Five ways to keep costs down on business trips

Tracey Porter

For many employees, hitting the road or taking to the skies is a lot of fun when someone else is picking up the tab.

Yet according to figures from the Treasury, non-employing small businesses account for more than 60 per cent of Australia’s total businesses while the Independent Contractors of Australia say about two million Australians are self-employed. So what happens when you’re the one forced to spring for work-related travel? Below are our tips for how to save money when travelling for work.

Sign on the dotted line

Joanna Carson, who owns a marine consultancy with her partner and has both domestic and international clients, suggests signing up to all the hotel loyalty programs from which you can to receive benefits such as free breakfasts or discounts for future stays.

Shelley Stockton, who works as a freelance instructional designer and writer, says work travellers could do worse than look at Airbnb or home stays when working overseas or interstate. “If you can live without room service and pillow menus, many bargains are to be had.”

Get others to do the hard work

CustomMademedia Partner and Creative Director Rob Loughridge, whose small business has interstate-based staff and clients overseas, says he prefers to use travel booking services such as CT Connections when heading away for work. Loughridge says using the service means his insurance needs are covered and he is frequently able to access cheaper flights and accommodation than when searching independently.

Always make a conscious effort to not use the most expensive option.

Go offsite to eat and drink

All our experts say you should always consider eating away from your accommodation provider if you’re looking to save money on business trips.

Never drink from the mini bar and don’t order in via room service. Instead, look offsite when seeking to purchase nibbles or drinks, says Loughridge.

“Local convenience stores or retailers such as Coles metro can be great for saving on snacks or drinks. Always make a conscious effort to not use the most expensive option.”

Think outside the box for transport

When in a new city, try to avoid taking taxis where possible – particularly from the airport, where surcharges can make a big dent in your budget. Loughridge says it can often prove cheaper to hire a car for the day while Carson says she scouts out off-airport parking and then utilises the nearest shuttle service. “It can actually prove quite a lot cheaper and is much more convenient than using airport parking, with their busses full of families on holidays that take ages to get to and from the airport.”

Keep all your receipts

The Australian Tax Office has a number of travel allowances available that can help with accommodation, food, drink and incidental expenses. Carson says it pays to get into the habit of getting a tax receipt for every dollar you spend on your work trip.

“Even if you're not on-charging it, be strict about claiming all you can. Every little tax break helps.”

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.