Father and daughter on vacation

By Andy Meyer

You see how hard your employees work for their money. You also understand that going on vacation shouldn’t break the bank – yet so many employees look to use their vacation days as a chance to get out there and travel. Although you want your staff to enjoy their time off, you don’t want them coming back to the office stressed out about the state of their finances. Vacation costs can add up, only to create a serious case of bill shock weeks or months later. If an employee’s financial fitness isn’t up to snuff, they could find themselves incurring more debt than they expected.

Employees should come back relaxed from their holidays, not worried about how much money they owe. Pass along the following four tips for saving money while traveling and see if you can’t help take away some of their financial anxiety:

Draw Up a Vacation Budget

One big step towards financial fitness is having a budget to stick to, and this is a lesson you should be passing on to your staff – especially when it comes to vacations and traveling. “Remember that the flight is not the only expense you have when traveling,” advises the Huffington Post piece. “Think food, exchange rate, inter-country travel (trains, metro) and activity fees (i.e. museum entry, etc.).” It’s quite likely that your vacationing employees may have only considered the cost of travel and accommodations, and not all the extra fun stuff that makes it a trip to remember.

Take some time to put together a spreadsheet for employees to fill out that will cover projected costs for everything they’re planning on doing while traveling. This should help give them a better idea of how much money they’ll need before they leave, and where they may need to rein in their spending. You can even adopt financial education software or bring in a third-party expert to help guide them towards better budgeting practices.

Travel During the Off-Season

It’s easy to identify the high-traffic travel season – around holidays and during the summertime especially. If employees have the time off for statutory holidays, they’re most likely to use the extra days to get out of town for a while – or to use them up around Christmastime, before the year rolls over and they lose their allotted vacation days. The same goes during the summer months, particularly for staff members with children who are off on summer break. But for employees who have the option to take vacation whenever, suggest traveling outside of the common vacation seasons. As a bonus, this also helps various teams manage their workloads, since not everybody will be decamping once the sunny summer months roll around.

Alternatively, employees who have their hearts set on a specific destination could choose to travel there during the location’s off-season. This works particularly well if a person is looking to save money on hotels and airfare, both of which are generally offered cheaper outside of busy travel seasons. It’s also a great way to get a unique view of a destination during a season that’s not overcrowded with tourists. Either way, choosing to travel during the off-season can help an employee save big on travel costs – plus they’ll save time without so many long lines to deal with.

Scour Websites, Tools, and Apps for Deals

Travel websites and apps are everywhere right now, and for good reason – they’re big business, and they all purport to help save would-be travelers big bucks. However, it’s easy to feel ripped off by websites that offer flights and travel packages, particularly since they shift their prices constantly. The Huffington Post article has plenty of smart suggestions when it comes to booking through websites to ensure you get the best deal, including choosing to use Google Chrome’s “incognito” feature so booking websites don’t know you’re making repeat visits to check flight prices (deleting cookies and browser history does the same thing). The article also suggests the Google Flight tool, which shows the prices of each flight for any day chosen, with the cheapest option highlighted in green.

If your employees are looking for the whole tourist experience, encourage them to check out the websites of various landmarks to see if there are coupons or deals offered for tours. Likewise, a traveler can save a bundle by purchasing a tourist card – Lifehacker notes that these cards can offer discounts on sightseeing, restaurants, transportation, and much more.

As for handy apps, Thrillist suggests a number of “last-minute deal” apps that can help an individual save on flights and hotels, as well as manage their air miles and hotel membership points. (Speaking of points, it’s a good idea to remind your employees about loyalty programs, and suggest that they cash in their accrued points to potentially get money off their flights or accommodations.)

Choose Alternative Accommodations

Although many employees might be used to hotel living on their trips, there are more options than ever when it comes to travel accommodations, and serviced apartments are a cost-saving suggestion. If you want more options beyond Airbnb listings, then Lifehacker has you covered with websites that let people sign up for house sitting and hospitality exchanges (which allows people to stay somewhere for free with the expectation that they will host someone in the future).

If staying in someone’s home or apartment is a no-go, you can suggest hostels to your staff. Located in just about every major city, hostels are an affordable option, and you can reassure your vacationing staff members that “youth hostel” is just a term – travelers of any age can stay at one, and many tend to have fairly central locations for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Check out the Hostelling International website for hostel locations around the world.

Go Off the Beaten Path

When an employee starts planning out their vacation, it’s tempting to go with the old destination standbys – London, Paris, Tokyo, Madrid. Some individuals might not be swayed – particularly if it’s a dream destination – but others might be more receptive to alternative suggestions for places to travel. After all, it’s a huge world out there, and there are a ton of places that are not as crowded and far cheaper to visit. Try recommending tours to Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, or Bulgaria, which see far less tourist traffic than other parts of the world and therefore tend to have lower costs.

There are tourist traps everywhere, including shops and restaurants, so advise your staff to go off the beaten path when it comes to finding food and gifts. They could end up spending much less of their food and souvenir budget than initially projected, which will leave them more financial flexibility for other fun things on their trip.

More Relaxation, Less Money Stress

An employee should return to the office after traveling with renewed energy, not burdened by debt. That’s why it’s so important to emphasize financial fitness even while on vacation – because while the memories may last forever, so too can poor credit ratings and mounting bills. But if you can educate employees on budgets and cheap travel tips, you’ll be helping them to come back from their trip with a positive financial outlook.

What’s your best tip for educating employees on financial fitness while traveling? Let us know in the comments.

Andy Meyer is an accomplished leader with over 20 years of senior management experience growing software and technology based companies. Companies have included Websense, Epicor, Cisco and multiple mobile start-ups.