You probably don’t fly first class if you want to save money on business travel. And if you’re checking several websites before booking flights and hotel rooms you’re already doing better than many travelers. But are you doing flexible-date airfare searches before scheduling business trips? That strategy, explained below, can save you hundreds of dollars.
What else can you do to save money on business travel? Use a few of the tricks in each of our five categories of travel savings.
Ways to Save Money on Air Travel
Find Your Flight First
If you can choose when to travel for business you can save hundreds of dollars on airfare. Start by doing a flexible date airfare search on several travel websites before you schedule the trip. After you find some inexpensive flights, see if the dates and hours work for your purposes and buy the tickets.
For example, find several inexpensive flights and then call the person you’re meeting to suggest a time that fits your cheapest flight dates. If that doesn’t work, try the second best.
Travel With Carry-On Only
Skip the checked baggage to avoid charges. Smart packing makes it possible to go with just a carry-on bag for most short trips, and you’re allowed other items as well. For example, Delta Air Lines allows a carry-on bag of up to 22 by 14 by 9 inches, and a “personal item” (briefcase, large purse, laptop), and an “additional approved item” (jacket, umbrella).
Check Airline Websites
The travel sites are a great place to start your search, but you may not see all the available tickets. For example, none of Southwest Airline’s flights show up on Expedia and similar sites. Other airlines may not have all of their flights listed in these outside booking systems.
Also, the flights are sometimes cheaper on the airline websites. So start with the big travel sites, and then check a few airline sites as well to see if there are other fights or if you can book the ones you found for less.
Try the Hated Airlines
Spirit Airlines is the most hated airline in the U.S., and yet they thrive because they’re cheap. Spirit, Frontier, and other budget airlines have low base prices and then charge for almost everything else — often surprising travelers. But if you’re flexible enough you can save a lot. Don’t choose your seats, print your boarding passes at home, pay for luggage online, and read the fine print.
If you’re really intent on saving and it’s just an overnight business trip, go with less than carry-on. These airlines typically charge for carry-on baggage. For example, Frontier says your free “personal item” can be a backpack, purse, or briefcase of up to 18 by 14 by 8 inches. A briefcase or backpack of that size might be sufficient for a short trip.
Use Off-Site Parking
Are you driving your own car to the airport? Check one of the discount airport parking sites like Premier Parking. You will have to spend a few minutes more riding shuttles, but you can save up to 70 percent versus parking in the lots operated by the airport.
Rent Out Your Parked Car
If you want free parking when flying, use a service like FlightCar. They charge nothing and rent out your car. They say, “On the average 5-day trip, members save $100 in parking fees and make $30 in rental earnings.”
Use Airfare Email Alerts
Set up Airfare Alerts on Airfare Watchdog for all routes leaving your home location or for specific city-to-city routes. When airfares are offered at prices “much lower than the norm,” you’ll get an email. This setup works well if a business trip to a specific destination would be useful but is optional. Just go when and if you get a cheap fare.
Ways to Save Money on Ground Transportation
Try Airfare or Car Rental Packages
Expedia and other travel sites give you the option of packaging your car rental with your airfare. See what they have to offer, then check for car rentals separately to see if you can save by bundling or if you’ll be better off paying for your plane tickets and car rental separately.
Use the Right Credit Card to Rent a Car
If you have a credit card that provides rental car insurance, use it to pay for your rental, and then decline the collision damage waiver coverage offered by the rental car company. This can save you an average of $20 per day.
Read more: 25 Ways to Save Money on Business Travel