It's harder than ever to save money on business travel. Airfares range from low to ridiculously high, depending on where and when you book your travel. Meanwhile, skyrocketing hotel room rates shout "sellers market," and the cost of renting a car is accelerating across the country. Savvy small business road warriors know there are tricks of the trade that can whittle down the many costs business travel. Money-saving ideas and internet resources can help trim the fat out of your travel budget. Add a few of these to your carry-on and watch the savings add up. Do your homework before you hit the road and you'll be able to:
- Score free tickets, upgrades and more by tapping into airline "soft dollar" programs
- Maximize hotel discounts and build loyalty benefits
- Capitalize on rental car tie-ins
- Bump up bonuses with business-focused credit cards.
Tap into airline perksFirst, pledge your loyalty to just a few airlines that fly the most extensive routes AND go where YOU need to go. Then tap their perks programs specially designed for small businesses. Snag free tickets, upgrades, airline club memberships and more. You'll earn frequent flyer miles on qualifying flights in addition to business bonus points.
Choose hotel partners and then stick with themLoyalty is the key to maximizing benefits from hotel stays. If your annual room nights warrant it, negotiate a chain-wide contract with a national sales account manager. Otherwise, cut your deals locally where you stay most frequently.
Maximize benefits from your rental car programsChoose one or two car rental companies that serve more of your locations and offer special programs for small business.
Pick credit cards that offer the mostYou've pledged your loyalty to a few airlines, hotels and rental car companies. Now you need a credit card that gives you a competitive interest rate, miles and points, and is widely accepted.
- Book your air travel as far ahead as possible and then don't make changes. If you do change, most airlines will charge you a $100 fee plus any fare increase.
- Booking fewer than seven days in advance can cost as much as 152% more than fares booked at least seven to fourteen days out.
- Check fares from alternate airports within an hour or two from your home base. Fare savings can be significant.
- Schedule meetings with your client at airport conference rooms to save the cost of overnighting at an airport hotel. Make sure the room is OUTSIDE the secured area.
- Introduce yourself to the manager at hotels you frequent. This can get you reduced rates and no-cost upgrades for future visits.
- Check over your rental car for dings and dents before you leave the lot AND when you return it. Otherwise, you might get charged for damage you didn't cause.