With businesses cutting corners everywhere they can, saving money on business travel could definitely put you on the boss’ good side. The trick is knowing where you can shave dollars without compromising your ability to do effective work. Whether you’re expensing everything or saving cash from your own pocket, these money saving business travel tips can add to your bottom line without putting your budget into the red.
Buy Refundable Airline Tickets
Airlines can be major sticklers for rules, especially when it comes to cancellation policies, but if you read their policies carefully you can save yourself some money. On most airlines, your tickets are non-refundable, but some do make allowances for passenger-initiated changes and cancellations. On JetBlue, for example, you can cancel your reservation and apply what you’ve already paid toward any future trips within the next year for a $30 service fee, and on Southwest, you can do the same thing with no charges applying. When you book with an airline that offers a liberal cancellation policy, you can make your reservation at the best price you can find. If the price goes up, you’ve got your price locked in. If it goes down, you can cancel your ticket and rebook it at a lower rate as long as you stick with the same airline. If you find a better price on another airline, you can cancel and save your credit for a future trip.
Combine Business Trips
You can save a surprising amount of money by triangulating your business trips. If you have to meet with several people within driving distance of each other, coordinate your plans so you only have to make one flight. If you can arrange your travel to include stop-offs in other cities in which you have business, you can eliminate one air fare, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.
Shop around carefully for the best possible airfares. In some cases, it will be far cheaper to price your trip as two one-way flights rather than a round-trip ticket on a single carrier. There’s a lot to be said for convenience, but weigh the costs of convenience and decide if they’re worth it before booking a straight-through round-trip ticket to your destination.
Look to Contracted and Negotiated Rates
Don’t automatically assume that the discount travel websites have the best hotel room rates. In fact, these days the really cheap hotel rates are often those that are negotiated by corporations, either for their own employees or as the sponsors of meetings and conventions. By all means, check Travelocity and Hotels.com before booking your room, but don’t be surprised to find that the best price you get is the one your employer negotiated.
Stay On the Outskirts
A Manhattan hotel room can put a serious dent in your business travel budget. If you book a room near LaGuardia or Newark and travel in on public transit, you can save hundreds of dollars a night on your business trip. In smaller cities – especially tourist meccas – it makes sense to rent a car and book a motel room in a nearby suburb. Not only will you get cheap lodgings, you’re also likely to find that everything – including restaurant meals – is cheaper.
Corporate Apartments and Suites
If you’re going to be staying in one place for more than a few days, skip the hotels and look for corporate furnished apartments or corporate suites. You’ll usually find much lower rates because they don’t offer all the amenities you’d find at big hotels. Instead, you’ll generally have a full kitchen, including a refrigerator where you can store groceries and save money on restaurant meals. In addition, many of them provide a complimentary breakfast and perks like free local telephone and high speed Internet access.
Check Public Transportation
Cab fare from the airport to your hotel can cost nearly as much as a full night’s stay, but most major airports have easy access to public transit nearby. If you’re not traveling with loaded trunks, taking the subway or bus to your hotel can put an extra $50 or more into your pocket.
Optimize Your Car Rental
Check the typical taxi fare from the airport to your hotel – and don’t forget to include tip and/or service charge. Depending on the situation, it may be far less expensive to rent a car for your first and last days just to get you back and forth to the airport.
Why pay $20 or more a night to park in the hotel parking garage when you can park in a municipal garage nearby for half that? Depending on the city, you may even be fine parking on the street overnight – many cities only require feeding the meter during daytime business hours. As long as you’re on the move before they start ticketing, you can park all night for free.
Take the Train or Bus
While the U.S. doesn’t have a lot of high-speed rail options, it’s still sometimes more economical – and comfortable – to hop Amtrak or commuter rail than it is to fly. Even driving can be a viable alternative to high airfares if the trip is a short one. When you drive your own car on a business trip, you’ll save air fare – and rental car charges… and you won’t have to take off your shoes at the security counter.