10 Secrets to Saving Money When on a Sales Trip

Years ago, sales reps used to love taking business trips. Expense accounts, nearly unlimited budget for hotels, car rentals, business class travel (heck, even first class!). Yes, those were the good old days of padding the budget and acting and feeling like a big shot for a few days. When you returned from the trip, you simply handed in your expense report and went on your way.

Nowadays, it’s a different world out there. Expense accounts are limited and closely monitored. In fact, when you return from your trip, getting your expenses approved and reimbursed is about as hard as it was closing the deal (you did close the deal, didn’t you?). The good news for today’s business traveler is that there is one place you can go to help you not only stay on budget, but that can often restore some of the fun of those bygone days of business fun and travel. It's the Internet.

With access to the Internet, today’s savvy business traveler knows not only how to stay on or even below budget, but they also know how to rack up valuable reward points for other kinds of travel – like personal family vacations and other fun trips! By taking advantage of the 10 secrets below, you’ll not only travel like a top business pro (your expense department will love you), but you’ll also be racking up valuable discounts, free tickets, upgrades and other perks that make staying on a budget even fun. Here they are:

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1. Finding the Best Flight Deals

In the old days, when you needed to book flights, you had to call each airline and try to find the best deal. This was time consuming, and you often didn’t get access to special deals. Today, you can leverage the Internet to find the fastest, most direct and most affordable option available. Travelocity, Priceline and Expedia scour the Internet and return all the options to you ranked by either price, number of stops, dates and times. You’ll be amazed by how much you can save if you just do a little bit of research.

Bonus: If you want to save even more money, then look at skipping the major airports and try flying into any nearby regional airports. You can save money in airfare and transportation costs.

2. Book Early

Airlines adjust their prices based on availability. If you know in advance when you’re traveling, then you can save money by booking early. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay.

3. Become a Loyal Customer

Choose an airline and become a loyal customer of that airline. While it’s always a good idea to get a frequent flyer number for all the airlines you fly, choosing one to use as often as possible will earn you the most amount of perks and save you even more money. Airlines track customer loyalty, and if you need to change seats or get other perks, agents can see that in their systems and are more inclined to accommodate you. Plus, the more you fly a particular airline, the more free miles you accumulate.

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In addition, get a credit card from that airline and make sure and use it when you book your flight. You’ll get a lot of perks with an airline credit card starting with things like instant bonus miles (50,000 and up) just for signing up, and sometimes even a free companion fight on your credit card anniversary.

Most credit card loyalty programs save you additional money by giving you a free checked bag each way. Plus, when you use the airline’s card, you can sometimes get bonus miles on top of your flight. Also, each time you rise up in that airlines levels of flyer (silver, gold, platinum, etc.), you get even more perks like priority boarding, free upgrades, etc.

4. Come with Food

Always bring a meal to the airport. Buying food at the airport or on the plane is never a good deal. Not only do you overpay for just about any meal, but you also rarely get what you want. The night before I’m going to fly, I pack a sandwich and snacks so I get to eat what I want, and I get to save money.

5. Select the Best Affordable Hotel

Choose your hotel wisely. First, get a rewards number and use it every time you stay. The same rules for becoming a loyal member to an airline apply here, too. But to save money, ask about the incidentals. Does the hotel offer high speed, free WiFi in your room? Is the breakfast included? How about parking?

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6. Hotels.com

Use Hotel.com to book your hotels. Hotels.com has the best reward program on the Internet – stay 10 nights with any hotel chain you choose, and the 11th night booking is free. That’s the fastest and best way to save money on hotels I know of!

7. Evaluate Your Phone Plan

Choose the right cell phone plan for data, text and voice usage. The last thing you want is a huge cell phone bill because you went over your data usage.

Hint: If you haven’t called your provider lately to check their new plans, then you need to. I just changed mine with AT&T and found that I could go from a 450-minute talk time plan to unlimited talk time, unlimited text AND 1 Gig more for less money than I had been paying! That’s what I call saving money.

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8. Saving on Transportation

Cabs are expensive and limiting. Rental cars are plentiful and give you flexibility. Rates vary a lot, but now you can search those same sites to get great rates on cars. Here are two hints: 1) Use your AmEx card (or other—call and check on their policies) to avoid paying the expensive car insurance fees (which can sometimes be as much as the daily rental price!). AmEx offers to reimburse you for any accidents and your regular insurance company should also cover you (check with your company to be sure). And 2) If you book your air, hotel and car together, you can save even more money!

9. Currency Fees

Save money on ATM fees and foreign transaction fees by getting one simple card: Open a Schwab checking account (free), and you’ll get an ATM card that won’t charge you money at any ATM, and it won’t charge you a foreign transaction fee. Can you say, Merci?

10. Check Out Discount Sites

Use discount sites like Travelzoo and Groupon to save money on business dinners, car rentals and other specials in your destination city.

Any one of these tips will save you money on your next sales trip, but the savings really add up fast as you combine them. And soon, you’ll have enough miles and complimentary hotel stays to take a vacation almost for free! And free is the best savings of all.

Mike Brooks is founder and principle of Mr. Inside Sales, a Los Angeles based inside sales consulting and training firm, and author of the award winning books on inside sales: The Real Secrets of the Top 20%, and his new book, The Complete Book of Phone Scripts. Mike was voted one of the most Influential Inside Sales Professionals in 2014 by The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals, and is THE recognized authority in the industry. For more information, visit Mr. Inside Sales