Corporate travel is booming. The New York Times recently reported a surge in international business travel and, according to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers directly spent $266.5 billion in 2013 on travel-related expenditures, including meetings, events and incentive programs. Roughly $161.1 billion of that total was spent on general business travel costs alone.
Frequent travelers spend the most on food services, followed by public transportation, lodging and auto transportation — all essentials for the business traveler, as well. While professionals likely expense corporate accounts for business travel or simply have flights and board paid for by employers, costs of air travel are on the rise, and companies are finding ways to cut costs. Freebies might be the answer.
GOBankingRates compiled a list of free items, services and loyalty program perks that can help any professional conduct business with ease and save money when traveling.
With international web providers like iPass, Gogo as the internet provider on major airlines like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America, and other airlines upgrading services to include in-flight web access, the days of free Wi-Fi on airplanes are pretty much over. JetBlue’s Fly-Fi still offers a free basic web browsing plan, Simply Surf, which works well for checking emails on board. Some airlines, like Southwest, offer free Wi-Fi to preferred members of loyalty or rewards programs — so, if you are a frequent flier, check your benefits.
If you would rather take care of business before your flight so you can spend those hours relaxing instead, some major airports offer free Wi-Fi.
JetBlue provides free Wi-Fi at Terminal 5 in New York City’s JFK airport and at Long Beach Airport in California.
LAX in Los Angeles, Sea-Tac in Seattle, Portland International Airport in Oregon, Orlando International Airport in Florida and San Antonio International Airport in Texas are among some that provide Wi-Fi access in most or all of the airport’s public areas and terminals.
If your travels take you internationally, you can get free browsing time at London’s Heathrow (45 minutes free for everyone), Hong Kong International Airport, and Narita International Airport in Tokyo, among others.
Tip: Some major international retailers like McDonald’s and Starbucks usually provide free Wi-Fi access on site, no matter what part of the world you’re in.
2. Business Apps
There are numerous free travel apps available for your company-owned or personal web-enabled devices that aim to make your business trip a breeze.
SeatGuru provides airline seat maps with advice from user comments and photos, the ability to check flight statuses, and more on Android and iOS devices. This is perfect if you want to make sure the seat you are buying will let you plug in your laptop or give you those two extra inches of leg room to ensure “your comfort and productivity.”
TripIt helps organize your travel plans into an itinerary that you can access 24/7 and share with coworkers, family and friends. All you have to do is sign up, download the app on your iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone 7 device, and start forwarding your confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
The great news is that because people tend to misplace or leave their chargers behind, some hotels and even car rental agencies might have an extra charger available for your use. Don’t forget that airports often have free plug-in stations if you bring a charger, and some — like Singapore’s Changi International Airport — even have chargers available for you in terminals so you can give that cell phone or laptop battery a little more juice before your flight.
4. Rental Cars
Rental rewards programs can help you get free upgrades and even free rentals. National Car Rental offers last-minute specials, deals and discounts at the most popular business travel destinations in the U.S. and abroad. Signing up for the National Car Rental’s Emerald Club is free and rewards can be redeemed for free rentals. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members can also earn free car rentals to help you save on future travel.
Everyone needs them and inevitably forgets them at some point. Many hotels offer complimentary toiletries in addition to the typical assortment of soap and lotion in your room. Depending on where you stay, these freebies range from toothbrushes and toothpaste to comprehensive kits including combs and mouthwash.
In some cases, your airplane might have what you need also. Virgin Atlantic’s amenity kit (particularly handy for overnight flights) comes with a toothbrush, toothpaste, an eyeshade and even a pair of socks for economy class passengers; JetBlue offers a complimentary Snooze Kit as well, in case you forget to pack essentials in your carry-on.
6. Hotel Nights, Upgrades and Eats
Frequent stays can lead to free upgrades, nights and other member perks when you sign up for a guest loyalty rewards program at your preferred hospitality provider. For example, members of the Hilton HHonors program can earn and use HHonors points toward free nights at over 3,900 locations in 91 countries. Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum members enjoy a number of perks during their stay, like light snacks and beverages in its concierge lounges, while they earn free nights at over 3,700 locations worldwide.
Tip: To cut some of your travel food expenses, many hotels like Holiday Inn Express offer free breakfast to guests regardless of membership; DoubleTree by Hilton is well known for its famous welcome cookie.
7. Flights and Upgrades
Usually free to sign up, joining an airline’s frequent flyer rewards program can lead to upgrades, fee waivers and other perks beyond redeeming points towards a free flight.
The American Airlines AAdvantage program is notable for allowing members who achieve the elite Executive Platinum status to receive eight complimentary one-way systemwide upgrades to bump up to the next class of service. Executive Platinum members can also normally get for-purchase food and drink items for free. Premier members of the United Airlines MileagePlus program can receive priority waitlisting as well as complimentary checked bags and access to Economy Plus seating.
Photo credit: Honor Photo Bar
7 Great Freebies for Business Travelers