7 Ways to Keep Travel Expenses in Check

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Planners travel. A lot. To keep clients (and the accounting department) happy, one planner must-do is to keep travel costs under control no matter how large or small the budget. Here are a few thoughts to help keep travel expenses in line without compromising your ability to get the job done:

1. Fly when most people don’t.
Generally, the least expensive days to fly are Saturdays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Shoot for any of those days and look for flights that depart at odd, non-prime time hours to boost savings. For example, super-early on Saturday mornings or late night red-eyes mid-week aren’t especially appealing times for most people to fly, but they’re often where the good fares are so take advantage.

2. Know where you’re going – and what’s going on there.
Can’t seem to find a good fare when you want to go? Find out what’s happening on you preferred dates in your destination city, as things like large-scale festivals, big conventions and special events can impact the cost of your flights. Another fare-influencer? Cruise-line departures. Some of the priciest, most over-crowded flights I’ve ever been on were to sea-faring cities during peak cruise season. Keep in mind for costal/port cities like Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Ft. Lauderdale, depending on the season, you may competing with thousands of cruise customers for a limited number seats, so do your research—and be flexible on your dates.

3. Get creative with your routes.
Airlines make their money on last-minute business travel, charging a premium for tickets booked within days of departure. Though sometimes those crazy fares are unavoidable (2K for coach from NYC to Milan, anyone?), you may be able to save hundreds by taking a more creative route, using one of Europe’s numerous low-cost airlines to help pick up the inter-city slack. For example, not long ago I saved my client about $800 by flying JFK to Milan, and London to JFK. For the Milan to London leg of the trip, I hopped on an hour-long Easy Jet flight for $140. Sure a direct flight would have been the more convenient option, but given the savings, an hour out of my way was the far saner one.

4. Become the king or queen of carry-on.
Bit of a no-brainer, but travel as light as possible and carry-on instead of checking bags. The right roll-aboard can save you $50 – $100 every time you fly, particularly if you’re traveling within the US where baggage regulations are especially tight. To lighten my load, I’ve recently switched to an almost weightless “It Bag,” (known by its tagline as the “world’s lightest luggage”) and have happily rolled my way all over the country without baggage charges or muscle aches. Score!

5. Get into training.
More and more, I find myself hopping on train-to-the-plane services. They’re fast, convenient, inexpensive and there’s no getting stuck in traffic. If you go the train route thought, build in an extra half an hour or so of travel time so you’re not cutting it too close to departure time. Another consideration is safety. Many train-to-plane services go express to downtown, whereas, others make multiple stops on the way into town, occasionally passing through dicey neighborhoods. For local, multi-stop trains, it’s probably wisest to limit use mostly to daytime and rush hours. Express trains however, are usually loaded with travelers and train conductors, so you should feel comfortable taking them virtually any hour of the day.

6. Go car-free, more or less.
To rent or not to rent. That is the question. Many people almost automatically make a b-line to the car rental the moment they touch down, without seriously considering how much driving they’ll actually need to do. I’ve been on trips where the car never left the hotel parking lot and others where we spent more time in the car than in our hotel rooms. It depends on the trip, but regardless, you need to do the math, taking into consideration gas, parking, insurance, hotel parking, etc. – and see if perhaps it’s an expense you can do without. Between public transportation, ZipCars and Uber you may find that you don’t need a rental car at all. Just sayin’.

7. Dine on your own terms.
I love room service, but the price of the average in-room burger does make me wince a bit. To contain my personal F & B costs, after checking in, I usually head to the nearest Whole Foods and stock up on fruit, healthy, prepared foods and snacks. I ask housekeeping to clear out the mini-bar and store my goodies there. Doing so enables me to eat what I want, when I want without blowing my diet or travel budget. Need to warm up your dinner? See if the front desk can direct you to a microwave – they usually can.

How do you keep your travel expenses on track?

Kate Doyle Hooper

Kate Doyle Hooper

Since establishing her own company over a decade ago, Kate has produced just about every kind of event imaginable, from executive meetings and conferences to live music performances, mobile tours, fashion shows, celebrity gifting suites, and retail events for companies such as American Media, Bloomingdale’s, Conde Nast, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Hearst, Macy’s, Perry Ellis, Time Inc., Wilhelmina Models and Rodale, to name a few. Kate's editorial and advertising work has been published in Budget Living, ELLE, Fit, Civilization, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, Essence, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Men's Fitness, Men's Health and Shape, as well as on blog.cvent.com and weekendwalk.com.

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