Implementing a travel policy is a new—and important—concern for many companies grappling with how to put reasonable controls on business travel.

In fact, Business Travel News reported on a recent survey of 1,100+ travel managers and procurement professionals.

Two key travel policy trends emerged:

  1. 71% of surveyed companies have instituted new trip-approval processes due to pandemic.
  2. 70% have modified travel safety and security policies.

An effective travel policy should reduce unnecessary spending while also keeping travelers safe and happy. This may sound daunting, but many companies find that the hardest part of writing their travel policy is getting started.

So, how do you create a travel policy that keeps costs down and empowers travelers to achieve their goals?

Keep Your Travelers at the Center

How you frame your policy sends a message to your employees about your priorities. Your policy should factor in business needs, as well as the impact new guidelines will have on your team. Your employees want to make good decisions when booking travel, but they need you to set practical guidelines to do so.

Making Travel Arrangements

Some key questions you’ll need to answer revolve around how to book travel. Letting your travelers know how to get approval to book a business trip and where to book are essential first steps.

There are hundreds of sites devoted to booking business travel, but it’s hard to manage a corporate travel program when everyone’s reservations are scattered across multiple sites. What happens if you need to cancel a bunch of trips at once? How will you keep track of refunds, credits, and waivers?

By finding one travel management tool that works well for business travelers—as well as those who manage travel and expenses—you’ll have a better idea of where your team is going and how much you’re spending at any given moment.

Set Clear and Dynamic Booking Guidelines

Your travel policy should factor in a variety of situations travelers encounter when planning and booking business trips. Some information you should consider when writing your policy include:

  • When to book: Travelers should try to book flights at least two weeks before departure to save money on airfare.
  • Cabin class: What’s the highest cabin class travelers can book? Most companies want their employees to book economy, but give some leeway to book premium economy for domestic and international flights that last longer than five hours.
  • Basic economy: These fares aren’t ideal for business travel due to an increasing number of restrictions on travelers and less flexibility with cancelling trips for credit.
  • Upgrades: Let travelers know when they’re allowed to upgrade flights on the company’s dime and who needs to approve an upgrade.
  • Refundable vs. non-refundable tickets: If there’s the potential that a meeting may change or not happen at all, you will want to give employees the flexibility to book a refundable ticket to avoid change fees. It’s also worth noting that in most cases employees can cancel a non-refundable ticket within 24 hours and receive a full refund.
  • Location: Emphasize that you want travelers to book hotels in a safe part of town and close to where they’re going to work during their trip.
  • Negotiated rates: Call out any preferred vendors for your team, so they’ll be on the lookout when booking.
  • Room size: A standard room will meet the needs of most business travelers.
  • Amenities: Encourage travelers to book hotels or rates that include complimentary WiFi, free breakfast, and any other must-haves, as small costs add up quickly.
Rental cars
  • Car size: The number of employees traveling together will affect the size of the car your team should rent. A standard or midsize rental car will work for most solo travelers, while a full-size car is better for three or more employees.

Your team might not be able to follow your policy to the letter, so you should also let them know what circumstances count as exceptions—such as last-minute trips to see a client—and give them an open forum to share why they weren’t able to book within your policy.

Expensing and Reimbursement

From one company to the next you’ll find numerous approaches to managing expenses and reimbursements. Your travel policy should clarify how travelers should pay for common travel-related expenses. Questions you should answer include:

  • If your travelers have access to a company card, what can they use it for? 
  • Should travelers use their personal cards to pay for meals?
  • Do travelers pay for all of their travel costs up front and get reimbursed later?

Your travel policy should outline the process for submitting expenses and how to go about getting reimbursed for trip-related expenses travelers pay for with their own money.

To avoid confusion down the line, you should let your team know what is and is not a reimbursable expense. Common expenses that companies usually cover are:

  • Airport and hotel parking fees
  • Gas, mileage for using a personal vehicle, tolls, and cabs or rideshares
  • Meals and entertainment

Happy Employees = More Successful Business Trips

By creating a clear travel policy, you’ll be able to cut the amount of time your team spends booking and managing travel, which gives everyone more time to focus on getting things done and achieving their goals.

Want to create a business travel policy that works for your team? Sign up for a one-on-one consultation with one of Upside’s travel experts.

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