In my experience, the only good thing to come out of dealing with airline flights and hotel prices is knowing that it is going to lead you to a vacation away from the daily grind. In other words, dealing with finding an affordable flight and hotel for your employees, only to ask them to go and do more work in this different location, is less than appealing. Fortunately, there are ways to get your employees to their destination with less headache once you learn the tricks to employee travel.
In today’s economy, small businesses need to save their pennies wherever possible, and putting a little bit of time and effort into the details of employee travel is an easy way to do just that. The easiest way to save money on travel expenses is to first make sure travel is an absolute necessity. If there is any way your employees can communicate to others by Skype or by phone, this is the answer to your travel expense questions. But if your employees absolutely have to travel, consider these tips to help you get the most for your money:
Planning the Trip—Web Tools that Will Help
- Kayak.com—This website works great for small businesses because it is easy to use and can get you where you want to go fast. All you have to do is go to the website and type in what you are looking for in terms of hotels, rental cars, and even your preferred take-off and landing flight times. Kayak will then send you to the appropriate webpages where you are free to compare rates.
- Bing Travel—If Kayak isn’t your thing, Bing Travel is also a great website that will help you make the right decision. This site allows you to type in your information and then use something called a “price predictor” that will give you an estimate about when rates will go up or down on certain flights.
- Triplt—This is probably my favorite web tool when it comes to planning employee business trips. Once you have your flight, hotel, and rental car booked, you forward it all to Triplt, and it will put it all together to create an itinerary. This makes it is easy to send to employees and/or clients who may be interested the flight and hotel information. The best part: it’s totally free.
- Work with your bank—There are tons of business credit cards available that will allow your company to get special deals on flights, and certain cards will even allow you to build up mileage based on your spending. With enough miles, you could send your employees on a trip for free!
Going on the Trip—How to Optimize Your Time and Money
- Set limits on employee spending—Chances are you will have some sort of reimbursement on the meals and gas bills that your employees will create when they are on their trip. You may think that it is understood that 5 course meals are not appropriate on a business trip, but it is best to make it clear to your employees that they do have a limit. After employees know exactly what is expected of them, you must make sure you hold them accountable and track their expenses (see below!).
- Plan for more than one event—In most cases, you are sending your employees on a business trip to go to an important meeting or meet an important client. See if there are several important clients or several important meetings that can all be scheduled during the time frame your employees will be traveling to a specific area. Also check to see if there are any networking opportunities, such as conferences or seminars, that will be going on during the time your employee will be in the area.
After the Trip—How to Track Employee Spending
Chances are you will be giving your employees some sort of reimbursement for the trip. Consider the different ways you can track employee spending:
- Paper documentation—This works great if your employees are not going on a very long trip. Ask your employees to save their receipts for everything they purchase while on the trip, and then collect them when they return so you know exactly where their money was going each day.
- Business Credit Cards—If your company utilizes business credit cards, you can ask employees to use only the business credit card while they are traveling. When the credit card statements come in, you will be able to see exactly what employees were buying without the hassle of keeping together a bunch of receipts.
- Expensify—This is just one reporting device that I find really works for tracking expenses. Expensify is a free app that lets travelers keep track of expenses on their smart phones. How it works: photos of receipts are mailed in a pdf, and then an expense report is automatically created; it is as simple as that!
Knowing how to avoid unnecessary costs when it comes to traveling is crucial, and I think you will be surprised just how much money it can save your company. With good planning before, during, and after the trip, your employees will come back happy with your bank account in tact.
Photo Credit askmen.com