A Beginner’s Guide to Planning Business Travel Arrangements
Planning a business trip is no picnic.
There’s a lot to it. If you’re just getting started in a position that requires you to travel, then you may be trying to piece it all together in a way that makes sense.
Remember what they say:
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
This lack of a plan could lead to embarrassing, frustrating, or even disastrous instances. These results could cost your company money and, on a personal level, that promotion you’ve been hoping for.
But on the flip side of the coin …
Planning can open massive doors of opportunity, put you into a fantastic position to enjoy the trip, and help you make the most of your time out in the field.
In this post, you’re going to learn everything you need to know to start planning and executing business travel arrangements.
Let’s dive in and get started.
Table of Contents
1. Prepare An Essential Itinerary
2. Make Travel Arrangements
3. Book Your Accommodations
4. Create a Detailed Itinerary
5. Plan for Travel Expense Reimbursement
6. Get Your Travel Documents in Order
7. Make a List of What You’ll Need to Bring
Prepare an Essential Itinerary
The “essential itinerary” will be the first version of your itinerary and will only include the most critical travel info. For example, the dates, times, and locations of your meetings, the convention you plan to attend, etc.
You’ll need this information laid out and organized for making travel arrangements on airfare, car rentals, lodging, and more.
It helps to get these dates and times written down to give you a firm foundation and starting point for making the rest of your travel plans.
Make Travel Arrangements
The next step is to decide how you’ll be traveling.
As a general rule, there are seven steps to this process.
1. Review Your Company’s Travel Budget Policy
Understanding your company’s corporate travel policies for both national and international travel will help you determine the budgetary ground rules upon which you’ll build your business travel plans.
2. Find the Best Deals on Flights, Car Rentals, Accommodations, etc.
This step is all about research.
Spend some time looking into different options for airline tickets, hotel reservations, and ground transportation for your trip.
Use a service like Hotel Engine to find the best prices on accommodations.
Many airlines provide car rental options on their sites. Meaning you can get quotes and book your transportation at the same time as you buy your airline tickets.
See if you can save any money with travel points, frequent flyer miles, etc. Hotel Engine actually lets you double-dip with travel points and their own awesome rewards program.
Figure out what the entire trip will cost (roughly), and make a game plan for how you want to start booking your travel itinerary.
3. Look for Convenient Flight Times
Travel times are crucial, especially if you need to be in certain places at certain times (which is almost always the case when traveling for business). But you’ll also find that certain flight times are far more convenient than others.
For example, flying in the morning may require you to take off a few hours earlier. But you’ll tend to face fewer delays in the morning. Mid-afternoons are also convenient for flights, though they can tend to be more expensive than morning flights.
4. Make Sure Flight Times Allow Plenty of Time for Your Business
Make sure to allow plenty of time for business when booking flights. For example, giving yourself less than an hour to get across town may not be realistic.
If in doubt, book an earlier flight to guarantee you’ll be early or on time for your meeting or convention. This will help to reduce your margin for error. It’ll also earn you some valuable peace of mind and cut down on timeline-related stress.
5. Look at Trip Packages
Sometimes, if you use a travel agent or book through a travel agency, you can find packages that’ll provide better transportation deals at lower costs.
Couple these savings with the money you’ll save with Hotel Engine to really cut back on travel expenditures.
6. Find Affordable, Convenient, Well-Placed Car Reservations
If you need a car but fail to find a good option in a package with your travel service, you’ll need to book it yourself.
Rentalcars.com is an excellent option for this. But you can also check out Turo or Zipcar.
The key here is to make sure that you’re booking a car at the right time, in the proper place, at a great price.
Car rentals can really eat into a business travel budget. It may be crucial to your budget to find the best deals possible. Car rental prices have actually been skyrocketing—partly due to a post-pandemic tourism boom, and partly because the need for rental cars has surged higher than expected.
Booking your car early, and/or looking for the best prices available, will start to pay off more and more as prices increase.
Alternatively, you can also look into cheaper options (bus, subway, train, etc.) that, while perhaps less convenient, may be more cost-effective.
7. Finalize Travel Arrangements by Booking Well in Advance
At this point, you’ve done your due diligence.
You’ve researched the prices, have a good idea of how you plan to book your trip, and probably have a pretty detailed plan in place.
Now, it’s time to pull the trigger and book those travel reservations. Do this well in advance to make sure that you lock in those great rates and times before they’re already taken/booked up by other people.
This is especially important in the busy tourist season.
That said, there are a few more things you probably need to know before you whip out your corporate credit card and lock in your reservations.
Let’s go over a few more details.
Book Your Accommodations
There are a few additional steps to review and go over before making the leap and locking in your dates when booking accommodations. Here are five accommodation booking travel tips to help you stay on target and avoid disaster.
