If your like me and travel extensively for work it can be extremely challenging managing my business travel expenses and staying within budget. As a small business owner I monitor my and my employees travel expenses closely. A 2018 research study says that the average cost of business trips in the U.S. is $32 per day. Moreover, companies pay $1425 for every staff member they send on a business trip.
Luckily I have found a few tricks where my business can save on travel without harming myself or my employees’ health and comfort. Try these steps when planning your next business trip.
Reward Employees for Staying on Budget
When planning a business trip, be open with your employees. Set a standard per deiem per trip and offer incentives for those workers that stay on budget. For example, this could be a bonus, a few days off, a gift card, mileage points, or a free lunch – anything that works for your staff.
Empower Employees to Share Experiences
If your employees travel often, why not ask them for tips on how to reduce business travel expenses. This may benefit your business in multiple ways. First, you will gain employees’ trust and build stronger relationships with them. They will be glad to see that you value their opinions. Second, people that travel routinely can provide some actionable tips on how to reduce costs.
For example, if they notice that lots of money is spent on high-priced hotel breakfasts, they may decide to skip them and opt for a cheaper option. The idea is to encourage them to share their previous experiences, discuss the most reasonable suggestions and, of course, adapt them according to the specific needs of each employee.
Choose the Right Credit Card
Credit cards may benefit your business on so many levels during the trip. Namely, by using travel rewards cards, your employees can reduce costs automatically. With them, employees can redeem rewards for airfare, gas purchases, merchandise, accommodation, and so forth. They will also earn points for each dollar spent, as well as have lots of travel-related benefits such as annual travel credits, priority boarding, access to the airport lounge, etc. Sure, you will need to compare credit cards to choose the right one for your business. Pick the one that has the longest expiration period and doesn’t include a cap on rewards.
Book Flights Wisely
Booking flights takes a big chunk of your business travel expenses. According to the Bureau of Transportation, the average domestic airfare in the U.S. is $352, while the airfare for international flights costs roughly $1216.
For you as an employer, this means finding affordable flight prices without compromising your workers’ comfort. Here are a few things to consider:
- Know what days to book flights. Expedia and The Airlines Reporting Corporation did a research study in 2019 and found that both domestic and international economy flights booked on Sunday were the cheapest fares. Sure, to find the best offers, use fare alert tracking tools and check flight prices regularly.
- How early to book a flight? According to Cheap Air’s 2018 report, to save money on a flight, you should book a ticket 3-4 months ahead.
- When to travel? The abovementioned research by ARC and Expedia claims that weekends are busier than weekdays so, logically, booking a flight then will cost you a bit more. It finds that the cheapest flights were booked on Thursdays and Fridays.
- Let employees combine leisure time with a business trip. This may benefit your business in multiple ways. First, your employees will recharge batteries and be more productive. Second, employee satisfaction leads to greater retention rates. Finally, leisure will help you save the company money, as the traveler will assume the travel costs on leisure days.
- Take advantage of fare alert tracking tools. Sometimes, airlines offer massive sales for their users. These can provide significant saving, so dont miss out on these opportunities to save more, you just need to keep track of them. There are many fare alert tracking tools, such as FarelQ, Matrix 3.0, Skyscanner, or Airfare Watchdog, which will research the prices for you. Namely, price tracking tools monitor flight prices in real-time and inform you when the price is up or down. Just share your information and travel dates and hit the “track prices” button.
Save Money on Ground Transportation
Car services are not as expensive as airfare, but they can still cost the earth. Still, there are a few steps to take to minimize the costs.
Pay attention to your travel policy. There is an option to merge your airfare and car rental packages and, in this way, cut costs.
Consider instructing the employees to use the public airport shuttle and the shuttle service provided by the hotel. These are far cheaper than taxi services and, at the same time, they can be booked ahead. Alternatively, ride-sharing companies like Uber or Lyft can also help. They’ve already gained momentum, as they’re more affordable. Namely, 63% of travelers believe that such apps will replace car rental companies by 2027.
Finally, when renting a car, keep in mind that this will boost your business travel expenses. Car rental companies offer three ways for refueling a car. First, you can prepay the fuel, but you won’t get refunded for unused fuel. Second, the company can refuel the car when you return it, meaning that you have no control over the fuel expenses. Finally, an employee can simply refuel the car and, in this way, save up a lot.
Choose where to Stay
When choosing a hotel, consider the one that offers everything your staff needs during the trip. For example, pick a hotel with a conference room and a stable WiFi connection. Some of the most common features a business traveler should look for when booking a hotel are quality, convenience, quietness, affordability, and comfort. Haveing all the amities wihtin the hotel or just outside will save on lot of waisted travel time.
Now, the average cost of booking a hotel room is roughly $180 per night. Therefore, when it comes to reducing costs when booking a hotel, there are a few things to do. First, use the abovementioned price tracking tools that will inform you about the lowest hotel accommodation prices. Second, if you’re traveling to the same place frequently, why not stay at the same hotel. Loyal customers get numerous discounts. Finally, you can find alternatives to hotels, such as Airbnb For Work. Only in 2018, 700,000 businesses used this kind of accommodation.
Take Advantage of Sophisticated Technologies
In today’s hyperconnected era, there is an app for everything. We use them to pay bills, work out, find jobs, call friends, order food, etc. So, why not use these technologies to reduce your costs during the business trip?
- Cloud apps like Dropbox or Google Drive are free and yet, they will help your employees store all relevant business data.
- With video conferencing tools like Skype, IM tools like Viber, or collaboration tools like Basecamp and Slack, you can communicate with your employees in real-time, without wasting money on phone calls.
- There are many tools that help your employees track expenses. For example, with Concur, an employee just needs to take a photo of receipts and directly send information for reimbursements.
Over to You
Saving money on a business trip may be nerve-wracking, but it’s possible. As a small business owner, you need to have a solid plan to back your budget up. When implementing the tips mentioned above, never forget that maintaining your employees’ well-being and satisfaction is your priority. Adapt your strategy to their specific needs.
How do you save on your business trips? We’d like to hear from you!
Jacob Wilson is a business consultant, and an organizational psychologist, based in Brisbane. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for Bizzmark blog.