When I was employed early in my career, I did a significant amount of traveling, both domestic and internationally. Over time, I began to discover that I could often come out substantially ahead on the costs of travel with a bit of planning and foresight. Here are some of the lessons I learned that put cash in my pocket when traveling for work.
Never, ever eat in an airport. The food is expensive and often poorly prepared. I often put an item or two in my carry-on, such as a sandwich and a bottled drink, for eating while waiting on flights. This saves a lot of money.
If you are allowed to use a personal credit card when paying for airfare or hotel, use it. When I travelled for business, I merely had to submit receipts for pre-approved travel and housing receipts and I was given a check for their cost. Although I had a card that I could potentially use for travel and bypass this, I had the option of using my own card, and I always did this. Why? The cost of air travel and housing often adds up to enough to trigger rewards on my personal card, so often I get a free bonus just for traveling.
Book your own flights if possible. The internet makes booking your own flight as easy as can be, enabling you to choose more convenient flight times. Even if you can’t book your own flight, pick out the ones you would prefer beforehand and add that information when you submit your flight request; you’ll often get exactly what you want.
Know exactly what you can be reimbursed for – and then go as far under as you can. We had a “per day” allotment for food and beverages that was quite nice, enabling us to easily eat out for each meal. When I travelled, I ate continental breakfasts and dined as inexpensively as possible. I would usually come in as much as 70% under the per diem rate, so I would actually receive a cash bonus for travel. Inquire about any per diem travel rates before you go.
Maximize the use of your time. If you’re traveling for business, you should use all of the time you have to maximize your earnings potential. Spend the evening networking instead of watching a movie in your hotel room, or spend a few spare hours working on your professional blog instead of just sitting there waiting. If you must hit tourist spots, try to engage business acquaintances to go along for the networking benefit. I viewed business travel as time alloted solely to focus on success, both personal and that of my business, without any worries about other personal constraints.