1. Book a Hotel That’s Geographically Close to Where You’ll Be Doing Business
You won’t want to commute for an hour to reach your business meeting in the morning, especially right after coming in off of a flight the night before.
So it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re booking accommodations close to where you’ll need to be. This is especially important to remember in major cities. Think about it — booking a hotel in north Houston could translate to a morning commute of two hours to reach a southwest Houston address.
2. Make Sure To Compare Rates
You’ll often find much better rates using a service that specializes in booking business travel accommodations.
Hotel Engine is perfect for this.
Business hotels booked through a service like Hotel Engine tend to be slower and less expensive during peak tourist times and seasons.
3. Make Sure To Book a Hotel That Offers the Proper Amenities
It always pays to double-check and make sure that any accommodation options offer basic amenities.
Wifi is probably the most important one.
Other important amenities to check for include:
- Coffee maker
- Room service
- Bathroom essentials
4. Only Book With Hotels or Motels That Offer Flexible Cancellation
Hopefully, your business travel plans will proceed without a hitch or hiccup.
But in the event that something does go sideways, it’s always nice to know that you can cancel without incurring huge fees or being stuck with the hotel bill anyway.
Granted, this usually isn’t a problem. Most hotels and travel services give you room for cancellations before the trip, just in case.
But it’s always a good idea to check before booking.
5. Book Accommodations Well in Advance
As with car rentals and airfare, it pays to book accommodations well in advance.
Most travel experts agree that booking about a month in advance is the best rule of thumb.
Others say that the best idea is to start keeping close tabs on those accommodations 40 days out, watching for price increases or decreases.
If the price starts to increase:
If the price starts to decrease:
Let the trend continue until about 21 days out or until the price goes back up again. Then book it.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on room availability
You should also go ahead and book it if you see that the number of rooms available is starting to dwindle to single digits.
Create a Detailed Itinerary
Now that you’ve researched your plan and booked your reservations, it’s time to flesh out your itinerary. Lay out all your travel plans and sync them with your travel and accommodation bookings.
The only challenge here is that keeping track of everything can sometimes be a challenge.
To conquer this task, consider using a tool like TripIt or Google Travel.
Or, you can create your own itinerary using a simple program like Microsoft Excel.
Plan for Travel Expense Reimbursement
Whether you’re planning to itemize individual receipts or use per diem, it’ll be essential to keep track of what you’re spending money on.
This will help you get compensated for any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur. But it’ll also help the company get the tax write-offs they deserve.
Plus, it’ll keep both of you from incurring penalties from travel expense reimbursements classified by the IRS as taxable income.
Consider using a tool like Spendesk or Spendee to help you keep track of receipts and record expenditures. This software will create expense reports that’ll help you and the company keep track of what the trip is costing and where the money is going.
Get Your Travel Documents In Order
Make sure that all your necessary travel documents are in order. This is another significant piece of the puzzle of preparing for your business trip.
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself as your departure time approaches:
- Will you need your passport?
- How will you carry your tickets?
- Will you need a travel visa?
- Have you obtained an up-to-date travel guide for the area? If not, will you need one?
- Do you have the appropriate photo ID to facilitate bookings and travel to the planned location?
- Do you have vaccination records? (This may become increasingly important in a post-pandemic world.)
Make a List of What You’ll Need To Bring
Making formal arrangements for your trip is an integral part of the process.
But remember not to neglect the things you’ll need to bring with you in your luggage, your carry-on, your briefcase, etc.
As you complete your itinerary, you should also make a list of things that you’ll need to bring with you.
This includes the personal items you’ll need for the trip, but also anything you’ll need to conduct your business successfully.
Here’s a brief checklist of things to consider:
- Chargers for all electronic devices
- PowerPoint Presentation
- Wireless hot spot device (if you have a smartphone, it will often have a hot spot setting you can use!)
- Clothing (uniforms, formal, business-casual, leisure, swimwear, travel wear, etc.)
- Promotional materials
- Business cards
- Briefcase, bag, purse, etc.
- Extra office supplies
Planning for an Extended Trip
If you’re going to be gone for longer than a couple of days or nights, make sure to pack enough to last you the entire trip.
This may mean bringing plenty of different clothing/dress options with you.
Or, you may want to plan to do some laundry/dry cleaning on location.
This will all depend on your schedule, the length of stay, and whether it’ll be more convenient to travel with more or less luggage.
It’s also a great idea to conduct thorough research on the area you’ll be visiting if you plan to stay for longer than a few days.
This can tell you about nearby amenities, luxuries you can expect, and what you may not have access to during your stay.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to planning for extended trips.
Related: 9 Things to Remember When You’re Traveling for Business
It seems like a lot to think about, but take things step by step, and you can’t fail.
All that’s left is to get out there and get traveling.
So make your plans, book your flights, look forward to adventure — and most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Save up to 60% on business lodging for your next company trip with Hotel Engine.
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.