In today’s world, travel for business is an essential part of a company’s operations. More and more employees have 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 away, so are business travel bookers and finance teams.

So, how can you 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 for controlling expenses. Establishing one is usually the responsibility 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, accommodations, and rental cars, as well as their expense limits.
  • Airport transfers.
  • Meal allowances.
  • Expense policies and the reimbursement process.
  • The approval process.

Review the company’s business travel policy and assess whether it thoroughly covers every area of travel expenses. Your business travel policy should include a clear approval process as well as guidelines for the booking, spending, and expense procedures. This will ensure that business travelers make decisions in line with the company’s policy and that travel costs stay within each trip’s budget.

2. Plan ahead

To save money on business travel, planning trips ahead of time is key. Airlines and hotels tend to increase their rates as the date approaches, so the earlier business travelers start planning, the more economical their trips will be. Encourage employees to book their flights and accommodations 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 avoid any last-minute 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 airline fares and accommodation rates often fluctuate based on demand. Monitoring fare calendars and identifying the most cost-effective options is an easy way to save money.

If there’s any chance that a business trip might be rescheduled or you want to be prudent in case of sickness, booking flights with free cancellation could be beneficial.

On top of taking advantage of lower fares, 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.

A more flexible itinerary can also help travelers catch more affordable flights. For example, booking a flight with a layover might cut down the cost compared to a direct flight, which could be a good option as long as the traveler’s wellbeing and productivity are kept in mind.

4. Sign up for an airline loyalty program

Sticking to a loyalty program can help business travelers save money on their flights. Loyalty programs are designed to reward frequent travelers with perks and benefits like:

  • 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 waiting for check-in can be spent working on projects.
  • Frequent flyer miles – travelers accumulate miles for every flight they take, which they can later redeem for free or discounted flights.
  • Lounge access – some programs give travelers free access to the airline’s lounge. There, travelers can enjoy free food and drinks, as well as WiFi to work comfortably while waiting for their flights.
  • Free change or cancellation – for business travelers whose plans change frequently, this is a very useful benefit.

5. Register for a hotel loyalty program

Similar to airlines, booking the same hotel chain and/or joining a loyalty program can be beneficial for business travelers and can help your company save money on accommodations. Here are some common benefits:

  • Exclusive rates – many hotels offer discounted rates to recurring guests or loyalty program members. By staying at the same hotel, employees going on business trips can get great discounts.
  • Rewards – loyal guests can accumulate points or get special rewards like free breakfast, discounts on meals, complimentary water, and more.
  • Early check-in/late check-out – being familiar with the staff can earn perks like early check-in or late check-out, which help travelers save money on travel arrangements.
  • Partner programs with airlines – some loyalty programs include partnerships with specific airlines. This can be a very cost-effective solution to help your company save on both flights and hotels.
  • Room upgrades – business travelers might 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 trips. Here’s how using a corporate booking tool can help your company save money:

  • A corporate booking tool like Booking.com for Business is a one-stop-shop that enables employees to book flights, accommodations, 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 integrates a company’s travel policy, ensuring that employees make bookings within the set travel budget and according to defined guidelines, which prevents 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 opportunities to save money.
  • Similarly, travel analytics features help companies analyze travel patterns and understand where they can minimize costs.

Tips to save money during business trips

7. Don’t park at the airport

Another easy way to stay within budget is to avoid parking at the airport. By excluding this possibility from your travel policy and asking business travelers to choose other modes of transportation, your company will save airport parking fees that are typically very expensive. Here are some alternatives:

  • Public transit or shuttle services to and from the airport.
  • A taxi or a ridesharing service such as Uber.
  • Carpooling with colleagues.
  • Off-site parking, which is normally a lot cheaper than airport parking.

8. Save on rental cars

If the business traveler needs a car, it’s possible to save on rentals by avoiding the agencies at the airport. Those rental companies are almost always more expensive due to added airport taxes and fees. 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, so it might not be necessary to pay 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 short trips. Most airlines charge fees for checked luggage. By traveling with carry-on luggage only, employees can both avoid extra costs and also save a lot of time. Traveling with a smaller suitcase also encourages efficient packing, since business travelers tend to overpack. Travelers also avoid the risk of their bags getting lost and needing to buy new clothes and essentials at their destination.

Without checked luggage, travelers also have more flexibility with their flight options, since they can choose to fly with budget airlines that offer lower fares and limited baggage allowance.

Your employees should always check the airline’s carry-on guidelines before packing to make sure their suitcase fits the dimensions requirements, which may vary by airline.

10. Use a travel reward credit card

By using a travel reward credit card, employees who travel often for business can:

  • Earn points or miles every time they pay for something with their card, which they can cash in for free or discounted flights and accommodations.
  • Get access to airport lounges. There, they can enjoy free food and drinks, as well as better WiFi and even meeting rooms or focus areas to do their work.
  • Facilitate expense tracking, so all business travel expenses appear in just one bank statement.
  • Some card providers have partnerships with airlines and hotels, which can offer exclusive discounts.

Choose a travel credit card that matches your company’s needs for business travel.

11. Save on restaurants

Employees on business trips tend to spend more than they realize on food. Eating out while on a business trip can be particularly tricky since they don’t know which places are expensive tourist traps and which ones serve delicious local food. Here are some strategies employees can use to save on food while traveling:

  • Ask locals for recommendations.
  • Research restaurants in advance and check menus to make budget-friendly choices. Lunch menus can offer great cost-saving options.
  • Keep this in mind and respect the daily food budget defined in the company’s travel policy.
  • Choose accommodations with breakfast included or an apartment with a kitchen. Especially for longer trips, it can be healthier to have the option to cook meals rather than eating out two to three times a day.
  • Avoid room service in hotels, which is usually more expensive than eating in restaurants.
  • Explore local markets and street food to discover local cuisine and find 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 save on business travel is by having employees track how much they spend in real-time. Whether it’s by asking them to use an expense tracking app or a feature in a travel booking tool, you can get a detailed overview of where they’re spending money, which makes it easier to identify how they can stick to pre-approved budgets. This can help you identify where they’re overspending and save on corporate travel.

Tips for saving once the trip is over

13. Save on VAT

The VAT refund is often an overlooked way of getting some money back from employees’ business trips. In a lot of countries, you may be able to count things such as flight tickets, hotel rooms, transportation fees, or business meals as business travel expenses if your company is registered to pay VAT. Employees should make sure all expenses your company will reclaim VAT for are business-related.

To help your employees collect their receipts and claim VAT refunds, use an app or software, which could also help you deal with the different country regulations for VAT.

Businesses can save on travel before, during, and after trips by following some simple strategies and recommendations. While travelers are responsible for how they spend the company budget, business travel bookers and finance teams must establish clear guidelines for business travel.

Suggested articles

03/06/23
9 min read
20 business travel tips – before, during and after

Discover 14 business travel tips for a smooth trip – everything from a packing list to expense track...

Business travel tips Business travelers
02/24/23
10 min read
The ultimate guide to business travel management

Business travel management is a very complex subject. Discover the many aspect you need to control a...

Business travel management Bookers / Admins Small business owners
01/20/23
8 min read
How to improve cost-saving in business travel

Business travel can be expensive. Saving money on business travel requires effort from all employees...

Expense management and budget control SMEs Finance teams Small business owners