Business trips seem to be getting more and more expensive these days. Oil prices are going down but ticket prices still continue to rise. Hotels are making big money on fees, raising the cost for an overnight stay. Food prices are on the rise which causes restaurant prices to increase. The list goes on and on. Some business travelers are fully reimbursed for travel expenses, some are partially, and some are self employed and pay completely out of pocket. I personally get fully reimbursed for business expenses as long as I stay under my daily meal allowance but I still make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck when I travel. This not only helps out the company I work for but also is good practice for when I travel on personal trips. Here are my tips for saving money on business trips.
Google Flights. My company has a corporate travel department that works out pricing for flights. We get pretty good rates, but I like to test those rates time to time using the Google Flights website. I often find that Google Flights has comparable rates to what my company pays for airline tickets using their corporate rate. I know a lot of people that have found great airline ticket prices using Google Flights, I’ve been lucky enough to find some very low prices for personal travel. The only downside to Google Flights is that you can’t book Southwest through their site, as you have to book directly through the Southwest.com (for Southwest deal notifications sign up for their Click ‘N Save). Million Mile Secrets post has a great post on using the Google Flights site. If you aren’t a Google fan Airfarewatchdog is a good source for airfare deals as well. Their site also has lots of very helpful information on airline fees and policies under the Airline Information tab.
Know when to book. There are lots of studies out there on when the best time is to buy an airline ticket, but in my experience the worst time is right before your trip. Obviously sometimes in the business world you don’t have a choice but to book a last minute trip, but the prices for airfare always seem to be astronomically higher. Studies also back this up as you’ll see in this story on the best time to book a cheap flight.
Hotels are a different story though—I have found some amazing deals last minute. For work trips I don’t usually like waiting until the last minute to book just to save money (feels so risky!), but on trips that get scheduled last minute I’ve unintentionally gotten deals because of high vacancy. If you want the best deal on hotels and don’t want to book last minute, use sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak to help in your price search. Also don’t forget to call the hotel directly. Sometimes you’ll find the best deal that way. And when to book? In my experience I’ve had the best success booking the furthest in advance that I can. I try to avoid business travel surrounding holidays when at all possible, and when I’m traveling to big cities I like to look up and see if there’s a big event going on that might jack up the rates, then avoid those dates if I’m able.
Plan your meals. If you don’t have a plan for your meals before your trip you’ll most likely be eating badly and spending more money than necessary. If I’m traveling somewhere unfamiliar I’ll first look to see if any of the restaurants around my hotel are in my rewards card dining portal program. If so I’ll check Yelp or Urban Spoon for reviews to make sure it’s a good restaurant. Next I go to the restaurants website to see if they have any coupons, or to see if they have a newsletter I can sign up for to receive a special offer. Sometimes the front desk will have coupons for restaurants surrounding the hotel so be sure to ask them at check-in. Finally, I check out the restaurant’s happy hour times. Sometimes you can find things half off during happy hour and save a bundle.
Another way to save money is to go to a grocery store to buy foods, especially if you have a fridge in your room. Not only is this a healthier option in most cases, it can be a big money saver as well. Speaking of healthy eating—be sure to check out my post on eating well during business travel if you haven’t already.
Many hotels offer a free breakfast, but I’ve stayed at plenty of places that go beyond that. Embassy Suites offers free happy hour and Homewood Suites has hot meals most nights. The food isn’t always great, but if you’re really trying to save money it’s a good option to consider.
Use GasBuddy. Gas prices are getting lower these days, but that shouldn’t stop you from shopping for the best price. I like to use the GasBuddy app to help me find the best price on gas based on the zip code I’m in at the time. It’s a great way to save money during business travel (and while home).
Watch out for airline fees. Airlines love to charge fees. One of the best ways to avoid them is to carry-on your luggage. Southwest Airlines lets you check two bags for free, although I still carry-on my bags for every trip. Another option—there are plenty of credit cards that offer a free checked bag as one of the benefits.
There are so many ways to save money on business travel that I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface!
Readers, what are your favorite ways to save money on work trips?
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