Business travelers know the importance of making and sticking to a budget. Especially these days, when it seems like many airlines, hotels, and other travel providers are out to nickel and dime you at every turn—extra legroom fees, wi-fi charges, resort fees (what are those, anyway?). But even with the huge growth in communications technologies, business travel is showing no signs of slowing down. However, budgets are shrinking, and business travelers will need to learn to do more with less.
Many websites provide ways for travelers to save money. Here are five tips on how to use travel sites to save your company money on business travel.
Use Comparison Sites to Shop Around
The single best way to save money on business travel is to shop around. This means checking both different providers (airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc.) and different itineraries (flexible dates, nearby airports, and so on). Kayak.com is the most popular comparison site for finding cheap airfares because it is a search engine, not a travel booking company like Expedia. Kayak searches a large number of providers and will often return the lowest prices available.
…and Then Book Directly
It’s a well-kept secret, but travel companies don’t usually advertise their best rates, even on comparison and discount sites. Corporate rates from airlines and other travel providers can be in the range of 10 to 25 percent lower than the best rates you can find online. So use comparison sites to get the lay of the land and find some representative prices, and then call providers directly to see if they will offer you a better deal.
Join Corporate Travel Groups
If you find that you use certain providers repeatedly, see if they have a corporate travel group you can join. For example, with SWABIZ, available for corporate travelers on Southwest Airlines, you not only get the lowest fares, but also you pay no transaction, change, or bag fees, and they will provide various travel management reports for your trips. Even just waiving the transaction and change fees can save your organization hundreds of dollars a year. Many airlines have corporate travel programs that can help you save money on individual trips while also earning frequent flyer rewards faster.
Sign Up for Discount Sites
There are many discount travel sites that are free to join, but can still provide significant savings. Hotel Engine is a top new hotel booking site. Members enjoy the lowest rates available online and also get up to 10% back on every booking through their generous hotel rewards program. Collective-buying daily discount sites, like LivingSocial and Amazon Local, also regularly offer discount deals useful for business travelers—in addition to meals, car rentals are often on the list.
Bundle Services Together
Finally, travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity may not have the best deals on flight, hotel, or car prices alone, but the savings can really add up when you bundle them together. Often, depending on when and where you are traveling, you can book all three components of a trip for about the same price as just the flight booked separately. The key to scoring a great deal off of these sites is to be flexible—if a low price is more important than when you fly, how many stops you make, and what hotel you stay in, and what kind of car you rent, this is your best option.
Great business travel deals are still out there; it may just take a little extra effort to find them. These five tips should get your well on your way to savings. For more travel tips, check out “5 Hotel Booking Tips to Stretch Your Business Travel Budget” and “Business Trip Essentials: The Ultimate Guide for Business Travelers.”