When we set out to provide money-saving tips for business travelers, we quickly realized one thing: Relevant advice depends on one’s travel style.
An economy hotel room, for example, might feel stifling to the traveler stricken with wanderlust. On the other hand, a swanky room with a plethora of amenities might seem too extravagant for a traveler who yearns for the comforts of home. Knowing what type of traveler you are can help you minimize costs while maximizing personal value.
Most likely to be found: At a standard economy hotel
Always packs: Just the essentials
The Traditional Traveler is the everyman who travels out of necessity, preferring simplicity and economy over flash. Traditional Travelers operate within a corporate or personal travel budget.
After hours, travelers with this personality will typically stay close to their hotel for dinner, possibly venturing out for window shopping, a brisk walk, or to exercise in the hotel’s gym. Workaholics sometimes fall into this category, often setting up a makeshift office in their room to keep the grind going into the night when necessary.
Ways to save: One of the principal expenses Traditional Travelers incur also is one of the most avoidable: airport parking fees. According to airportparkingreservations.com, the parking at and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 per day. That compounds quickly on longer business trips. Instead, consider taking a cab, transit, or Uber to and from the airport to eliminate the wallet strain. One could also ask a friend or family member for a lift.
Economy airline seating, standard hotel rooms, and the smallest rental cars on the lot are standard for budget-focused travelers, regardless of the trip’s purpose. To steer away from the bargain-basement rut, Traditional Travelers can turn their sights to frequent-flier programs.
Traditional Travelers — or any of their cohorts — can join a credit card program like the American Airlines’ AAdvantage program or the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card to earn bonus miles on everyday purchases at gas stations and grocery stores as well as additional rewards like free checked baggage. These miles particularly come in handy for Traditional Travelers who want to escape the doldrums of coach with free first-class upgrades.
The farther a traveler flies, the more he or she may find it daunting to keep track of all the miles accumulated across a range of airlines. If this is you, use a smartphone mile-tracker app like AwardWallet, available on both iPhone and Android platforms. The service has logged more than 66 billion miles that count toward 670 loyalty programs.
Travel deal sites such as Bellevue-based Expedia are abundant on the web, offering prospective travelers discounted fares on air travel, rental cars, and hotel rooms. Everyone knows the deal by now — just type in the pertinent dates and destination, and the site will do the rest.
What travelers may not know is that in May, Expedia expanded its Expedia+ rewards program to include incentives for small-business owners. It rewards employers for group bookings with valuable coupons, and there are incentives for individual travelers such as free upgrades and additional points credited to their Expedia+ accounts.
Want to see how Expedia stacks up among its competitors? Check out Kayak, a travel search site that compares rates across multiple travel sites.
Bonus Tip: Avoid some pitfalls of economy class, namely cramping and deep vein thrombosis, by packing a tennis ball in a carry-on. Tennis balls are cheap and portable, and can be used to roll under feet or thighs to combat soreness.
Most likely to be found: At a campground
Always packs: Comfortable all-terrain shoes
At first, it might seem like business travel isn’t conducive to sleeping on the ground or walking a quarter-mile from a cabin to the shower each morning. After all, who wants to show up in the boardroom with mud-crusted loafers?
But Earthy Travelers are stricken with wanderlust and see a business trip as an opportunity to explore a new geographical area. Even if it means hiking on their lunch break or hanging their pressed suit from a tree limb, Earthy Travelers do not shy away from Mother Nature.
Ways to save: Earthy Travelers need to secure some basic camping gear. Because packing your own gear — especially for a flight — isn’t convenient, consider renting from a local REI or other outfitter in the
city you are visiting.
The most pertinent element to this process is obtaining a mode of transportation. Traveling by car is ideal for hauling gear. If traveling by plane or train, be sure to pack light. Opt for just the essentials and book a campsite with a grill and table — or a cabin — to compensate.
Throwing an empty reusable water bottle into a carry-on bag can save cash. Most cafe and restaurant personnel will top off a water bottle if asked.
When it comes to overnight accommodations, the Earthy Traveler likely is going to look for something outdoors and economical. Many private campgrounds have fun amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts (and showers!), but to save some green, check out state and federal campgrounds.
They are routinely less expensive and still have essential amenities like potable water and campsite grills. Additionally, travelers will get more peace and quiet at government-owned grounds versus private grounds, where families are the core of the client base.
Check out reserve america to track and book sites at state and federal campgrounds.
If campgrounds are too far away from the boardroom, consider Camp in my Garden, an online service that pairs homeowners who want to show off their green thumbs with travelers who are looking for a micro campsite.
“Camp in my Garden offers a level of privacy and a unique environment that you rarely find in commercial campsites or campgrounds,” said Clare Fairburn, community liaison for the service. “Every location is a surprise. Some are very romantic and hidden away in lovely, natural surroundings, and some are extremely functional, offering outstanding value in a backyard outside a city.”
The service currently has 1,500 camp hosts in more than 60 countries. While the bulk of Camp in my Garden sites are located internationally, there are more than 50 host sites scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada near many of the metropolitan areas frequented by business travelers.
Fairburn hopes to add many more sites in North America in the coming year.
