If you read the articles from travel pundits you’ll find that many of them advise that the best time to buy the cheapest plane tickets is on a Tuesday and some say that the best time to book a hotel room is last minute. Maybe. Maybe not.
I’m still not entirely sure if I believe it since airlines and hotel conglomerates have highly paid developers who create algorithms to figure this all out better than we ever could. But people enjoy this stuff. We all enjoy advice where we can save money on travel. And I get that. Travel costs have not only been creeping up over the past few years but there’s been no consistency. The same hotel room that goes for $199 on a Wednesday may be $399 on a Thursday. The guy sitting next to me on a plane might have paid 20% less for his plane ticket than I did.
And who the heck is paying all those thousands to fly first class anyway?
I’m a very frequent business traveler. I’m on the road maybe 4-5 times a month. Most of my travel is reimbursed by clients but that still doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in saving money. The higher my travel costs means a higher risk that a client may not want to work with me as much. But travel is more than just cost. It’s time. So when someone gives you advice on reducing the costs of travel by only booking on certain days or “shopping around” they’re missing the boat. In fact, the worst travel advice I get is advice on how to save money. The best travel advice is how to save time. Time is money, right?
So the way to save time is to be loyal.
Pick an airline and fly only on it. Pick a hotel chain and only stay there. Pick a rental car agency and only rent from them. Yes, there will be situations where you may be paying more (but probably only a little more because these companies watch each other like hawks and keep the pricing pretty competitive). But watch what happens after a while. You start gaining status with these companies. You get upgrades. You board first. When a flight is cancelled you’re the first to get re-booked. When a hotel room is available you’re the first allowed to check in early (or late). When you arrive at the airport your car will be waiting for you – and likely upgraded.
These companies pay homage to their frequent customers. They give you special phone lines to call. They respond quicker. They do what they can to make your life easier, faster, better. All of this translates into more productivity.
You travel faster. You travel in more comfort. You are more rested. You are more productive. This strategy only works if you’re a frequent business traveler. If you only go on the road once or twice a year you won’t see as many benefits. But once you start seeing these benefits you’re saving time. And time is money. More money than you’ll save on a cheap flight.
Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday for the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.