Business travel is on the rise . . . but
companies are spending less money on their trips. How can that be?
Easy. Business customers, like consumers, are demanding more for
Here are traps to avoid that will help you save
money on your next business trip. If you have a corporate travel
policy, consider incorporating some of these suggestions--they'll
help stretch your travel dollar further.
1. Don't pay full fare for your airline
ticket. Never, ever, ever shell out the walk-up fare — that's the
unrestricted, full-fare coach class price — for an airline ticket.
In the past, before low-fare carriers such as JetBlue and
Independence Air rose to prominence, business travelers had no
choice but to pay what an airline demanded. Not anymore. Switch your
preferred carrier to a low-fare airline now. Estimated savings:
60-80% off airfare.
2. Don't become a serious frequent-flier
mileage collector. Loyalty points are the crack cocaine of the
travel industry, so advising you to be a "casual" user is somewhat
na´ve. If at all possible, you should stop collecting rewards points
now. But the system is what it is, and unless you want to find
yourself overpaying for your airline tickets, hotel rooms or rental
cars — and even taking unnecessary trips in order to qualify for
elite status — pay no attention to the points that may be collecting
in your portfolio. If you do, you could become a mileage addict.
(Remember, there are close to 10 trillion unredeemed frequent-flier
miles out there). Estimated savings: varies by amount of travel.
3. Don't pay the rack rate for your hotel room.
Hotels want you to pay the sticker price for a room (of course, they
do). But do you go to a car dealer and pay asking price? No way.
Logging on to the Internet can really pay off, particularly if
you're using one of the so-called "opaque" Web sites such as
Priceline or Hotwire. (You pick the class of hotel, but not the
specific property — and you don't collect points.) But the savings
can be terrific: Better than a traditional online agency, and better
even than a hotel Web site, with its "best rate" guarantee.
Estimated savings: about 40% off your hotel bill.
4. Don't accept the key to your minibar. You
know that the snacks and drinks in your minibar are marked up
several hundred percent. You know that the moment you open the
refrigerator, an alarm is probably going off somewhere in the hotel
manager's office (actually, in all seriousness, many minibars
automatically charge your room if an item in it is simply moved).
Solution: When the front-desk worker offers you a key, turn it down.
Tell your employees they'll never be reimbursed for anything from
the rip-off minibar. Estimated savings: can be as high as $20 a day
5. Don't rent anything other than a matchbox
car. Don't worry; you won't end up actually driving a subcompact
car. The cheapo vehicles are the first to run out, and when they do,
the car rental company is contractually obligated to put you in the
next-highest class of car at no additional charge. However, if you
rent a full-size vehicle, you'll just end up paying a premium for
something you would have either gotten for free or at a vastly
reduced rate. (Rental agents will haggle with you over upgrade
costs, but they're usually empowered to give it to you free for the
asking.) Estimated savings: up to $40 a day.
6. Don't tip just because you feel guilty.
Airport skycaps, waiters and hotel employees often leave you with
the impression that you must subsidize their substandard wages, and
that if you don't, you're being a tightwad. Truth is, they've chosen
to work in the service profession and you don't have to tip them
unless they've performed quality service that's tip-pable. A
gratuity is earned, and you don't have to walk around handing out
money like candy while you're away on business. Estimated savings:
depends on the length of your trip.
7. Don't buy the optional car rental insurance.
Car-rental employees like to pressure you to buy their own
insurance. They show you pictures of damaged cars and they tell you
your insurance policy may not cover your rental if you're in an
accident. I'm not saying these employees are wrong. But you have to
be smart. Find out what's covered under your policy (normally, your
credit card takes care of almost everything). And remember: These
policies often account for a hefty portion of a car-rental company's
profits. So while these add-on insurance policies can be useful for
you, they're even more useful to the rental company. Specifically,
its bottom line. Estimated savings: about $20 a day.
8. Don't order room service or laundry. Both
are woefully overpriced. Room service bills come with a service
charge of between 10% and 15% ("for your convenience"). And you
could buy new clothes cheaper than you could have your laundry
cleaned. Talk about a rip-off. Instead, eat in a restaurant and
visit a Laundromat. Some hotels have laundry facilities on premises
that are far less expensive. Estimated savings: between $5 and $10 a
9. Don't use a hotel phone. Don't even think
about picking up the in-room phone unless it's ringing. Instead, use
your cellular phone. Why? Hotels mark up the phone bill by 100% or
more. Oh, and that "deal" with free local calls? Check the fine
print, because sometimes, calls of more than 20 minutes — even local
ones — get billed at a different rate. Estimated savings: about $5 a
10. Don't pay for anything that you can get
for free. That includes, but isn't limited to, hotel shuttle buses
(much better than a pricey cab), breakfast (many hotels offer
complimentary meals), dinner (check out the concierge floor, where
hors d'oeuvres are on the house) and entertainment (the in-flight TV
is free on JetBlue and Song). Only the tourists pay, because they
don't know any better. Estimated savings: depends on length of trip.
A Common Name Just Won't Fly
When Chris Moore
flies, he can't use a skycap or an e-ticket — he has to get cleared
from an airline representative to get a boarding pass.
When he travels
with a group of coworkers, they all go to the airport lounge for a
drink, while Moore waits in lines. His crime? A very common name,
which happens to be on the government's no-fly list.
"I wonder, do
they actually get on the phone and ask security, 'I have this
six-foot-one white guy.' 'Oh no, we're looking for a guy who's five
feet tall wearing a turban and answers to the name of Chris Moore,"
said Moore, who travels to Orlando, San Diego and Salt Lake City
regularly to set up tradeshow booths for companies who make surf
fashion. Moore's troubles amount to a lot of inconvenience
However a new DHS Web site, DHS
went live on February 20. TRIP stands for traveler redress
inquiry program. The program will allow travelers who think they
have been unfairly put on the no-fly list — or are simply victims of
mistaken identity — to fill out a form online to plead their case
and then track its progress. The site can also handle foreigners who
believe they were incorrectly denied a U.S. travel visa or others
being pulled aside for secondary screening by U.S. Customs and
Remember: Without a travel agent you're on
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