Businesswoman with cell phone and laptopIt would certainly be nice to have the same kind of expense account as high-ranking corporate executives, but not everyone is quite so lucky. This applies to people who are self-employed, as well as regular employees who need to fit their regular business travel expenses into the company’s budget. This is especially true given today’s economic climate.

According to the IRS, deductible travel expenses can include such costs as airplane tickets, in-town transportation, hotel stays, dry cleaning, business calls, and equipment rental. All of these can add up very quickly, so how can you cut back on business travel expenses without having the business suffer as a result? Here are six handy tips to consider.

Book Flights Well in Advance

They say that if you fail to plan, then you should plan to fail. A similar philosophy can be taken when it comes to travel expenses. When you know that you’ll need to be in a certain city on a certain date, it pays to book the flights well in advance. Scrambling to find a flight at the last minute can prove to be an expensive endeavor.

By planning your itinerary in advance, you also afford yourself the time to shop around to find the best deals. Use online booking sites like Orbitz and Priceline to compare fares across multiple carriers. Better yet, hire a virtual assistant through a service like YourManInIndia and have him or her do the comparison shopping for you.

Pack Some Extra Snacks

When traveling for business, you may find yourself burning the midnight oil on some nights. During those later evenings, you may find yourself craving something from the vending machine in the hotel or, worse yet, something from mini-bar inside the hotel room.

While it would likely be unrealistic to cook your own meals while on the road, it’s very easy to pack a few granola bars or other small snacks as part of your luggage. Save even more money by buying your snacks in bulk from Amazon Groceries or other online retailers.

Skip the Rental Car

Even if you opt for the cheapest economy class vehicle, you still have to deal with additional costs like insurance, fuel, and parking. Again, with proper planning in advance, you can save a lot of money by skipping out on the rental car altogether.

If you are attending a conference or trade show, try to get a hotel within walking distance of the venue. Alternatively, most of these venues will be easily accessible by public transit, so book a hotel that will only require one train or bus.

If your smartphone is equipped with GPS, use Google Maps Mobile. This not only provides nearby points of interest and driving directions, it can also supply directions via public transit.

Forget the Overpriced Hotel Wi-Fi

Many hotels charge an arm and a leg for in-room Internet access. The typical rate for a Las Vegas hotel on the strip is about $15 per day. That’s quite pricey and, depending on the hotel, the wireless broadband may leave much to be desired in terms of reliability and speed.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a hotel where the in-room Internet access is included as part of your room fee. Alternatively, do a quick search online before you go to see what free Wi-Fi hotspots are available within close proximity of your hotel or the venue that you will be visiting.

For example, you can use this Google Map that shows a huge number of free Wi-Fi in Vancouver or this list of hotspots in Las Vegas.

If you already have a wireless broadband account for Internet access in your hometown, see if you can use this account in the town where you will be on business.

Yet another option is to enable your iPhone or similar device as an Internet Tethering Wireless Modem for your PC.

Remember You’re Not on Vacation

When you are traveling to another city for business purposes, it’s easy to forget that you are there for business purposes. You’re not there for sightseeing or to visit the local attractions. You’re not there to indulge in lavish dining or other expensive amenities.

These kinds of expenses might not be the kind of expenses you can submit for the purpose of a tax deduction, but they can easily deduct funds from your wallet. This is especially true for conventions that take place in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Minimize Travel Altogether

What is the single most effective way to reduce the amount of money you spend on business travel? How about minimizing the travel altogether? Given today’s technology and the ability to share ideas over the Internet, face-to-face meetings aren’t nearly as necessary as they have been in the past.

Nearly everything can be accomplished over a brief email exchange, an IM chat, or a short Skype call. Alternatively, you can use any number of free videoconferencing services, including those embedded in Windows Live Messenger.

There are certainly still instances where business travel can be a requirement, but many trips can be replaced by less expensive alternatives like the shipment of product samples. Shipping a box is cheaper than flying a group of employees and putting them up in a hotel.

Image credit: Greatbass.com / Fotolia.com

###