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The Ultimate Guide To Business Travel
January 24, 2020
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The Ultimate Guide To Business Travel

Business travel is a beast. From unplanned layovers to airport security, hotel decisions to packing, there are many things that can go wrong. However, understanding how to efficiently travel will help you alleviate the stress of traveling for business purposes.

At Fora Financial, we understand the stress of business travel. Below, we’ve compiled a guide full of business travel tips. From the booking process, to credit card rewards, packing, airport navigation, and hotels, we cover it all. 

The goal is to ensure the business travel process is smooth and problem-free. While we can’t control the airports, we can build awareness on best practices.

Booking Your Travel

Booking business travel can present numerous challenges. Here are some tips on how to book business travel:

  • Develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for booking business travel for your employees. Ensure that it’s detailed and easy-to-follow.
  • Create one centralized location that saves traveler information when booking flights, hotels, rental cars, and more. Include personal information, travel documentation, invoicing, and reward program numbers.
  • Never have employees pay for trips out of pocket and request later reimbursement. This ensures all travel expenses stay within the policies laid out in your SOP.
  • Utilize a single booking platform for all business travel bookings. Below are our recommended platforms for all-in-one support.

Recommended Booking Platforms

The booking process, regardless of proper planning, can still be a nightmare. This is especially true for businesses preparing travel through multiple booking engines. 

If your company is requesting staff to book business travel themselves, you’re stuck in the past. Nowadays, many of the complicated steps can be performed through a single source booking platform.

There’s a caveat, though. Many business travelers want to book their business travel independently. To ensure you don’t need to hand-hold through the process, here are a few recommended booking platforms:

  • TravelPerk is currently the gold standard for business-side booking engines. They claim to have the most extensive travel inventory in the world, allowing you to book flights, hotels, car rentals, trains, and more.
  • TravelBank is an excellent alternative option to TravelPerk. This option is perfect for those looking for stronger oversight of business travel expenses. TravelBank notes that they are champions of automated expense report processing. Expense reports are notoriously the most significant pain point with business travel.
  • FlightFox is a stellar choice for those who aren’t quite ready to ditch the idea of a travel agent. However, this service utilizes the gig economy model. They provide businesses with a vast network of travel agents and experts who assist in the booking process from start to finish.

The Best Travel Credit Cards For Business

Typically, business travelers will have less flexibility with travel scheduling compared to vacation planning counterparts. If last-minute meetings or conferences require booking specific flights, many discover award-based space is limited.

However, there are some credit cards with rewards programs specifically geared towards travel. These business credit cards are a great help for small business owners looking to ensure their travel is most effective.

Below are our two favorite general business credit cards for corporate travelers. In addition, we have noted some airline-specific and hotel-specific standouts.

Business Platinum Card From American Express

American Express’ Business Platinum Card is the gold standard for overarching travel rewards, benefiting businesses small to large. They’re currently offering extensive bonus point rewards at various levels. While they have a hefty annual fee ($595), the perks and bonuses offset this fee with moderate business travel. Perks include:

  • A $200 annual credit for air incidentals
  • 35 percent rebates when paying for airfare with points
  • Five extra points on travel booked directly through American Express
  • Membership to several exclusive lounges and airport clubs
  • TSA PreCheck and Global Entry credit for application fees

The full list of benefits can be found on the credit card’s official page. However, the American Express Business Platinum Card is an overall stellar option for frequent business travel.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

The Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is one of the most reliable credit card offerings for businesses overall, not just for travel. They offer impressive point bonuses on initial spending, and their annual fee is also much smaller than similar cards, at $95.

Their valuable welcome bonus, impressive tiering structure, and substantial benefits make this a great option. Perks include:

  • Exclusive discounts on hotels, airfare, car rental, taxis, and train tickets
  • Strong points-per-dollar on all purchases, leading to fast accumulation
  • Access to Chase’s airline and hotel transfer program
  • Flexibility to select any seat on any flight with short notice

The full list of benefits can be found on the official page for the credit card. But, overall, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is an excellent choice for business travelers.

Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

Airline Specific Credit Cards

There are ample credit cards that are specific to individual airlines. These credit cards tend to have extensive benefits when flying on those particular airliners and no benefits when flying with other providers. 

While the idea of being tethered to one airline may seem like your options are limited, there’s a distinct trade-off when weighing the benefits.

Plenty of airline-specific credit cards exist. Some of the most common for US travelers are the line of Delta SkyMiles cards from American Express and the Citi AAdvantage credit cards for American Airlines.

Both these options include such perks as priority boarding, free checked bags, airport lounge access, and much more. Additionally, they offer great introductory bonuses. Many are the equivalent of three to four round trip domestic flights worth of miles. This is ideal, as small businesses usually don’t have any issues meeting minimum spend markers.

Airline specific credit cards aren’t relegated to just American airliners, though. Credit cards for popular international airlines such as Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, Emirates, and more are available. 

These international airline credit cards are ideal for small business owners whose business pursuits take them to foreign countries. The savings realized on international flights are typically far higher than comparative domestic flights.

Hotel Specific Credit Cards

In addition to airline credit cards, there are ample hotel-specific credit cards that arguably offer even stronger rewards systems than airlines. All major hotel systems have fleets of credit cards, built for frequent travelers to take advantage.

Much like airlines, though, there may be a bit of pause involved with being tethered to one hotel group. However, there is also a definite trade-off when considering benefits and perks. One strong example of this is Hilton.

Staying at a Hilton property is not relegated to just “Hilton” branded hotels. Their portfolio is massive and includes dozens of brands, which results in a network of almost 6,000 hotels in 113 countries.

