How to Save Money on Business Travel*
Business travel may be a necessary expense, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pinch when the bills come in. However, with a little creative maneuvering you can save money and grab your share of perks when you travel. Below is a list of great tips to help you and your team make the most of your travel budget.
Get the Best Airfare
If you are flexible with your work travel, fares can be lower if you travel early in the morning, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Saturdays. You may save on airfare by doing a flexible date airfare search on Google Flights, Booking.com‘s Kayak, or similar third party OTA (online travel agent) sites, though not always. Sometimes, the airlines themselves have the better deals, and they typically will have a better selection of flight options than you’ll find with websites that quote options from multiple airlines. Plus, some airlines, such as Frontier, Southwest, and Sun Country do not work with these third party sites at all. In addition, if there is a problem with your flight due to weather or maintenance, it’s easier for the airline to change the reservation if it was purchased via their own system (the same is true for hotel rooms). The best approach: conduct a third party search, then follow up by checking your preferred airline’s own website.
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Getting there with money to spare
Travel With Carry-On Only
If you have airline status or an airline-branded credit card (Visit NerdWallet* for more information) you can avoid checked baggage charges. Most airlines will allow you to carry-on a roller board up to 22 by 14 by 9 inches, and a “personal item” (briefcase, large purse, laptop) as long as you don’t book the highly discounted “Basic Economy Fare”. You can even take an “additional approved item” (jacket, umbrella, or food).
Sign-up for a credit card with your preferred airline and get a free checked bag
Most airlines allow you to avoid baggage charges for you and often feel travelers on the same reservation. You can also check 10XTravel* and The Points Guy* for a running list of the best offers. You can also earn miles for air travel (Earn 2-3 miles for every dollar spent with the airline depending on the card as well as 1-3 miles per dollar spent on non-airline purchases such as gas, retail, and supermarket purchases.)
Earn status with your preferred airline
Most airlines wave baggage fees for their elite travelers so once you fly 25,000 miles you will earn Silver on Delta or Gold status on American Airlines. United requires you to spend at least $4,000 and fly 12 segments or spend $5,000 with no minimum number of segments. With this level of status your first bag is free as well as at least 4 people on your reservation (higher status levels will allow for up to 8 fellow travelers). The higher your status, the better your benefits. Here is a rundown of the benefits with different status levels from The Points Guy*.
If your travel plans allow for it, you might want to look at alternatives that such as Alaska, Hawaiian, JetBlue, or Southwest. Carriers such as Spirit, Allegiant and Sun Country don’t target business travelers and might not operate flights on a daily basis and are advised to avoid them for business travel.
Check Airline Websites
Search engines are a great place to start your search, but you may not see all the available tickets. For example, none of Frontier’s, Southwest’s, or Sun Country’s flights show up on third party (also referred to as an OTA or “online travel agent”) sites. Other airlines may not have all of their flights listed in these outside booking systems.
In addition, if there is a problem with your flight due to weather or maintenance its easier for the airline to change the reservation if it was purchased on their own system (the same is true for hotel rooms)
Flights are often less expensive on the airlines’ own websites. Start with the search engines and then visit the individual airline’s site.
Points Credit Cards
Some credit cards such as American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One’s Venture card allow you to use points for travel. These are different than loyal points/miles since they often have an assigned value of 1 point per dollar spent (thought you can often earn bonuses when you spend at select places such gas stations, certain retailers and restaurants). A general rule of thumb is 10,000 points equals USD $100 in free travel. Both 10XTravel and The Points Guy maintain a running list of the best offers*.
Use a shopping portal to earn miles
The Points Guy* maintains a page on how to maximize the use of shopping portals (yes, you can earn airlines miles from shopping online). These shopping portals allow you to earn bonus miles, points, or cash back at hundreds of online retailers such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s and even hotel chains such as Marriott and IHG by starting at the portal and then clicking through to the retailer’s site (rather than starting at the merchant directly).
