Conventions, meetings, speaking engagements, training. When you travel a lot for business it can all get pretty monotonous if all you’re doing is traveling and working, working and traveling.
So rather than sustaining the repetitive dole-drum that can result in apathy and burnout, I’m recommending a few change-ups to your business travel routine that can leave you refreshed and feed the wanderlust in your soul.
Additionally, we will look at ways to reduce the cost of your travels to the business. Because after all, even if your boss isn’t worried about a few hundred dollars here or there, you will likely get on the good side of the bean counters in your life and maybe even get to travel more.
Here are our favorite business travel tips
If you have tips to share, be sure to add them in the comments at the end of the post. We would love to hear from you!
Here we go…
Tip #1 – Combine business with pleasure, take a friend!
Whenever possible, find a travel partner to go along!
My wife frequently travels with me. It saves money because typically the business pays my airfare so right off there’s a 50% off perk built into a mini working vacation. Accommodations during the business portion of your trip are also typically covered by your employer. That just leaves your travel parter’s plane tickets and meals. We get in a ton more travel annually using this tactic.
Tip #2 – Leave early and turn your business trip into a mini vacation
Now that you have a friend to bring along, or even if you are traveling solo… why not leave a few days ahead of schedule?
This will often save your company money as well. Flights can be hundreds cheaper when purchased mid-week rather than paying the premium fares when hundreds or thousands of other conference participants are traveling.
This strategy plays into getting room upgrades as well. Since you are checking in early, you now have several days to check for room upgrade options and/or be put on upgrade lists.
Plus, taking only a couple of days off leading into the weekend doesn’t burn a ton of vacation time. For three days of vacation time plus the weekend, you get five days off in a new place to discover, explore, and engage with locals.
Tip #3 – Book on your personal membership cards and reward credit cards whenever possible (and then get reimbursed)
If you make your own business travel arrangements and book on your personal accounts, you get the rewards and points! Just remember to submit your reimbursement paperwork to your employer.
Memberships to many of the hotel conglomerates, airlines, and dining are free to sign up. If you travel more than 3-4 times a year, the points on these membership cards can add up to free stays, plane tickets, and meals that you can take advantage of for your personal vacations or extensions on your business trips. So if you haven’t done so yet, sign up! Also, many of them can be linked so you can earn double points.
In addition to the points or rewards, these cards will also get you VIP treatment at most hotels which means better chances at upgrades and other perks during your stay.
Tip #4 – Book strategically to maximize return
For instance, Starwood Preferred Guest is paired with Delta SkyMiles so you earn double points on both cards for stays and airline miles. Purchased on a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card (we’ve had ours going on a decade and love it) and you earn 4x the points across the board!
Or here’s another example,
Several of the hotel groups I routinely stay at offer thousands of points if the room is booked more than 60 days in advance. The number of points equates to roughly $50 in value. Booking as a member reduces it an additional 10% to save another $100. Together the savings come to $150. Add in the bonus air miles on the membership card and the double points earned on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the payback is even more.
Being strategic about bookings pays off.
Tip #5 – Go with a few goals in mind. What do you want to get out of this business trip?
Don’t go to any conference without taking some time to identify your goals for attending.
Of course, these should include goals for the business like growing relationships with existing business partners, finding new opportunities, and exploring the innovation happening in your industry.
Also set some goals for your own personal/professional development as well. Most conferences include an education track or leadership development. Try to identify two or three things that can help bolster your knowledge or resume.
Lastly, identify a few things you want to discover or experience to contribute to your personal life. Find an art show, a musical, a brewery, or something that intrigues you and expand your life experience. Maybe even find an opportunity to volunteer or go on an outdoor adventure.
Tip#6 – Look up your business and personal contacts well in advance of your trip and tap into your social networks
Look at your LinkedIn network and see if any of your business contacts are in the area you will be visiting. Then message them and find out if they are willing to meet. Often, they will offer to take you out for a business meal to discuss possible opportunities or new product offerings. If they are really cool people, they may even offer to show you around.
At the very least, you can often get the inside scoop on the best places to visit while in the area. Many people don’t have the chance to meet face to face with the people in their online social networks. When the opportunity presents itself, you’d be amazed at the deeper relationships it forges.
So, announce yourself on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and see which locals respond.
Speaking of social networks… Have you liked us on Facebook yet?
