In today’s world, traveling for business is an essential part of conducting a company’s operations. More and more employees are required to go on business trips to meet clients or collaborate with other teams in the company.
Corporate travel expenses often account for a non-negligible part of a company’s budget and saving money on business travel is an important aspect of a company’s financial health. While travelers are responsible for saving money while traveling for business, so are business travel bookers and finance teams.
So, how to save money while traveling for business? Here are 13 tips to help your company stay within budget.
Tips to save money while preparing for business travel
1. Set up a business travel policy
Setting up a corporate travel policy is essential to controlling business travel spending. Establishing a business travel policy is usually the role of the travel manager, HR manager, legal team or office manager. Your company’s travel policy should include all the information about:
- The booking process for flights, trains, accommodation and rental cars, as well as the expense limits.
- Airport transfers.
- Meal allowances.
- Expense policy and reimbursement process.
- Approval process.
Review the company’s business travel policy and analyze whether it’s exhaustive enough to cover every area of business travel spend. Your business travel policy should include a clear approval process as well as guidelines regarding the booking process, spending and expense procedures. This will ensure that business travelers make decisions that are in line with the company’s policy and that travel costs stay within the business trip budget.
2. Plan ahead
To save money on business travel, planning the trip well ahead of time is key. Consider that airlines and hotels tend to increase their rates as the date approaches, so the more business travelers anticipate their business trip planning, the more economical it will turn out to be. Encourage employees to book their flights and accommodation in advance by formalizing the latest reservation time in the company’s travel policy.
To lock in the best prices, employees should take advantage of early booking deals and discounts and avoid last-minute booking extra fees. Booking early also has the advantage of giving employees enough time to compare offers and find the best deal.
3. Be flexible
Flexibility is key to saving money on business travel.
The first reason is that airlines and accommodation fares often fluctuate based on demand. Monitoring fare calendars and identifying the most cost-effective options to plan a business trip is an easy way of saving money.
If there are chances that the business trip might be rescheduled or if you want to be prudent in case of sickness, booking flights with a free cancellation option could eventually be beneficial.
On top of taking advantage of lower fares, having flexible travel dates – if possible – can also help business travelers benefit from promotions or discounts on flights and stays. During off-peak days or periods, hotels sometimes offer discounted rates to fill up empty rooms.
Having a more flexible itinerary can also help travelers accommodate more economical connecting flights. For example, booking a flight with a layover might cut down the cost compared to getting on a direct flight and could be a good option as long as the traveler's wellbeing and productivity are kept in mind.
4. Enroll in an airline loyalty program
Adhering to an airline fidelity program can help business travelers save money on their flights. Loyalty programs are designed to reward frequent travelers with perks and benefits such as:
- Promotions – loyalty program members can benefit from discounted fares or upgrades.
- Rewards – priority boarding and check-in can save business travelers lots of time. The time that an employee doesn’t spend queuing for check-in can be spent working on the company’s projects.
- Frequent flyer miles – the traveler accumulates miles for every flight they take and can later redeem the miles for free or discounted flights.
- Lounge access – some airlines’ fidelity programs give travelers free access to the airline’s lounge. There, travelers can enjoy free food and drinks, as well as free Wi-Fi to work comfortably while waiting for their flight.
- Free change or cancellation – for business travelers whose plans frequently change, this can be a very interesting benefit.
5. Become a hotel loyalty program member
Similarly as for airlines, booking the same accommodation or hotel chain and/or becoming a loyalty program member can be hugely beneficial for business travelers and help your company save money on hotels. Here are some common benefits:
- Exclusive rates – many hotels offer discounted rates to recurring guests or loyalty program members. By regularly staying at the same hotel, employees going on business trips can get interesting discounts.
- Rewards – loyal guests can often accumulate points or get special rewards such as free breakfast, discounts on meals, complimentary water and more.
- Early check-in/late check-out – being familiar with the staff can help in getting some favors such as early check-in or late check-out, which can make travelers save money on their travel arrangements.
- Partner programs with airlines – loyalty programs can include partnerships with specific airlines. This can be a very cost-effective solution and help your company save on both flights and hotels.
- Room upgrade – business travelers might sometimes get a room upgrade without needing to pay for it. This can be great for employees who need to work from the hotel.
