Maximizing Your Travel Dollars

The cost of travel may be up, but business fliers can find ways to save

figure out what he wants to do, and explain to him the best options,” says Fulton. “One of the benefits to agencies such as ours, with 25-30 offices, is the clout we carry with airlines, car rental agencies and hotels. You can benefit when we get special discounts because of the volume of business we supply.”

After deciding on a travel policy and estimating the amount of money your company will be spending, you can hammer out deals with the various travel suppliers, says Diane Brown, travel manager for Burrell Communications Group in Chicago. “Say you are going to spend $30,000 on travel this year. Approach an airline and find out what perks and incentives they are going to provide to your company,” suggests Brown. All travel carriers, she says, will have a standard revenue you will have to meet before special deals are made.

But even when businesses have cultivated a relationship with a travel supplier, most, says Brown, will go for cheaper rates when they can find them. “Although we like to use one carrier, if we can find a more reasonable rate and the arrangements make sense, we will go with that carrier, rental car or hotel.”

Another tip: if you are working as a subcontractor on a project with a major firm, ask about their travel policies and benefits. Your company may be able to take advantage of their discounts when you travel on business related to their business.

There are a number of ways that you can hone in on savings. If you’re booking your own flight, for example, most reservationists won’t know about special promotions, says Dunnan, but a supervisor might help you get the best deal available. Another trick to learn about special promotions–other than scanning the newspapers–says Johnson, is to ask to speak to the carri
er’s sales department. They will know about all the specials.

Also, read the frequent flier newsletter you get in the mail. It has an update of your account points and lists all sorts of seasonal value- added promotions. Some may offer double or triple miles during a specific period when using an affiliated partner for car rental or hotel stays. And check out the airline and hotel Web sites (see sidebar, “Traveling Through the Web,”) for last-minute travel bargains and special promotions.

Similar to frequent-flier miles, you can also save money through hotel frequent-stay programs. Some, like Hilton, have affinity credit cards where you earn points for every dollar you spend. For example, Hilton’s new Optima card through American Express earns two points for every dollar charged (three points for every dollar charged at one of its 220 hotels). At the same time, the guest earns points on both the Hilton Honors program and airline miles if traveling on one of its carrier partners.

Car rental agencies also have membership programs that can get you 5%- 25% off rentals. And some auto membership clubs, like AAA, also give discounts of 10% at certain car rental agencies.
Another way to save money is

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