The kids are out of school. The sun is out of hiding. And everyone seems to be packing the airports, roads and hotels to start their vacations – in fact, this summer’s travel season is predicted to be the largest in the U.S. since 2008.
As a result, the cost of being on the road may be up to 5 percent higher this year, thanks to hotels, car rental companies and airlines responding to the demand. Combine that with sequestration budget cuts affecting travel, and the recipe for a long, hot summer on the road is in the forecast.
So how can you best navigate this popular peak season, without going nuts – or broke?
#1: Plan ahead to save money
According to business travel columnist Joe Brancantelli, frugal road warriors can save money by chasing down car rental codes, bringing your own Wi-Fi hotspot, or even stocking the mini bar from the local convenience store. And, he advises sidestepping airline change fees by simply sticking to your plans after booking, or flying with an airline that doesn’t charge change fees (like Southwest).
#2: Fly off-peak
Book the unpopular routes like afternoon, evening or red-eye flights. Your fellow travelers will usually fly in the morning or on weekends, so be strategic and fly out when nobody else is.
#3: Use your upgrades
If you’ve been holding out on your upgrades, a stressful summer is the right time to cash in. Use your loyalty rewards and miles to get away from the bustle in the hotel or economy cabin, and negotiate a little peace of mind with your points.
#4: Go faster with Global Entry, PreCheck and Clear
The Global Entry program is ideal for road warriors who frequently travel internationally this summer and want to pass quickly through immigration. Applicants apply online and, once approved, the program automatically rolls you into TSA PreCheck – a Trusted Traveler program that also speeds you through security. And if hyper-speed is more your game, then sign up with Clear. You’ll need to verify your biometrics but the time savings at TSA might just be worth it.
#5: Book a bleisure trip and stay a while
When you’ve had enough of the crowds, plan a few extra days after your business is done to relax. “Bleisure” travel – mixing business and leisure on official work trips, usually with your sweetheart – is one of the smartest ways to embrace the summer madness. A little R&R will go a long way for your productivity and your health. Take note — nine of the 11 busiest travel days of the year will be in June through August and the average plane will be 86 to 87 percent full throughout the summer. It’s going to be crowded, but a little preparation will help you avoid the surge in travel prices, traffic and airport lines. In the end – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
What’s your strategy for summer business travel? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @Concur.
Photo credit: Scott