Entrepreneur have to travel a lot, to business meetings, conventions, marketing seminars and, of course, in search of startup capital and continuing finance. While mobile devices and, just recently, wearable tech, have improved the travel experience, there are still plenty of pitfalls and booby traps that can sap your focus and your bank account balance while you’re on the road.
Consider these real (but often hidden) costs of business travel before you take the next red eye to LaGuardia or LAX.
1. Airport food.
Comedian Barry Sobel jokes about airport food, “Any place that has hundreds of captive, tired and hungry people wandering around is bound to have quality food at reasonable prices, right? I mean, who doesn’t want cardboard pizza or an asbestos sandwich that costs as much as a cruise in the Bahamas before boarding your flight? And compared to the stuff you’ll be fed on your flight -- maybe it DOES taste good!”
Try to plan having a good meal prior to arriving at the airport. Or make yourself a healthy, portable snack to munch on while waiting in line. While delicious, Cinnabon is NOT your home away from home.
2. Taken for a ride.
Taking a taxi to and from the airport, and to places in between, has long been an invitation to being ripped off. A recent newspaper report found that in New York City, a ride to the airport often costs $10 more than it needs to, because drivers took longer routes that didn’t save any time.
Getting cheated not only steals your money, but also invites you to invest a lot of negative energy fuming over your predicament and guarding against further encroachments. That can leave you stressed and unfocused for your work. Jens Wohltorf, CEO and co-founder of Blacklane, a worldwide professional driver service, says, “Scheduling a one-way ride or an hourly car reservation when you’re traveling on business saves money, time and effort. You see the full cost when you book, and don’t have to worry about gratuities, meters or surge prices.” I use services like these on a daily basis.
3. Get help tracking your reward programs.
You need a central clearing house to keep track of things like frequent flier miles, hotel and credit card points, and other customer loyalty rewards for places like franchise restaurants. Trying to keep track of it all by yourself, or trusting it to a secretary, means you’ll probably miss out on some deals and discounts when they expire. Use a free online service to monitor and inform you of what you have.
4. Ask for better.
You don’t necessarily have to book an expensive hotel suite on every trip, but there’s no reason you can’t ask for a free upgrade. Be polite, say it’s your birthday (or anniversary or Saint Swithin’s Day), and, above all, wait for the desk to be cleared of other guests. If there are other people around, the concierge desk is not going to want to set off an avalanche of similar requests. Here’s the line to use: “I know the hotel is not full today. Do you think you could upgrade me to a suite?” If they say yes, you’ve just gotten better accommodations for zero dinero. If they say no, you haven’t lost anything.
5. Watch those luggage fees.
You may have found a super cheap flight to your next startup meeting, but you’re likely to lose whatever you’ve gained with checked baggage fees. Each airline has a different policy when it comes to checking in luggage. You can check here for the Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees. My personal rule is: learn to travel with just a carry-on bag -- you’ll also avoid any potential lost luggage hassle.