Business travel can be an important aspect of growing your business. But it can also become a strain if the costs associated with it are more than your budget can bear. Within the last couple of years, the cost of everything associated with travel seems to have increased, including that of hotel, airfare and rental car fees. But you don’t have to see this as a sign to give up on your business travel plans!
Before we get started on how to cut costs, there is a trade-off, and in most cases it is your time. But you can recapture the lost time by working while you travel. So, your first major tip is to always take your laptop and an extra fully charged battery.
Laptop in hand, here are eight ways that you can dramatically cut your business travel costs:
1. Free city travel. Most airports provide free to and from service to the hotel you are staying in. This will help you avoid cab costs. Take advantage of as many free shuttle services as possible. The airport is a hub for more than just airplanes.
2. Free Internet access. Internet fees on the road can add up, especially at the airport. Here’s the trick: sit outside the airport book stores or one of the various airline club rooms. Many of them have unprotected WiFi, and if you are near them, you can hop on their wireless connection for free.
3. Cheap food and drink. When traveling, the food bills can really start to add up quickly. The best thing is to bring a box or two of power bars (I like Clif Bars personally). They can replace a full meal, if need be, and while I don’t believe it is the most nutritious meal, I’m not fooled into thinking that on-the-road meals are any better. Plus, a power bar will cost you about $1, when a lunch or dinner can be 20 times that! For a drink, bring a refillable sports bottle and fill it up every time you see a water fountain.
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4. Free room and board. Think couch surfing! Check out the website, where many people offer their homes for a free night’s stay. It’s a safe, vetted list, and can save you hundreds.
5. Free meeting space. You can never beat a hotel lobby. You will get free quiet space, bathrooms and many even offer free electricity to get your phone and laptop charged! Just call ahead to see if you will be able to get free Internet access. If it’s only for the guests, see if you can get a temporary guest pass code. So while you are holding your meetings at the nicest hotel around, you will actually be staying at one of the cheapest down the block (that was actually someone's couch, remember?).
6. Cheap flights. The trick here isn’t to find the cheapest ticket to your destination. Instead, find the cheapest flight to the cities near your destination. Then, see if you can find public transportation to take you the remainder of the distance. For example, in the Northeast, the Bolt Bus line will take you from Boston to New York, or New York to Washington, D.C. for just $10. Yup, $10! And it includes free Internet access and a power outlet at your seat. So, if you need to get to New York, take the cheap flight into Boston, and then take the bus ride down to New York City.
7. Free private conference rooms. Believe it or not, churches could be a wonderful travel resource. Many have conference and meeting rooms that are available during the week. Just call ahead, and see if they might share the space. It doesn’t hurt to be the same religion or denomination.
8. Free office space. If you need an office space at your disposal for a day or two, pull out the old college alumni directory or directory of another organization or trade association you are a member of. So pick up the phone or drop an e-mail to your alumnus contact and ask if you could use a desk for a day. Many are happy to oblige, and it often comes with Internet access, electricity, free coffee, a private area, and most importantly, a new contact in your network!
Even with the rising cost of travel, it is important for many businesses to continue making it a part of their budget. Yet you can cut some of those expenses by thinking creatively and taking advantage of the low cost and free opportunities that are out there. And there are plenty of them out there!