With the economy in the tank and new airline fees for just about everything, how can savvy business owners keep their T&E budgets in line? Here are some tips to lower your travel costs.
Clay Strawn, owner of Exit Realty Sun Living in Chandler, Arizona, takes about 5 business trips a year and while that may not seem like a lot to some, for his small real estate company it’s a large investment. “Most of my trips are for conferences so I really try to make the trip as inexpensive as possible. I check to make sure that the hotel conference rate is the cheapest I can get and I use hotel shuttles to get to and from the airport, “says Strawn. “It’s important for me to keep my travel costs as low as possible.”
Tip#1-Instead of flying, take the train. It will take longer to reach your destination, but it will save you money. Rail service isn’t available everywhere and Amtrak is your only choice in the U.S. but it’s worth a check. A one-way ticket on Amtrak from New York to Montreal is $65.00 and takes 11 hours where a 90 minute flight will set you back $400. Add in long waits in airport security lines, flight delays, and baggage fees and taking the train seems like a good alternative. It will also give you time to get that presentation in order as most trains have free Wi-Fi.
Tip#2- Cancel the face-to-face meeting and utilize online services such as WebEx or GoToMeeting instead. Both offer trial plans at no charge and monthly plans under $50. These conference services provide the ability to share computer screens, utilize VoIP and even draw on whiteboards to collaborate during your meeting. They also have smart phone apps so you can conduct meetings while on the go.
Tip#3-Mix business with pleasure. Consider adding a couple of days onto your next business trip to explore a new city. This can save you on airfare, and most rental car companies and hotels will offer discounts or free days if your stay is long enough. If attending a conference, consider bringing the family along. Chances are you’ve already sprung for the hotel room.
Tip#4-Use an airline or hotel Visa/MasterCard for everyday business expenses. There are a TON of credit cards that offer miles, perks and free hotel stays. Figure out which one will give you the rewards you are most likely to use at BankRate.com. Then, put all expenses on the card, preferably paying it off monthly. That way when you do have to travel you can redeem points to offset the expense.
Tip#5-Schedule meetings with clients for after lunch whenever possible. Mid-morning meetings often have the pretense that you will be buying lunch for your client. Lunch is not a requirement to close a deal. Stick to this motto and you could save hundreds of dollars a year.
Tip#6-Utilize airport or hotel shuttles whenever possible. Cabs are quick and easy, but expensive. Some hotels offer free shuttles to and from the airport so check if this is available. Rental cars can also be a less expensive alternative. I always check Hotwire for cheap rental car prices. On a recent trip to Phoenix, I paid $7.95 a day for a mid-sized car through Alamo. Even on Alamo’s own website, their cheapest advertised price was $31.95 a day.
Tip#7- Consider using a travel agent. The good ones have connections and can get you discounts on hotels, cars and even tickets to shows and events. Travel Agents normally make their commission from the hotel or venue so there is no cost to you.
Tip#8- Check last minute travel deals. If you can be flexible on dates, you can save a bundle. Deals are usually traveling Thursday or Friday and returning on Monday or Tuesday so you can have a nice weekend and a Monday morning meeting. Several websites offer alerts and deals such as Hotel Tonight, Last Minute Travel.com, and Travelzoo.com.
Tip#9- Pack only a carry-on for those airlines that charge for checked bags. This may seem like a no-brainer, but luggage fees can add up fast. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, look into shipping your luggage via UPS or FedEx. Some airlines will also waive baggage fees for certain members of the rewards program. Delta, for example, waives baggage fees if you are an American Express Delta SkyMiles credit card holder.
Tip#10- If you are traveling out of the country, check cell coverage for your destination before you go, that way there are no surprising roaming charges. Especially when using data, these charges can add up quickly. If you will be in a roaming area, it’s usually less expensive to buy a pre-paid cell phone at the airport to use.
Always keep a close eye on any expenditures, especially while traveling, as they can quickly add up. If you follow these tips you will get your travel budget under control and be that much closer to a profitable bottom line.
Article by Sherry Jackson