12 Little-Known Secrets of Low-Cost Business Travel
1. Use alternate airports
Though this choice has been discussed at length in previous issues of Budget Travel, it can never be sufficiently stressed.
Freelance writer Rick Churchill, whose Wynwood, Pennsylvania, home is just outside Philadelphia, points out that "often going a bit out of your way can produce real airfare savings. I always try to fly out of Baltimore rather than US Airways - dominated Philadelphia. Since Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) is serviced by a much greater number of carriers, tickets often cost half that for flights departing closer to home. And, because Amtrak trains stop quite close to BWI - and are linked to air terminals by a bus shuttle - it's not an unpleasant detour." Churchill notes that another key factor favoring BWI, not just for Pennsylvania travelers but for those in and around Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, is its Southwest Airlines service. In Baltimore (as in Providence, Rhode Island, which is increasingly a bargain lure for Boston-area denizens), Southwest's low rates force other carriers to keep fares down in order to stay competitive.
Very often, one airport can be much cheaper than another nearby when the latter is used as a hub. For example, Delta dominates the city of Cincinnati (one of its important hubs) and offers few bargains from that location. However, Columbus is only an hour's drive north and offers a much broader carrier balance, so that many southern Ohioans drive north for a tad over an hour to secure serious savings. Another pick-the-city choice is in Missouri, where fares into hub-free Kansas City are often much lower than into TWA-dominated St. Louis. Christopher Trencher, vice president of transportation for New York City consulting firm Stern & Stewart, emphasizes that "particularly for Missourians living between those cities, driving west is often well worth the ride." Other cheaper airports: Newark compared to nearby LaGuardia in metropolitan New York City, Milwaukee compared to nearby Chicago, Little Rock to Memphis, Oakland to San Francisco, Ontario (California) or Long Beach to Los Angeles, Manchester (New Hampshire) to Boston, Youngstown to Pittsburgh. There are many others.
2. Make intermediate stops at low-cost airports en route
When Rick Churchill is West Coast-bound and can afford to trade a few hours for reduced fares, he'll often book via Las Vegas. He explains, "Las Vegas gets a huge amount of traffic from all over the country. It's nobody's hub, and not only are fares lower, but Southwest frequently runs Las Vegas/Los Angeles or Orange County promotions where one-way tickets often cost as little as $29."
His only caveat is that "you've got to be careful not to lose what you've saved at the airport's slot machines."
3. Search the Internet
Christopher Trencher notes that online searches of the Internet often pay real dividends for business travelers. "Airlines often offer Web site fares that are much lower than those you'll be quoted over the phone. And most carriers also now give frequent-flyer mileage bonuses for booking online."
4. Consolidate your trips
Ted Darnall, president of North American hotel operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in White Plains, New York, says, "Our company enjoys real travel savings by consolidating business trips and reducing, as much as possible, transcontinental flights." He goes on to explain, "Instead of flying this week from New York to Los Angeles and next week to San Francisco, we're certain that most business isn't that urgent, and a trip incorporating several West Coast stops produces huge savings."
5. Substitute SuperShuttles for rental cars
Serious savings are available between airports and hotels. For instance, Shelley Clark, creative director of New York City public relations firm Lou Hammond & Associates, recommends SuperShuttle, which operates blue and gold, seven-person airport/city minivans in 17 U.S. cities. She says, "Always cheaper than a taxi and usually less than even airport-to-city-terminal buses, they take you directly from the airport to your city destination, or from your city destination back to the airport." She points out that La-Guardia-to-midtown New York fares run $15. Comparable taxi fare: $20-$24.
According to SuperShuttle Director of Marketing Ken Testani, airport/city fares range from $6 per person in Phoenix to $14 between Dallas/Fort Worth airport and downtown Dallas. He also notes that while the vans seat seven, they rarely make more than three stops per trip. Currently, SuperShuttle airports include Atlantic City; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Burbank, California; Dallas/Ft. Worth; Denver; Jacksonville, Florida; Los Angeles; Newark; New York (LaGuardia and JFK); Miami; Ontario and Orange County, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Sacramento, California; San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (Dulles and National). For more information call 800/258-3826 or www.supershuttle.com.
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