Now that most companies are working under a new fiscal year, you may find you need to stretch this year’s business travel budget a little further than before. Here are some of our favorite budget-saving techniques for making the most of your business travel dollars.
Look for hidden costs, and be wary of special “savings.” What looks like a savings could actually increase your costs in the long run. For example, you may find a cheaper hotel on the other side of town from your big meeting, but the commute will eat up the savings in taxi or Uber fees.
Similarly, if three people are visiting a client together, but all book travel separately, all three have to get to the hotel or client on their own. Even if the flights are cheaper, you may be able to reduce costs if everyone coordinates rides to and from the airport, and even stay in the same hotel. Some hotels will give discounts for multiple rooms, so call the hotel directly and ask for the sales desk.
Use technology whenever possible. There are a variety of mobile apps to help you keep track of expenses, such as apps that let you take photos of your receipts and build expense reports as you go. This eliminates the need to save all your receipts throughout the trip, and risk losing any. You can even export your reports and quickly share them with your finance department when you get back to the office.
Even if you’re an experienced business traveler, there are a few little things you can do to make your next travel experience more expedient, efficient, and economical. Based on our own experiences, as well as those of some of our customers, these are a few travel hacks you can do to save money, time, and your sanity.
Pay premium for the direct flight. The old axiom is true: time is money. And if you’re a business traveler, you’re losing money while you’re in transit, which means you need to find a way to shorten that time. Traveling more legs than necessary just to save money actually decreases your productivity, which costs you more money in the long run.
Every segment you add to a flight also increases the risk of delay or cancellation, which costs time as well as energy. Plus, those who book full-fare tickets, even if they’re in economy, are more likely to get an upgrade if it’s available because the gate agent will know the price you paid by a code on the ticket. Remember, if you get to your destination sooner, you can start working sooner.
Negotiate with car rental agencies. Did you even know you could do this? According to some of our experienced business travelers, you can. While premium cars are more expensive, rental agents may be willing to negotiate if there are available cars in this category, and if they’re not pressed for time with lots of customers behind you.
Traveling is expensive; there’s no way around it. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall prey to the hidden costs and extra surprise charges. There are ways to avoid unnecessary fees that can come along while you’re traveling, so here are a few ways you can avoid the problem.
When you’re at the car rental agency desk and are asked if you want to buy their insurance, you can politely answer with a confident “no, thank you,” as long as you know that your standard car insurance policy covers rental cars (check with your agent to be sure). Also, some credit cards provide insurance for rental cars as well, like American Express.
Hunger strikes when you’re least prepared, and it seems like the only option available would be the overpriced airport and hotel food. Not true! Since you know you get hungry approximately three times a day, whether traveling or not, avoid that $3 bottle of water by packing your own empty one, and filling it at the water fountain. Better yet, fill it from the bottle-filling stations if available.
You’re traveling to a new city, either on business or leisure, and you want to experience it the way the locals do. Before 2008, the idea of staying in someone’s home was only a viable option if you already knew someone there. Airbnb (and before that, HomeExchange) changed all that. Now you can safely stay in someone’s home or apartment and perhaps even share a meal with your hosts, providing a uniquely personal way to get acquainted with your destination.
While you may already be familiar with the shared economy of accommodations, did you know there’s also an alternative to the traditional rental car industry? Through companies like RelayRides, Zipcar, Hubber, Getaround, and JustShareIt, individuals can share their vehicles with travelers who need them on demand, or for as brief a time as one hour.
In some cases, the owners of the cars pick their renters up at the airport, saving time spent in rental car lines. If you’re looking for a different mode of transportation, Spinlister offers travelers the ability to rent a bicycle, snowboard, or skis. You can even rent a boat using GetMyBoat.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to go on a vacation. You have to plan your itinerary, find the best airfare, decide where to stay, and perhaps who to travel with. But everything in life requires effort, and we don’t want to see you miss out on a great experience because of the following negative myths:
It’s too expensive
In case you were waiting to win the lottery, the reality is everything costs money. There’s no free lunch, but there certainly are a plethora of free and discounted sites and activities to participate in, no matter where you decide to go. (Look at the activities you do at home — museums, sporting events, festivals.)
And there are ways to take vacations that don’t cost much more than your regular living. For example, if you could drive to a new city 1,000 miles away and stay in an Airbnb apartment, you’re looking at the cost of gas and lodging. You can cook your own food, which you would have to do anyway, and you can just walk around and experience a brand new city for an entire week, and try the inexpensive and discounted activities.
Everyone has their favorite method of travel, whether it’s planes, trains, or automobiles. But can you guess which method is growing to be the preferred way by many people in the U.S.?
If you said buses, you are correct.
Compared to airline services, fares for travel buses are a fraction of the cost. Megabus advertises prices that are very low. For example, to travel from Miami to Orlando, the one-way fare is as low as $3.00. Since these vehicles offer luxuries such as free wifi and larger seats, there are plenty of incentives for travelers to choose a bus for shorter travel trips. Of course there’s a trade off. A bus takes a longer time to get where it’s going. The estimated time of this bus trip is 5 hours, around an hour and a half more than by car. .
With airplanes, you can travel across the country in a matter of hours. The same cannot be said for a bus. Driving is always slower than air travel and depending on the destination, traveling by bus may require lots of stops and layovers, adding to the travel time and taking away precious vacation time. But, you can save hundreds of dollars, which will make your vacation a lot more affordable.
