Marshall Goldsmith used to travel to New York on business and easily drop $100 on dinner.
But now that his clients have less to spend, so does he. So Goldsmith is bypassing Manhattan and grabbing cheaper meals in Brooklyn.
“The lifestyle I was used to on the road, I couldn’t keep that up,” says Goldsmith, who lives in Las Vegas and has a business restoring antiques. “I realized that if I kept it up I would probably be out of business. It has made me cut back.”
He’s not alone. Whether they’re working for a business that’s warily watching its bottom line or setting a budget for the next family vacation, travelers are feeling the pressure to stretch their dollars when on the road.
They’re stuffing overhead bins on airplanes to avoid baggage fees and cashing in loyalty points for a free night’s stay. They’re also cooking their own food on the road, renting bikes rather than cars and taking advantage of discount sites such as Groupon.com, all to save money.
“Customers have become much more sensitive (to) getting value,” says Jami Counter of SeatGuru. “You see much more ‘I don’t have to go to Hawaii. I can go to the Caribbean.’ They’re still traveling, but they’re definitely more aware of what they’re spending money on.”
Eating less expensively
Meals, in particular, can be budget busters. So frequent business trekker Steve VanDenAkker says that he seeks hotels where he can largely eat for free.
“The big thing for me is to find a hotel that serves a good large breakfast,” says VanDenAkker, an electronics installation tech who lives in Navarre, Fla. “I usually take a box of cereal or some yogurt back to the room for my night-time snack.”
He also makes the complimentary bites served at hotel managers’ receptions for his dinner. That means he just has to come out of his pocket for lunch, “and I can keep that to the bare minimum amount needed,” he says.
Other frequent travelers save money by not eating out at all.
Terry Buchen, who heads his own golf course consulting business, says that on a recent trip to Boise he headed straight to the local Walmart and Safeway to pick up groceries.
“We started cooking our own food to save money, but also to stay healthier,” says Buchen of Williamsburg, Va.
Being thrifty on the road is important for his bottom line as well as his client’s, says Buchen, who usually has to wait a month or more to get paid or reimbursed.
“The less that comes out of my pocket the better,” says Buchen, who will drive to destinations fewer than five hours away rather than fly to conserve cash.
Margaret Bowles, a self-employed attorney and sports photographer who lives in Winter Park, Colo., packs a peanut butter sandwich to avoid paying for in-flight snacks, makes dinner out of the appetizers she gets at local happy hours and sticks to a budget by setting her own room rate on Priceline. “I never pay over $60 for the room,” she says.
Tingo, a hotel website, allows travelers to book a room and if the price drops, automatically receive a refund for the difference, says spokesman George Hobica.
Booking into an extended-stay hotel with a kitchen, where you can cook your own meals, can be economical for business travel and for family vacations.
And travelers may find better bargains by grabbing a vacation rental. “For families and larger groups, especially, you can save a lot of money,” says Lesley Carlin, spokeswoman for the travel site, TripAdvisor.
Mike Bach, a retail consultant who lives in Livingston, Texas, says that for a double deal, trekkers might want to fly into a city near their destination – Springfield, Mo., rather than Bentonville, Ark., for example – and rent a car there, preferably at a location other than the airport. “Usually (the) flight cost is cheaper and (the) rental car bill is far cheaper, even when including the extra cost of fuel,” he says.
Some trekkers don’t bother renting a car at all. Goldsmith, the antiques restorer, has rented a bike or scooter in Europe and along the East Coast of the U.S. to get around town.
“You wind up seeing things that most people never get to and feel more a part of the place,” he says.
Small change adds up
Biking or cooking your own food while out of town may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But even small changes can lead to big savings, some frequent travelers say.
Drew Guenett, for instance, refills a water bottle at the hotel gym.
“Usually, I buy one (bottled water) for the plane trip out and end up using that bottle for the entire trip,” says Guenett, an automotive consultant, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
And looking for ways to cut corners can sometimes lead to unexpected fun.
Rob Bloomer, a pharmaceutical rep who lives in Prior Lake, Minn., says that he and his family began looking for deals on the discount site Groupon.com before going on vacation in April. They grabbed an offer for parasailing in Hilton Head, S.C.
“Parasailing wasn’t an activity we had initially planned on doing, but (we did it) as a family because it was fun and cheap,” he says. The “kids had a blast.”
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