When you’re the new kid on the business travel block, sometimes the learning curve can be pretty steep. With a new job, making a few mistakes is inevitable. But in business travel, sloppy spending can cost you – and your company – a lot of money.
So what should newbie road warriors keep in mind before hitting the road? A few suggestions:
#1: Understand your per diem
“Per diem” is Latin for “per day,” and you can think of it as your allowance – though a bit more generous than the one you got from your parents. You don’t need receipts to get reimbursed for your company’s daily allowance, but if you spend over the allotted amount, rookie road warriors should be prepared for one of two things: showing receipts, or paying out of pocket.
Before you head out on the road, check with your travel manager for the company per diem. Also worth a read: your company’s corporate travel policy.
#2: Factor in hidden costs
The Internal Revenue Service’s daily allowance level for 2013 is between $52-$65 for food, and $160-$243 for travel, depending on where you are. While that per diem may sound like enough for dinner and a taxi, the small costs of travel add up. Think about cash tips, currency exchange fees, gas, laundry, parking, tolls… if you’re on the road, be prepared for the little fees.
#3: Report expenses as you go
Tracking an expense report isn’t usually on the top of a “new hire” priority list. But reporting as you go is a practice shared by the most savvy and productive business travelers. And good habits start on the very first trip: Keep receipts. Capture a photo of them with your smartphone. Upload the files into your expense report. And get on with your day.
#4: Keep connected with WiFi
The email doesn’t stop while you’re on the road, and it’s important to stay connected to the office – even at 35,000 feet. Instead of depending on spotty airport signals, travel with your own WiFi hotspot. Ask your employer to outfit your laptop with a hotspot, or join an in-flight WiFi service like Gogo to make the most of your haul home.
#5: Talk to your bank
If you’re traveling to places you normally don’t, fill in the blanks with your bank ahead of time. Many will assume the unusual charges are fraudulent, and shut down your card. But a quick email or phone call will save you a lot of stress, particularly if you’re going overseas.
Also, if it’s available, get your company’s corporate credit card before you leave. The application process can take 4-6 weeks so plan ahead if possible.
For rookie road warriors, there’s no better way to learn all the business travel basics than to attend trainings or workshops set up by travel managers. Mistakes may be made, but with a few simple suggestions, newbies can get a jump on the learning curve – and get out on the road.