By Sabrina Bucknole

It’s not uncommon for small businesses to lack a dedicated travel manager, whose sole purpose is to plan and oversee business trips. Because of this, the booking process can become time-consuming and unorganised, making it difficult for the organiser and not ideal for the company in terms of expenses. To help small and medium businesses (SMBs) master the art of successful business travel without having to hire a travel manager, here are a few essential things you need to know:

Handling expenses effectively

Above all else, small businesses need to create efficient expense plans and corporate travel policies in order to minimise expenses. A comprehensive travel plan needs to consider consolidation, compliance, flexibility, and transparency to help your business travel in a more cost-effective, organised and productive manner.

Booking accommodation

Even with advanced booking and corporate deals, booking accommodation can be expensive, especially in major cities. While booking a cheap hotel off the beaten track might be a temptation, you’ll still have to cover taxi fees. Plus, poor-quality accommodation can leave your employees feeling undervalued and disappointed, so don’t jump for the cheapest hotel room you can find. Besides, managing travel expenses effectively doesn’t always mean choosing the cheapest deal.

This isn’t to say you can’t find high-quality accommodation for less money. Services like Airbnb are perfect for these kind of circumstances and you’re bound to find an amazing deal in a good location. Airbnb is particularly great for large groups and once you work out the cost for eight hotel rooms versus one shared Airbnb, for example, you’re sure to see the savings.

Organising travel

If it’s a company event or a large number of employees need to travel to a training event, looking into larger vehicles like minibuses can be a lot cheaper than paying for a taxi every time. All you’d have to do is assign a driver and organise appropriate minibus insurance and you’re on your way.

If it’s an easier option to travel via train, it’s best to buy tickets at the earliest possible opportunity. Most train companies release advance tickets approximately 12 weeks before the day of travel – you could try using services like ‘my train ticket’ which usually gives you a better price. The closer you get to the date of travel, the more expensive tickets are likely to be.

Of course, it’s not always achievable to buy tickets in advance – last minute meetings are sure to happen. Tickets booked a day or so before the journey are usually quite expensive, so instead of buying tickets for the entire trip, try to find tickets for each stretch of the journey. This will usually slash the price, even if you’re on exactly the same train. Always check with employees if they have a travel card as that will also save a lot.

If you’re lucky enough to know exactly when and where you need to go in advance, a good way to ensure you get cheap tickets is by using the Trainline’s ticket alert system which could save you 51% on average. All you need to do is enter your journey details into the alert system and you’ll get an email when advance tickets for that specific journey go on sale, which are commonly the cheapest fares.

When booking flights, you may want to consider comparing prices and options for one-way flights to and from the destination rather than booking a return journey. Spending a little more time and effort researching one way flights and looking into different airlines for each section of the trip can save you a good amount of money. Skyscanner for example, usually shows you the cheapest flights, and it can even tell you the cheapest date and time to fly – if your trip allows that flexibility.

Apps, apps, apps

There are plenty of business-focused travel apps out there to help ensure your company’s business trips run as smoothly as possible.

If one of your employees has a business trip and would like to drive, there’s a handy app called MileIQ which logs the miles you drive and categorises the mileage as business or personal travel. The app monitors and records the amount of miles you travel while you’re driving and pauses when you come to a stop. Once you reach the destination, you can choose whether to log the journey under ‘business’ or ‘personal’. This information can then be given to the employer, making the process of expense reimbursements that much easier.

There are also apps available which lets you store receipts electronically, not only cutting the paper clutter, but also making the expense process much more organised and simple. The app Expensify, for instance, allows you to take pictures of your receipts which will then be uploaded as a digital copy and automatically added to an expense sheet. You can then manually edit expenses, while the date, vendor and amount will automatically be uploaded for you. This useful app also allows you to track your work time and record your mileage – significantly reducing administrative time and expenditure.

Just because you may not have a dedicated travel manager, doesn’t mean you can’t implement a successful business travel strategy. From using apps to make the process of raising and submitting expenses easier to splitting up the journey into sections to save travel costs, there are plenty of ways you can ensure your business has a solid travel procedure.

Sabrina Bucknole is a copywriter focusing on general travel, business travel and SMBs. In this article, she has used insight from Adrian Flux.”

Travel stock photo by Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock