Airport signs, travel programs and glossy brochures all bring about images of exotic destinations and the joys of world travel. The reality of small business travel couldn’t be farther from the fantasy. You probably won’t have many meetings on the beach or swooshing down snowy slopes. Unless your meetings take place on a tropical isle you are probably going to be traveling to city centers and busy airports. Business travel can be arduous, lonely and downright miserable. Simple planning and a good attitude can take some of the sting out of a mandatory meeting in Omaha.
Teleconferencing and meetings on Skype or internal video conferencing have taken the place of much of the necessary business meeting travel but nothing takes the place of a live-in-person , face-to face meeting. If you and your colleagues or customers are not in the same town someone is going to have to travel. Consider taking turns, when it’s your time to travel for business keep a cool head and plan ahead.
Some basic money saving tips:
- Travel in the off-season or early in the year
- Pre-plan and pre pay to get the best fares. Take notice of your company culture. If plans are always changing and then book flexible fares.
- Avoid holidays
- Join rewards programs and try to fly the same airline or stay in the same hotel chain. Most companies do reward return customers with upgrades and free flights or room nights. Saving a dollar or two may not be as beneficial in the long run as having a hotel that will do you a favor when you need one. On the other hand, don’t be a slave to a brand.
- Consider ‘Red Eye’ flights that will get you in and out of a city (and back home) without staying overnight.
- Take notice of the fine print; note all change fees and baggage charges.
- Fly Southwest. Southwest doesn’t have change fees.
Some smart tips for small business owners:
- Get a credit card that pays miles. Use Airline credit cards to earn free trips. Join the loyalty programs that will give discounts and also alert you to sales and specials.
- Appoint one person as your in house Travel coordinator. This can save a lot of time and money. While some people prefer to book their own travel it’s easier to channel or document the information though one associate at your business. This person can keep track of the confirmations numbers and changes. They are a great go-to if someone is lost or doesn’t show up at their destination.
- If you have a yearly conference or something where you know the dates well in advance signup for an airline alert through Kayak.com, Booking Buddy or other online service that will alert you as fares drop. As soon as you see an amazing fare book it!
- Bring your laptop and your work but also bring a book to give yourself a break from the screen.
- Travel light. Travel light. Travel light.
Travel Apps that work for you:
If you are like most small business owners you are probably planning your own trips and travel. In this case, a smart phone can be your best friend to help organize your travel, find a good restaurant or accommodation. There are a lot of free Apps that can help get you organized and on your way.
- Google translate instantly translates to 57 languages
- Gate Guru can guide you around the airport
- TripIt is a great app to organize all you flights, hotel info and other itinerary items all in one place – and it even puts them in chronological order for you
- Hotel Tonight scours unsold inventory in major cities and amazing deals on last-minute hotel rooms
There is an app for your travel needs – everything from wi-fi finders to currency converters. Which brings us to another tip: always pack your phone charger in your purse or carry-on. You ever know how long you will be stuck at a terminal or station.
Business travel requires a lot of flexibility and a some patience. Real road warriors (sales people and those who are on the road daily) manage it all by giving up on any great expectations and accepting the ups and downs of travel. Meeting people along the way, seeing new places and getting to know your customers in-person is an invaluable benefit of travel, enjoy it when you can!