Business Travel is Up: 7 Tips to Hold Costs Down

imagesClean and safe.  That used to be my only criteria for booking business travel.  Because business travel can be a significant hit to a small business budget, I,  like many entrepreneurs, was willing to make compromises in order to hold the cost down.  So as long as I felt safe and my room was clean, I was happy.

However, today business travelers don’t have to make huge sacrifices on quality to have both comfort and recently reported that the number of business trips by U.S. companies is on the rise, up 3 percent in the first three months of the year as compared to the same period in 2013.  Therefore, I thought it would be the perfect time to review some of my cost-saving business travel tips to make your trip enjoyable as well as economical.

1.  Book Airfare in Advance.  Try to book your airfare as far in advance as possible.  The longer you wait, the higher the fare will most likely be.  If you’re afraid you may need to change your flight, then look for airlines with the most flexible change fees.  For example, Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge a change fee (a penalty) whereas American Airlines charges a change fee of $200.

2.  Fly in and Out.  If you can catch an early morning flight to your destination and fly out that same day, you’ll save the cost of a hotel and meals.  In fact, if you belong to an airline club, you may be able to arrange for a meeting with your customer right at the airport, saving on ground transportation too.

3.  Use Hotels for Business Travelers.  There are some hotel chains that cater to road warriors.  They aren’t the five star, glitz and glamor hotels, but they are nice and comfortable.  Some of my favorites have pillow top beds with fluffy pillows.  These chains also typically have an on-site fitness center, free wi-fi and offer a hot breakfast every morning.  Recently, I stayed in an Embassy Suites in Boston where the rate also included an evening reception with free appetizers and soft drinks. That was dinner for me!

4.  Watch for Deals.  If you travel to the same cities frequently, subscribe to fare alerts and keep an eye out for deals.  For example, I fly to New York several times a month so I watch for discounted round-trip fares.  Fare alerts work particularly well if your travel plans are flexible.

5.  Become a Member.  Enroll in the airline and hotel loyalty programs.  I have so many of these cards that I carry them in a separate wallet.  Earning points that you can use for future travel provides a cost savings.  If you primarily use one brand, consider getting an affinity credit card so you can earn points or miles when you use it.

6.  Watch for Coupons.  If you need to stay several days in one city, pick up local publications and/or search the Internet for restaurant coupons.  Also, ask the front desk manager or concierge if they have any coupons available for guests.  Sometimes restaurants in the area will provide hotels with coupons for their guests to attract new business.

7.  Ship in Advance.  Tired of baggage fees.  If you need to check multiple bags, consider shipping your luggage or cases in advance.  Delivery companies track your packages and guarantee delivery — something you won’t get from the airlines.

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