Follow these tips to save time, money and hassle on business travel.
By Christal Bemont
When booking business travel, we now have more options at our fingertips than ever before. It’s a wonderful thing — that comes with more decisions to make.
To help business travelers navigate the proliferation of travel solutions and make smart booking decisions, there are a few general best practices and technologies to consider. Here are seven insider tips for booking and planning better trips.
1. Use smart tools to plan trips and organize details in one place.
Mobile applications geared specifically to business travelers’ needs can save money, time and hassle. Entrepreneurs should look for booking tools that sync with their electronic calendars and provide recommendations on flights, hotels and car rentals based on related calendar holds. For an added bonus, business travelers should also seek out apps that let them earn points and miles while traveling for work. Once the itinerary is booked, they can keep everything organized by leveraging applications that automatically generate travel itineraries based on confirmation emails and receipts and are accessible on-the-go.
2. Check one-way flights.
Business travelers should compare prices and options for booking one-way flights to and from the destination. It could save a substantial amount of money over booking round-trip flights, given the ability to choose different airlines for each leg of the trip; plus, there’s greater flexibility to time flights more appropriately to travel plans.
Related: How to Pack for a Business Trip
3. Evaluate the real trade-offs between home rentals and hotels.
Most travelers today know they can book short-term home and apartment rentals instead of hotels. And rentals can offer certain perks: more space and comfort, potentially for less money than a hotel room. Some also offer kitchens and living areas, so travelers can cook if they wish and enjoy the other comforts of home. But, travelers shouldn’t automatically discount hotels — many hotels offer convenient and cost-saving amenities, such as free breakfast and shuttle service to local destinations, as well as fitness centers and pools. Travelers should think about their overall needs to decide which is the better route.
4. Avoid the high premiums attached to last-minute airfares.
Meeting and schedule changes at the final hour make last-minute travel sometimes inevitable. Booking last-minute flights usually leads to sky-high airfares, but there are ways to keep premiums at a minimal. Recent SAP Concur data revealed it’s best to book flights at least eight days or more in advance — tickets booked fewer than seven days prior to departure can be on average 44 percent more expensive than the same ticket booked 15 days in advance. You can save $148 per ticket by booking at least eight days out.
Related: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Whittling Down Travel Costs
5. Think twice about buying the cheapest fare available.
Many airlines have introduced basic economy fares in recent years, which are essentially low fares meant to compete against no-frill carriers. Unfortunately, many times these fares aren’t a good fit for business travel, as business travelers cannot receive refunds or make changes to the itinerary without issuing an entirely new ticket, and may get charged extra for standard amenities, like a carry-on bag.
6. Join programs that dramatically speed up airport security wait times.
Most business travelers today know about the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA Precheck program, which allows them to skip many of the time-consuming steps involved in airport security and screening lines. But, global business travelers may want to consider enrolling in the U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which lets business travelers use an automatic kiosk for passport processing, instead of waiting in line at customs, and expedited clearance at many airports around the world. Plus, travelers automatically receive TSA Precheck once they’re enrolled in the Global Entry program.
7. Cut the paper clutter — store receipts electronically.
Business travelers should consider apps that let them easily turn any paper receipt into an electronic one. Expense apps that integrate with travel booking tools and employ technology like machine learning can pre-populate expense line items based on previous activity and/or travel itineraries.