About a year ago, my boss asked me to save money on travel expenses. However, there was no cut back in my travel schedule and I still needed to remain productive. I had to be open-minded and try new services and service providers to accomplish these savings. I started off by doing a Google search for “Ways to save money on travel expenses”. I found that the search results only contained information relative to the employer and not me, the employee. My original list contained 35 money saving ideas. I decided to cut it back and split it into two lists: Top 10 Money-Saving Services and Top 10 Money-Saving Travel Hacks. The travel hacks list I’ll save for another time. But here’s my Top 10 list of Saving Money on Travel Expenses as an Employee.
Top 10 list of Saving Money on Travel Expenses
1. Fly Southwest Airlines
Earlier this year, I switched from flying Delta Airlines to flying on Southwest. I immediately found the Southwest Airlines “Wanna Get Away” fares to be much cheaper and you can check up to two bags free of charge. On Delta Airlines, I was paying $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second! As any frequent business traveler can attest, changes are inevitable. Southwest Airlines does not charge any fees for changing domestic flights. Most airline fees for flight changes, including Delta’s, are $200 plus the fare difference. With free checked baggage, no flight change fees and cheaper fares, Southwest Airlines wins my number one spot for saving money on travel expenses.
2. Use T-Mobile
A little over a year ago, I switched from Verizon Wireless to T-Mobile as my mobile phone service provider. Although T-Mobile’s domestic wireless footprint is not as good as Verizon’s or AT&T’s, they are aggressively expanding their network and buying additional wireless spectrum. What puts T-Mobile on my list is their Simple Choice plans starting at $80 a month. They include unlimited calls, text and data. The real savings come in when I travel outside of the States. When I travel to Canada or Mexico I don’t have any roaming or data charges. Plus, it’s only 20 cents a minute to use my phone in 140+ countries and unlimited text messaging and data usage while in those countries. While outside the Untied States, I can make and receive calls to/from the United States free of charge from anywhere in the world when the phone is connected to Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi calling is enabled. In comparison to Verizon wireless, the savings are huge – especially when I travel to Europe – earning T-Mobile the number two spot on my list.
3. Do a KAYAK Search!
Before booking any trip, I always do a KAYAK® search first. KAYAK® is a travel search site that searches most other major travel websites, including airline and travel agent sites, for the best prices on airfare, car rentals and hotels. It will even allow you to do a search to find the cheapest airfares within a date range and arriving and departing from alternate airports. The only notable airline missing from KAYAK® is Southwest so I always compare Southwest’s flight listings to KAYAK®. KAYAK® also does a decent job of finding the cheapest car rental company and hotel for your trip. In the quest to save money on travel expenses, KAYAK® saves me time by not having to search individual travel sites, earning it the number three spot on my list.
4. Stay at Airbnb’s instead of Hotels.
I’ve stayed at several Airbnb’s this year and they make a nice change from staying at hotels. Airbnb is a peer-to-peer website for people to list, find and rent lodging and has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities in 190 countries. When doing an Airbnb search, I mainly choose to book the entire place or a private room. I’ve been able to save as much as 50% per night by using Airbnb instead of traditional hotels, which places Airbnb at the number 4 position on my list. However, Airbnb is not worth it unless you are staying for three or more nights.
5. Use Uber.
Taxi rides are very hit or miss. I can honestly say I’ve never had a positive experience riding in a taxi. “Do you take credit cards or are you cash only?” is one of the first questions I ask. If I call for a taxi, there is also the long wait, if they even show up! Taking a taxi from the airport to home? Yep, you’re paying a premium. And then there’s the cleanliness of a taxi. Most taxis I’ve ridden in have been used and abused and are rarely clean. Uber provides a refreshing alternative to taking a taxi. Uber, like Airbnb, is a peer-to-peer ride sharing service that links riders with drivers. Since, after each ride, both driver and passenger get to rate each other, the service naturally holds high standards. Furthermore, because taking a Uber ride is so much cheaper than a taxi, in some cases 50% less, and the response time is so much quicker, I’m placing Uber at number 5 on my list of saving money on travel expenses for business.
6. Rent with FlightCar.
UPDATE: Flightcar Shutdown on July 18th, 2016
Flightcar.com is another peer-to-peer sharing service similar to that of Airbnb. With FlightCar.com you’re essentially renting somebody else’s car while they don’t need it. The only drawback I have found with FlightCar.com is they limit your mileage to 100 miles per day. If you’re lucky enough to be arriving at an airport that has FlightsCar.com, such as San Francisco, you can save as much as 40% over the next cheapest car rental agency.
7. Get the American Express Platinum Card.
This one may appear a bit strange, given that the membership fee is a hefty $450 per year. But if you are a frequent traveler, the savings are well worth it. Included with the American Express platinum card is $200 in airline fee credits on any airline you choose. This includes baggage fees, onboard purchases and frequent flyer mileage redemption fees. So now all I have to do is justify the remaining $250 per year. One of the perks of the American Express platinum card is a free Boingo Global Wi-Fi account. If you were to pay for this account it would cost you $39 a month or $468 per year, so now we are really saving money. You can save even more money by not having to pay access fees at airline lounges. Each time you fly you are given access to Delta Air Lines Sky Club (providing you’re flying Delta Air Lines), Priority Pass Lounges, Airspace Lounge and The Centurion Lounge. You can save money on soft drinks and snacks by visiting these lounges. In addition, some of these lounges offer a selection of alcoholic beverages for free. The money-saving benefits of the American Express platinum card earned it seventh place on my list.
8. Boingo WiFi and Cable WiFi.
The good thing with Wi-Fi Internet access is that it’s becoming freer and freer as time goes on. But luxury hotels, some airports and a lot of overseas places Wi-Fi hotspots are still not free. If you live in the United States and have cable Internet service at home through Bright House networks, Cox, Optimum, Time Warner Cable or Xfinity, then you have access to more than 400,000 Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the United States included with your home Internet service plan. If you have a Boingo Wi-Fi account (including the free one with the American Express Platinum Card membership) then you have access to over 1 million paid hotspots worldwide. Both Boingo Wi-Fi and Cable Wi-Fi help you save money on your travel expenses and help you stay productive while traveling, earning them the number 8 spot on my list of Saving Money on Travel Expenses.
9. Travel on MegaBus.
MegaBus makes the list at number nine purely because some of their fares are cheaper than buying gasoline for the trip. Be smart and reserve a seat on the bus with a table, if offered. This will enable you to get out your laptop computer or tablet and work while you’re traveling. I recently did this on a trip from Atlanta to New Orleans. It cost me $18 for the round-trip. If I had driven, it would’ve easily cost $60 in gas one-way. Although it was an eight-hour trip, in one direction, which I could have driven in seven hours, the trade-off was not having to drive and being able to work during the trip. Since each seat on the bus has a power outlet, I didn’t have to worry about my battery dying during the journey. Internet access on the bus is not reliable so I would recommend using your own Wi-Fi hotspot or tethering your phone to your computer.
10. Use Skype for international calls.
Skype can save you a lot of money by not having to pay international phone chargers when calling back home to the States from overseas. All Skype to Skype calls are free and by buying Skype credit you can call from Skype to phones. In addition, you can also make free Skype to Skype video calls. Skype has saved me a lot of money over the years especially when I’ve traveled internationally earning it the number 10 spot on my list of Saving Money on Travel Expenses.
Changing to the services listed above I have saved a great deal of money and achieved my boss’s goal without compromising productivity. If you know of any other money-saving services you would like to share, please feel free to make a comment below and I will be sure to check it and maybe it will make an updated list.