The Passionate Entrepreneur - Budget Business Travel

Rhonda Abrams

Travel is an important and necessary part of business life -- including small-business life. I believe most entrepreneurs do too little traveling to their see key clients, prospects, suppliers, and contractors.

But you don't want to spend more money than you have to. So here are a few money-saving business-travel tips I've picked up:

  • Use alternate airports.
  • Going to Washington, D.C., Miami, or San Francisco? Check prices to Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale, or Oakland. Low-cost airlines land in these "secondary" airports, driving prices down for all carriers. Of course, make sure that extra ground transportation costs don't eat up your savings.

  • Check low-cost airlines.
  • Nowadays, every airline is a "no frills" airline -- no food, no leg room, fully packed flights. You might as well shop for the lowest price. Also, low-cost airlines are usually cheaper for one-way and last-minute flights. And the individual TV screens on JetBlue are cool.

  • Shop prices on the Internet, but also call hotels directly.
  • Often, the lowest rate -- especially last-minute -- can be obtained by calling a hotel directly. Ask for discount rates, such as AAA or AARP (you don't need to be a senior to join). And ask a manager if there are corporate rates; why shouldn't they apply for small businesses, too?

  • Check the airlines' own web sites.
  • You can often find greater seat availability on the airlines' web sites, and some low-cost airlines aren't even included in searches on the major travel sites.

  • Try moderately priced, business-oriented hotels.
  • Many hotel chains are aimed at road warriors, including entrepreneurs, salespeople, and consultants. These hotels provide free local phone calls, high-speed Internet, breakfast, parking, and sometimes even free appetizers and drinks at dinner. Ask about these before making reservations.

  • Never -- and I mean never -- pick up the hotel phone before you know the charges.
  • A local call can be as much as $2, and many hotels routinely charge "operator-assisted daytime rates" for long distance -- a stratospheric rate that no one in this universe pays except at a hotel. I was once billed $30 for a 10-minute domestic long-distance phone call. Yikes! I now only use my cell phone in hotel rooms.

  • Rent a car in a sprawling urban area, but use taxis and public transportation in a city center.
  • It's often less expensive to rent a car for a day than to take one taxi ride in a city like Houston or Los Angeles, but it's more expensive to park your car at a hotel than take a number of cab rides will cost in a city like New York or Chicago.

  • Use your frequent-flyer miles for expensive business trips rather than inexpensive leisure travel.
  • It costs much more to fly cross-country midweek on short notice than it does to book a flight to Disney World months in advance.

Have a successful -- and inexpensive -- business trip. Bon voyage!

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