Gas prices keep going up. The pain at the pump has caused many folks to reconsider their summer vacation plans. There has been a buzz of the "staycation" option. This is where people opt to stay home and explore their own community and enjoy their own surroundings instead of spending money to travel. This is a fantastic option for many people, especially for us since we are a coastal community with a rich history. However, there are times when you just have to travel - especially if you are a business owner.
This time next week, I will be in Dallas for a five day conference. And I am not the only one. According to the Travel Industry Association, 18 percent of all travel is business related and one in five will be traveling to a conference. However, in the middle of this unpredictable energy market, those business trips require a bit more thought. Most people only think about gas prices when they are pulling up to the pump. But it is important to remember that airplanes need it. The hotel’s electricity bill is probably elevated. Car services and other ground transportation are feeling the crunch. So what does that mean to the business traveler? Everything - especially if you are the one footing the bill for the ride.
Check your tickets - many airlines are trying to figure out how to make up the difference between fares people will pay and the cost of fuel. They have found it in the same places that most businesses have - fees and surcharges. For the airline industry, this translates into luggage fees. I checked with my airline yesterday. I lucked out. Because I bought my tickets prior to some day in May, I get to check two bags. However, if this trip wasn’t so well planned or a last minute emergency, get ready. You get one personal item and one carry on. After that, at this particular airline, you are going to come out of pocket $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second, $100 for pieces three through five and $200 after that. And don’t even think about reducing your baggage number by stuffing it all into a few. The overweight/oversize charges remind me of a bad cell phone policy. The cost of the fare is no longer the only consideration. Look at the fees and whether or not you will be able to take your clothes with you. Although, it may be cheaper to buy new ones when you get where you are going.
Buddy up - This is a great thing about a conferences. You aren’t the only one going. A great cost reducer may be to get a roommate for the hotel bill. If you are traveling together, you may even be able to split costs on ground transportation or car rental. A word of caution, this does not necessarily mean you should put out an all points bulletin for a travel buddy. Remember, you are supposed to get work done and you can’t do that if your nerves are shot. You can’t do that if you agree to a lodging condition with someone who is not compatible just to save a buck. It’ll probably cost you more in the long run.
Know the schedule - Many conferences, and business trips in general, have some type of mixers or meals. Know when these are and what you have to do to be there. This can considerable cut down on your food expense. Spend the $10 to attend the preconference social if there is a meal or heavy hors d’oeuvres. You get to make the most out of networking with other people there and you don’t have to throw down money for a meal. Another note about scheduling. Few things are more irritating than grabbing a big meal before a session only to realize there is a complimentary menu. Know what is available and when.
Call your CPA - Many business owners are a bit unsure about what they can and can’t claim on their taxes or what documentation they need to have to keep it legit. It’s worth the time to make a phone call. Explain the details and take notes on the directions given. Then stick to it and make sure you have everything you need to give to the IRS come tax season.
Does it all revolve around saving money? In this column it does. I am of the opinion that your business will benefit more by saving money to reinvest back into itself than it ever would with the airlines or the government. I would love to hear what you think about it.
April Groves covers all things business for the Bryan County News. You can send thoughts, press releases, tips and questions you’d like answered to agroves@bryancountynews.