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Budget Saving Trade Show Travel Tips

Posted by Exhibitor Source on May 24, 2022 10:45:00 AM
Exhibitor Source

by Jennifer Barham

Recently, I was thinking about the word “budget” and where it comes from. Turns out, it’s a Middle English word from the Old French bougette, meaning “leather bag.” It originally meant an actual bag, but later it came to mean the contents of the bag when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in presenting his opening statement, was said to “open the budget” when he unbuckled his leather bag to retrieve papers containing financial reports. Now we use the word to mean a statement of expenditures and revenues, and the old meaning – a portable leather bag – has been lost.(Forgive me. It's been a slow Netflix month.)

Anyway, it’s interesting that our handy, if slightly daunting, word budget means basically “baggage” and “money matters” because that’s what I wanted to write about today – traveling and the associated costs.

In a business that’s built around trade shows, the ever-increasing costs of travel can be discouraging.

However, even the biggest budget busters – transportation, lodging, car rentals, and food – offer enough options to stay within the company’s means.

Transportation.  Airline flights are by far the biggest expense in travel. Even when an affordable flight pops us, the airline might charge for checked bags or even carry-ons; and they’ll definitely charge extra if the baggage is overweight. Oftentimes there are seat selection fees, a charge for in-flight Wi-Fi, extra costs for food and drink, and -- worst of all – nonrefundable/unchangeable tickets, which can be expensive in the long run. The primary things to do when booking flights are:

  1. Save some wiggle room. Try to have a 2-3 day window on either side of your trip in order to get the best price.
  2. Book at the right time, meaning 1-4 months in advance. With ticket prices changing every 5-6 days, you don’t want to be stuck with only a week or two to buy. Booking in advance save on average $158 per ticket.
  3. Fly on low traffic days. Thursdays, for example, are less expensive than Sundays.
  4. Consider using a fare-alert tracking system like Airfarewatchdog or Hipmunk, which will notify you instantly of hot deals on flights.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fly in and out of smaller airports, away from the city’s center. Sometimes secondary airports offer better pricing on flights because they are a bit less convenient for travelers. Weigh this against the price of getting to your final destination.
  6. Look into rewards programs that different airlines offer and see if your company will benefit. Now that the world is back in full swing, it might be worth it to consider a rewards program if your travel has had a huge upswing.
  7. And finally, {whispering }, you don’t have to travel business class.

Outside of flights, ground travel is the second highest transportation cost. The best practices for getting where you need to go are:

  1. Obviously, check around for best pricing on car rentals. Beyond that, make sure there aren’t hidden costs like a charge for in-car Wi-Fi or a GPS fee. Seriously.
  2. Do your homework (or at least read the fine print) of the car rental agreement plan when it comes to gassing up. Decide ahead of time if you’ll pay for gas up front, bring it back fueled up, or pay for it after. This one decision can make a huge dent in your budget because car rental companies get rich on people who are in hurry and aren’t necessarily making the best decisions. (And don’t even get started on gas prices right now!)
  3. Check for free shuttles to and from the airport and your hotel. This might even determine where you stay.
  4. Check public transportation. Some cities have stellar mass transit; others don’t. Know before you go.
  5. Ride sharing – like Uber and Lyft – can be excellent options when the rates are competitive. They can also be a real hit to the wallet, so do your research before calling one

Lodging. Finding a reasonable, clean, convenient place to stay while attending a trade show can be a hassle and one of the largest expenses. Fortunately, there are lots of options now and the industry is super-competitive.

  1. If there’s a particular hotel you want, call and ask for a discounted rate.
  2. Consider the “extras” that a hotel might offer to make it more affordable in the long run; a free shuttlebus, Wi-Fi, business center, and breakfast up the value of an otherwise average hotel choice.
  3. Now more than ever, Airbnb and Vrbo and the like are offering really affordable, lovely options to hotels.
  4. Consider an extended stay hotel if you haven’t done so yet. Extended stays – featuring larger spaces with kitchenettes and living areas -- allow you to work, meet with colleagues or clients, cook, eat and sleep all under one roof, and most of them are competitively priced.
  5. Think about checking out hotels that are within walking distance of your event.

Food. You gotta eat. And here’s how to do it on the cheap:

  1. Plan ahead and pack snacks and meals. There has never been a better time to need to eat on the go. Grocery store aisles are packed with food-to-go options. Even larger gas stations have great food options now with coffee bars and hot and cold food choices that range from typical fast food to organic, gluten free, keto-friendly, and more.
  2. Speaking of grocery stores, if one is near, frequent it. They often have small cafes or delis or salad bars or hot food bars where you can get a substantial meal at a fraction of the cost of a restaurant.
  3. Take advantage of the free breakfast at the hotel. Grab an apple, a yogurt and a granola bar for later in the day.
  4. If you end up at an extended stay hotel, buy groceries (or have them delivered for free!) and make your own meals.

The best plan for saving money on a trip in any area is to PLAN AHEAD. Look at your current travel spending trends to see what’s eating up the travel budget and where you can trim a little.

Keep travel apps in a folder on your phone to alert you to cheap flights, hotel discounts, hot fare updates, and special deals and promotions related to travel.

If you are trying to encourage traveling to trade shows on a budget with your entire team, be transparent with them:

  1. Create a budget for them and let them know expectations and boundaries.
  2. Stick to the boundaries.
  3. Make sure your team knows the travel policies.
  4. Be specific about reimbursement requests.
  5. Encourage team mates to share rooms and share rides.
  6. Adjust the per diem rates to the cost of living in the cities they’re traveling to.
  7. Incentivize employees to save on business travel and reward those who come in under budget. Cash incentives help employees take ownership of their work and responsibility for helping the company out.
  8. Ask your team for ideas about how to cut travel costs. Two heads (or more) are better than one, and because each team member will have different travel experiences, each will have unique input. Invite your team to be part of this problem-solving.

Traveling is a huge part of the trade show world. Don't let budgetary fears keep you away from one of the most effective marketing tools in your arsenal. Get creative, get motivated, and get to a trade show!


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Topics: Nashville trade show displays, Nashville trade show exhibits, marketing, skyline Nashville, trade show marketing, Blog, booth design, exhibit design, Nashville events, Skyline, Trade Show Displays in Nashville, trade show displays Nashville, trade show exhibiting, trade show exhibits, trade shows, success, budget, B2B, trade show planning and logistics, event planning, air travel, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Vrbo, Airfarewatchdog, Hipmunk

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