6. Use a corporate booking tool
Corporate booking tools are software used by companies to manage their employees’ business trip bookings. Here’s how using a corporate booking tool can help your company save money:
- A corporate booking tool such as Booking.com for Business is a one-stop-shop that allows employees to book flights, accommodation and other services all in one place. This allows companies to benefit from special business rates and offers.
- Such tools usually have a feature that allows the integration of the company’s travel policy, ensuring that employees are making bookings within the set budget for business travel and according to the defined guidelines, reducing the risk of overspending.
- All travel expenses are stored in one place, which makes reporting easy. Finance teams can easily get an overview of travel costs and identify potential cost-saving opportunities.
- Similarly, the travel analytics features help companies analyse business travel patterns and understand where they can minimize costs.
Tips to save money during a business trip
7. Don’t park at the airport
Another easy way of respecting a budget for business travel is to avoid parking at the airport. By excluding this possibility from your travel policy and asking business travelers to choose another means of transportation, your company will save airport parking fees that are typically very expensive. Here are some alternatives:
- Public transportation or shuttle services to and from the airport.
- A taxi or a ridesharing service such as Uber.
- Carpooling with colleagues.
- Off-site parking, as this is normally much cheaper than airport parking.
8. Save on rental cars
If the business traveler needs a car, it’s possible to save on rental cars by avoiding rental agencies at the airport. Those rental companies are almost always more expensive due to added airport taxes and fees. Travelers should keep in mind that booking in advance is also key to saving money on rental cars. It’s also good to remember that some credit cards include insurance on rental cars and that it might not be necessary to be extra.
9. Travel with carry-on luggage only
One simple yet efficient way of saving a company money is to encourage employees to travel with carry-on luggage only, especially if they’re going on a short business trip. Most airlines charge fees for checked luggage, so by traveling with carry-on luggage only employees can avoid extra costs and also save plenty of time. Traveling with a smaller suitcase also helps to save time packing, as business travelers tend to overpack. Travelers will also avoid the risk of having their baggage lost and needing to buy new clothes and essential items at their destination.
By traveling without checked luggage, travelers have more flexibility in their flight options, as they can choose to fly with budget airlines that offer lower fares and limited baggage allowance.
Your employees shouldn’t forget to check the airline’s carry-on guidelines before packing to make sure that their suitcase fits the dimensions requirements, as those vary according to the airline.
10. Use a travel reward credit card
By using a travel reward credit card, employees who frequently travel to carry out their business duties can:
- Earn points or miles every time they pay for something with their credit card and exchange those points for free or discounted flights or accommodation.
- Get access to airport lounges. There, they can enjoy free food and drinks, as well as better quality Wi-Fi, and sometimes meeting rooms or focus areas to do some work.
- Facilitate expense tracking, as all the business travel expenses appear on only one bank statement.
- Some card providers have partnerships with airlines and hotels, which can offer exclusive discounts.
Make sure to choose a travel credit card that matches your company’s needs for business travel.
11. Save on restaurants
Employees on a business trip tend to spend way more than they realize on food. Eating out while on a business trip can be particularly tricky as you don’t know which places are expensive tourist traps and which ones serve delicious locally produced food. Here are some strategies that employees can use to save money on food while on a business trip:
- Ask for recommendations from locals.
- Research restaurants in advance and check the menu to make budget-friendly choices. Lunch menus can be interesting cost-saving options.
- Be aware of and respect the daily food budget defined in the company’s travel policy.
- Choose accommodation with breakfast included or an apartment with a kitchen. Especially for longer trips, it can be healthier to have the option to cook some homemade meals rather than eating out two to three times a day.
- Avoid room service in hotels, as those are usually pricier than eating in a restaurant close by.
- Explore local markets and street food to discover the local food culture and have cheaper options.
You can always include an allowance for one or two fancy restaurants for business meals with clients in your travel policy.
12. Know how much you spend
The most simple way to increase business travel savings is by having business travelers track how much they spend in real-time. Whether it’s by asking them to use an expense tracking app or the feature of a travel booking tool, you can get a detailed overview of where they’re spending money, making it easier for you to identify how they can stick to the pre-approved budget. This can help you identify where they’re overspending and achieve corporate travel savings.
Saving money on business trips can be achieved before, during and after the trip by following some simple strategies and recommendations. While business travelers own the responsibility of how they spend the company budget, business travel bookers and finance teams must establish clear guidelines around business travel.