can and will help you to get the best information and make the smart decisions that will save your company money.
Saving money on the road can be difficult sometimes, but it is not impossible. Follow your instinct, and use your common sense. Being aware of what you’re paying for, as well as what other deals are out there is the best practice for spotting a phony, or on the other hand, a really great deal.
Loyalty, professionalism, and friendship can go a long way. Remember to make good judgments and follow your instinct. Your comfort does not have to be compromised to have a successful trip. Be as informed as possible and stay on the lookout for great deals.
Patrick is a recent graduate of the University of New Haven with a passion for writing and creating thought-provoking content. When he’s not writing he’s either watching too many TV episodes or riding his skateboard.