Cheap Business Travel

by Debbie Zervas

My job requires me to travel about 90-95% of the time. Here are some time, money and aggravation savers for you to think about.

As you prepare to fly out- LUGGAGE is critical, Make sure your luggage has WHEELS, is made of sturdy fabric and tows easily. Test drive it at the store by placing several large items in it and pulling them around (tell the sales clerk what you are doing). Do not buy anything that you cannot load about 35 pounds into for a regular suitcase, 20 pounds for carryons. You will save money by not needing help to move your belongings. The better designed sets can be connected like a train and will go down off curbs without toppling. When you pack your wheeled case, put the heavy items at the wheeled end, this makes it stand up on the wheels when moving and lessens arm strain. If you are tall, make sure the handle is long enough to keep the case away from your heels when in use. Be advised that most of the bags are black and look alike so mark your luggage with bright fabric markers so that your cases are different than anyone else's. Make it so obvious that you can see it from 20 yards away. No one will be able to accidentally walk off with your stuff at the bag claim. Plan to spend on your luggage in proportion to how much they are used. I pay about $100-200 for my cases and they last for about a year. I tried a couple of the $400 cases and they performed no better. I suggest buying from Sears because they stand behind their products even if you are in mid-trip. Save your receipts.

Ignore the hype about carry on vs checked bags, I made about 200 flights last year with 2 checked bags per trip, and only had 2 baggage problems. Carry on only computers, anything too fragile to pack, and items such as Rx that cannot be replaced within 12 hours if need be, and entertainment/food/drink. A small bag of M&M's and a resealable soda may save you having to spend for overpriced food at airports, Flights do get delayed, cancelled, etc. If you change carriers mid trip, make sure that your bags will be handled for you. Otherwise you will have to go get them, bring them to the second airlines counter and re-check them, this is a major hassle. remember that the US Post Office will let you mail items home and that eliminates you having to carry it.

Hotels - Try to stay at places like Extended Stay, Studio Plus, Homewood, etc. You want a room with a kitchenette. They are about 20-50% cheaper, better laid out, and you get much better service. This is a place where you can save major dollars by cooking simple foods in your room. My company gives me a flat amount each day for food. By cooking in a room, I spend part of it each day and pocket the rest. I carry with me in my suitcase a can opener, paper plates, paper bowls, a set of tableware and salt and pepper, etc. It takes up very little room and makes life on the road much nicer.

When you arrive by plane at your destination, walk outside the baggage claim area. If there are parking places available, go get your car and then drive to get your luggage. This saves you aggravation dragging it through a parking lot and up/down escalors etc. This is the time to make mental notes about how to get back when you are ready to fly home. Plan to be running about 20 minutes late. Make sure you get maps from the rental car company; one copy for the car, one for the motel room. Find out by asking the shuttle bus driver how to get back to turn your car in, most places are easy, some are difficult and there are a few that will make you scream trying to find them.

Parking - If you travel in/out of one airport a lot, choose a place to park and always put your car there. No more "where did I park THIS time". If you travel a lot, check out the price for leaving your car at one of the rental agencies and using their shuttle. Some of the rental companies will do basic maintanance on your car like oil/filter changes while you are gone, wash/detail your car, etc. These are great for those of us who are home so seldom that we begrudge the time required for these tasks. Plus they bring your car to you at their curb, already warm and ready to go.

Rental Cars - Make sure you double check with each reservation if you are a nonsmoker. The car companies often try to slide a smoking car past you. How much room do you really need? Midsize is about right for 2 adults with 2 suitcases. Check with your car insurance for a policy to cover business use of rental cars, it's only about $12 per year. Walk around it before you get in, and then make sure all of the needed adjustments to seats, mirrors, etc. are done before you leave your parking spot. When you walk around the car, find the gas tank so you will know how to pull into the filling station. Make the rental work for you, use it to test drive cars you think you might be interested in buying used someday.

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