Tip #7 – Take advantage of ‘early bird’ registration
Most conferences offer early bird registration discounts, some of which are substantial. One of my favorite week-long conferences costs about $1500 for early registration. This price is in effect up to three months in advance, after which it jumps up to $1900. If time gets away and the event pass is purchased on-site, the fee jumps to a whopping $2100! That number may still be in the budget for your business, but as a cost-conscious traveler, it is just unconscionable.
Though training, meetings, and speaking engagements may not have direct savings associated with early commitments, there are other aspects of travel that do.
Tip #8 – Book Airline Tickets Early
Nearly the same rule applies to airfare as applies to conference registration. The closer you get to the day you fly, the higher the cost – to a point.
The highest you will pay for airfare is in the two weeks leading up to your flight. The sweet spot seems to be in the 30-100-day window prior to the trip while the 4-11 months prior are an average of around $300 higher than the lowest price. It can make a substantial difference – especially if you fly more than 3-4 times a year.
If you are taking advantage of our tip#1 and bringing a friend along, this tip is all the more important because this ticket is on your dime. Frugal travel = more travel!
Tip #9 – Book your hotel early, too
Booking hotel stays well in advance can result in some substantial savings as well. Sometimes it is a discounted rate while others offer bonus travel points to card members. Either way, over time the savings and benefits can really add up.
As with flights, there is a sweet spot in the 30-90-day window. The details vary on this based on the location you are traveling to and where you are staying.
Tip #10 – Be nice at check-in
When you arrive at your hotel to check-in, turn on your charm. Have your paperwork in hand and ready (reservation number, ID, credit card, etc.). Look at the name tag of the person helping you. Ask them by name how they are doing today. During the interaction, find something nice to say – make their day.
Most guests treat hotel staff like doormats. Those at the front desk have likely spent hours checking in grumpy business travelers and will likely be at it for hours more. Being nice, and treating them like real people can go a long way.
Also, you are a member (if you’ve done it right) so ask if there are any room upgrades available for members. I get upgraded as often as not, but you’re not out anything by asking. The worst they can say is no, right?
Tip #11 – Consider Airbnb for Business Travelers
If you have not used Airbnb before, you can sign up through this link and get travel credit when you book your first stay.
Airbnb can be a great way to change it up so that every trip doesn’t feel the same. Experience what it’s like to live in a place!
Look into Airbnb’s in the area. You can often find a nice whole house rental that you can keep all to yourself or share with your colleagues. Usually, these places are far cheaper than extended hotel stays and can even be quite luxurious in their own right. For cheaper options, simply renting a private room can even land you a personal guide who can be very helpful. I especially recommend this option if you want to go hyper-local.
Airbnb even has options geared specifically toward accommodating the business traveler.
Tip #12 – Engage with people, be social!
This coming from a natural introvert… talk to everyone. Seriously. Talk to the bartenders, the hotel staff, fellow conference attendees, people on the street – everyone. I cannot stress this enough. So much can be discovered and your life enriched so deeply with simple conversations. They aren’t all productive and inspiring, but to a great extent, the majority are.
By engaging with the people we meet, we have been invited to private parties, exclusive clubs, people’s homes, and private archeological sites. All because we took the time to have conversations with random people, and took a sincere interest in wanting to know more about them.
Engaging with the people around you will also help immensely with the next tip…
Tip #13 – Experience the local culture
Dive deep. Visit places that are off the beaten path. Find little hole-in-the-wall places that tend to be ‘locals only’ or simply well-kept secrets instead of just dining at the hotel restaurant.
Business travel is perfect for this because it often takes you to places that you might not travel to on your own dime. I doubt I would ever personally choose to vacation in places like Detroit or Las Vegas – not that I don’t appreciate these places, but jungle ruins and white sandy beaches tend to be my go-to’s when I travel for me. However, spending time in these places and discovering them up close and intimately has resulted in some pretty amazing discoveries for us.
Tip #14 – Plan well in advance and do your research
We usually know well in advance at least a few of the places we will be visiting in business travels for the coming year.
Mapping out your annual travels well in advance helps not only to save some costs but also helps you to plan around those events and gives you time to research your destination. Having a plan allows you the opportunity to prepare for each of the travel events.
Combine the above travel tips and you can assure your business travel will be exciting, rewarding, affordable, and memorable. More importantly, it will help you to feel way more at home on the go. And you never know, maybe it will uncover your inner wanderlust to explore more places in ways you never thought possible.
Be careful, this can be habit forming!
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Thanks so much for stopping by! You’re the best 😉 Keep calm and travel on!