• Be flexible. If you have flexibility in your flight planning, consider websites that use "predictive modeling." For example, FareCast.com tracks up and down patterns of certain airfares. It predicts when certain airfare deals will emerge.
Consider using a travel agent. Sometimes booking travel can divert your attention from the business. Travel professionals can find you the best deal while also providing expertise and assistance when you need it. Complex trips with several legs can tax both the time and expertise of most business travelers. Of course, some companies don't let you use an agent while other companies require it; chances are you may not have a choice.
Incidental costs. Depending on your schedule, you might be able to save money taking the subway, a bus, or shuttle, instead of a taxi or paying for parking. On the other end of your trip, figure out whether it makes more sense to rent a car, take a cab, or hire a car service to reach your destination. When it comes to eating while traveling, given that airlines rarely provide free meals anymore, you may be best off bringing your own. "I prefer non-perishables like granola bars and trail mix," Wild says. "Always buy a bottle of water after you clear airport security. Consider buying two -- the second bottle will become indispensable if your flight gets marooned on the tarmac."
Remember hotel cost-cutting rules. Avoid the mini-bar. Limit room service because there's always a surcharge and a 20 percent gratuity is often included. Also, be wary of the hotel restaurant, which can be as costly as the mini-bar or room service. If the hotel charges for Internet access, decide whether you'll really use it or whether you can get by reading email on your BlackBerry and using free wireless Internet where it's offered.
Filing Expense Reports
Encourage your employees to keep their receipts organized and file their expense reports in a timely manner. "I place all of my receipts, boarding passes, etc., inside a large envelope, which I clip inside a trip folder that holds every important document, including flight itinerary, directions to the hotel, and business meeting agenda," Wild says. "Write on each receipt what it was for ("Business breakfast on Nov. 10; guest John Doe w/O. Wild," for example). Don't take for granted that you will remember the details."
The travel expense reporting in business used to be a manual, time-consuming, and inefficient process for most small and mid-size businesses. Technology may hold the key to a smoother landing. For small businesses especially, where many employees wear several hats, finding ways to save the time associated with developing expense reports can be a godsend. Many smaller companies suffer through the travel expense process, perhaps using Intuit's QuickBooks or free services offered by their bank card. Often, those services don't go far enough. Dedicated on-demand travel expense services or software can help a small company do a better job. And on-demand services can even help companies that lack an IT staff.
Products such as Concur Expense, a Web-based travel expense solution, can run from $1,000-$5,000 in set-up fees, and from between $250/month to $5,000/month in service fees, depending on the size of the business and the number of users. ExpensAble offers several small-business options: its Enterprise on-demand product for 20 users or less for a $1,200-$3,000 one-time fee, or its Desktop software option at $700 per 10 licenses, and has off-line options as well, according to Dougherty. A third provider, CyberShift, also offers on-demand and licensed products, but does not make its pricing models public, according to spokeswoman Pamela Marshall.
Tax implications. In general, the expenses that you or your employees incur during business travel are tax deductible as necessary business expenses, according the National Federation of Independent Business, which publishes a tax guide. These expenses often include airline tickets, taxi fares, rental cars, hotel costs and certain other expenses. But be careful to keep a log, diary, or other written record to track these expenses, along with the business purpose, the NFIB notes. If you or your employees are combining personal travel with business, you need to make sure business expenses for the trip are pro-rated, so that you're not deducting the full amount of the trip -- although the full cost of airfare may be fully deductible.
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Hotel Booking for Business Travelers
The Secret Is "Don't Assume"
Top 10 Business Trip Bloopers
Saving Time on Your Flight Starts on the Ground
Tips for Deducting Travel Expenses
Online Travel Expense Reporting Takes Off
No Fly Zone: Virtual Meetings
Road Warrior Tips -- This website has travel tips for road warriors.
Travelblog.com -- This is a website where you can post and read travel blogs.
Travel Expense Calculator -- This online tool can help you generate travel expense reports.
Trip Advisor -- This website will let you find flights and hotels and read travelers' reviews.
Microsoft -- Features advice on travel and expense deduction strategies.
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