Even with all of the web apps, virtual assistants, and online meeting tools available these days, there are lots of great reasons to get out of the office and out of town to meet face to face.
Meeting and getting to really know the entire team, going to conferences to network and learn, and visiting the facilities of key strategic partners are just a few of the kinds of business activities that require travel.
The travel business has been impacted by the Internet in much the same way that many have been. Travel aggregators and deal sights like Expedia are starting to give way to a new bread of user friendly, socially powered tools that make getting deals on travel much less of a hassle.
Businesses that do any amount of travel can tap these tools to significantly reduce the cost of business travel.
Best for flights
Kayak.com gives real time flight data that can be sorted and filtered in hundreds of ways including maps. I like that they give you a link directly to the airlines to book the tickets as there’s usually no advantage to booking through the service and can add a layer of red tape if you ever want to change the ticket. As you might expect they also offer iPhone and Android apps. I’ve tried other sites such as Bing Travel and Kayak always seems to have the best data with the least amount of hassle.
Best for hotels
Actually I find it hard to beat Priceline.com for hotel deals. They are one of the originals in the category and I don’t use them for anything else, but if I’m trying to find a deal on a name brand hotel in Manhattan, I can always get one for about 50% off the published price. Priceline is a bid type deal so you name your price and they either take it or not, so you’ve got to have an idea of what the going rate is and what else might be going on in town, but it’s worth the work on those $500 night rooms. (I know, the Shatner ads are lame.)
Make sure you also take a look at TripAdvisor.com to get the real lowdown and reviews on a hotel you’re not familiar with.
Best for cars
If you’ve rented a car in the last few years you know this is not an industry that’s up for a Baldrige Awards, but hey, at least rates have gone up. I’ve been playing with a fairly new service called Autoslash.com that finds discounts and applies them for you. Then, if the price drops before your rental date they automatically rebook you at the lower rate.
Creating your Itinerary
Once I book all of my various travel options, I forward the confirmations to a free service called TripIt and they create an online Itinerary for my trip and keep all those confirmations in one place. They also offer an iPhone app that keeps me updated if any flight information changes.
So there you have it, you may not be traveling first class while you’re bootstrapping your start-up, but at least you know you paid less than the guy sitting next to you.