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By Small Business Advisor

Small companies must find ways to reduce the cost of employee travel. Congress reduced the deduction for business meals from 80% to 50% of the cost. No deduction is allowed for a spouse unless he or she is a bona fide employee.

Make maximum use of frequent flier miles; Make a deal with a hotel in cities frequently visited; rent cars only when necessary; and avoid high-priced hotels.

Find a good travel agent who can save your staff time and money by delivering tickets, itineraries, hotel confirmations and other travel documents directly to your office. A good travel agent helps manage costs and identify savings. Often airlines offer tie-in arrangements with hotels and car rental agencies on top of frequent flier participation. Take advantage of them.

Establish a clear-cut travel policy. Such policies set limits on expenditures and require adherence to guidelines on when travel is permitted and when a phone call will do. The formal policy denies
"automatic" attendance at trade shows and similar meetings.

Seek out teleconference services where both groups can visit a TV camera room. The conference can then be held via phone and video lines, saving travel time and travel expenses.

Employees should be required to take the lowest airfare offered within a reasonable schedule. Try to book travel arrangements as early as possible. Booking air travel two or more weeks in advance where the stay includes a Saturday night can cut costs by at least 50% less than the cost of the hotel for the extra nights. Booking on connecting flights often costs less than booking on nonstop flights. However layover time might be such that the savings in airfare is counter productive.

Overnight stays should be at moderately-priced hotels and "in-room movies" should be discouraged. There are discount hotel booking services that negotiate lower "bulk" rates and pass them along to smaller business.

Book ground transportation from and to the airport whenever possible and practical. Many hotels offer free rides to and from the airport in a courtesy van or limousine.

If you have to rent a car, book only mid-size cars or smaller cars and inquire about free upgrades upon check in. If other automobile insurance is in force, make sure the optional collision damage coverage is declined.


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