Tips for Managing Business Travel
tl;dr: Simple tips and tricks to help companies save money and time on business travel
There are many positive benefits of business travel — face-to-face client meetings, trade show presence, more personal sales pitches — but there are also some serious drawbacks. Corporate travel is expensive, time-consuming and complicated to manage.
Luckily, there are some simple things companies can do to reduce the negative aspects of business travel.
In this post, we’ll dive into some of those methods and provide a simple framework for effectively and efficiently managing your company’s travel.
What makes a great corporate travel management solution?
Before analyzing the different tools and techniques your company can use to simplify business travel, let’s take a step back: What is corporate travel management, and how can it help you save time and money?
The first way to approach this is by understanding exactly what your travel needs are. How many employees travel regularly for work? How often do they travel? What is your travel budget, and how is it broken down?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to think about what solutions would be best for your specific needs, so that you can streamline your entire corporate travel program. But where do you start? What options do you have?
As we’ve written about in the past, there are three main options to choose from when building out your travel program: the travel agent route, the travel manager route or the travel management software route.
There’s a lot of nuance to determining which option is right for you, but if you were to boil it down to its most basic elements, businesses typically choose:
- Corporate travel agents if they want to save time for their travelers
- In-house corporate travel manager if they want more control over who travels and how much they spend
- Corporate travel management software if they want flexible booking options, chat-based support for travelers, and better visibility into travel spend
Choosing to utilize a travel agent can help your company save time, as these individuals book all the trips on behalf of your business travelers. And because they are typically quite familiar with the travel industry, corporate travel agents can often provide valuable insights about flight & hotel deals as well as more general industry knowledge.
Going with a travel manager can help your company stay on budget and organized, as well as offer support to travelers before, during and after business trips. Unlike outsourced corporate travel agents, in-house travel managers don’t just help with travel booking and industry knowledge, they also help enforce travel policies, find tools to help streamline the entire process, and work with finance to keep the travel program on budget.
Opting for a travel management platform replaces much of the manual, human element with software to help streamline the process of booking, managing and reporting on corporate travel. Companies can input travel policies directly into these platforms and then allow employees to book travel for themselves. These platforms (like Lola.com) also connect corporate travelers to huge libraries of travel inventory, much of which isn’t available to the public, even corporate travel agents. And, corporate travel management platforms typically connect travelers to 24/7 support in the case of any travel disruptions.
Each of these three options could work as a great solution to your corporate management, it just depends on your preferences and exact needs.
Now that we’ve covered the standard options for managing business travel, let’s look at some specific tips and tactics to help make it as painless as possible.
How a comprehensive travel policy can help you manage business travel
A comprehensive travel policy is a key element in effective business travel management. Without a travel policy, employees either end up booking flights and hotels that are out-of-policy, or forced to book less-than-ideal options for fear of not getting reimbursed.
Creating a comprehensive travel policy starts with an easy-to-follow layout that balances company costs with the needs of traveling employees. A successful travel policy should include a clear travel booking process, a policy for reimbursing business expenses, security steps to avoid fraud, and information about how travelers can get support in the event of travel disruptions.
How else can companies help business travelers stay healthy and productive on the road?
Traveling for work isn't always easy, especially when uncontrollable mishaps emerge out of nowhere. Even with a satisfactory corporate travel solution, there are still possibilities of road bumps along the way.
Luckily, there are a few more tactics companies can use to educate their most frequent travelers about simple ways to make corporate travel less painful.
These three essential tips for making business travel easier and less painful are to:
- be mindful and
- restore while on the road.
Preparation gives travelers a chance to organize and complete their work prior to or while on a trip, making the trip home much smoother and less stressful. And be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you head out.
Being mindful and exerting positive energy can also help remove stress and anxiety during travel. Whether it be exercise, meditation, or even just stopping to take deep breaths, these simple gestures can go a long way during your business trip. Certain actions will help clear your mind and inflate your mood.
Finally, being able to restore is a major key to making business travel easier. An interrupted night of sleep will only cause you more irritation and discomfort during your long work day, which is why you need quality rest time while on the road.
Common challenges when managing business travel costs
Managing the cost of business travel is a never-ending struggle for many companies. Ensuring the happiness and safety of your travelers while keeping costs under control is a tough equation to balance for many growing companies.
