Americans took nearly half a billion business related trips in 2016. Business travel expenses are growing by nearly 4% a year. Unfortunately, for new startups and other brands with limited budgets, travel costs can be a large burden.
If you or your employees need to travel frequently, you need to find ways to keep your travel expenses to a minimum. Here are some tips you may want to consider.
Book flights have a year in advance
We all know that the cost of plane tickets increases significantly near the date of departure. However, most people don’t know how early they need to book their flight to get the best deal. According to a recent study, you should book your flight 171 days before departure to get the lowest rates.
Of course, this isn’t always possible when you are scheduling business trips. Sometimes you won’t know that you need to take a trip until a month beforehand. In these cases, you will want to book your flight as soon as you possibly can, because rates are likely to surge if you wait.
Subscribe to instant fare alerts
While it is generally best to purchase your ticket 171 days in advance, you should start looking for flights even earlier. Flight prices will fluctuate a lot that far in advance. You should try subscribing to a booking service such as Yapta, which will provide real-time alerts as airline fares change.
If you notice that airline fees are dropping near the six-month window before departure, you may want to wait a couple of days before making a purchase. You may be able to lock in the very best possible rate this way.
Look into travel rewards programs
Virtually every hotel and airline has a rewards program of some kind. If you are planning on traveling more than a couple of times a year, you should look into them. You may find that services that offer the best rates may not be the cheapest after rewards are taken into consideration.
It may not be practical for large companies to take advantage of these programs. However, companies with under 100 people can save a lot of money from them. Some businesses have reportedly saved thousands of dollars a year on travel costs through the records programs alone.
You can also find other services that offer travel rewards. Credit cards and prepaid gift cards offer incentives.
Be careful with dining
When you’re traveling, it is tempting to dine out at all of the fancy restaurants you come across in a foreign city. Try to control your impulses, because these restaurants are often very expensive. They are especially costly if you are traveling to a major tourist city, regardless of whether you are there for business or not.
It is a good idea to choose restaurants that offer free breakfast, provided the other fees don’t exceed the savings. You should also try getting a room that has a kitchen unit. You can easily save $30 or more a day by preparing your own meals.
You can still eat out once or twice during your trip, but don’t get carried away.
Keep receipts for your taxes
The IRS allows you to deduct business travel costs. However, there are a couple of things you need to know before you start writing things off:
- Not all travel costs are deductible. They must be considered ordinary or necessary.
- There is a good chance that you will be audited if you travel a lot, because the IRS and that was that many people exaggerate or lie about their business expenses around tax time.
It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the business travel tax allowances and keep a proof of all purchases.