Secret AgentPosted on Wednesday, December 1st, 2004 by John McPartlin
When you book travel itineraries from the privacy of your own home, you’ll spend time to save money.
mployees at large companies don’t give much thought to business travel. They simply call the corporate travel department, explain where they want to go and wait for the itinerary to come back. Small business owners, however, don’t have that luxury. First, there’s usually no one to call. Second, since every dollar counts, it’s important to find the cheapest airfare and hotel rates possible, and that means being flexible about when you travel, where you travel and whether or not you even need to travel at all.
Luckily, there are many online portals that offer the kind of sophisticated planning options once available only to the CEO of IBM or McDonald’s. If you’re willing to take the time, you can be your own travel agent. “You can definitely lower your travel costs by doing your own booking through the Internet,” says Ed Perkins, a travel columnist and author of the recently published Business Travel: When It’s Your Money. “The flip side of the coin is that to do a good job, you have to spend a fair amount of time on it. Is that a good trade-off? Depends on how you operate your business or your personal life.”
If you find you like the online route, you’re not alone. A March 2004 Orbitz business travel survey found that business travelers preferred to book traveling arrangements using online tools, rather than traditional travel agencies, by a margin of 2 to 1.
The major benefits to booking your own travel, Perkins says, are cost and customization. Finding the cheapest flight or most reasonable hotel room can probably save you $50 to $100 per trip. This has to be weighed against the amount of work hours all this research and booking actually takes. However, if you are a particularly picky traveler—you like a certain airline or hotel chain, or you refuse to rent any car that isn’t a Ford—nothing beats booking everything yourself. “For some people, letting someone else plan their trip is like letting someone order for them in a restaurant,” he says. “If you are fussy and have quirks, it’s much easier to cater to your own whims if you do it yourself.”.
The big Internet travel portals like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz were once the way to go to get the best rates; increasingly, however, airlines, hotels and rental car companies are keeping the best deals to themselves and offering them on their own Web sites (e.g., southwest.com or holidayinn.com). This may require you to shop around a bit more to bring your trip together, but you’ll likely save a lot more than if you go with any package deals. In fact, many airline and hotel sites have even begun offering low-price guarantees that they will meet or beat the prices quoted through travel agents or other online booking sites.
If you do go the do-it-yourself route, make sure you sign up for any special corporate clubs or special business offers rather than booking using the consumer rates. Most Internet travel portals and airline or hotel Web sites allow you to book under a business rate if you spend a certain amount of money a year. Using these services may also allow you and your employees to collect both personal and corporate frequent flier mileage perks, qualify for corporate discounts and maybe even get free upgrades when available.
………………..If you do go the do-it-yourself route, make sue you sign up for any special corporate clubs or special business offers rather than booking using the consumer rates………………..
Check out these travel Web sites and plan your trip yourself.
|For multiple travel options and speedy do-it-yourself service:
The Big Players:
For the best rates, which are often found at the major airline, hotel and rental car sites:
www.aa.com [American Airlines]
www.hilton.com [Hilton Hotels]
www.budget.com [Budget Car Rental]
While these sites may often offer the best deals, be careful about restrictions when it comes to last-minute changes. In addition, be certain ahead of time that you’re flexible enough to accept whatever hotel may come up through auction services. You may also have luck using the major Internet search engines (Yahoo!, Google, etc.) to find Web sites that cater to the specifics—everything from business hotels in East Asia to suites with high-speed internet access. —JM