Falling victim to an eleventh-hour business trip is unavoidable. You're working on a project, firing on all cylinders with your employees and clients, and then a massive hurdle comes your way: You need to touch base with clients in Seattle, and you need to be there in two and a half days.
Suddenly your main task switches from focusing on the project to finding a travel deal that won't bankrupt you and your business. Scouring the internet is never a quick process, and with built-in cookies on some airline and hotel sites, the more you search, the higher the prices will go. All the while, your project hangs in the balance, and you lose precious time focusing on logistics instead of the work at hand.
This creates a big dilemma for small business owners – how can entrepreneurs get good deals on flights and hotels by booking at the last minute? All travel sites, essentially, compare prices from multiple sources to offer you the best deals. Which platform you use depends largely on what works best for you. While scheduling all business trips in advance would be ideal, it's never that easy. Luckily there are some websites and apps that specialize in this exact scenario: getting you to where you need to go at the last minute for a low price. [Read related article: 7 Best Business Apps for Travelers]
Kayak is a great tool for finding cheap hotels and flights, but business owners say that the Kayak app is where the platform shines. With the app, which is available for both Android and iPhone, users can compare flights and hotel prices easily, set filters and save money. Ben Stanford, a project manager for a Vancouver-based web company called Red Cedar Websites, said that he primarily uses the Kayak app because it has the best deals.
"This app searches for hotels in the area and searches through all of the major travel sites," he said. "The best thing is it gives a price cheaper than anywhere else if you use the app ... I have booked [a room] 10 minutes before I walked into the hotel and saved $30 just by using the app."
Kayak's app can also be used to book rental cars, and you can set alerts to track your flight status or inform you of great hotel deals. Kayak is a free service.
Upside is a good option for business owners looking to bundle their flight, hotel and rental car price into one package. It curates information on all three travel decisions so you can easily book everything you need in one place. This way, you don't waste time checking different sites for flight, hotel and rental car information.
On top of this convenience, Upside provides 5 to 10 percent discounts on the entire package and offers 24/7 customer support while you're traveling. If you run into an issue, you can connect with a representative via live chat or phone. Upside's reps can assist you with changing accommodations or other issues you run into. There are also additional promotions provided by Upside, such as gift cards with each package purchase.
HotelTonight is another app that is great for business owners looking to book last-minute rooms. Hotels provide the company with rooms they couldn't sell, and HotelTonight connects business owners and travelers with those rooms at a lower cost. Again, this app is likely best for business owners who need to book a hotel within a few days (or even hours) of arrival.
Sarah Denae Patterson runs an ecommerce travel startup called Salinity Studio that shares travel stories and artisanal goods. Denae travels frequently and said she uses HotelTonight to find cheap rooms in the U.S. "When I am traveling in America, I like to use the app HotelTonight, which has great, [last]-minute deals on unique places," she said.
While these sites are ideal for business owners who need to get somewhere fast, there are some overall best practices you can enact now so that when the time comes, you're prepared and ready to depart without spending a fortune.
- Use one airline and hotel. If you know you're going to be traveling to the same place multiple times per year, it's a good idea to enroll in rewards programs with certain hotels and airlines. By establishing yourself as a loyal customer, you can position yourself to receive benefits down the line, like upgrades and discounts. It also helps with your overall routine – by using one airline consistently and staying in the same hotel in a certain city, you'll slowly build relationships with each company. Your consistency gives you ground to stand on when an airline is considering bumping you from a flight, for example.
- Set up alerts. If you know you'll need to travel somewhere but have flexibility on the time, setting up alerts through different websites and apps can allow you to find the cheapest hotel and flight options. Kayak's app offers custom alerts where users can set filters on timing, price and location. By setting up alerts, you can put yourself in a good position to save money on consistent travel. You should also set up travel alerts, so you can get updated if your flight gets delayed or canceled.
Booking travel accommodations on a moment's notice can be a stressful task. It's important, however, to spend the right amount of time finding a good hotel, flight and rental car. By using the same apps and services, airlines, hotels, and rental car companies, you can streamline your travel process and build relationships with companies. If you're traveling to a new place, try using these sites and apps to book your accommodations.
Remember that finding the cheapest option is always ideal, but it may be a better use of your time to book something quick and inexpensive so you can focus more on the project at hand.