There are a handful of common challenges that companies face while attempting to manage business trip costs, including: lack of visibility, unclear policies, late submission of expense reports, data entry errors, or unnecessary travel expenses. Employee reimbursements can also make it harder for companies to manage business travel costs, as it prevents them from knowing exactly what they’ve spent on travel at any given time.
How can you evaluate your current travel expense management procedure?
Evaluating your current travel and expense management procedure is a step in the right direction for overcoming these common challenges. Without doing so, your business travelers may be spending more than they should, not getting the support they deserve, or both.
You should evaluate your travel policy regularly by analyzing it thoroughly and reviewing the guidelines to ensure they’re still accurate and fair. Is there a requirement for how quickly employees have to submit expense reports? Are there any uncertain policies? Is your corporate travel policy fairly balanced to benefit both the company and the traveler? These are the questions you should be asking yourself when evaluating your current travel expense management. If a red flag appears while reviewing, you should definitely consider discussing it with whoever is in charge of your travel management.
How can you lower the cost of business travel?
After evaluating your travel expense management procedure and generating ways to improve it, you should then look for specific ways to lower costs.
Booking ahead of time is a great way to lower your business travel costs. To receive the lowest fares, try booking at least 50 days in advance for domestic flights and at least 170 days before an international trip. Searching for flights and booking on a Sunday will be much cheaper, as most online business travel bookings typically take place during the week.
Another way to lower your cost is to have travelers travel light. Airlines are infamous for their additional charges on checked luggage, so encourage frequent corporate travelers to minimize unnecessary baggage..
Booking business travel last minute
Traveling for business may already be distressing enough for a lot of people, making a last-minute business trip even more staggering. But sometimes that last-minute business trip is your company’s only chance at closing a deal or gaining a new client, making it absolutely mandatory for you to send it. Some tips to keep in mind during the process of a last minute trip: do your research, be aware of atrocious deals, and always be flexible.
Performing sufficient research is one of the first and most important steps to consider when planning last-minute travel. Whether you’re part of a loyalty program or have a preferred airline, you should always keep an open mind when it comes to searching for cheap flights and good deals to save money. Being aware is another important tip to take note of when booking a last minute trip. Make sure you don't fall into the trap of thinking an extremely cheap flight is reliable when in reality there are a handful of hidden fees or restrictions that you’re unaware of until entering your credit card information. Finally, try to be as flexible as possible during the process. Like certain airlines, you may have a preferred airport that you enjoy most or one that is closest to home. If necessary, try to branch out and practice more flexibility by giving another airport a shot, this could open up cheaper or more beneficial options for you.
Companies can also save money on business travel by utilizing corporate loyalty programs. The programs are essentially ways for businesses to double dip on loyalty points: allowing employees to collect personal loyalty points when they travel for business AND earning a second level of rewards for the company itself.
How do you find the best deals available for business travel?
Finding the best deals for business travel comes down to how deep you want to dive into your personal research. There are plenty of consumer-focused travel websites that want to help you find the right flight, including Kayak, Expedia and the hundreds of others out there.
But a travel planning platform like Lola.com stands out by combining all the features in these websites while simplifying the booking process for the traveler. There should be no need to bounce from website to website when trying to compare flights for your business trip, when Lola.com has all the information you need portrayed right in front of you. With your favorite airlines, hotels and overall preferences already saved within the app, the software makes the business travel experience much more efficient if you’re ever looking for last minute deals on a trip.
What are some of the cheapest business class airlines?
Finding cheap flights for business travel may not be the easiest task in the world, nd flying internationally is only going to make this worse. Although you’ll most likely always struggle with finding a low cost business flights, there are indeed some airlines that offer cheaper deals than others, including Turkish airlines, Hawaiin Airlines, British Airways and even Jetblue.
Turkish Airlines is a very reliable and flexible air service that flies to 120 countries with round trip routes for as little as $1500. This would be a great choice for a business flight as premium international seating can cost up to three times the amount of that on other airlines.
Hawaiin airlines is another great choice for a business trip if you’re headed to Hawaii, Asia or anywhere in the South Pacific. Being most competitive during the summer and holidays, Hawaiin airlines can be a steal during the off season, with deals like NYC to Tokyo for only $1500.
A more familiar airline, Jet Blue, even stands out when it comes to cheaper business class flight. Business travelers are offered the ‘JetBlue Mint’ seating option if searching for a higher standard, better quality experience. Passengers can fly from coast to coast for deals under $500, making JetBlue stand out as a high quality, affordable and sleek experience.