Maximize Your Travel Budget With Smarter Booking
It’s a tale of two employees…
One books a flight at just the right time, when rates are especially low.
The other pays what may have seemed like a good price, but it winds up being substantially higher than the best deal.
- So what’s the secret to getting the lowest rates?
- Is it a matter of booking a certain amount of time in advance of a trip?
- Is there a specific day and/or time when rates dip?
- How about hotels?
- Is there any way to pinpoint the perfect time to book a room?
While many travelers assume prices for airfare and hotel accommodations will vary depending on the season, few have a clear read of exactly when the rates will be lowest. Like an airplane going through turbulence, you can be in for a bumpy ride filled with ups and downs when you try to pilot your company’s bookings without knowing how to find and book the best deals.
When it’s your company, you know even the smallest business travel booking choices can make a big impact on your bottom line. As a small business leader committed to securing the best rates for your company, we can offer expert help in navigating the endless array of deals available online.
The good news is that the sheer magnitude of the business travel industry can work in your favor. More planes, more hotels, more competition, and more destinations typically lead to lower prices, provided you know where, when, and how to look. And, the goal should be to identify not just low prices, but the lowest possible rates, especially if you’re leading a small company with a tight business travel budget.
Don’t Leave Booking Business Travel Up In the Air
Here are a few hacks that could help your savings soar while grounding you in prudent practices and informed purchasing decisions.
When to Book Domestic Flights
According to a recent study of about 1.3 billion domestic flights, the best time to book a flight within the U.S. is 54 days in advance. Airfare tends to hit the market on the higher side, with the greatest savings most likely to be available during the “Prime Booking Window” of 21 to 112 days in advance. While a lead window of 21 to 112 days is not practical for most business travelers, your team can maximize savings by buying flights as early as possible--specifically 7, 14, or 21 days in advance of their departure date.
When to Book International Flights
The study’s analysis of approximately 1.2 million trips from the U.S. to 74 top destinations concluded you can get cheaper international flights if you plan in advance. The number of days you should book ahead ranges from 75 for Canada and Mexico to 120 for Europe, 160 for Asia, and 320 for the South Pacific. Certain variables apply, including the number of people in your party, whether the trip is during the peak tourist season, and extenuating circumstances like major weather events that could cause price fluctuations.
Stay Alert, Get Alerts
While the timing of this period may be consistent from year to year, airfare predictions are hardly foolproof. This is why signing up for price alerts that track the airfare for specific flights and notify you of fluctuations may be a good idea. With so many sites offering price alerts, including Skyscanner.com and Airfarewatchdog.com, you won’t have to travel far on the web to find them.
Some business travel aggregators and search engines seem to treat buying airfare like trading stocks, with recommendations on when to buy and when to wait. Others recommend you check prices multiple times daily, as far in advance as possible. Price alerts do the work for you. While it’s advisable to stay vigilant when it comes to price changes, it’s nice to put the monitoring on autopilot.
Best Day to Book
Another study states that based on an analysis of billions (with a “b”) of flights over a 10-month period last year, Sunday turns out to be the most favorable day to buy airline tickets, particularly if you book more than 21 days in advance. While weekends tend to be a good time to buy, Fridays tend to have an upswing in business travel bookings, which makes them a bad time to buy. The reason: due to sophisticated airline algorithms, higher demand on Fridays (or at any other time) instantly translates into higher prices. The study concludes that by booking on the weekends, you can save over 30% on tickets to Europe and 17% on domestic flights.
Cheapest Days to Fly
There’s no crystal ball to clue you in on what the single cheapest day of the year to fly will be. Gauging data from previous years is no guarantee of determining which day will offer the lowest rates for your business traveler’s particular route. That said, many travel experts agree that Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the two most favorable days to fly if you want to leave high prices behind.
You can also check out Upside's Flight Price Forecast to help you figure out the best time to book your airfare.
’Tis the Season (Or Not)
Seasons matter when it comes to airfare prices. Rule of thumb: The best times to buy are low-season, shoulder-season (between peak and off-peak periods) or non-holiday travel dates, but rates will vary depending on your business traveler’s destination and whether or not it offers warm weather conditions. Since summer is a hot season for a superabundance of vacation spots and tourist locations, rates cool down considerably in the less-busy wintertime, provided you steer clear of the Christmas peak.
Prices drop with the temperature, leaving you with great deals for both hotels and airfare to places that attract big crowds in summer, including Europe, Canada, and most U.S. destinations. (Exceptions would be ski towns, Florida and Hawaii.)
Spring and autumn are a good time for low-priced, shoulder-season fares as long as you avoid booking for times when college students will be on spring break, or for the Thanksgiving season. Remember, you’re booking business travel, not your next vacation, so steer clear of booking around peak leisure trends.
Remember Hotel Rates Can Change Too
Check with the hotel 2-3 days before your business traveler departs to find out if there’s a lower price on the room you reserved. If the price has dropped, simply re-book at the lower rate. Make sure you know how much lead time you have to cancel and re-book.
Explore Upside's Hotel Price Forecast to find out whether prices will increase if you wait to book your hotel accommodations. Historical price trends provide you with a forecast about how much your hotel price is expected to change in the upcoming days, so you can decide to "buy now," "buy soon," or "wait" to book your hotel stay.
Pull Out All The Stops With Preferred Providers
Negotiating the best rates with go-to vendors is a great way to ensure you score an awesome deal, whether for hotel accommodations or airfare. If they want to keep your business, they’ll do everything possible to accommodate you, so don’t be bashful about asking them to match or beat lower rates you find with other providers. You could even check out sites like Roomertravel.com and Cancelon.com to snag other business travelers’ canceled accommodations for a reduced rate.
Booking Blunders That Could Drive You Bonkers
- DON’T assume airfare and hotel rates will stay the same
- DON’T forget free travel insurance comes with many credit cards
- DON’T gloss over the fine print
- DON’T overlook hidden fees
DON’T book group tickets all at once
- DO keep checking for the best deals
- DO remember lost baggage, last-minute cancellations, could be covered
- DO keep an eye on terms and conditions
- DO watch out for bag checking fees, cleaning fees, key fees
- DO book lower quantities to get cheaper tickets
Make it all so simple with expert guidance from Upside
All this information is helpful and valuable. But for an all-in-one solution to your company’s business travel management needs, visit Upside.com to learn more about Upside.
Our team will walk you through the best business travel deals, from packages to individual flights, identify ways to save your company money, and explain how you and your business travelers can earn gift card rewards to major retailers like Amazon.com and 3% cash back on your company’s business travel.