I’ve written about how small businesses can reduce travel costs, but that’s really only half of the equation when it comes to keeping your budget under control. Reducing direct travel costs is good, but having a more efficient travel agenda can make the savings even better. There’s a lot you can do to set up your travels to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time and your employees’ time.*
Let’s start with air travel. Flying into town the night before just means having an extra night at a hotel. Sure, that makes sense if your employees are going to JFK where you know they’ll be delayed anyway, but if not, have them fly in the morning so they skip the first hotel night cost, especially if they’re on a short haul trip. If they’re flying on a long haul, the math is a little different. If they can sleep anywhere, have them take a redeye. They’ll be ready to go in the morning. If they’re like me and can’t sleep on an airplane without heavy sedation, then it’s probably worth flying in the night before. That extra hotel cost will be worth the price of knowing they won’t fall asleep in meetings the next day.
If they do fly during the day, you might want to look for an airline that has Wi-Fi onboard. Delta, Virgin America, and AirTran have nearly their entire fleets outfit with wireless. American and United have some airplanes ready, with Southwest and Alaska ramping up as we speak. That will at least let employees stay in touch and work a bit, despite the fact that they probably just want to watch a movie.
Once they’re in town, they’ll want to balance their options. Is it worth getting a car if the cost of parking will end up being more than just taking a cab to and from the airport? If they’re in a city they don’t know, subways might be the best way to get to their appointments. It might take a little longer than a cab but they won’t have to worry about unknown traffic jams.
If they take public transit, you can look for hotels that are near subway stops instead of near the client site. This can save you money and not have a huge impact on your employees’ productivity.
During the day, schedule meetings as early and often as possible. It’s always good to have a little downtime during the middle of the day so staffers can regroup and catch up on issues back at the office, but give them too much downtime and they’re just wasting time. If they can, schedule meetings outside of the business day to maximize their time. It might be tough to get people to meet outside of business hours, but you can always bribe them with alcohol or a meal. It’s worth the cost to avoid paying for an extra hotel night if you can squeeze two days of meetings into one.
And really, any meal is an opportunity for a meeting. They have to eat (no, a Snickers bar doesn’t count as a meal), so they might as well get work done then as well. It might help cut off a day or two off a business trip and the cost savings can add up, even if you have to spend a little more while they’re there.
*Sleep is optional.