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How to Stretch your travel dollars
Although telecommunications is cutting down the need to travel, much business continues to be done face to face.
Owner-managers still have to hit the road. Unfortunately, large corporations have a big advantage over entrepreneurs in their ability to wring value from their travel budgets.
Airlines, hotels and car rental agencies have programs geared toward corporate executives that generally offer lower prices based on volume business.
So what can a small-business owner do? Consider the following when planning your travel budget.
Travel style. How you travel reflects the image you want to convey to prospective clients. For example, many companies require employees to travel under the cheapest fares and to stay in low-cost hotels. This is particularly true for non-profit and government agencies.
The leading companies in an industry usually share the same travel patterns. For example, many entertainment executives only travel business-class or first-class and stay in high-end hotels. If you plan to meet someone in this industry, you may want to follow the pattern.
Don't forget the agent. Many business travellers are using the Internet to search out the cheapest fares, lowest cost rentals or the least expensive hotels. Certainly, this method may reap bargains. But some travellers end up paying a lot more than if they had used an experienced travel agent.
A good agent should know the best hotel values for major cities. If you're a client of an established agency that refers people to a specific hotel, you should be treated well and possibly even upgrade when rooms are available.
Be creative. To reduce the price of your fare, think about booking two airline tickets instead of one. This practice is often called back-to-back ticketing and is frowned on by the airlines for obvious reasons.
Here's how it works: Airline pricing requires that you book in advance and stay over a Saturday for the best discount fares. But if you need to fly to, say, Calgary from Toronto at mid-week for only a few days, the price may be $2,480.
But you may book a ticket to fly out on your targeted date with a return of a few weeks later. This may be available under a low discount fare of about $650, for example. The you book a separate flight with another agent on a different airline starting from Calgary on the day you want to come back and a return of a few weeks later. This flight may also cost about $650.
In total you have spent about $1,300. For the same flights that an airline may charge you $2,480, you can obtain a savings of about $1,180.
Accumulate points. Decide with which airline you prefer to fly, join its frequent flier program and try to use that carrier exclusively. Most major credit cards have a program that allows you to accumulate points that can be converted to airline tickets, car rentals and other services.
Get the credit card that accumulates points for your choses airline's frequent flier program. Put all business purchases on the card, and you will quickly have enough points to redeem for a reward.
One owner of a high-technology firm, for example, continually acquires new computers for his growing business. He buys them using his credit card and uses his points for most of his business travel.
After attaining a certain level of points, you will get access to the airline's private lounge, which may have amenities geared toward the business traveller including phone jacks for laptop computers.
Also, by purchasing all of your business items on a single credit cars, you may bet a high credit limit that can prove useful in tight times.
Complain. When you are not satisfied with the service you have received by an airline, hotel or car rental agency, write to the president directly. You may receive a reimbursement for a portion of your fee or a discount coupon for the next trip.
Published July 12, 1999
Disclaimer: This website contains the opinions and ideas of its authors and is designed to provide useful advice in regard to the subject matter covered. The author and publisher are not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional services in this website. This website is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. The authors and publisher expressly disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this website.