As travel prices are increasing, it’s no wonder people are choosing a travel bus for travel. It’s much easier on the wallet. But if your time is much more important, and you can afford the higher cost, air travel is still the quickest way to get from point A to point B.
You may have budgeted carefully for your next trip, but there’s a good chance you’ll still be surprised by a few of the
unexpected expenses you encounter. A great Budget Travel article, reprinted on CNN’s website, mentioned a bunch of those expenses and explained what they are.
There really isn’t much you can do about these fees except know what they are — knowing is half the battle, after all — and grouse about them to your friends and colleagues. Here’s a look at those seven shockers:
1. Visa Fees
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa. The costs can vary, but places like China and Brazil charge more than $100. Check in with the country’s consulate for costs, and be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your visa to come in — or you’ll pay extra to expedite it, too.
2. Departure Taxes
International flights, in addition to the other secret fees few know anything about, also include a tax just to leave the country, especially if you’re traveling from the Caribbean and South America. The CNN article says those taxes can go to fund things like airport construction work, road work, and water and sewage system maintenance.
3. Resort Fees
CNN calls these the most hated fees among travelers. Sometimes a flat fee and sometimes a percentage of the room rate, resort fees include things travelers often assume come for free, like towels at the pool or that daily newspaper outside the door. (You know, the one you step over on your way out?)
Some hotels include gym access and wireless internet in their resort fees, which you can’t sweet talk your way out of even if you don’t plan to use the services they cover.
4. Cruise Gratuities
Major cruise lines charge anywhere from $10 to $12 per person, per day, in gratuities alone. If you’re on a 10-day Caribbean cruise and have already been buying drinks and splurging on extras left and right, you’ll be even more stunned when hundreds of dollars in gratuity shows up on your final bill.
CNN notes that though the charges seem mandatory, you can take it up with the ship’s purser in person to adjust the gratuity, up or down, if you think you’ve received better or worse service than the rate indicates.
5. Baggage Fees
Need we say more? Baggage fees are killer, and rarely an actual shock, but it takes our breath away every time all the same. These fees are changing all the time, and usually not for the better — we’re all for carrying our bags onto the plane whenever possible. Failing that, be sure to do your research beforehand to find a carrier with reasonable baggage fees and fares to match.
6. Money Exchange
Especially if you plan on hitting smaller towns with mom-and-pop shops and restaurants, it’s always a good idea to visit a major ATM before you leave the city. They usually offer the best exchange rates and less hassle than a foreign exchange, too.
7. Foreign Transaction Fees for Airline Tickets
If you’re booking an international flight on a foreign carrier, you might want to find another flight or consider booking a code-share flight from a domestic partner airline — your credit card company could levy a foreign transaction fee for booking with British Airways, Air France or another foreign-based international carrier.
You can also use a credit card that doesn’t charge those fees, like Capital One. But your safest bet is just to book with an American carrier.
- 7 common expenses that take travelers by surprise (cnn.com)
- Watch out for new hidden hotel fee (newsnet5.com)
- Hotels expected to fetch $1.95 billion in fees (travel.usatoday.com)
- 10 most annoying hotel fees (travel.usatoday.com)
Of all the inconveniences associated with air travel, one of the worst is being squeezed sardine-like against your fellow passengers in an overcrowded coach cabin. If you resent having your “personal space” invaded, flying coach can be an ordeal.
But those spacious first class seats are too expensive for most of us. So, what’s a compressed, budget-conscious air traveler to do?
An effective approach is to request an exit row seat. While you may pay a little more (and will be expected to remove the escape door in the event of an emergency), you’ll enjoy significantly more arm and leg room.
A less obvious technique — if the exit row is already booked — is to request a seat in the row immediately behind it. Normally, exit row seats don’t recline, so you’re assured that the snoozing passenger directly in front of you won’t suddenly lean back into your lap.
You can also increase leg room by not storing anything under the seat in front of you. Simply pack your Travelpro® Rollaboard® properly, and place it in the overhead bin.
Another common approach is to request an aisle seat. While some travelers swear that window seats are roomier, most agree that having the aisle to one side gives you a greater sense of openness. On full flights, requesting a two-seat row instead of a three-seat row also lessens the number of bodies in close proximity.
If the flight isn’t full, you can always move to rows that aren’t full. Plus, you can choose planes with the fewest middle seats (for example, no middle seats are assigned on a 767 until it’s 87% full), or those flying at off-peak times (primarily midweek and midday), decreasing the likelihood of the plane being full. Use Orbitz’s Flexible Search tool to determine scheduled aircraft and flights booked at less than capacity.
Another option for making your coach class experience more enjoyable is comparing seat dimensions (on www.seatguru.com) and choosing flights with the roomiest seats. On domestic flights, coach seats vary from 16.5″ to 18″ in width, and 30″ to 36″ in pitch (total distance between rows). On international flights, the seat’s width ranges from 17″ to 20″ and pitch ranges from 31″ to 42″.
Finally, you should always select the best seat available when you book your flight. Then monitor seat maps online and, if a better choice comes up, change your seat assignment.
Flying coach class doesn’t have to be a claustrophobic nightmare. With a little planning, you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver.
Photo: knight725 (Flickr)