How to Craft a Corporate Travel Policy That Balances Cost & Comfort

Kaela Shupe
July 2, 2024
How to Craft a Corporate Travel Policy That Balances Cost & Comfort

Travel is a fact of life in the corporate world. On average, business travelers expect to take 2.6 trips per month, totaling over 30 work-related journeys over the course of a single year.1 This number could be even higher, but 71% of executives say that hefty costs limit their organization’s ability to travel and are some of the most costly business expenses.1

This is why it’s essential to balance the price of business trips with their overall value. In doing so, you can make sure your employees get the most out of important meetings, conferences, and corporate retreats. Likewise, it’s crucial to consider what comforts are necessary and which can be skipped in the interest of stretching your travel resources. 

This guide will explore how to allocate funds, assess worthwhile expenses, and implement employee guidelines to create an effective corporate travel policy that meets your company’s needs and budget.

Setting budget guidelines

Just like any other organizational operation, travel costs money. And, over the last five years, it’s gotten significantly more expensive. Since just 20192:

  • Flight tickets have increased by 2.6%
  • Lodging has gone up by 16.3%
  • Restaurant prices have jumped up almost 30%
  • Rental car costs have soared by nearly 40%

To keep sending their employees on necessary work excursions without breaking the bank, companies have to establish clear budget guidelines and travel policies for their staff. These rules must take all aspects of work trips into account—not just their costs, but also the comforts employees expect while traveling. 

Determining travel allowances

Companies have different travel budgets and ideas for what constitutes reasonable expenses. Likewise, employees have varying expectations about the kinds of accommodations and amenities they expect on their trips. 

Regardless of budgets and bottom lines, however, every business should set standards outlining how much they’re willing to spend on:

  • Transportation – How your employees get to their destinations depends heavily on where they are and where they’re going. For many American routes, flying is the most cost-effective option (though some train journeys can be less per mile). Taking a bus or other ground transportation, however, is almost always the cheapest option—albeit the least luxurious.3 Make it a policy to research different transportation options before booking to balance speed, price, comfort, and simplicity. 
  • Food – Employees will have to dine out for most meals while traveling. 41% of Americans spend up to $20 per restaurant meal while an additional 24% spend up to $30.4 So, depending on the specifics of your employees’ eating habits, a maximum of $70 to $100 per head should cover a day. 
  • Accommodations – The average hotel room is $155 per night in the United States.5This can vary heavily depending on the exact city you’re headed to, but plan on allocating roughly that much (or more) for every day of a work trip.

The largest factor affecting travel management is the destination. Some of the most expensive U.S. destinations for frequent travelers on business are6:

  • New York City, NY: Known for its high hotel and dining costs, making it the most expensive city for business travel.
  • Washington, D.C.: High accommodation and dining expenses contribute to its high cost.
  • San Francisco, CA: Known for expensive lodging and meals.
  • Los Angeles, CA: High costs for hotels and other travel-related expenses.

For more budget-friendly alternatives in the U.S., consider cities like:

  • Charlotte, NC: Lower overall costs for accommodation and dining.
  • San Antonio, TX: More affordable lodging and meals.
  • Phoenix, AZ: Offers a balance of amenities with lower expenses.

These cities provide a cost-effective option while still offering good business infrastructure and amenities​.7

Plan group travel seamlessly and stay within budget. Get group rates!

Your budget should also reflect the length of the trip. Allocate more funds for extended visits and consider reducing funds if your employees are only away for a night.

Cost-saving strategies

To minimize travel expenses, it’s best to plan for, make travel arrangements and book work trips as soon as possible. Reserving flight tickets six months ahead of time, for instance, can save you 10% or more versus buying them two months before takeoff.

Some accommodations will also offer price breaks for extended-stay trips or multiple bookings. Be sure to shop around for these types of deals and inquire about potential discounts prior to booking.

Ensuring traveler comfort

Just because your corporate travel policy aims to save your company money doesn’t mean your staff needs to miss out on every amenity and comfort. In fact, sticking workers with long flight itineraries, underwhelming travel accommodations, and subpar food is a quick way to reduce employee morale and the desire to travel.

Instead, make sure your travel expenses provide a solid value for their price. Whether it’s lodging, flying, or eating, there are several strategies you can use to stretch your travel budget without sacrificing employee comfort. 

Incorporating Travel Insurance

While balancing cost and comfort in your business travel policy, don't overlook the importance of travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide your employees with financial protection against unexpected events such as trip cancellations, lost luggage and hotel incidentals. It also helps plan for medical emergencies making it a requirement for most insurance company’s policy compliance. 

By including travel insurance in your travel policy, you can ensure that your employees are covered in case of unforeseen circumstances, ultimately safeguarding your investment in business travel and offering peace of mind to your traveling staff.

Travel accommodation choices

While vacation home rental services such as Airbnb were once prized for their affordability, the days of discount, short-term apartments are long gone. Such vacation homes now cost more than hotels in over 75% of cities and offer fewer amenities.8

So, when it comes to value, the classic hotel room is your best bet. If you’re a large organization, you may want to consider signing partnership deals with global hotel brands to receive bulk discounts. You can also try sticking to a singular hotel network and racking up reward points to earn free nights and offers on future stays.

