In this day and age, travel has become increasingly necessary for business, even with the advent of video chatting and text messaging. Along with this expansion of travel comes an expansion of services and products designed to help the traveler in their journeys. Let’s take a look at some smart business travel tips.
Wifi and Mobility Savings
Create Your Own HotSpot
Hotels and airports provide available WiFi for those doing their work on the go. However, those traveling in cars, buses and trains will find it scarce. Some cell phones provide a WiFi hotspot but if yours doesn’t, there are devices that connect to cell towers and allow you to use your laptop just like at home. They require a data plan, although some like the Verizon Jet Pack offer prepaid plans.
Use Messaging Apps for Communicating
When traveling overseas, sending text messages can really pile up the expenses. WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS.
Use Prepaid SIM Cards
Another solution to overseas calling is to purchase a prepaid SIM card for your phone that allows access to your carrier’s overseas network for that country. Starting at $5, it can keep your cellular costs comparable to your usual cost.
Use Prepaid Phones
Most airports have kiosks that will rent or sell prepaid phones that will work in that country. As with most cellular plans, you’ll need to read the fine print to keep an eye on the pricing.
Use Services Like Skype
Within the United States, Google Voice and Skype can provide low cost calls, as low as a penny a minute. A Google account is required for Google Voice and a phone. It will tie several phones together under one number, if desired. Skype is also handy for the business traveler, allowing for conference calls on the go and low cost calling anywhere there is wifi and no bars.
Hotel Discounts and Savings Tips
There are websites sprouting daily to help you with booking your hotel. But hotel prices are widely variable depending on season and the amount of business coming in. These sites are no guarantee of the lowest prices, but they are a place to start.
Travel During the Off Season
When possible, try going during the off-season, which may differ from place to place, such as summer in tropical regions. In ‘business’ cities, the weekend days are actually the off days. Always call the hotel directly to compare the prices to those online and perhaps negotiate a lower price.
Shop Anonymous Hotels
If the specific hotel doesn’t matter, you can shop the anonymous hotels on sites like Hotwire, where you designate what you want by the general area and the quality in star ratings. You won’t know which hotel you will get until you book, but the savings can be considerable.
Scour Around for Non-obvious Sources of Discounts
While most know that members of AAA and AARP can receive discounts, there are others. Members of the military and other professions receive courtesy discounts.
There are also coupon and voucher books, both print and online. Often, restaurants will have booklets by the front door that talk about the tourist sites and include coupons for hotels.
Vendors that you use for services, such as courier services and office supplies, may offer discounts through a partner program.
Your credit card provider or related rewards program may offer nice discounts.
The point is, there are a lot of sources of discounts you may not think of, so dig around. Also ask what’s available when you’re speaking with a booking agent on the phone or in person — such as “do you offer any discounts?”
Ask for Reduced Rates When Possible
Like the airlines, hotels have started to unbundle services. Extra charges can accrue when you’re not looking. Most now charge for parking. In some hotels a coffee maker in your room, internet access, use of gym or pool facilities and other things will cost extra. If these things are not important to you, check and see if you can get a reduced rate.
Call Before Leaving
And always call before leaving on your trip to see if the rates have gone down, if you booked well in advance.
Recommended Travel Gear For the Business Person
With airlines increasingly creating charges for different services, the extra cost for checked bags have pushed a need to make do with less. Carry ons are usually free so many try to get by with those. To that end, there are compression sacks that allow you to roll up clothing and fit everything tightly in as small a space as possible. It may even be possible to get a week’s worth of clothing in a small carry on.
There’s the ostrich pillow, available at TheGrommet.com with other travel gear. This ‘pillow’ is ideal for comfort during long hours of travel, blocking out light and sound. A related version is Sleep Phones which wrap around your head, covering your eyes and funneling music to your ears.
SeV Woman’s Trench Coat
How about a nifty trench-coat? Scott e Vest trench coat has one for men and women. It has several pockets to carry items you might need on the go. With this stylish coat, you can discreetly carry your keys, wallet, camera, cell phone, tablet, and even a water bottle.
A travel kit helps keep small items and toiletries organized. Some kits open up and hang up to make viewing and selecting what you need easy. You can buy small bottles for shampoo, conditioner and other liquids in quantities that will pass TSA inspection in the airport.
The Train Reaction
For an extended business trip, more than one bag may become necessary. The Train Reaction allows you to link two suitcases together and you can even put a smaller bag on top. This allows for ease in pushing through crowds and narrow passages compared to pulling separate suitcases.
How to Spot Savvy Car Rental Savings
Check Out Smaller Companies
Look past the major car rental dealerships like Avis and Hertz and try the lesser known companies such as Payless or Fox. When available, the savings can be up to fifteen percent or more. Another car rental company that’s up and coming is Sixt, a German company that is opening offices in the SE United States.
Find Discounts and Coupons
There are always promotional codes and coupons. Promotionalcodes.com and promocodes.com are a good place to start. To search independently, enter into Google the rental company and coupon code. Ask about discounts available, such as AARP, Triple A or for professions such as the military. Some rental places allow combining coupons and promotional codes.
Weekend Starts Can Be Cheaper
Weekend rates tend to be cheaper than week days. If it’s possible to start your visit on a weekend, the rate may carry over to all of the days you use the rental.
Go Further Afield for Your Rental
Airport rental businesses charge more than the same company further out in the city. You can take a cab or subway to another location and rent your vehicle there. Leaving town is easier since you can return the car to the airport location.
Visit Multiple Price Comparison Websites
Don’t just visit the aggregator websites such as Travelocity. Visit the site of the business itself and compare. There is a website called Autoslash.com which will track the rates and search for coupons right up to the time of the trip. Hit the price comparison websites, too.
Understand and Compare True Prices
The advertised rate may be just the surface of an iceberg. The true cost can be inflated with state and local taxes, airport surcharges additional driver fees, insurance, gasoline bills and drop-off charges that you may end up paying a lot more than you think.
Lastly,when returning the car, don’t forget to check the trunk for that odd or end that you may want later.
Travel Tips and Tricks
Back Up Your Computer Files
If possible with a portable hard drive as well as online. Keep hard copies and digital copies of your travel documents such as licenses, passports, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency.
Join a Rewards Program
When you travel frequently for business, it may be worth your while to join a rewards program. Members often receive early boarding on flights, priority hotel room, first-class upgrades and other benefits. Some rental-car companies deliver rental cars to rewards program members personally while others have to shuttle out to the lot.
Book Nonstop Flights
Don’t mistake direct flights for nonstop ones. Booking non-stop cuts out all the time waiting in airports for connecting flights. It all depends on whether the time or expense is more important.
Dress Up a Little
For better and more respectful service on your trip, dress up a little. Wear presentation attire and if your luggage is lost, at least you won’t be stuck with jeans for that business meeting.
Charge Up the Gadgets
Make sure all your cell phones, tablets and computers are charged before you leave on your trip. Include all the chargers in your preparations. If traveling to another country, check on adaptors and electrical compatibility with your devices.
Nobody said travel was easy. Even with all our devices, aggregating websites, gadgets and widgets to help us pack, it still comes down to doing your homework. Commercials say come to my site and do all your booking through them. That may be easy, but may not save costs like they say they will.
Look beyond the surface. Don’t take list prices at face value, but compare and haggle for a better deal. Plan ahead and have all the numbers you’ll need programmed into your phone and trip maps if you’re going to drive. Have patience and be polite to those who serve you; they’ll be nicer back.
Most of all, try to enjoy the trip.
Image: Ostrich PillowMore in: Small Business Travel