This being the case, the Hilton network of credit cards from American Express are incredible opportunities to earn extensive rewards. There are also business-specific options for small business owners to capitalize on.

These rewards aren’t only available for Hilton, though. A few examples of robust credit card offerings for other hotel systems include:

How To Pack Effectively

There are many things you can do to ensure your business trip is a breeze. These packing tips will go far in alleviating the stress involved in the fast-paced world of business travel.

  • Wear black: Black matches just about everything. This helps cut down on excess luggage when traveling for long periods.
  • Don’t check a bag: Checking your bag leads to extra hassles when arriving and departing airports. It also increases the chances that your personal belongings get lost. Intead, pack light and bring a carry on bag.
  • Reconsider liquid storage: To avoid stress when dealing with liquids in your carry-on, opt not to bring any. Instead, use what the hotel provides upon check-in.
  • Use hotel laundry services: Hotel laundry services are a godsend when traveling away from home for a long time. If you stay in the same hotel room for over two nights, laundry services will help cut down on packing unnecessary clothing.
  • Don’t go without wheels: If you travel for business often, invest in a carry-on that’s durable and has wheels. This will save your back in the long run, and will also allow you to pack densely without the hassle of bag dragging.

Things To Do On Travel Day

There are numerous ways to make your travel day less stressful.First, pack food options for when you’re on the plane. Unless you’re eating on the corporate dime, packing a few healthy snacks will help you save money.

Before leaving for the airport, do a double check to ensure all necessary documentation is accounted for. This includes your passport, photo identification, hotel reservations, and printed boarding passes.

Prior to boarding, do a few stretches. Plane seats, even business and first-class, get cramped. This is especially true on longer flights. Consider stretching to get the blood flowing and avoid cramping.

Finally, the water balance before a flight is a tricky game. On the one hand, you want to ensure you remain hydrated before and during your trip. Taking to the skies can be a dehydrating experience.

However, if you drink too much water, you’ll find yourself standing awkwardly in line at the cabin restroom. Listen to your body when it comes to water intake pre-flight.

Preparing your suitcase

Arriving At The Airport

At any given time, a half million people are in the air. That’s a lot of airport traffic to get them there. Airports are notoriously some of the most congested, confusing, stressful places on earth. Knowing how to plan to ease these struggles upon arrival is crucial to get your business trip off on the right foot.

  • TSA PreCheck is a godsend for frequent flyers. It provides access to designated faster security lines for five years for an $85 application fee and pre-approval. This helps many travelers in the United States save time.
  • If your travel schedule allows for flexibility, try to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. These days when compared to Fridays and Sundays help to avoid extensive crowds. There are also fewer travelers and lower associated travel costs.
  • If you can, use a mobile app or online check-in to get your boarding pass. Check-in as soon as possible to have a stronger chance for upgrades. You’ll also be up to date on any flight-related changes.
  • Even with the advancements in technology and airport efficiency, you should still arrive early for your flight. The rule of thumb is two hours for domestic flights, three hours for international flights. This avoids catastrophic problems due to congestion.
  • If you lose your bag, never leave the airport before filing a claim with the proper authority. It may seem faster to call customer service directly. However, the process ends up taking more time and getting less care versus a face to face interaction.
  • If you have a rewards credit card that works for airlines or hotels, see if you qualify for lounge access. An airport lounge is more comfortable and less crowded than the general waiting area. This provides an opportunity to relax pre-flight.

Hotel Tips and Tricks

If business travel is going to be a standard part of your small business enterprise, it’s essential to keep certain things in mind when staying at hotels. This includes matters such as budgeting business expenses, rewards accounts, invoicing, and more. Ensuring you know the ins and outs of a corporate travel policy will go far in keeping everything above water. 

However, things go further than the mundane corporate travel policy regarding stays at hotels. By following these tips, you can ensure a smooth travel experience:

  • Stay in large-chain hotels when possible. This puts a focus on safety, as larger brands have more serious security policies.
  • When checking in at the front desk , never let your number be said out loud. Again, this is for safety reasons. Large chains such as Hilton have recently launched facets of their mobile app to check you in automatically.
  • Want the safest possible room? Look for the fourth to sixth floors, near fire exits, not facing parking lots. This deters intruders but keeps you low enough to be reached by fire trucks in the event of an emergency.
  • Before unpacking your belongings, do a thorough check of the room. Flip the covers, check the toilet, and look for cleaning oversights.
  • If you’re utilizing rewards or credit cards for specific hotel brands, stay with those brands as often as possible. Between credit card churning, and the extensive benefits to high-tier travelers, this ensures a high-quality stay.
  • Check the in-room alarm clock before you go to bed. Sometimes people forget to turn off their alarms, and housekeeping doesn’t reset the clock. Nobody wants to wake up to someone else’s 4:30 am alarm.
  • Tip your housekeeping staff. They do good work, are often underpaid, and are cleaning up after your mess.

Coming Home

Eventually, you’ll have to head home. This typically happens at the perfect time. However, don’t let the exhaustion and jet lag catch you off guard. Follow proper check-out processes at hotels, and ensure you get a receipt for expense reports.

Follow the same airport arrival tips above for your departure flight home. Business trips can wear you down. If there’s a time to follow best practices, it’s the final leg of your travels. 

Business travel can be exciting, the real bustle of innovation and progress in real-time. However, knowing how to manage the business travel process will go a long way to make sure your experience is overall positive.

If you’re looking for additional tips and tricks for small business owners, check out the Fora Financial newsletter!

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].