Business travel booking: a complete guide
As more employees take to the road, it’s more important than ever to be smart and strategic when it comes to booking and expensing business travel. Travel management software is now readily available and affordable for all businesses, no matter the size. Small to medium-sized businesses no longer need to make do with consumer sites, which made collecting invoices a big task and can start experiencing the benefits of using travel software designed for business.
Whether you’re booking as a travel manager or an employee, this guide will highlight the best free tools to make business travel painless, from booking, automating, and managing travel as a small business.
See how to save money by automating your booking process
How can travel booking software help organizations with their travel management?
The role of a travel manager has many responsibilities to juggle at any given time. Travel management companies and online booking tools can help streamline processes and remove many challenges associated with organizing business trips and their associated expenses. Advanced business travel solutions can assist with many, if not all, of the following;
- Booking arrangements through one easy-to-use dashboard.
- 24-hour support to resolve any issues on the road.
- Guarantee greater compliance by integrating corporate travel policies into the booking process.
- Improving the booking experience by allowing business travelers autonomy over their travel plans.
- Automated workflows simplify approvals, freeing up time and minimizing the risk of fare increases.
- Centralizing invoicing to reduce the workload for busy finance teams.
- Generating travel expense reports at the click of a button.
- Allows for greater visibility with access to more data allowing for deeper analysis of travel programs' ROI.
- Utilizing existing systems like Slack for instant notifications.
- Improving sustainability by highlighting greener travel options and assisting with carbon offsetting.
- Saving up to 25% extra on annual travel spending with VAT reclaim support.
- Aiding duty of care and traveler safety with in-built travel risk management solutions.
Best free business travel booking tools
From booking airfares to expense management, here is our list of the best free booking tools for global business travel.
Best business travel booking sites with a complete inventory
With an industry-leading inventory, TravelPerk offers corporate travelers the best rates in the industry and a host of features to simplify every aspect of business travel. A comprehensive travel management solution, users can book flights, accommodation, trains, and car rentals on one user-friendly platform.
TravelPerk offers a free version of its corporate travel management system alongside paid upgrades for travel managers looking to take advantage of their full range of features.
Travel managers can seamlessly integrate corporate travel policies into automated approval flows in minutes. With parameters in place, business travelers can select arrangements according to their personal preferences while maintaining policy compliance.
At the same time, the innovative GreenPerk system highlights more environmentally friendly options and tracks carbon emissions from travel.
Travel spending is easy to monitor with real-time reporting that can be organized by destination, department, or individual employee plus, with FlexiPerk, business travelers can take advantage of the most flexible rates on the market.
Companies can cancel arrangements within two hours of departure with a guaranteed refund of 80%, no questions asked. Plus, TravelPerk allows admins to add temporary traveler profiles for friends and family looking to join employees on bleisure trips.
Benefit: TravelPerk's customer support team of real human beings is available 24/7, 365 days a year, and users can get answers to their questions in just 15 seconds.
TravelBank offers two distinct channels for organizations seeking assistance with their corporate travel management. Travel managers can choose between two subscription packages. One provides solutions for booking travel arrangements and the other tools for handling expenses.
Business travelers can search through corporate rates for accommodation and transportation through a simple dashboard and book itineraries through straightforward integrations with major credit cards. While security features are basic, business travelers can receive on-the-road support from concierge teams.
Benefit: As well as support through phone and email, business travelers can speak to travel experts through TravelBank's Slack channel.
Click below for a more detailed comparison between both platforms:
In an attempt to expand their travel services, Corporate Traveller recently launched their business booking tool Melon. Designed to simplify organizing business trips, corporate travelers can search through a modest range of negotiated rates for accommodations and transportation.
For special requests, business travelers can avail of the services of the concierge team and can save their preferences to speed up booking future travel arrangements. Melon has partnerships with some of the leading expense and HR systems. However, it doesn't offer as many integrations as its competitors.
Benefit: Corporate Traveller's tracking system enables managers to keep an eye on their employees while they are on the road.
