Free flights, free frequent-flyer miles, free meals, free rental cars, free hotels, free tours from locals… free everything!!!

I’ve traveled for work in a few different jobs. I gotta say… I love it! I’ve eaten in fantastic restaurants, seem some cool sites, met some amazing people, and even at times felt like a local. This post is a rave about business travel with a focus on what I do to maximize its perks.

Flights… try to stick with a favorite airline. I try to book exclusively with Southwest. People call it ‘Southworst’ but I have no idea why. It’s my favorite. By staying loyal, I a concentration of frequent flyer miles. Having miles spread among 10 different airlines will take FOREVER to rack up any real perks. Plus, airlines like to change the rules on you. Delta is a good alternative to Southwest but don’t go with them just because of the cookies! They are amazing cookies but you can get them at Walmart!

I drive a fuel efficient car to the airport. My company reimburses me no matter what the MPG is so boo yeah for my little 4-cylinder! Money in the bank!

This is kind of out there – it may be considered taking advantage of a situation but I knew a guy who always did this. He sat at an airport bar with one seat between him and the end of the bar. That seat was his bait. A lonely business traveler usually found there way to the single open seat. The two guys who hit it off and the guy ends up buying my friend drinks charged to his company card. Our company won’t let you charge alcohol on our corporate credit cards. The company I work for is a bit for conservative than most.

Before I arrive in a city, I will creep through Yelp! for a good hour to find all the best restaurants. Then I plan out my meals for the usually week-long excursion. This also helps the ‘work’ aspect of travel because food is a good topic to discuss with clients. They will help fill in any questions Yelp! hasn’t answered.

Use your clients! Ask them questions about their city. They usually love to share what they know. Heck, they may even opt to take you for a tour. It’s like having your own fixer. I wouldn’t have probably tried some amazing fried pickles if it wasn’t for one courteous fixer bank President.

The two companies I’ve traveled for had 2 different ways of paying for these expenses.

Company #1 (Federal Government Agency)

Flights and lodging paid in advance by the travel department.

Random expenses such as taxi’s were charged to my personal card and then reimbursed once I got home.

Food was a per diem which meant they gave me ‘x’ amount of dollars per day for food – eat whatever/whenever you wish. My allotment was $120/day I think. It was over $100 for sure. It’s been 3 years since I worked there. But me and another frugal friend would always take advantage of the manager’s happy hour at each hotel. Free cookies for the win! That’s how I pre-game.

Company #2 (Private Financial Company)

Flights and lodging paid in advance by the travel department.

Random expenses charged to corporate credit card (has no association with my personal credit so that’s nice in case the company screws up payment)

Food was a lot more structured… no per diem but that was sometimes okay as it forced me to try some awesome restaurants since the money was ‘use it or lose it’.

Breakfast:

$15 (but you’re strongly encouraged to eat the hotel’s complimentary breakfast if they have one)

 

Lunch:

$25 (it’s okay to pay for client meals)

Dinner:

$35 (this made traveling in small towns actually pretty fun… $35 goes a loooooong way in those restaurants! This is why everyone says traveling makes them fat.) Tips for all these meals were 15%, 20% max (yes, we are a verrrry cheap company). Seriously.

Random Things to Be Aware Of…

Talking about getting fat… most people at the company seem to put on weight if they travel a lot. Their excuse is eating 3x per day at restaurants. Or they say the hotel gym isn’t that great. But you can find healthy restaurant options and use body-weight workouts that can be done whether at home or at the Grand Forks, ND Holiday Inn Express.

We always fly steerage. Ha. Except for the one time I flew corporate. When working for the government agency, I tried to hitch a ride on a military flight. But was turned down due to scheduling and I was told it was loud and rough in the back of a cargo plane. I still wanted to go.

Oh! And watch out for how much time you actually spend working. If you normally work 8 hours/day at the office but work 11 hours/day on the road due to a needy client, you should be compensated for that time. In my opinion. A $50,000 a year salary is pretty horrendous if you’re constantly working double-digit days. But getting paid to fly during work hours is pretty awesome.

Getting paid to travel is a very real thing. Heck, part of the reason I took this job is so I could travel!

That’s all the writing I have for now. The plane is beginning to descend.

“This is your captain speaking. The weather in Dallas is 72 degrees and sunny. If you’re just visiting Dallas, we hope you enjoy your stay. If Dallas is your final stop, welcome home.”

Do you travel for work?