As a corporate refugee, one of the toughest things to adapt to--aside from working without a regular pay check--was mastering the art of traveling on my own dime. On my first trip after leaving my corporate job, I mimicked my regular business routine: I booked a hotel and air package and stayed in Manhattan. I ordered room service and took cabs. After calculating the return on investment for the trip, I quickly changed my tack. Here are six tricks of the trade I and other bootstrapping entrepreneurs have learned.
1. Find Hotels with Fridges: Stay at hotels with fridges large enough to accommodate self-catering breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and sometimes dinner. For example, The Castlereagh Hotel in Sydney, Australia, or The Grand Hotel and Suites in Toronto, Canada.
2. Carry Snacks: Friends swear by power cookies from Whole Foods, but I always travel with protein bars. It beats eating at airport restaurants or on airplanes and serves as a healthy snack between meetings. I also carry snack packs of almonds.
3. Check Your Miles: Discovering you have built up a stock of air miles is like finding extra cash in your coat pocket. Using it to book a hotel or flight always feels like a gift. Consider asking your advisers or investors to give you their miles in a pinch.
4. Rethink How You Book: If you travel to one destination frequently, book a one-way ticket on a Monday and a return ticket leaving Friday and returning Monday. Alternatively, staying at a hotel on a Sunday night is often cheaper, according to Melissa Farrar, public relations director at the Fairmont San Francisco. Keep your eyes on travel sites, such as Trivago, Hotwire.com, and Hotels.com. Check them early and often and set up alerts.
5. Airport Lounges: Consider a card that gives you access to airport lounges, typically for an annual fee. If you travel frequently and spend a lot of time in airports, it's not only an investment in your sanity but also a way to save on meals. Lounges offer snacks, drinks, coffee, tea, and newspapers. This alone can pay for the card over the course of a year. It may also give you priority check-in and that can save time--and hence money--reducing time spent navigating airport lines.
6. Engage in One Indulgence: Cost-effective business travel can be exhausting, so make time for one extravagance. Make the most of your free time and enjoy what each city has to offer. Enjoy one great restaurant meal, visit a museum, or enjoy one night at the theater. Most entrepreneurs work all the time, and it's energizing to do one thing that's just for you.