Travel and Leisure: Here's how to get the most from your business travel budget

2014-06-01T00:00:00Z Travel and Leisure: Here's how to get the most from your business travel budgetBy BILLIE RUFF The Billings Gazette
June 01, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Business travel is an investment in the success and future growth of your business. A recent study commissioned by the National Business Travelers Association, and executed by IHS Global, indicates that business travel does indeed contribute to sales and increased profits.

The study found an average incremental return on investment of five to one. So, how do you make sure you are getting the most of that ROI while not breaking the bank in travel expenses?

If you have flown out of Montana lately, it is no surprise to you that all flights are full, and prices are going up. In preparation for traveling for business in the summer, it is important to book your air reservations far in advance of your desired departure date. Many airlines discount airfares that are booked at least 21 days in advance. There are also often discounts that come with booking discounts 14 and seven days in advance. Within seven days of departure —watch out! Those fares can be astronomical to some destinations.

What is prompting this advice? Most simply put, there just aren’t as many seats in the air as in years past. Airfare service to communities of all sizes is declining, but especially to small and medium airports. There are fewer flights and fewer airplane seats available than there were seven years ago.

And, for saving pennies, nickels and lots of dollars, there are also many things you can do yourself as well. Although some of these may seem like no-brainers, sometimes it takes seeing them listed to get you off and running.

First of all, create a travel policy. A travel policy is an important tool to help employers articulate and communicate expectations to your employees. When employees have a policy in hand, it eliminates questions about what is and isn't allowed before they leave town. Just make sure to be explicit about what is reimbursable and what isn't.

Next, establish spending limits. When people eat out on their own tab, they are usually able to control their appetites. Make sure your employees exercise that same kind of restraint when they are traveling on the company tab. You can establish daily spending limits for food, car and hotel room. Or, you may want to be more specific and state an upper limit for each meal, including tax and tip. Make sure that these spending limits are clearly listed in your travel policy and on a uniform expense report form.

After you have those policies in place, here are some ideas for you and your “troops” to use on the ground.

Free city travel

Many airport hotels provide free to-and-from service to the airport. 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.

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. Pick up the phone or drop an email 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.

With a little creativity and initiative, there are plenty of nickels to be saved. Eating on the road can cost a bundle — so always look for a hotel with a kitchenette — you’ll save a lot shopping at a grocery store. You'll eat better, too.

Although the economy seems to be rebounding a bit, even if it gets back to where it was seven years ago, it just makes sense to save pennies.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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