In today’s post-GFC world, businesses have to tighten the purse strings when it comes to expenses, so business trips are often replaced in favour of video conferencing, email and other virtual communication technologies. When it does happen though, you may find that your business travel is no longer filled with long lunches, expense accounts, fancy hotels and high-class airfares as it once was. That’s all well and good, but nobody wants to end up crashing at a backpacker’s hostel in their nine to five finest to save a few bucks to make the company’s accountants happy – GFC or not. So, here are some money saving tips and tricks to help you maintain the company’s bottom line while still ensuring an easy and comfortable travel experience for all.
If you are travelling by air, then use a third-party booking service like Kayak to book airfares. Kayak aims to offer the cheapest best value fares for your trip so you don’t have to look around and compare prices. The best part is that this additional service doesn’t cost you a cent. It also pays to sign up to frequent flier/member programs for as many airlines as possible so that you will always accrue points no matter who you choose to fly with. Most airlines have a loyalty program of some sort, with some even joining together in a network alliance so you can earn and use points across all of them. Try AA, AirCanda and KLM as a start.
Businesses that have employees travelling on a regular basis often negotiate agreements with car rental companies for discounted corporate rental rates, as it offers far better value for them than the frequent use of taxis and car services. Though these rates are much better than what the average customer would get if they rang in, they may not necessarily be as good as those on third-party booking sites like Kayak. So unless you are booking during a peak period when prices are likely to be higher across the board, try Kayak first and compare the rates.
Everyone extols the virtues of travel insurance, and you often hear “if you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel”. Well, what most people don’t know is that many of the major credit cards have travel insurance included – completely free. So, if you pay for all your travel using that credit card then you’re covered. The level and type of cover will vary depending on the card, so read your Product Disclosure Statement and find out what you’re covered for. In most cases you won’t need to pay for additional insurance, saving you hundreds of dollars each trip.
You don’t HAVE to travel in business class just because you are travelling for business. The purpose of business class is to arrive at your destination fresh, rested and ready to do business immediately without down time – something which would be unlikely to occur if you travelled in economy class. If you’re not working immediately upon landing then there is really no need to travel business class (even if you really, really want to). Even if you arrive a day earlier to recover from the flight before you commence work, you will still save more money than if you had flown business class and saved a travel day. You’ll do the same thing on the flight in both classes anyway, so does it matter if you are reading and working in economy instead? The warm towels, toiletry packs and eye masks are fabulous, but are they really worth those extra dollars?
Second only to cinema concession stands in pricing, airport food outlets are a sure fire way to spend big for little return. It’s not unusual to pay $20 for a sandwich and a coffee, so bring your own snacks and save yourself from the financial hit. Purchase something before you get to the airport, pack something from home or wait until you are on the plane and devour your little pack of peanuts there (no champagne and canapés, this is economy class now). Really, you should only be at the airport in time for security and boarding, not hanging around killing time by perusing the snacks on offer.
Furnished corporate apartments are a great alternative to hotels and can save you up to 30% on accommodation costs (check out our gorgeous furnished apartments here). Even if you take loyalty programs into account (hotels like the Mariott offer discounts for frequent visitors), they can still present better value. They also include a kitchen, free Wi-Fi and an in-suite washer/dryer, which helps save money in terms of both laundry and money spent eating out!
Food is the biggest expense when travelling – three meals per day plus snacks very quickly add dollars to the expense account. Being able to cook a few things will definitely take the stress off your wallet. Furnished apartments generally have basic kitchen facilities that will allow you to cook a few simple things, so head down to the local grocery store and buy a few staples to get you through. You will likely eat healthier too and you will definitely save money. Of course, if your client wants to wine and dine you on their company dollar, then that’s a different story!
You will need to communicate with the office at home during your stay and, unfortunately, long distance and international roaming charges are notoriously expensive. To get around these charges, try VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). There are many companies that offer VoIP service at rates far below international roaming costs and they will set you up with a call card and the required software to get started. Alternatively, install Skype or Viber on your cell phone. They work on the same VoIP principle but are completely free, provided you have a Wi-Fi connection and other users have the software. The other option is to buy a local SIM card from where you are staying, although you will need to ensure your cell is not networked locked and you will still need to pay international rates to call home (just not roaming rates, which are worse). Unlike hotels, some furnished apartments include phone calls as part of the accommodation package, so be sure to ask.
Resist the temptation to take extra baggage. If your airfare stipulates that you pay for checked baggage separately then you will save significantly by only taking carry-on luggage. It also saves time when you get to your destination – you’ll see other travellers laden down with trolleys and suitcases waiting at carousels as you just glide on past to be first out the door.
Many cities have direct links from the airport into the CBD that are efficient, regular and usually much cheaper than a taxi or car service. In some places you may even find a train station in the airport itself, so all you have to do is catch the lift down, grab a ticket and get on. If your apartment or hotel is nearby a main station then even better. It’s probably faster than taking a taxi anyway.