Even when the company pays for the airfare and hotel stay, expenses on a business trip can add up quickly. Whether it’s eating out for every meal or all the taxis you’ll be taking to navigate an unfamiliar city, here are nine ways you could be spending too much money on your business trips.
1. Springing for In-Flight Entertainment
Nobody likes to spend the entire flight staring at the back of the seat in front of him (or silently brooding over his fellow passenger’s decision to recline his or her seat). That said, the in-flight entertainment options offered by the airline are often pricey: a few dollars for headphones, a few more for the device, and maybe even a third charge for the content itself or the Wi-Fi to access it. Even if your company paid for your ticket, you could find yourself $20 in the hole before you even taxi onto the runway.
Instead of pricey in-flight options, bring your own entertainment: your laptop, tablet, e-reader or phone or an actual hard copy book, which won’t have to be switched off for takeoff and landing, can all serve as welcome distractions from the doldrums of life at 35,000 feet. Use this few hours as a chance to read that novel you’ve been putting off!
2. Ordering Room Service
If you’re on the road, chances are that you don’t have the time or the facilities to cook for yourself. And it’s unlikely you’ll have access to a chef to cook your meals for you. Most hotel rooms don’t have so much as a microwave, let alone an oven or a range. But room service, while a tempting alternative, should be your last resort. Even if the food itself is reasonably priced, it’s common for hotels to charge a delivery fee and a service fee, which combined with tax can make a slightly expensive meal quite costly. If dining in isn’t the best option, it seems natural to dine out, but use caution: eating out could prove just as expensive.
3. Going Out to Eat for Every Meal
It’s no secret that eating your meals in a restaurant is more expensive than cooking at home. Avoiding room service charges leads many weary travelers to dine out, and their wallets feel the strain. Sharing a meal with your boss? You might be tempted to choose an upscale restaurant with juicy red steaks over the family-friendly chain you might have selected were you dining alone. Unless you have access to a stipend to cover your meal expenses, try to pick conservatively priced restaurants whenever you can.
4. Networking Over Drinks and Appetizers
Part of traveling for business is meeting with your peers and clients, sizing up the competition and the all-important ritual of networking. If you’re attending a conference or a trade show, you might have the opportunity to swap business cards and exchange pleasantries during the main event. Or it might seem prudent to take the team out for cocktails after the big meeting when visiting your corporate office. Be careful though, those drinks and appetizers over which you and your coworkers mingle are pricey. Order an inexpensive cocktail, a beer or a glass of the house wine and make it last rather than ordering a handful of overpriced drinks.
5. Taking a Cab Everywhere
Navigating an unfamiliar city is always tricky, especially if your hotel or meeting place is outside the reach of public transport options. If the buses are complicated (or, as in Seattle, dwindling) and the other options daunting, you might find yourself hopping in a cab every time you leave the building. While hailing a taxi whenever you need transport might work just fine on a short business trip, those charges add up quickly. Whenever you can, split a cab or simply walk to your destination to save a little cash.
6. Replacing the Essentials You Left at the Office
We’ve all been there: you arrive at your hotel, wearily unpack your belongings, and realize with a mix of horror and resignation that you’ve forgotten something important. Phone chargers, laptop cables and even basic toiletries are essential, but also incredibly easy to leave plugged in, tucked away or forgotten. You can’t avoid purchasing replacement items once they’re gone, but you can keep a thorough checklist when you’re packing to avoid this extra expense in the future.
Not sure how much to tip room service, the bellhop or the maid? You’re not alone. While you won’t offend anyone by tipping too much (at least not in the U.S.), you might be blowing your budget with your well-meaning gesture. In general, a few dollars per service (or per night, in the case of the hotel maid) is a standard and perfectly acceptable tip.
8. Paying for the Hotel’s Laundry Service
No one wants to travel home with a bag full of dirty laundry, but paying the hotel’s laundry rates isn’t your best option. Nearly every city has a laundromat and a dry cleaner. If you have the time, a quick trip to one of these locations will save you a good chunk of change. And if you don’t, doing your laundry at home will still be less expensive than paying the hotel to do it for you.
9. Leaving With Heavier Luggage
If you have kids, you’re probably already familiar with the struggle of keeping luggage under the weight restrictions and still getting a present to bring home. Whether it’s gifts for the family or that bottle of scotch your boss recommended, beware the dreaded overweight bag charge from the airline. Chances are your company won’t pay for the added expense, and you’ll be left to foot the bill (and heft the bags) yourself.
If you can avoid these nine financial pitfalls when you’re on your next business trip you’ll save money and your wallet — and expense report — will thank you.