With the economy in turmoil, more pressure than ever is being put on companies to cut expenses and save money. Although new technology is making conference calls and video conferences more accessible, employees still have the need to travel for business at times. As an administrative assistant, it’s your responsibility to find the most cost effective manner for employees to travel. I’ve gone out and scoured the web to find some tips to help you out.
Internet vs. Travel Agent
Since airlines stopped paying kickbacks to travel agents, they’ve started charging a fee for booking flights. The fee for an average flight is $27 booked through a travel agent. However, that doesn’t mean that those flights still aren’t the best deal. After you check on-line for flights, call your favorite travel agent to see if they can beat that price. Many travel agencies negotiate special deals for their customers so may be able to beat even the lowest internet deals. It never hurts to check both.
There are any number of booking sites on the internet. My personal favorite is Orbitz, because it makes sorting by price easy. I still will check Travelocity as well, they are ranked # 1 among all hotel booking websites listed by Chooserly.com. And before you settle on a price, be sure to check out Southwest Airlines. They don’t usually list their flights with other services, and they may have both a better price and a more direct flight.
Timing is Everything
In general, booking your flight earlier will get you a better rate than flying later. However, that isn’t always the case. If your boss needs to fly at the last minute, call the airline directly and ask for a discounted rate. If they have empty seats, they’d rather sell it at a discount than let it go empty. You can, indeed, negotiate rates, but you may need to talk to a supervisor to get it.
Another timing tip is to schedule the flight to stay over on a Saturday. Hotels give the airlines kickbacks to encourage hotel stays, so those flights are generally cheaper. You can often pay the cost of the extra night or two in the hotel and still save money on the trip.
If you fly at odd hours like early mornings and late nights, you can also usually get a steep discount. Those flights often fly well below occupancy, so airlines are happy with every fare they can book. Again, if the internet site doesn’t show a discount over other times of the day, call them directly and ask for a discount.
Another strategy is to fly into alternate airports. Many major metropolitan areas have more than one airport. New York has three! So be sure to check flights into an alternate airport if one is convenient. Rates might be lower because it isn’t the preferred airport or is less well known.
If you book ahead of time, you can often get a good deal from places like Hotels.com, because they buy up blocks of rooms ahead of time at a steep discount and resell them to the public. However, if your trip is last minute, try calling the hotel directly and asking for a discount. If they have empty rooms, they are sometimes willing to make discounts even greater than those they make for the wholesalers.
Another option is to look for Individually owned or regional chain hotels. They don’t have the numbers to attract the big wholesalers, but at the same time do not have the beauracracy to prevent them making individual deals. Call them directly and give them a chance to beat the internet deals on the big hotel chains.
When you call about a hotel room, be sure to ask for all available discounts. The hotel may have discounts they don’t tell you about unless you ask.
The best way to save on rental cars is by not renting them! If an employee is flying in for a conference, try to book them at the same hotel and arrange for a shuttle from the hotel to pick them up. If one isn’t available, have them take a taxi to the hotel. If the conference is more than a couple of days, the taxi or shuttle will be cheaper than renting a car for the whole time, not to mention parking. Many hotels in congested urban areas charge fees for parking at the hotel.
If the employee absolutely requires a rental car, make sure that they don’t pay for the optional insurance. Usually the employee’s personal car insurance will cover the rental car. Optional insurance is pure profit for the rental car companies, and many pay hefty bonuses to employees for selling the optional insurance.
If your boss flies frequently, be sure to make use of all frequent flyer programs for which he may qualify. Be aware that many hotel chains and car rental chains also have frequent user programs also. In the long run, these programs can provide significant travel savings.
What are your tips for saving money on travel? Enquiring minds want to know.