How to save money on business travel

Lady in a meeting

Travel is an essential business expense for many organisations. Even if you’re a company that doesn’t travel a lot, costs can mount up very quickly if travel is poorly arranged or if your staff don’t understand travel policies.

With a little bit of forward planning, you could save thousands of dollars on travel, without compromising the comfort of your staff or the efficiency of the journey.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. It’s just a matter of knowing where and when to book, and watching out for sneaky money traps.

We’ve put together our six no-fail business-travel hacks for keeping your travel costs way down.

1. Plan ahead

Booking things ahead can save a lot of money, because flights are generally cheapest four to six weeks before the date you plan to travel. A study showed that booking only eight or more days before travel saved, on average, $148 on flight tickets.

Planning ahead also helps you think through scenarios a little more thoroughly. If you splurge on a hotel close to the meeting venue, can you save on Uber costs? Or is it smarter to save on accommodation, book further from town and hire a rental car?

2. Save on flights by being flexible on dates

Airline tickets will be cheaper if you have some leeway on dates and times. When booking the flight, use the +2/-2 day option - the search results will show which days have discounts.

Be careful, though - this isn’t always the saving it seems to be. If you’re travelling two days early and saving $200 on flights, but that means paying for extra accommodation (at $200 a night), you’ve just spent an extra $200.

3. Cut the cost of accommodation

Accommodation - and the extra expenses that come with it - makes up a big slice of the travel expenses. For example, if your staff member will need parking for a rental car, that can be over $30 a day in many major hotel chains. If they stay closer to town, the room rate will be higher, but they can walk to meetings instead of taking an Uber.

You can get loyalty discounts with some chains, like Marriott, where rack rates are lower for commercial clients. To manage this, include guidelines in your travel policy so team members know what spends are acceptable.

4. Have a comprehensive travel policy

If your travel policy is a bit loose, expenses can slip through the cracks. Look at your policy and analyse if it covers most areas of travel spend within your company.

Start with the basics. Check your approvals process - who can authorise travel and who approves the costs? There should be very clear guidelines on tickets, accommodation, expenses, meals and alcohol spend. Having clear rules will help staff make decisions about what they do while travelling. Anything outside of that, they have a process to follow to get approval.

Keep the policy simple, readable and reasonable. Travel can be fraught with stress and drama, and a policy minimises that stress - if staff have missed the last shuttle to the airport for example, they’ll know they can book an Uber without guilt.

5. Offer rewards to employees for saving money

If staff choose more cost-effective travel options, they’re saving your business money. That can quickly add up, and you can pass on some of these savings (or offer time off) to incentivise them to keep travel costs low.

You can also consider offering staff a per-diem allowance instead asking them to submit expenses. This means they get a certain amount for discretionary spending to cover essentials like meals and laundry every day. If they don’t use it, they get to keep the difference, which is a tremendous motivator for some. You’ll also know exactly how much travel will cost at the beginning of the trip.

6. Consider a travel management service

Travel management agencies have a lot of experience in booking travel and know all the travel hacks and tips - for instance, if a hotel will charge you for use of Wi-Fi, or has free airport transfers.

Because travel companies do bulk booking, they also have access to discounts, specials and preferential rates for airlines and hotels that consumers don’t.

Most travel management services also allow your staff to book their own flights through a booking tool. This means they can choose the flights that suit them best, but that still fit within the travel policy - and as a bonus, there’s no time-wasting back-and-forth emails asking if flight X, Y, or Z suits.

While the traveller is away, you also have 24/7 support. If something goes wrong - missed connections, natural emergencies, or lost luggage, for example - the travel company is on standby to sort it out, regardless of the time.

A travel management service is the simplest way to keep costs - and stress - down, for everyone.

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