Travel is often expensive, even business travel, but it doesn’t have to be. Some costs are impossible to avoid, but others can be whittled down through smart thinking and practical efficiency.
The next time you travel, consider the following questions: Do you really need 5 suitcases for a weekend trip? Do you absolutely have to park your car at the airport? Do you really have to eat at a restaurant for every meal? Generally, you’ll find the answer is “no”.
As tempting as it can be to indulge when you’re traveling the country or the world, cutting costs sometimes means setting aside certain impulses. But, by sticking to the following 5 steps, you can cut enough costs to make space for a few special indulgences without breaking the bank.
Think Flexible. If you don’t have to arrive by any specific dates, you stand a better chance of getting cheap prices on flights and hotels. Every destination has a busy season and an off-season. Predictably, prices are much lower during off-season. If at all possible, planning your trip for the time of year when everyone else will be otherwise engaged is the wisest move. Flights are cheaper, hotels are cheaper, and overall pricing for your destination will likely be cheaper during off-season. If you have to be less flexible, you can at least use a search engine and keep the dates open for that particular month or timeframe. By allowing even that much flexibility, the search engines can find the best possible dates for the lowest possible prices. Additionally, your frequent flyer miles are generally limited by black-out dates for use. Even more, be open-minded about your airline. There are some airlines that others dislike but that offer cheaper rates than your more common airlines. When you’re hoping to cut costs, sometimes you’ve got to be open to less popular options. Be smart with those too though: read the fine print. Cheaper is sometimes a trap for the less savvy.
Be a Bargain Hunter. This means coupons, shopping around, and even starting a bidding war for the best hotel prices. There are several websites where consumers can pull coupons for various items tailored to the location you plan to visit. Travel books and other coupon guides can also be purchased that can reduce costs, little by little, during your journey. Do your homework on your business travel destination and shop around on how to find the best prices possible. Shopping the right hotel is certainly part of that, as well. Starting a bidding war can be pretty smart as well, which you can do by simply finding out pricing at one hotel, then calling another to ask if they can match or beat it. Simple questions can produce awesome results.
Stick with Carry-On Only. Airlines are feeling the effects of the flagging economy as much as the rest of us and one of their money quick fixes is charging for carry-ons beyond a certain weight. If you can’t escape bringing a carry-on, check your airline’s weight limitations and any associated charges before you arrive at the airport so you can plan accordingly. But, best case scenario: keep it to a carry-on. This way, you run no risk of losing your luggage to delays, switch overs, or separate flights. You will have your luggage with you the entire way and can access its contents as needed. A good trick with this too, especially for the ladies, but also for guys who may have shoulder bags, is to carry a very large purse or bag on that day. You can have a personal bag and a carry-on luggage item. Filling both with the essentials—making sure to exclude non-airport friendly items—can save you a bit of money and time on your journey.
Avoid restaurants. As fun as going out to eat can be, reserve it for the very special nights and be practical about filling your belly during the days. Go for the continental breakfast kind of hotel to ensure you have a free healthy, filling breakfast to start your day. From there, find the closest grocery store and stock up on all the basics that you might need for lunches and healthy snacks. Obviously most hotels do not have stoves, but refrigerators are not uncommon. Stock up on lunch meats, veggies, hummus—whatever suits your particular tastes—and feast on those instead of trekking out to a new restaurant every day. Those food bills can add up and even business travel budgets are limited, especially for small businesses. Don’t let food costs take away from your ability to save money or set money aside for special experiences while you’re away.
Rent Smart. If you want to cut costs for business travel, one easy way is being smart about your rental plan. If you can, try to bundle your rental car into an airfare or hotel package. This isn’t always the cheapest option, but often, you can get a pretty good deal. If you’re a frequent business traveler, then you probably have a credit card that provides rental car insurance. If you don’t have one of these, consider getting one. You can use it to pay for the rental car and decline the collision damage waiver coverage, which can save you about $20 per day. But, if you can avoid renting altogether, that would certainly be ideal. Booking a hotel with an airport shuttle and looking into Uber for taxis is one way. Carpooling or getting a hotel within walking distance to your final destination is also an option.
Business travel, pleasure travel, or a combination of the two—all can break the bank if you’re not savvy about your day to day costs. The Starbucks coffee in the airport, the quick meals when traveling around your destination spot, etc., they all add up. But you can cut overall travel and living costs significantly if you’re careful, patient, and prepared.
Take a moment to apply the concepts above to your next business travel or vacation plan and you’ll see the difference a few extra minutes of planning and preparation can make.
About the Author – Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .
Top Photo Courtesy of Bernal Saborio @ Flickr CC.