For almost 50 years Julie's Travel Desk has been helping our business clients travel any place in the world or around it. Over the years, we have picked up a couple of best practices that have helped to save our clients both time and money. As it is National Small Business Week, we decided to write down our top tips and share them with the world!
Check Cancellation or Change Policies - Business travel plans can change frequently. If there are several carrier options for a certain flight, which all allow you to earn miles, pick the airline that has the best change or cancellation policy. When it comes to hotels, often you can make changes or cancel a booking right up to the day that you are expected arrive, but not always! It is important that you read the cancellation policy closely before booking.
Be Aware Of Hidden Costs - It is easy to overlook costs such as parking, WiFi and pick-up/drop-off fees. You should always read the small print and seek out the free amenities that are most important to you before you make your booking for both hotels and car rentals.
Use Alternate Airports - Flying to close by, alternative airports can sometimes save hundreds of dollars. Obviously, the Northwest does not have as many choices when it comes to airports, but there are many popular destinations that have multiple airport options. Here are just a few; Newark and JFK or La Guardia, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and San Jose or Oakland, Washington DC and Baltimore.
Use a Travel Specialist - If your business does not have a dedicated travel specialist, using a travel agency to book your travel is a great way to save both time and money. While we do charge a fee to book international and domestic flights, that price is generally less than the cost of the time it would take a business owner or employee to research and book themselves. More savings result from the fact that the discounted rates and fares that we have access to are often not available to the public. Lastly, as we get to know our business clients and their preferences, the process becomes even more efficient. Our clients simply send us the destinations, times and dates and we securely access their information on file to quickly book the travel they are accustomed to at the best rates.
Use Miles - Earning miles is not just a perk for personal travel, it can be a great way to rack up some savings for your business too. Often you can pay business expenses, such as supplies and utilities with a credit card that offers miles, pay it off immediately and still earn the miles. Using your miles at the right time can be effective too. Short notice and cross-country flights can be costly and so keeping miles for an opportunity like this is a good idea. Many of our corporate accounts have a company card on file that earns miles for all airline tickets booked. In some cases this card is what is called a “blind” card because the employee or traveler does not have access to the number; we just have it on file and use for all company travel.
Plan Your Entertainment - If you don't have a good book, emails to write or expenses to do, unexpected or even expected long layovers can be pretty boring without something to keep you entertained. Netflix and other streaming services will not work without a strong internet connection and waiting until you get to the airport to rely on their WiFi or purchasing media while you are there can be both time consuming and very, very expensive. Plan ahead - Download your entertainment before you leave the house. iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video and many others offer download video options so that you can save a video or two on your device that can be played anywhere.
Book A Package Deal - This option should really only be used if your travel plans are set in stone as generally they require you to pay in advance and have less flexibility with cancellation or change, but the savings offered are often well worth it. Packages that include flights, hotels and/or car rentals are subsidized and are sometimes much less when booked together in one bundle. An example of a company that we work with who offers this service is Funtjet Vacations.
Upgraded Economy - For those of you that are accustomed to the finer things in life, downgrading from business class to economy can be a steep drop! Premium Economy (or Economy Plus, Cabin Extra or one of the many different versions of upgraded economy) costs less than business class and offers a more comfortable alternative to standard economy. The standard of service and amenities offered by the upgrade does range massively depending on the airline and plane you are flying on. Some offer upgraded seats with more legroom and recline, while other economy upgrades have you in a completely separate compartment!
Use Your Cell Phone Correctly - Using your cellphone when travelling domestically and internationally can be a great money saver, as long as it is done correctly. For domestic travel, make sure you have a package that will cover your usage for minutes, text and data- as you will be out of the office, you may be using it more. Don't be tempted to use your hotel phone. As long as you have the minutes, your cell will almost always be cheaper! Internationally, it is important that you know exactly which features to use and which not to. Contact your provider for details, before you go. Unless you have a package that covers international data, it is a good idea to disable this service completely whilst abroad. Connecting to WiFi and using Smartphone apps which use wireless internet to make calls and send text (Skype being one example) is a great way to conduct important business from overseas.