On the Road Again

by Maureen Bennie


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The Frugal Road Trip

Have Car, Will Travel

Road Trip

For those business travelers who own their own companies and/or are self-employed, the travel expense account becomes a budgetary concern. Forget about expensive restaurants, business class flights and luxury car rentals. You can travel in style on a budget while creating business opportunities away from home. Here are a few ideas to keep the money where it should be.

The Road Trip

  • Travel in a small economy car. Whether it be your own or a rental car the smaller the vehicle, the better it will be on gas. SUV's and vans are practical only if you have to transport a gang.

  • Keep yourself entertained while on the road with music or books on tape signed out from your local library. Solo driving can be boring but when you're on the edge of your driver's seat while listening to a mystery, the time passes quickly.

  • Bring your own refreshments and snacks. If you load up on beverages and snacks during a pit stop at the gas station, the prices will be high. Pack a thermos of coffee, some fruit, granola bars, or a sandwich and you'll avoid the high priced stops en route.

  • Avoid filling up at remote locations. Gas will be more expensive the more isolated the station is. If you are really in need, go with half a tank until you reach next populated destination.

  • Travel with a cell phone and a first aid kit. The latter is essential in emergencies. If the expense of cell phones is a turn off, consider a short-term rental during busy travel months. The peace of mind is worth the price. It is also cheaper to use a cell phone for long distance calls from hotels as hotels add on hefty surcharges and tend to charge higher long distance rates.

Packing Your Bags

  • Instead of buying travel size items, invest in plastic bottles and transfer products into them. Travel size items are not economically priced. Buy a soap dish and toothbrush case too.

  • Pack a mini drugstore. Items such as aspirin, band aids, antacids, and cold remedies are expensive when purchased at the hotel gift shop. You never know when you'll need these items so put them in a separate carrying case and throw them in your bag when traveling.

  • Throw in extra socks, pantyhose, and underwear. If your return trip is delayed at least you'll have fresh under things to wear.

  • Pack a couple of extra outfits. Don't pack just what you need because things do come up and the unexpected can happen with a spilled cup of tea or dollop of sauce on a sleeve. Hotel drying cleaning is outrageously expensive.

  • Consider packing a bit of liquid laundry soap. If something does need spot cleaning or laundering, you can hand wash it in the sink.

  • Frequent travelers should consider having a toiletry bag ready to go in a suitcase. There's no point packing and unpacking the essentials every time you have to leave town. Having it ready at all times will reduce the likelihood of forgetting essentials.

  • Check with the hotel if they have a frequent guest plan. Ask about package deals. If attending a conference, ask for the delegate rate.

In The Air

  • Book flights with discount airlines. There may not have the timetable selection of the larger airlines, but the savings are worth the limited choices of flight times.

  • Enroll in an airmiles or frequent flyer plan. These plans often include discounts on hotels and car rentals.

  • Try not to fly during peak periods. Avoid holidays, spring break, and peak business hour times. The best rates often involve a Saturday night stay.

  • Book flights at least two weeks in advance. The closer the booking to the flight date, the more expensive it will be.

  • Log on to the airline's website and check out unadvertised flight specials. Booking on-line usually saves a few dollars too.

  • Use a park and fly service and park your own vehicle at the airport. Driving your car there and back is much cheaper than a taxi if you live far from the airport. There are also airport bus services or shuttles that are cheaper than taxis.

  • Bring your own water on board. Airplanes are dry and flight attendants do not have time to keep refilling your glass.

  • Never eat at the airport. Airport food is twice the price of food anywhere else. Try to eat before arriving at the airport or pack a few snacks to tie you over until you reach your destination.

  • Once on the ground, ask the information desk about free shuttles to your hotel or use public transit. Taxis are convenient but rarely worth the price. If you do hire a taxi, consider asking someone to split the fare with you.

  • Save time and headaches by traveling with a bag you can carry on the plane. Some airlines have express check-in counters for passengers traveling with carry-on luggage only.

As a frequent self-employed business traveler, I have used these ideas to save money on my trips. The key to budget travel is to plan ahead. Shop for the items you need several days before your trip to avoid last minute convenience buying. Remember - money saved on business travel will stay in the entrepreneur's pocket.

Take the Next Step

  • For all of your traveling needs, check out Expedia.com
  • Subscribe to Surviving Tough Times email newsletter. Each week we'll give you practical survival tools for a challenging economy!
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