It’s easy to write-off travel expenses with a shrug, chalking them up to ‘the cost of doing business’, but if ‘spend less on travel’ is one of your company’s resolutions for 2017, booking trips with more advance notice is the single most effective way of decreasing your company’s travel spend.
Easier said than done, right?
“What if things change with our clients and we don't need to visit them as often? What if positional changes occur and the employee usually making these trips is no longer with us? What if we just need to make changes to the time we fly out?” What if, what if, what if…
If your list of ‘what ifs’ is more possible than probable, forget them. Take the gamble and side with probability.
Airlines know the uncertainty of business travel well – it’s their bread and butter. While flexible leisure travellers wait for sale fares and are able to plan their trip around the best priced ticket they can find, those travelling on business generally don’t have this luxury. They are usually subject to an airline’s most expensive fares in exchange for the perfect flight times on last minute bookings. Unless, of course, you plan right, essentially beating airlines at their own game.
Is the person responsible for booking travel on behalf of your company looking at the entire year ahead? Or working month to month, as circumstances arise?
Most companies do business with the same out-of-town companies, year after year, visiting each other at roughly the same time each year, whether it’s monthly, quarterly or annually. Sure, sometimes things come up and travel is postponed by a week or two, but more often than not, the trip is still eventually made. Planning and booking a year’s worth of ‘probable’ travel can save a company thousands of dollars yearly, even if half of those prematurely booked trips end up being changed.
When planning your company’s trips for the year, there are a few things all businesses should consider if trying to save money.
Airline ticket prices, whether domestic or international, Economy or Business, are in part determined by how much in advance they are purchased. Generally speaking, the more in advance they are booked, the lower the cost. Fares are usually (not always) broken down to 45, 30, 21, 14 and 7-days prior to departure, with the most expensive pricing reserved for bookings within a week of flying.
If there’s a decent chance a trip may need to be taken two months from now – book it today. Depending on the destination and class of service, this alone can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. If plans change and you need to alter your travel dates, you should still come out ahead.
If business allows, save the bulk of your travel for the spring and fall. Winter isn’t a bad time too as long as you avoid the holidays and maybe a week or two before. And speaking of holidays (long weekends), no matter the holiday, fares will be higher as demand soars and space dwindles. Avoid these weekends.
The following is a quick reference guide to approximate seasonality if travelling in the Northern hemisphere:
Dec 26 – May 20 Low Season
May 21 – Jun 25 Shoulder Season
Jun 26 – Sep 10 High Season
Sep 11 – Nov 30 Low Season
Dec 1 – Dec 15 Shoulder Season
Dec 16 – Dec 25 High Season
(Based on outbound travel date)
By now, everyone is well aware that there are various fare levels within both Economy as well as Business Class. If your business travel is with Air Canada, then without question, anyone travelling in Economy Class should be booking a Latitude Fare. For those flying Business Class, always book the flexible, refundable option. Latitude Fares are fully refundable and incur no change penalties (fare difference only, if changing for a higher fare).
Even though the flexible options are more expensive, the freedom they offer in terms of changes and refunds, especially for business travellers, heavily outweigh any savings if plans change and the ticket must be changed.
Baggage, Lounges & Frequent Flyer Points
There are other perks to booking a higher fare too. Although most business travellers have baggage down to a science, those needing to travel with anything more than a carry-on will benefit from two complimentary checked bags if booking the higher fare categories – both in Economy as well as in Business Class. Priority check-in, baggage handling and boarding are also included.
If you’re one that enjoys the spoils of Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges before or after your flight, a mere $25 will give you access with an Economy Class Latitude Fare. All Business Class guests are invited, free of charge.
Everyone loves their Aeroplan points, right? By booking the higher fares, customers accrue 125% Aeroplan points with Economy Latitude and 150% Aeroplan points in Business Class (flexible or not).
Hotels & Car Rentals
Hotels have a similar seasonality system to airlines but are more supply/demand instead of advance purchase based. If you are attending a large annual conference or trade show and know things will be busy, book early.
Car rental rates tend to stay the same year-round and they either have a car available or they don’t. There is no benefit in waiting to book your car last minute. They are generally refundable with even a day’s notice so it’s best to book them as soon as possible.
If you are interested in finding out more about ideas to save your business time and money, feel free to contact us now.