This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

Travel can be expensive. It seems like flights are rising in price (and space on planes is shrinking). But I’ve found travel hacks that have helped me spend much less on travel than I would if I paid full price. That includes getting something for myself out of work travel.

I recently took a job with a company based in Salt Lake City. I work from home in San Diego, but every few months, they fly me there to bond with the team I work with. I knew nothing about SLC before getting hired, but now I’m so excited to spend more time there, to hike, go tubing down a river (in the summer), or hang with my cousin in nearby Park City.

I realized this was an opportunity to have mini-vacations if I used a little strategy! Here’s how I’m getting my company to pay for (at least part) of my vacation.

1. Eat on Their Dime

beef stroganoff

Like most business travelers, I get an allowance for meals while I’m on work travel. Breakfast is free at the hotel and often I’m with co-workers for lunch. But dinners, or meals on travel days, are my opportunity to try local restaurants.

A little research on travel blogs led me to From Scratch when I arrived in town, where I had some amazing beef stroganoff. Thanks, work!

Tip: Keep your receipts, and know how much your employer will reimburse for each meal. Also, find out if your company will cover alcohol. Mine does! I use Expensify to scan my receipts and upload them instantly.

2. Use Your Hotel, Airline, and Rental Car Account

Even if your company books your travel for you, you can usually give them your rewards account number so you get the points for your hotel stay, flight, and rental car. If you travel frequently, you’ll quickly rack up enough points to redeem for your personal travel!

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One thing to look out for: if your company books through a third party like Hotels.com, you may not be eligible for points. I found that out the hard way.

Tip: If you don’t have a loyalty account with the hotel property or rental company your company uses, get one! And if you have a choice, stick to one brand so you can accrue points faster.

 

Flying Alaska Airlines from San Francisco for work travel.

How to turn work travel into a vacation. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

3. Stay the Weekend

Your company may not foot the bill for you to stay the weekend, but you’ve already got your airfare covered, so paying for your hotel, car, and meals for a couple of days is still cheaper. Lucky for me, I was able to stay with my cousin in Park City, so I didn’t incur more expenses for a hotel.

This is a great way to see more than your office! Especially in the winter, it’s dark when I get out of the office, so there’s not much I want to do on weeknights (especially not in the cold!) but staying the weekend lets me get to go out in nature and see the sights. I went to an incredible exhibit on Pompeii at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City on my last trip.

Tip: You might see if you can stay the weekend and return to work on Monday if it makes sense for your work travel schedule. That way, your company should cover your weekend expenses!

4. Pay for Business Expenses Yourself

Some companies give you the option to book all your hotels and flights and then submit an expense report. If you get a business rewards credit card from the company, you won’t necessarily get to keep the points for yourself, so put the expenses on your own credit card if you can. I have an American Airlines card I use to rack up miles for flights, as well as the Capital One Venture card that lets me erase travel purchases with points.

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Tip: Stick to one or two rewards cards so you can accrue points toward one goal. If you fly one airline, an airline reward card will give you more points for flights and in-flight purchases.

I hope that the next time you travel for work, you can turn it into a little vacation!