Business Travel Planning Guide: 9 Tips For Travel Coordinators
Planning a business trip for your employees is quite different from booking a family vacation.
We’ll take you through the 9 most important tips when booking business travel.
1. Learn Your Company’s Travel Policy
Whether setting up MICE travel or an out-of-state construction gig, you’ll first need to become an expert on your company’s full travel policy.
For corporate travel arrangements, you should have answers to questions like:
- Are you supposed to choose the hotel room, or can the employees do it themselves?
- Will you need to book air travel and car rentals, or can your colleagues do that on their own too?
- Should you always make the most economical choice for budget sustainability, or do you have upgrade flexibility?
- Will your employees receive a per diem or corporate credit card for travel expenses, or will they cover the costs themselves and get reimbursed later?
2. Determine How Trips Get Paid For
Familiarize yourself with how your company handles things like:
- Per diem
What Qualifies As A Business Travel Expense?
According to the IRS, business travel expenses are ordinary and necessary expenses incurred when traveling for your business, job or profession.
Of course, there are different ways to handle record-keeping for expense management. This is something you’ll need to discuss with your employees to ensure everyone is following the same systems.
How Per Diem Makes Things Easier
Once you’ve gotten a handle on what constitutes proper business travel expenses, the next step is to figure out how you allow your employees to actually spend.
You can have them use a company credit card to cover expenses, or have them submit receipts after the fact for reimbursement. But if you have several employees away for long periods, reconciling receipts to specific trips gets complicated.
Per diem solves that issue by giving employees a set allowance for travel spending. This can be applied to hotel bookings, airfare, carshare, etc.
If they want to go over their per diem amount on their expenses, that’s up to them, knowing that they’ll pay the difference.
On top of per diem, you might consider offering an additional travel allowance to use on things like fancy dinners, attractions, tours, etc. — particularly for longer trips.
This all depends on how your company wants to handle business travel management and how (or if) they allocate funds for leisure.
3. Consider Hotel Convenience, Not Just Price
You might look for inexpensive rooms to ensure affordable and sustainable business travel.
But cheaper doesn’t always mean better. It’s possible to balance the best hotel chains prices and amenities.
While your employees don’t always need an oceanfront view or a penthouse suite at the best downtown hotel, you still need to make sure they’re in a convenient location near your local office or job site. Opting for a place with a free breakfast isn’t a bad idea, either.
Besides a more comfortable experience for your colleagues, your company will also avoid paying for off-site daily breakfasts at restaurants and expensive hotel-to-office commutes.
In a city like New York, for example, placing workers in Manhattan business hotels means they won’t even need to rent a car.
4. Always Earn Rewards
A general rule of thumb with credit cards is to always make sure they’re giving you something back, like reward points.
That’s especially true with business travel expenses, where credit card spending is ubiquitous.
Hotel chains and airlines have their own credit cards, offering free or discounted nights and flights after a certain number of purchases. Credit card companies also offer their own general “miles” cards that can be redeemed on a more flexible list of brands, like this travel credit card from Discover.
Credit cards aside, major hotel chains always have loyalty programs allowing you to earn points with each stay. Regardless of the payment method, you can build up these points and cash them in on free rooms.
That’s why it’s a good idea to pick a hotel chain that you and your employees like, create a loyalty account, and whenever possible, book with their properties. Your points will stack up much faster than if you book with a variety of brands.
The rewards get even better if your employees are booking rooms through Hotel Engine.
You’ll keep earning those credit card miles. And, if you’re in a hotel’s travel program (or your employees already are), you’ll be able to keep earning those points with our online booking tool.
But you’ll also earn points directly through Hotel Engine.
With HE Rewards, you’ll accumulate points on every stay you book. The more you book, the faster you’ll earn — and then you can cash in those points for discounted rooms or even free nights.
5. Communicate Budgets Ahead Of Time
If you give your employees per diem, they’re free to use a travel booking platform to select either less-expensive rooms in hotel chains or upgrade them to business suites (if they have room under that cap). But in some cases, workers may be unable to choose their own upgrades without a boss signing off on the decision.
If your employees are booking rooms via company credit card rather than per diem, you can set set caps on the nightly rates they can reserve on Hotel Engine. That way, there is no need to worry about rates over a certain price point getting booked without prior approval.
6. Always Opt For Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is insurance that covers any costs of losses associated with travel. This includes coverage for emergency medical benefits, as well as cancellation fees.
According to a survey conducted by the insurance company Battleface, almost 50% of Americans have had to absorb fees, costs and losses associated with travel because they were uninsured.
From a risk management standpoint, it’s always worth the few extra dollars of a travel insurance policy for your employees. Especially in a large corporation. With the pandemic not entirely over, trip cancellations are a reality, not a hypothetical.
7. Check The Cancellation Policy
Even if you buy the best travel insurance, always check the hotel’s cancellation policy before clicking “Book.” They often vary not just by chain, but by room type too!
It’s best to have both insurance and a flexible cancellation policy to mitigate all potential travel risks. Insurance typically requires a qualifying reason if you suddenly need to cancel; “Our meeting got rescheduled” won’t do.
But if you’re still within the hotel’s cancellation policy, you’ll be able to change or remove the booking for any reason.
If the hotel requires a week’s notice and your employee has a family emergency two days before, the insurance kicks in. But if you’re still within the cancellation window, it’s easier to just cancel rather than submit a claim.
If you select the Flex option during checkout on Hotel Engine, you don’t even have to worry about every hotel’s cancellation policy!
8. Fill Out The Credit Card Authorization Form
Get these out of the way early! You don’t want to risk an employee not being able to check in because the authorization form was not submitted in advance.
As is common in business travel, the person with the credit card who paid for the room is not always the person staying in the hotel. Travel industry vendors need this form to ensure that any incidentals the guest charges to the room are allowed.
9. Create A Business Travel Checklist For Your Employees
Now that your bookings are complete and reservation details have been handed out, it’s a good idea to compile a checklist for your employees.
In addition to their toothbrush and other obvious travel must-haves, there are some things that you wouldn’t need on a vacation that are important for a business trip, like a laptop, business attire, a corporate credit card and a clothing steamer, to name a few.
Depending on your field, other items might be required too — like scrubs for travel nurses or protective shoes for construction workers.
Send out this basic checklist a week or two before departure day so your employees have time to pack, and work doesn’t get held up because of a forgotten item.
Once you’ve got these nine details squared away, your employees should be all set for their next business travel trips.
You’ll also want to sign up for free with Hotel Engine, the lodging performance network built to handle all these tasks. Unlike other travel sites, we’re designed for business travelers, so we’re always thinking ahead.
Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.