“This cannot happen without the hosts,” she said. “They like welcoming interesting new people into their lives temporarily. They find it very rewarding because they like their places to be used and enjoyed. Certainly that was my motivation to host my own garden: I had a huge garden that took all my time but no one got to enjoy it.”
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to pack insect repellent, sunscreen, a pair of shower shoes, and a headlamp for those late-night jaunts to the bathroom.
Most likely to be found: At a five-star hotel in the heart of downtown
Always packs: An e-reader and an eye mask
First-class seats. Swanky hotel. Surf and turf at the fanciest place in town. Spa treatment. Luxury Travelers are not timid when it comes to treating themselves like a VIP every chance they get.
When business travelers spend a little extra coin to give themselves the executive treatment, the expenses increase rapidly. Just because Luxury Travelers enjoys the finer things in life doesn’t mean they don’t want to save some cash, too.
Ways to save: First and foremost, ask for a corporate discount. Business travelers often can save money on accommodations, car rentals, and other services just by asking.
Like Traditional Travelers, the first thing Luxury Travelers should have in their wallets is a frequent-flier rewards credit card linked to their airline of preference. However, the Luxury Travelers fly more often than Traditional Travelers, and they take advantage of business-class seating more often. Many frequent-flier programs will offer preferred status to travelers who fall into this category, adding more perks and benefits that can ultimately save major dollars in the long run.
Before choosing a preferred airline and accompanying air-miles credit card, check to see which ones waive foreign transaction fees, which can bog down end-of-the-month statements when frequently traveling abroad for business.
Look for a flat-rate airport car service that will get you where you need to go upon arrival; almost every city has one. Not only will you save money over services that charge by the mile, but you will likely be in a more luxurious car with a more professional appearance.
If air-mile credit cards aren’t appealing, consider the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card for luxury hotel rooms. The card helps cardholders earn free nights at any one of Starwood’s 1,100 hotels and resorts, including W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton, in nearly 100 countries with no blackout dates.
The minibar, which had been a refuge for the luxury business traveler since its inception at a Hong Kong Hilton in 1974, is a dying hotel feature — TripAdvisor survey respondents ranked it the least-important hotel amenity.
In its place stands a stoic, empty mini refrigerator and a convenience shop in the lobby of most luxury hotels. Don’t be fooled; the minibar may be gone, but its inflated Diet Coke prices remain at the hotel shop. Drop the bags in the room and head to the closest grocery store to stock up on essentials for the rest of the trip and make use of that sad mini fridge.
Bonus Tip: If you plan to use credit cards to finance a shopping spree, give your credit card company a heads up so they don’t suspect fraud; there’s nothing worse than traveling with a canceled or suspended card. When traveling out of the country, jot down the international customer service number for your financial institutions and keep a copy in your wallet and saved on your phone in case of theft.
Most likely to be found: At a bed and breakfast
Always packs: Comfy after-hours clothes and slippers
After an exhausting day in a conference or workshop, the first thing many business travelers want to do is go home and decompress. Unfortunately, home is a relative term when traveling — it’s wherever your suitcase happens to be. Some travelers can rest their weary heads just about anywhere, but Comfort Travelers long for the coziness of their real homes.
The solution for this conundrum? A cozy bed and breakfast to ease the homesickness.
Ways to save: If you feel at home with friends or family (you’ve got 800-plus Facebook friends, right?) who reside in your destination city, get in contact with them to see if somebody offers a free, cozy place to crash for a few days. When a familiar face can’t be found, Comfort Travelers can turn to a smartphone app to find a homey space.
Established in 2008, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. In short, homeowners rent out their spare rooms, converted garages, lofts, or guest houses to travelers looking for bed-and-breakfast ambiance and reasonable rates.
There are more than 1.5 million Airbnb listings in 190 countries. Chances are good there is an Airbnb at just about any business trip destination.
“Business travel trips are the ones you have to take, not the ones you want to,” said Marc McCabe, Airbnb’s business travel lead. “With Airbnb, you get a little bit of that home feeling back while you’re on the road.”
McCabe estimates roughly 10 percent of Airbnb’s guests are business travelers.
“We have found that business travel is becoming less about being a road warrior and more about ‘bleisure’ or a ‘bizcation,’” he said. “People are increasingly combining business trips with weekend stays, which fits in well with Airbnb’s diverse offerings.”
In a 2013 survey by TripAdvisor, 89 percent of respondents ranked free Wi-Fi and free parking as hotel amenities of premier importance. Airbnb guests often take advantage of their hosts’ Wi-Fi and parking areas at no additional cost. Similar amenities at hotels — especially parking at downtown hotels — can be costly.
Additionally, Airbnb guests often can cook at home instead of eating out. This gives Comfort Travelers the freedom to eat what they want and eases travel anxieties with the cathartic act of cooking.
Airbnb rentals and similar establishments may sound great to a homebody, but staying in a stranger’s spare bedroom or guest house may invoke uneasy feelings in some. So be sure to check out the host’s profile before booking and read the comments left by previous renters to ease any anxiety.
Bonus Tip: To make foreign surroundings feel like home, Comfort Travelers might find it helpful to pack a favorite pillow or blanket.