If you’re arranging a group booking or want 24/7 support finding the best deals, speak with a trip manager from Hotel Engine. We offer white-glove service, the ability to view properties side-by-side, and expertly negotiated rates that aren’t available to the public. 

Transportation options

If your workers are accustomed to flying business class (or first class), switching them to economy can save you significantly. Business class tickets are, on average, anywhere from two to ten times more expensive than standard seats.9

The extra value they provide is also arguable. While your employees may get a few extra inches of legroom and a better meal, they’ll get to their destination at the same time as everyone else. However, if you're dead set on offering an optimal flying experience, try remaining flexible with your takeoff and arrival times to secure business class seats at lower prices.

Depending on your destination, flying might not even be an option. If staff must drive, see if they’ll consider compensation for using their personal vehicles. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standardizes 65.5 cents a mile as fair pay for business drives, while rental cars (at their cheapest) cost well over $100 a day—plus gas.11,10

Meal and dining considerations

Scheduling or providing meals for all your staff while traveling can be complicated. Accounting for personal tastes, dietary requirements, and even when people prefer eating can be a hassle.

That’s why it’s best to set a budget and let your employees have free reign over where, when, and what they eat. If you want to minimize food costs, consider choosing hotels that offer free breakfast—that way, you can shave about a third off each worker’s daily dining allowance.

Implementing and enforcing the policy

Everyone must be on the same page about travel expenditures and reasonable expenses. If your company previously had different travel budget standards, it’s essential to clearly convey the new guidelines and oversee their implementation. 

Policy communication

If you’re planning to make changes to your business travel policy, inform your team with as much notice as possible. Once you’ve decided on new regulations:

  • Email your organization to announce the new regulations
  • Clearly outline the policies and explain how they differ from the previous guidelines
  • Hold a meeting where employees can raise objections, air concerns, and gain clarification on the new rules 
  • Communicate when there has been an update to your travel policy

Having everyone sign your travel policy agreement (and giving them copies to take home) reinforces its stipulations and reminds employees of appropriate expenses. You can also host workshops for all your travelers showing them how to book cost-effective flights, hotels, and more. 

Monitoring and feedback

To ensure everyone sticks to your company’s regulations, collect receipts from every reimbursement request and only refund expenses up to the predetermined limit.

Ultimately, executives have the final call on their company’s travel policies. You should, however, still take into account your workers’ feelings and concerns about the new rules. To gain insight into your regulations:

  • Use surveys to gather anonymous feedback 
  • Host roundtable discussions where your workers can suggest alternative rules
  • Work with a small group of high-level, longstanding travelers to rework policy specifics if necessary

If your staff has legitimate concerns with your regulations, address them and introduce new, improved policies that fix their issues. And, if you want to make everyone’s lives easier, sort out their accommodations for them using Hotel Engine. 

Hotel Engine can help you save on corporate travel costs

Corporate travel is getting more expensive. The good news is that with the right approach to booking flights, hotels, and meals, you can still afford to send your employees on important business trips. Ultimately, modern travel is all about balancing cost with comfort, so consider what amenities you can do without in the interest of preserving your budget. 

One place where you shouldn't skimp is lodging—but that doesn’t mean your employees’ accommodations need to be seven stars and cost several thousand dollars a night. Achieve the perfect balance of cost and comfort for your corporate travel needs, plus free around-the-clock member support, by partnering with Hotel Engine. 

Our dedicated trip managers are ready to help you save up to 60% while securing you all the amenities you need. Book your next group stay with Hotel Engine and experience hassle-free business travel.


  1. Tourism Economics. BUSINESS TRAVEL SURVEY – 2023 Q1.
  2. The New York Post. Travel costs have soared since the pandemic, study shows.
  3. Computer Network. Planes, Trains, Cars and Buses: We Do the Math to Find the Cheapest Way to Travel Per Mile.
  4. Yahoo. See How Much the Average American Spends on Dining Out: How Does Your Spending Compare?.
  5. Statista. Average daily hotel room rate US.
  6. Business Traveler. Which Are the World’s Most Expensive Cities for Business Travelers?
  7. Forbes. The Best Day To Book Flights.
  8. Travel and Leisure. Hotels Are Now Cheaper Than Airbnbs, New Research Finds.
  9. USA Today. This trick saved me over 60% in plane tickets: How to travel business class without spending a fortune.
  10. Revenue Service. IRS issues standard mileage rates for 2023; business use increases 3 cents per mile.
  11. TIME. How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car?.
Article written by
Kaela Shupe

In her role at Hotel Engine, Kaela's focus in marketing revolves around enhancing the company's online presence through targeted digital strategies. Her expertise plays a crucial role in improving user experience. Kaela's approach combines analytical skills and creative insights, consistently delivering growth and heightened customer satisfaction.

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