How Technology can Help You Save Money on Business Travel
by Caron_Beesley, Community Moderator
- Created: September 10, 2012, 5:11 am
Is business travel critical to your small business success – but hurting your cash flow?
According to a recent travel trends survey by American Airlines, 93 percent of small and medium-sized business travel managers surveyed said that face-to-face meetings are either crucial or helpful to the success of their business.
But what about the costs of business travel? According to a similar survey last year, American Airlines found that small businesses typically allocate between 10 and 24 percent of their overall annual budget to travel – no small chunk of change for any small business! What can you do to cut these costs while still doing business effectively?
Here are five tips for saving money on your business travel.
Use Technology Wisely to Save on Airfare
Online collaboration tools such as Skype, Webex, Facetime, and so on make it easier to connect with partners, customers and satellite offices at a low cost or even for free. But when should you opt for a virtual meeting over face-to-face time? Start by evaluating your goals and weighing the pros and cons of either method. Most important, develop travel guidelines for yourself and your employees so everyone is clear about when it’s OK to hit the road or not. Don’t forget to have a uniform policy for reimbursable expenses, too.
You might also consider equipping your field sales reps or remote employees with tablet PCs so you can interact with them and others when they are on business trips. You can use the tablet’s camera device to inspect property, equipment, or machinery at a supplier’s or customer’s location. Read 7 Indispensable Tech Tools for The Small Business Traveler for more tips.
Reap the Benefits of the Sharing Economy
Group sharing sites are taking off in a huge way and saving big bucks for savvy business travelers. For example, if you need to rent a car, sites like ZipCar offers businesses and consumers a low-cost alternative to car rentals or taxis. If you’d rather someone else did the driving, book a ride-share at your destination with ZimRide. If hotel costs are getting you down, consider renting a room through sites like Airbnb.com and CouchSharing instead.
Use Loyalty Programs and Business Credit Cards
If business travel is a core part of your business, airline and hotel loyalty programs can definitely save you money. In fact, according to another American Airlines survey (from 2011), small and medium-sized businesses say that enrolling their company in a business-to-business loyalty program is one of the top three methods of maximizing the value of their travel. If you travel often to the same locations or frequent the same hotels, you might also consider establishing a corporate account with a hotel chain and get discounted rates.
Business credit cards and their redeemable points programs are also a cost-saving strategy, but not all are geared towards small businesses. For tips on finding the right card for your needs read: 6 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Credit Card for Your Small Business.
Shop Bargain Travel Sites (with Care)
While your best bet for saving money when it comes to travel is forward planning and good old fashioned loyalty points, it is possible to find deals on travel discount sites – especially if you need to combine a hotel, car and air ticket. Shop around and cross check prices against the hotel or airline’s website or by phone to make sure you are getting the better deal. Oftentimes providers will match any online specials offered by discount sites. Plus, their cancellation policies can be friendlier. Also, some airlines and hotels don’t appear in these searches – another good reason to check direct.
Manage Your Costs on the Road – There’s an App for That
Take for example Wi-Fi Finder; this free app lets you search over 500,000 Wi-Fi hot spots (free or paid) around the world – which can save you hotel Wi-Fi charges and keep you connected.
Need to track and organize your travel budget? The Travel Pocket app (available for a small fee) lets you track and organize your budget and expenses by time, location and category. You can also convert your reports into a spreadsheet, taking much of the hassle out of record-keeping when you get home.
Be Smart about Business Expense Tax Deductions
You’re probably aware you can deduct the cost of mileage, airfares and lodging on your tax return. But did you know you can also deduct 50 percent of meal costs, tips, and even dry cleaning or laundry you need doing on the road? Read Going on the Road? How to Deduct Your Small Business Travel Expenses to learn more.
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