Six Tips for Minimizing Travel Expenses
At times it would be nice to think that you could drum up funding, sell your products, and service your clients without ever leaving the office, but that's not practical. If your company is growing, it means there is at least one road warrior in your group spewing out travel and entertainment expense forms like a slot machine.
These six tips will cut down on travel expenses and increase out-of-the-office productivity -- even when you're working with multiple mobile executives.
- Corporate credit cards. Not only can corporate credit cards help you keep better track of your employees' business expenses by giving you one consolidated bill, they can also help you out in other areas. Credit card companies have deals with airlines, hotels, and rental car agencies that can get you group and individual discounts. A corporate American Express card, for example, prints 800 numbers on the back of the card for discounts of up to 25 percent off services of companies such as FedEx, Hertz, and Hilton.
- Car rental clubs. Save time and frustration by signing up your employees with free car clubs like Hertz #1 Club Gold or Enterprise's Corporate Class. Fill out a corporate profile and preference sheet, and whenever you call to reserve a car, one will be waiting for you. Hertz doesn't even require onsite check-in for its Gold Club members. You just check your name on the board and go to your car.
- Airport clubs. Most major airlines now offer club memberships that allow members to use lounges that are far more comfortable -- and productive -- than hanging out at the departure gate. Clubs like United's Red Carpet, American Airlines' Admiral's Club, and the Delta Crown Club let members set up and change reservations without waiting in line; use meeting rooms; and have access to computers, fax machines, and modem lines. Some clubs even offer free local phone calls -- a big savings on roaming cell phone charges. Most clubs also offer complimentary breakfasts, fruit, and beverages. For $300 to $500 dollars a year in membership fees, you'll gain thousands of dollars of productive work time.
- Shuttle buses. While quick and easy, taxis are not the most cost-effective way for a solo traveler to get from the airport to a hotel or business meeting in most metropolitan areas. Major airports like San Francisco and Atlanta have SuperShuttle and other bus services that average a flat fee of about $12 to $15 to get travelers from the airport into the city -- compare that to a $30 or $50 cab ride. Also, if you're traveling for work to a convention center, find out if the convention planners have set up bus service. Events at the Javits Center in New York, as well as other major convention centers in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, all have free shuttles to and from their locations to most of the major hotels in the area.
- Online travel agents. Using a company travel agent or a company that you outsource your travel plans to can become costly -- many tack on extra "corporate fees" for group and employee travel. You can save time and money by using Web sites like Microsoft Expedia, Preview Travel, and Biztravel that let you compare prices for airline, hotel, and rental car reservations. Plus, you can use them 24 hours a day -- just enter in your plans, click, and go.
- Cellular service. There will be times when you can't find a land-based phone line, or it's simply easier to grab your cell phone. But don't settle for default rates. Make sure you choose the cellular service that works best for your needs. If you're only going to be traveling to big cities, a digital phone should be fine. But if you are an off-road warrior, going in and out of small towns, you'll need an analog or a dual digital/analog phone for times when you are out of range. Whatever type of phone you choose, check regularly that you are getting the best rates possible -- most cellular phone companies are constantly offering new plans, and most now include long distance charges in the monthly price.
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