Big businesses tend not to worry too much about travel expenses. But if you're a small business owner, you know every penny counts! Here are some ways you can save money on travel.
1. Get corporate negotiated hotel rates as an individual
There's a particular site that I really like called QuikBook.com for business travel. QuikBook began principally to offer small businesses and individuals access to corporate-type rates on hotel bookings. They're a big player in a handful of markets, including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
They use a blind booking model with mystery rooms and you don't find out which hotel you're getting until after you pay non-refundable money. But again, you can get these at a price that's a fraction of what it would sell for otherwise to the average business traveler.
2. Know the best use of your rewards miles or points
I'm not a big fan of credit cards that offer frequent flyer miles or points toward a hotel stay because the airlines and hotels are always raising the bar of what it takes to redeem a ticket. But I know people love them and many have a lot of miles to use up.
A couple of free websites will take a scalpel to your rewards account to tell you the best use of your miles or points for a particular airline or hotel. These include GoMiles.com (recently acquired by Traxo.com) and AwardWallet.com.
You give these sites access to your loyalty accounts and they alert you to deals, warn you if any miles are expiring, and make suggestions about the optimal use of miles or points at any given moment. It's a great way to leverage the value in what you've got, though not every one of these sites works with every airline or hotel's loyalty program.
3. Re-shop your car rental before your trip
It's common that when somebody books an airline ticket, they also book their rental car. But rental car reservations are, as a general rule, fully changeable; you pay no money upfront, just at the time you rent the car. So I routinely re-shop the rental car rate again a week before my trip--whether it's for business or pleasure.
For example, my family and I recently went to Denver for a ski trip. I originally booked the car for a week at $273. But when I re-shopped just before the trip with another company, I found a rate of $99 including junk fees. Wow! That was a lot of money back in my pocket.
Anecdotally, I'd say I save money at least 90% of the time by using this method. I can't say it works 100% of the time because there are some times when it's actually more expensive. In that case, I just stay with my original booking.
Finally, I want to tell you about a website called AutoSlash.com that will automatically track your car rental rate each day before a trip and re-book you at a cheaper rate when they find something better. AutoSlash only works with a limited number of rental companies, but it's still worth a look. (By the way, there's a similar service for hotels called Tingo.com that will book your room for you and then continually re-shop your rate. If a better deal pops up on your same room, they'll automatically re-book you at the new lower rate.)
4. Avoid add-on fees at the car rental counter
Be sure to investigate alternate ways you may be covered for temporary use of a rental car other than paying for add-on coverage.
Car rental companies love to sell you what's called collision damage waiver (CDW). When you're at the rental counter, you will probably be warned about the consequences of not accepting the CDW, also known by the codes LDW or PDW. But certain credit cards or even your auto insurer will provide this coverage in lieu of the expensive add-on CDW coverage.
Personal effects coverage may also be offered at the rental counter. This covers you in the event something is stolen from your vehicle. Again, you can forget about it; your credit card may cover you.
I want you to know before you go, and a call to your credit card company and your auto insurer is all it takes.
For more money-saving tips, visit ClarkHoward.com. Money in Your Pocket. Advice You Can Trust.