How to keep travel costs down within an ever-tightening budget.
You can’t always conduct business by long distance. Sometimes you’ve got to go to where the business is, whether it’s an important customer, an industry conference, or a high-level executive meeting.
Getting there is no longer half the fun, thanks to cutbacks in travel expenditures that the recession has inflicted on so many businesses. One survey of travel managers found that 25 per cent have made emergency spending cutbacks in response to the financial crisis, and 34 per cent have instituted a freeze on travel altogether.
But when nothing will take the place of looking the other person in the eye, some smart planning will keep expenses under control. Follow these tips for trips that won’t break your budget:
- Book early (if not often). For the most part, you’ll get the best airline rates by making reservations at least three weeks ahead of time.That makes long- range planning a necessity.You may be able to get a good deal at the last minute, but don’t count on it. Booking early also gives you time to compare prices and search for deals.
- Flexibility can stretch your money. Early morning and evening flights tend to be cheaper, so be willing to endure a little inconvenience for the sake of your bottom line. Look at nearby alternative airports, too. Flying into New Jersey can cost less than a flight straight to NYC.
- Expand your horizons. A hotel on the outskirts of a major metropolis will probably be less pricey than one in the centre of town. Remember: your goal isn’t to spend a lot of time in your room.
- Look for simplicity. Consider accommodations that have kitchens: Preparing a simple meal is cheaper than eating out three times a day. If the hotel offers a free breakfast, take advantage.
- Take the low (cost) road. If you need to rent a car, try to get away from the airport first. Rates can be cheaper at rental offices that don’t have a built-in stream of business. Don’t use your hotel parking lot if they charge for the ‘convenience’ — the public lot down the street will be usually be more economical. And avoid valet parking — those fees can add up quickly. (And you know that you don’t need the supplemental insurance that the car rental agency will offer, don’t you?)
- Don’t ‘hack’ into your budget. If you don’t need to rent a car, but you need to be downtown — where the airport most certainly isn’t — consider mass transit, if available, or a shuttle van. They’re a whole lot cheaper than a taxi. Adopt a similar strategy for getting around town, too, with one exception: if you’re a focal point of a presentation, grab a cab. The savings from taking the subway will cost you if you arrive looking like an unmade bed.
- Don’t turn molehills into mountains of money. Keep the small stuff from sweating your budget down to nothing. Pack light so you can carry your bag onto the plane instead of paying an additional fee to check your luggage. Avoid hotel restaurants, gift shops and minibars. Fill up your car before you return it or you’ll pay extra.
Maybe you can’t stay home all the time. But if you’re going to spend money making money, be sure you spend it where it’ll do the most good. ■
Adapted from an article by John M Cowan,