One thing that seems to go hand-in-hand with being a business owner is travel—whether to attend conferences, meetings or visit out-of-state clients, you’re likely to be hoping on a plane, renting a car or booking a hotel room at least a few times a year. Of course, when you’re the boss, those trips are often coming right off your bottom line, which means you have to be pretty invested in keeping costs down. That can be tougher than usual in the summer when prices on all three tend to rise. So I thought this was the perfect time to go over some money-saving travel tips with the help of Anne Banas, the Executive Editor of SmarterTravel.com.
When renting a car...
- Be a brand flirt. If you want to save big, you have to be flexible. Banas suggests using what she calls an opaque site, like Priceline or Hotwire, which won’t tell you the name of the car company until after you’ve booked (you can typically specify an area or an airport). Often these sites can undercut even the lowest prices.
- Search for discount codes. I really like rentalcodes.com. It’s about as bare bones as it gets, but I’ve found that the discount codes are typically legitimate and the site is easy to navigate. Also consider whether any organizations you’re a member of will offer a discount—AAA, AARP, or business associations.
- Consider gas mileage. Go with the smallest car you can to get the most out of your gas money. And beware of complimentary upgrades—the car may be free, the extra $60 in gas isn't. "If they don’t have a car available, ask for some kind of coverage for the extra gas,” says Banas.
When booking a flight...
- Add up all the costs. I’ve written about airline fees before, and suffice to say, they can add up fast. Be sure to consider all the fees—particularly costs for checking a bag—when you book your ticket. JetBlue and Southwest don’t charge a fee for your first checked bag, says Banas, which means even if a ticket is slightly more expensive, you could save money. Or, skip the checked bag altogether, if you can. Here’s my video that shows you how to pack in a carry on.
- Sign up for alerts. If you know you have a meeting in two months, sign up to get fare alerts, both from airlines and search sites like Kayak. Give your search a little time to see if prices drop, and if they don’t seem to be going anywhere, go ahead and book.
- Search on a Tuesday. I’ve long heard that flights are discounted on specific days of the week, so I asked Banas to confirm. She said that your best bet is likely a Tuesday, because most airlines will have sales on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon, other airlines are dropping their prices to match them on competing routes. It’s not fool proof, but it’s worth a try.
When looking for a room...
- Join a loyalty program. If you travel a great deal and tend to stay at the same family of hotels, it may pay to join a loyalty program that nets you free stays or discounts. This seems to contradict the above, I know, but you should still shop around for the best deal, and if it happens to be where your loyalties lie, all the better. Plus, there is nothing keeping you from joining a few different programs.
- Consider a vacation rental instead. This is Banas’ idea, and it’s a good one: You may save a great deal of money by renting an apartment or home instead of a hotel room. She likes a site called airbnb.com, which has vacation rentals and home stays. “You’re not going to have as many services—no room service—but if your goal is to save money, you can stay in some pretty nice places and not spend a lot at all.”
Jean Chatzky is financial editor of NBC's "Today" show, a contributing editor at More magazine and author of "Money 911: Your Most Pressing Money Questions Answered, Your Money Emergencies Solved." She recently launched the Jean Chatzky Score Builder in partnership with smartcredit.com. Check out her blog at jeanchatzky.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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