Air Travel Tips for the Small Business Budget

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted October 30, 2012

Emails, instant messages, phone calls, Skype sessions...

There is no shortage of ways to for small business owners stay in touch with clients and colleagues. But, when it comes time to seal the deal, nothing beats an in-person, look-you-in-the-eye meeting. Here are some tips to score a great deal on your business travel for those times when you have to step on board a plane and take your business to new heights.

Think Ahead, Way Ahead

Like life, running a business can be unpredictable. However, if you need to travel for a conference or an event that is scheduled well in advance, don't wait until the last minute to book your flight.

If you know ahead of time that you need to be across the country, the general consensus is that you should book your flight a month or two in advance. You may have heard of the eight week rule, but the savings are still significant if you book six weeks ahead or less.

Don't take our word for it. Point your browser at your favorite airline and test it for yourself using their calendar widget. Notice how the further out that you schedule your flight, the cheaper it gets (generally speaking)?

Booking an economy roundtrip ticket to Los Angeles from New York City (depart Monday, return Friday) costs nearly $900 for a seat on a flight a week from the time of this writing. But booking it six weeks in advance slashes the price by half to $450.

Lock in those kinds of savings by setting reminders in your calendar. A little foresight today can save you big bucks down the road.

Be Destination-Flexible

If you performed the experiment that we suggested above and the prices were still exorbitant, there's probably a good reason for that. As winter hits the northern part of the United States, destinations like Florida tend to get pricier as tourists flock to sunnier climes. Big events that draw travelers also tend to jack up prices.

That doesn't necessarily mean you're priced out of a good deal. Some big markets have more than one airport in a given region. It might mean putting a few more miles on the rental car, but the savings can be worth it.

Also, if possible, try to plan your air travel dates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You'll generally find departure and return dates that fall on those days are the least expensive. And if your schedule permits, think about taking that midday flight instead of the first flight out or last one back.

But what if you have to travel soon?

Jump on Last-Minute Airfare Deals

Airlines lose money flying empty planes, so they try to fill those seats by offering last-minute deals.

It makes sense to check out last-minute deals before entering your credit card details. There are many ways to go about it. Many airlines keep dedicated pages making it worth giving them a quick scan to see if their deals align with your needs.

Here are a couple of links to last minute deals for some major airlines.

American Airlines
Delta
US Airways
United Airlines
Southwest

It may also pay to sign up for email updates, follow them on Twitter and Facebook or download their apps. On occasion, they will use these social media sites to promote exclusive deals.

If you're not choosy, try Priceline's last-minute travel deals page. There are a lot of variables at play, but you stand a decent chance of making it your destination with a lowball bid.

Happy travels!

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!