You still purchase the same items directly from the merchant, but because you started at the shopping portal, you’ll also earn airlines miles that can post in a few days to a week. The bonus only applies to the subtotal of your purchase (excluding taxes, reward program points, and shipping fees).
Book off-site parking before you leave home
If you plan to drive your own car to the airport, check one of the remote discount airport parking sites for the best deal. It may be worthwhile to consider a “stay park fly package” offered by many airport hotels. They often provide 7 or 14 days of free parking for a nominal fee. (NOTE: These rooms are usually a different room rate, so be sure to check the rate when you book a hotel room to determine the best option for you).”
Try booking “Vacation” packages
Airlines will often give you the option to bundle your rental car, hotel, and airfare into a single package. See what they have to offer. Then check prices separately to see if you can save by bundling or if you’ll be better off booking your plane tickets, hotel, and car rental separately.
Use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft
Ride-sharing services are often less expensive than traditional taxis plus they can save you money on gas, parking, and the time spent refilling and returning a rental car. Lyft will let you earn 1 miles (2 for trips to/from the airport) per US Dollar on Delta Airlines. While Uber has a rewards program.
Some credit cards offer free car insurance.
If you have a credit card that provides rental car insurance, use it to pay for your rental so you can decline the collision damage waiver coverage offered by the rental car company. This will save you an average of $20-25/day.
Don’t prepay for rental car gas unless you plan to use it.
Car rental companies typically offer three choices when returning their car. Return it with the gas tank full, pay them to fill the car when you return it at anywhere from USD $3.99-9.99/gallon, or prepay for a full tank. But unless you push the car back onto the lot with an empty tank, or risk missing your flight, you lose money with the prepaid option. It’s usually best to just fill the tank shortly before you return the car.
Stay at a hotel that provides an airport shuttle
You can easily spend USD $30-70 or more on a taxi ride from some airports to a city-center hotel. Use either a ride sharing app (such as Uber or Lyft) or TaxiFareFinder.com to check rates for your destination. If possible, find a hotel that offers a free shuttle to and from the airport. Think about it, it’s paying $20 more for a room if you save two $30 one-way taxi fares.
Ways to save money on hotel stays and meals
Do a search for “hotels” in the city you want visit (e.g. “hotels in Los Angeles”). Be sure to check the reviews either on Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor to avoid any unpleasant surprises. It’s advisable to check out the negative reviews, sometimes they are for “silly matters”.
Join a hotel loyalty program
In addition to earning points for free stays at a later time, members of hotel loyalty programs often receive free WiFi, lower rates, and score a better room or upgrade (it never hurts to ask). If you stay with the same chain often, it may be worth considering a hotel credit card* to save even more. When utilizing a loyalty program, it’s generally best to book your stay direct with the hotel chain.”
Sign up with AAA/CAA or your country’s respective auto association
The cost of a AAA membership varies around the country, but is typically under USD $80 for the basic plan. In addition to roadside assistance the AAA card gets you other travel-related discounts, including 10 percent off at many hotels.
Take advantage of the hotel breakfast
If your hotel offers a full breakfast or even a Continental Breakfast of just bagels, coffee, and orange juice as part of your room charge, eat enough so you can have a lighter or later lunch. In fact, take this benefit into account when choosing a hotel. If the prices are about the same, the one with breakfast can easily save you $10 to $20.
Check restaurant prices online
If you are going to be paying for a business meal with others, check out menus online before choosing a restaurant.
Make lunch your main meal
Restaurants usually charge less for lunch than dinner so making lunch your main meal of the day will save you some money. By eating a late lunch you might get by with a light snack for dinner.
Dining In your room
Many hotels offer an in-room microwave and refrigerator to let you heat up supermarket prepared meals or restaurant leftovers. Or, if you’ll be staying a while, consider Extended Stay hotels such as Residence Inn by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2Suites by Hilton, of Candlewood Suites by IHG where you can prepare meals in a fully-stocked kitchen right in your room.
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