11 Best Travel Practices to Support Business Growth

The results are in: Corporate travel policies that cater to flexible, modern travelers are the way of the future. Appealing to the new generation of adaptable travelers --- for whom efficiency is everything --- is crucial.

The right travel practices provide a range of benefits to your business. Happier employees, increased productivity, and reduced costs are just some of the rewards of an innovative, quality travel management system.

1. Stick With a Set of Preferred Vendors

As an executive, you need your traveling employees to be in top shape while on the road. Sticking with a set of preferred vendors is one way to encourage quality control. When your employees know what to expect, it reduces the stress associated with business travel.

Of course, building a corporate relationship with specific preferred vendors pays off handsomely. Rewards increase exponentially --- Delta's SkyMiles is a great example --- the more loyalty you show a vendor.

On a related note, look into business travel credit cards. A quality business credit card --- American Express Business Platinum, for example --- can net significant rewards. Find the provider that fits your company's needs the best and work to build a long-term relationship.

2. Opt for Package Deals When Possible

It's simpler, cheaper, and more efficient to book travel arrangements with a single service provider--and that premise is exactly why we created Upside Business Travel. At Upside, we aim to meet the needs of employees who deserve a comprehensive, stress-free, one stop shop that can save company money at the same time.  

When travelers book multiple services in a single Upside package, they pay less than if they had booked each service individually. That's because we work directly with preferred suppliers to negotiate competitive rates on behalf of your business. By consolidating all of our clients' travel, we're able to maximize the bargaining power of our travelers. Loyalty, consistency, and volume enable us to pass along these great deals. It's a win-win-win for everyone involved.

Bear in mind that package prices do not mean rigid scheduling. With Upside, employees can choose the exact flight and hotel they want and enjoy significant cost savings.

3. Implement Dedicated Office Hours

Dedicated "office hours" are an excellent way to ensure that traveling employees remain connected. Teamwork, advice, and communication do not --- or should not --- disappear simply because one or more employees are out of the office. The more connected a team, the better.

Imagine there's an employee participating in a two-day conference or business meeting abroad. There's a tendency to treat that employee as missing in action. Instead, consider asking the employee to set aside a dedicated hour or so a day for emails, conference calls, and general work communication.

Establishing a time when a traveling employee is available for calls creates peace of mind. Dedicated office hours allow employees to focus on the task at hand and differentiate between their dual responsibilities.

4. Keep Traveling Employees Synced In Digitally

The business world moves quickly. You need your team dialed in at all times. Between smartphones, laptops, and video conferences, it's easier than ever to keep traveling employees connected. Try not to draw a distinction between who is physically in the office and who is traveling --- work is work, after all --- and keep everyone looped in.

5. Allow Freedom for Booking Travel Arrangements

Consider allowing employees the opportunity to choose their own travel arrangements. Ask yourself how much freedom you want to give your employees. Allowing your employees to select their own flights and lodging (within budget) is both practical and reasonable.

With Upside, our clients encourage their employees to select the travel services they need from a list of our preferred suppliers. Embrace that flexibility! The more employees are trusted to choose the flight and hotel best for them, the better.

6. Let Your Employees Keep Their Travel Rewards

When it comes to extensive corporate travel, rewards come with the territory. Your corporate travel policy must ensure that your employees keep the rewards they earn. Losing rewards is not an option.

We've designed our booking platform to give our travelers a wide-array of options--including the ability to receive the airline miles, credit card points, and hotel points they expect. There's no mystery here either: travelers choose to "Pay Now" or "Pay at Hotel" when making a reservation. With the "Pay Now" option, payment is taken care of right then and there at the time of booking. Whereas with opting to "Pay at Hotel," clients pay upon arrival with their own credit cards.

7. Benchmark Spending Areas

No policy or practice lasts forever. If key spending areas (lodging, airfare, etc.) run over or under budget consistently, it's more than likely time to consider adjusting your policy.

Auditing an expense report is not anyone's idea of a good time, but it is absolutely necessary. Regular auditing, benchmarking, and budget management helps cut costs and maintain transparency.

8. Maintain Transparency for Expense Reimbursement

Employees expect transparency when it comes to expenses and reimbursement. That's why we recommend our clients take the time to establish a set of policies for expense reimbursement. Whether it's the submission of digital receipts, expense reports, or some other method, keep it simple!

Think of this as a quality of life improvement for employees. Your staff should know exactly how and when your company will reimburse them.

Set a threshold on what requires a receipt and consider an expense management tool. No one enjoys handing over a stack of receipts for minor purchases. A service like Expensify where employees can upload receipts all at once is a fantastic option.

9. Embrace Necessary Exceptions

People miss flights. Hotels get overbooked. Meeting locations change. Allowing employees to adjust their travel plans is a vital component of a modern travel policy.

It's important to clearly define what conditions permit exceptions to your corporate travel policy. It may seem like a fine line to walk, but balancing flexibility with firmness is vital. ACTE Global reports that employees are happier and more productive when their employers afford them some freedom. Greeley Koch, ACTE Global's director, maintains that "lock[ing] your travelers into strenuous itineraries and overly-strict policies" is detrimental to all parties.

10. Keep It Compliant

When it comes to reporting travel expenses, the IRS doesn't shy away from lengthy publications. Maintaining compliance with the IRS means understanding what constitutes an appropriate travel expense.

Remember that IRS compliance is not just for your benefit. Under current federal tax guidelines, your business can deduct qualifying reimbursements. On top of that, the IRS allows employees to exclude qualifying reimbursements from their taxable income.

Of course, to qualify under IRS guidelines, travel expenses must be legitimate business expenses. Communicate with your accounting staff to determine the best method to guarantee compliance.

11. Automate Everything You Can

The more automated travel expense processing, the better. At Upside, we send a digital receipt that includes a comprehensive breakdown of every cost incurred.

Policy enforcement benefits from automation, particularly when it comes to spending limits. An expense management system boosts efficiency, identifies problem areas, and consolidates expense information on a single platform.

Automation via our third-party tool integration helps save time and resources. For example, all Upside business travel receipts are automatically forwarded to Expensify, which saves employees the effort of doing it piecemeal.

Supporting Business Growth With Travel Practices

A good set of corporate travel practices pays out impressive dividends. On top of that, the right travel management company enables you to focus on your business first and foremost.

Why not revitalize your approach to corporate travel? The benefits are real: happier employees, lower costs, and a better bottom line await. Visit Upside and explore how to empower and enhance your team's business travel.

And that's something every executive should embrace.