Best practices when writing a travel policy
Born from hard-earned advice, these corporate travel policy best practices cover what to use when booking travel and how to create a policy that travelers will actually comply with. When you use smart tech instead of old-school documents, you reduce frustration for everyone involved.
This is not a list of what to include in your policy (you can check out our template for that). Rather, this article will help you understand some of the important elements you need to have in place in order for your policy to succeed. Otherwise, it’s just a list of rules that no one cares about!
Here are the most important travel policy best practices that all businesses should follow, regardless of the budgets or rules that you will choose.
#1: Book all travel in one place, whenever possible
One of the most important things that your travel policy can do is to instruct everyone in your company to book in one place.
Why? So that you can consolidate all of your business travel and everything associated with it. Here are the key benefits of booking travel in one place:
- Track all company travel spend moment-to-moment to make better budgetary decisions
- Tag travel spend by team, department, or project to create more valuable reports
- Consolidate travel spend into one monthly invoice
- Remove the need for reimbursing travelers (the company can pay directly using the approved business travel tool)
- Easily track travelers whereabouts, and who’s coming and going at different offices
- Know if you have travelers in affected areas during a natural disaster or other emergencies
- Build travel policies right where travelers book
In our following corporate travel policy best practices, we’ll review some of the above benefits. Just know that it’s really hard to follow any of these best practices if your company is still using a dozen websites to book travel. Without platform consolidation, it’s hard to get a handle on travel both before it’s booked (approval) and after (tracking and reporting).
#2: Use your travel policy to point people to the right resources
Treat your travel policy as a resource sheet instead of a list of rules. Yes, you might have a list of rules in your policy, but a list of rules isn’t very effective. (We’ll explore how to fix this with best practice #3.)
When you treat your policy as a resource sheet, travelers know where to find what they need. The info they seek is right alongside the rules.
Here are some pieces of information and resources that travelers might need to pull up easily:
- Your approved business travel booking platform
- How to get travel support
- Travel insurance carrier
- What to do in the event of an emergency
- Duty of care provider (if any)
- What purchases are and aren’t employees able to expense
- The reimbursement procedure
Any rules that directly affect the booking process should be in your automated travel policy. You can put them in your travel policy document if you like, but it’s more important that they are included in the automated policies in your business travel booking platform.
#3: Automate your travel policies
50% of travelers admit that they don’t always follow company travel policy, and 60% say that they don’t even understand the purpose and benefits of having a company travel policy. If including a list of rules in your policy isn’t that helpful, what should you do instead?
To follow this best practice, don’t go against human nature. Adding more rules and tightening control over your travelers isn’t going to work. The travel policy document is flawed. It’s just a document, after all.
Instead, what you need is for your travel policy to affect the booking process. It should be baked into your business travel platform so that if travelers try to book something out of policy, they’re not allowed to without approval from their manager. The manager gets a notification from the travel app, and can approve or deny the trip. They can complete the booking, or just give their approval so that the traveler can finish the booking.
For a deeper dive in setting up automated travel policies, please see this article.
# 4: Use a booking tool travelers love
Automated travel policies are really great. They affect travel around the clock so you don’t have to nag everyone to stop overspending. But, there’s a flaw with these too. If travelers don’t enjoy using the approved business travel platform or if they don’t feel like it has good deals on travel, then they won’t use it.
35% of the time when travelers book outside of the company-approved tool, it’s because they’re trying to find a better price.
That’s why it’s essential to choose a platform that not only offers great inventory and prices, but that has a UX and customer experience that your travelers enjoy. Whenever you make changes to the tech your company books with, do a pilot. Roll it out to 5% or 10% of your travelers to begin with and get their feedback. If travelers don’t love the business travel management solution you choose, then you can’t easily control travel spend with automated travel policies. They’ll just book elsewhere.
#5: Enable self-booking or trip saving
The final best practice is a win-win.
Setting up self-booking is good for…
- Travelers – They can book what they want faster all by themselves, within policy.
- Administrators – They don’t have to handle everyone’s travel booking requests, and can instead point employees to use the business travel platform and offer help as needed.
When you set up your travel policies inside your business travel booking platform, self-booking is a no brainer. You just add travelers to your account and you’re off to the races.
If self-booking isn’t a fit for your company, we won’t judge. It’s not right for every organization. However, you can still allow travelers to easily pick the exact layover, itinerary, and accommodation that they want.
You can simply have them request approval for every trip, regardless of policy. This allows travelers to save their in-progress trips. Then an admin can finish the booking, using their saved options. Setting up your tool this way still saves administrative time while letting travelers get the trip they want.
As you can see, corporate travel policy best practices prioritize what is best for the traveler, not just the company. When you put the business traveler front and center, managing a travel program gets easier.
In our next article, we’ll set you up for success with the policy creation process.