Best free sites for booking flights
Flying is a pretty popular option for business travel. Make sure you book a flight that will allow your travelers to be as productive as possible. Consider flexibility, connection times, routes and seat preferences.
KAYAK is a popular travel search engine that can help you find the cheapest fare and best deals for all your travel needs: including flights, hotels, and rental cars. KAYAK has also shifted towards corporate travel management, with the creation of KAYAK for Business, which uses the content and simple interface of KAYAK but targeted to business travelers. Employees can book competitive deals whilst adhering to company approval processes and travel policies.
Benefit: The free tool could be a great advantage to a small or medium-sized company that doesn’t yet have a corporate travel system in place.
Best free sites for booking accommodation
Sleep matters, so having a great place to stay can really optimize a business trip. Use filters to ensure where you book is close to the office, includes business travel essentials (Wi-Fi!), and has flexible check-in times.
Booking.com is the largest accommodation booking platform in the world and its corporate management tool gives business travelers access to exclusive rates whilst giving full visibility and control over each business trip.
Booking.com Business is a centralized tool that allows employees to book and manage their own travel with confidence. Management and reporting functions let users track spend by department and destination to get insights that fit company needs.
Benefit: Frequent travelers may also be entitled to the Genius Business discount program, which rewards travelers with upgrades, free breakfast, and reduced rates. This could save you significant money if your employees travel often.
Airbnb for Work
Airbnb is a community marketplace that lets travelers stay in unique accommodations around the world. Airbnb for Work is no exception to this. It’s a free tool that makes it easier to book and manage company trips on Airbnb.
If you’re thinking about using Airbnb for Work, here are some advantages:
- Through employee roles, you can set access permissions for employees, determining who can book, manage, and download company reports
- The Airbnb for Work dashboard keeps track of employee spending and generates invoices and accurate reporting for each booking
- ‘Work ready’ listings on Airbnb for Work guarantee Wi-Fi, work-friendly spaces, self check-in and flexible cancellation conditions, designed with the business traveler in mind
- It’s a cost-effective option if colleagues are staying in one property rather than in multiple hotel rooms
- Airbnb for Work has spaces to rent for conferences, meeting rooms and offices
Benefit: Airbnb for Work is most effective for smaller businesses and can even encourage collaboration and team building. It’s definitely worth considering, and not just because it’s free.
If you’d like more information on travel for your small business, you can check out our quick guide here.
Best free software for travelers during their trip
Let travel management tools help you whilst you’re traveling, so you can focus on the important work instead.
TripIt is a great tool for the business traveler, creating a simple solution to organize travel plans. All you need to do is forward your booking confirmation emails (or allow TripIt to scan your mail automatically) and TripIt will do the rest, instantly generating an itinerary for the trip no matter where it was booked.
TripIt offers free and paid membership services, each with unique benefits.
Features of the free version:
- Confirmation numbers, contact information, and reservations are all stored in one itinerary which can be checked and manually edited at any time
- Trips can be synced to your calendar and shared through text or email
- Travel documents can be stored securely in TripIt, which removes the need to carry physical copies or valuable documents
With paid TripIt Pro, travelers receive alerts if their flight is delayed or canceled, can use interactive maps of their destination, and can even select seats.
Benefit: If you’re environmentally conscious, the tool tracks and shows offset options for carbon emissions.
Spendee is a simple, user-friendly, free budgeting and tracking app. It’s not necessarily designed for the business traveler, but it can be used by traveling employees who like to keep track of their spending on the road. Shared wallets mean companies get visibility on all employee travel spending.
Plus, you can set agreed budgets with your employees on and will be notified if the daily budget is reached, making it a highly effective tool to control employee travel spending.
Benefit: Spendee supports multiple currencies to help track international expenses no matter where you are in the world. Are you looking for a comprehensive travel management solution for your organization? To see how TravelPerk can streamline every aspect of your business travel, please reach out for a demonstration today.